British Columbia

Pandemic drives spike in charitable giving this holiday season

Non-profit organizations across Canada have seen a spike in individual donations this year as the pandemic drives more people to support charities on the front lines of the pandemic — with a corresponding decrease in donations for those that aren't. 

CBC British Columbia doubles donations on Food Bank Day to $2M

Charities across Canada have seen an increase in online donations due to the pandemic. (Shutterstock)

Non-profit organizations across Canada have seen a spike in individual donations this year as the pandemic drives more people to support charities on the front lines of the pandemic — with a corresponding decrease in donations for those that aren't. 

This year CBC B.C.'s Food Bank Day received $2,048,547 in donations as of Saturday evening — more than double last year's total. 

Dan Huang-Taylor, executive director of Food Banks B.C., says he wasn't sure what to expect this year given that the event is usually held in person as an open house with plenty of opportunities to mingle with reporters and hosts. 

"We're completely blown away," Huang-Taylor said. "We've seen a spirit of giving this year like we've never seen before."

Pandemic exposes 'cracks in the system'

Food Banks B.C. supports 103 food banks across the province. Huang-Taylor says it has seen an increase in individual donations since the pandemic began, with more donors overall and an increase in the amount they give. 

It's one of many charities across the country that has experienced an uptick in private donors this year.

Ash MacLeod, managing director of A Better Life Foundation, which provides meals for vulnerable people on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, says his organization has had a 21 per cent increase in total donations and a 42 per cent increase in the number of donors so far this year. 

MacLeod thinks the boost is because the pandemic has exposed so many inequities. 

"A lot of us became very familiar with our privilege and also then saw the cracks in the system," MacLeod said. "I think that increased empathy." 

'A human response to crisis'

Lys Hugessen, vice-president of Canada Helps, a platform that accepts online donations for registered charities in Canada, says there has been a 70 per cent increase in online donations so far this year — a total that doesn't include December, which is traditionally a busy month for giving. 

"I think what we're really seeing is a response in increased generosity from Canadians," Huggesen said. "And I think partly that's a kind of a human response to crisis."

But Hugessen says that increase isn't uniform across different sectors. Many organizations that aren't directly related to the pandemic have seen a drop in donations this year.

 

"Anything that just isn't urgent right now is kind of getting put on the back burner," she said. 

That includes non-profits in the arts and culture sector, organizations that support people with diseases like diabetes and cancer, and those that focus on research. 

However, Huggessen says, Canadians have supported other causes that made headlines this year, like Black Lives Matter and anti-racism initiatives. 

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