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Lending a hand to help create change

Ideas to help you get started on your giving journey this holiday season and beyond

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If there was ever a year when it was important to support charities as part of your holiday gift giving, 2023 may be the one.

This year’s “Who’s Hungry” report from Daily Bread and North York Harvest food banks, which was released earlier this month, found that one in 10 people in Toronto are now relying on food banks — double what it was in 2022.

At the same time, a recent Ipsos Poll commissioned by CanadaHelps, the country’s largest online platform for donating and fundraising, reported that 20 per cent of Canadians are currently using charitable services to meet essential needs, including housing.

“It is astonishing and unconscionable that a country like Canada has statistics like this,” said Julie Fiorini, general manager of donor services and brand marketing at CanadaHelps. “It is an urgent call to action to be supporting each other however we can.”

She said it is important for Canadians to integrate charitable giving into their holiday plans. Doing so, Fiorini said, will not only make gift givers feel better by leaving them with that knowledge that they have done something positive, but it also supports people in need and goes to charities that are doing important work to address pressing issues.

“It’s almost like the cliches from all those Christmas movies, like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ where we are giving back and making sure the most vulnerable around us, the people in need, feel supported and that they are not alone,” she said. “That truly is, in my opinion, what the meaning of the holidays is all about.”

Here are some suggestions and how you can add charitable causes to your gift list this holiday season.

Purchase a Charity Gift Card

Offered through CanadaHelps, a Charity Gift Card allows you to send a personalized card for whatever dollar amount to a family member or friend, who then gets to choose what charity — there are 86,000 registered charities to select from — receives the donation.

“You can incorporate the gift cards as a stalking stuffer, so you can teach children about giving and the importance of philanthropy in their day-to-day lives, and at the same time have them reflect on causes that are meaningful to them,” said Fiorini.

The cards are delivered through email on the day you select and can be customized with a message of your choosing. The person who buys the Charity Gift Card receives a tax receipt for their purchase.

Give a charitable gift

While navigating your way through 86,000 registered charities can sound daunting, CanadaHelps has made it easy for you to filter those charities according to geographic locations, causes, charity name and your budget. It has even curated charity lists according to the passion of the person who are buying the gift for. Some of those include animal lovers, advocates of children’s rights and environmentalists.

“I don’t think the average Canadian realizes that there are 86,000 registered charities right now, and what is interesting is that while many of us have heard of the larger charities and emergency relief, there are so many charities out there that are doing impactful work and helping address basic needs,” Fiorini said.

She said some of the charities have symbolic giving catalogues where, for example, a $10 donation might see an educational package given to a student in an African country, or, if you give $25, might sponsor the gift of an animal in a developing country. You can also personalize your charitable gift to a loved one by sending them an e-card to let them know about the donation you have made on their behalf.

Support a person in need

Another way to help is by donating to a local holiday drive that helps low-income families or vulnerable people by distributing clothing or food, or ensures children have a gift they can open during the holidays. You can find local, regional and national charities that do this by searching the CanadaHelps website.

“I used to work for Make-A-Wish Canada, and we used to do toy drives for children with life-threatening medical conditions,” said Fiorini. “The look on a child’s face when they receive a gift at the holidays when they are undergoing a challenging situation — medical or otherwise — it gives them happiness. It gives them hope and really a sense that they are loved and supported by their family and their community.”

Volunteer your time

Giving during the holiday season is not limited to giving financial gifts or making donations said Fiorini. Volunteering — giving the gift of time — is also important and something that charities rely on.

“There are some charities out there that if they didn’t have volunteers, they wouldn’t be able to deliver on their mission,” she said. “It is critical for people to think about causes that are meaningful to them, and if they can donate their time — even if it is just a couple hours a week — during the holiday seasons.”

This might include offering your help at a food bank, a refugee centre or at a homeless shelter serving holiday meals.

“It is important that we continue to be charitable because as human beings it is all that we have — each other,” said Fiorini. “We need to continue to support each other and those in need.”





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