Poll shows ‘staggering’ reliance on charities
Donating money helps, but it is only one way you can support your neighbours and community
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It is a “staggering statistic,” said Nicole Danesi. A recent Ipsos Poll conducted for CanadaHelps found that 20 per cent of Canadians are currently using charitable services to meet essential needs, like food and shelter.
“If you think of 10 people that you know, and everyone knows at least 10 people in their lives, that is two people who are actively seeking that support,” said the senior manager of public relations with CanadaHelps, the country’s largest platform for donating and fundraising online.
“That could be someone at your local religious institution, at your school, at your workplace. It is a really significant challenge right now,” she said.
Released just before Giving Tuesday, which takes place today, the poll found that the rising cost of living is behind 69 per cent of respondents’ need to access those charitable services.
“That was really astonishing, and I think it speaks to the wider issue that individuals who are going to charities for essential services are not going because they don’t have employment, for example,” said Danesi. “Many of these individuals are people who have jobs, are juggling multiple jobs, and they still just can’t seem to make ends meet.”
While the need to access services has increased, the poll found that those Canadians who did not give to charity in 2022, also do not plan to give this year, and of those who did, 19 per cent plan to give less in 2023. Danesi said this is part of larger 30-year trend that has seen the number of people donating decrease.
“People are still giving, don’t get me wrong, but the major gap that people need to keep in mind is that the demand is rising so rapidly that charities are feeling that demand on the front lines every single day, especially those more essential services like food and shelter. The demand is not in pace with giving for the most part,” said Danesi.
“We know that so many Canadians are struggling right now, and it is really challenging. But there are many individuals that have financially been pretty secure over the last few years. We are hoping that those Canadians are aware, or have become aware, of the challenges that their neighbours, their friends, their co-workers are facing, and that those individuals are able to give to causes that they care about.”
And, she said, that financial donation does not need to be a lot of money — even $5. “Anyone can give in any capacity, and it may feel like your $5 is not making a dent, but when you add it all up, it makes a significant increase.”
Danesi said if giving money is not possible, there are other ways you can be charitable this Giving Tuesday and the rest of the year. “It is volunteering, it is talking to your children, it is doing an act of kindness.”
Volunteer you time
Danesi said a lot of Canadians would probably be surprised to know how important volunteering is for charities. She said, a vast majority of them are actually volunteer run. When CanadaHelps recently surveyed charities about the number of volunteers they have now compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic, 55 per cent reported they had fewer today.
“There are different reasons for that. Sometimes it is a matter of older Canadians who were volunteering before the pandemic leaving for health reasons and then not returning. We are also still in a very virtual world, even though it is more hybrid at this point.”
She said many of the skills and talents we have in our daily jobs, like being an accountant or working in marketing could be useful to charities.
Consider donating things you are no longer using. This could be gently used clothing that can have a life beyond hanging in your closet, books that are collecting dust on your shelves or even used furniture.
“Many people take for granted being able to walk into a store and being able to buy whatever they want for their home and making it a comfortable space,” Danesi said. “For many individuals who just secured a place for them or their family to live, furniture is often the last thing individuals are able to afford.”
She said there are groups that will help people to furnish their homes, so they have a level of comfort and dignity — like making sure you have a table, chairs and plates so your family has a place to eat its meals. “It is not a luxury,” she said. “It is about having that dignity in your everyday live.”
Danesi said people can also consider donating their blood, their hair, their glasses or food items. Even your old bike, which can provide increased mobility and enjoyment to a child or an adult, can be donated.
“If anyone is able to give, it is really important,” she said. “That is the meaning behind Giving Tuesday. It is a variety of actions. A variety of ways to give, in whatever capacity individuals are able, to support the charities that they care about.”
Toronto Star Newspapers Limited