Tough times for Edmonton charities

Times are tough right now if you’re a charitable organization. Here in Edmonton, the outlook is pretty grim for a number of organizations:

Add up the above numbers, and Edmonton charities are short about $3 million. That’s a lot of money. The scary part is that I’m sure there are more than I haven’t been able to find yet.

The two bright spots I’ve seen are Santas Anonymous, which said it would meet the demand this year, and Stuff-A-Bus, which exceeded its goal.

While the news is terrible, it’s not that surprising. Last year donations across Canada dropped 5.3% from 2007 to $8.19 billion, the lowest figure since 2005. I’m sure we’ll see a similar or perhaps larger drop for overall giving in 2009. The fact is, philanthropy is a lagging indicator. This data is from the US but I think it applies to us too:

During the last 40 years, according to data provided by Giving USA, charitable giving fell in real terms (i.e., adjusted for inflation) in years in which the economy was in recession, or in years in which there was a significant stock market dislocation. Giving fell in 1980, 1987, and 1990. The last time the economy contracted was in 2001. That year, according to Giving USA, charitable giving fell 2.3 percent in real terms, after having boomed along with the stock markets and the economy at large in the late 1990s. But while the economy resumed its growth in late 2001, charitable giving slumped in real terms in both 2001 (down 1.4 percent) and 2003 (down 0.2 percent).

It’s a lagging indicator because charitable donations are seen as a luxury. You pay your bills first, then you make a donation. Not everyone sees it that way, of course, but on the whole, that’s the reality.

Hopefully that means local charities will have a better year in 2010.

There’s still time to help this holiday season! Here’s how:

5 thoughts on “Tough times for Edmonton charities

  1. The real question is how far behind their “goals” the charities are compared to usual. I’ve worked with plenty of charities where the “goals” are beyond optimistic and missed every single year.

  2. Also, I wouldn’t give the Salvation Army one dime. They openly discriminate and use their status as a religious organization to justify their lack of financial transparency.

  3. Good post, Mack. Having been very deeply involved in one big one this fall, I can say it is a challeging time for people — those depending on giving and those doing the giving. Some significant ‘givers’ have seen their business or income drop by well over 50%.

    It would be interesting to do a similar piece of work looking at the need — to understand better what these agencies are seeing coming in through their front door and how that influences their setting of goals. Suffice to say, I know the goal of trying to meet the essential needs of their clients can (in a significant recession) result in a ‘goal’ that is beyond possible. And yet, it is required.

    You could also add that Homeless Connect Edmonton event to your success column — I believe they met the needs of the people who came to the fall event.

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