Some charities still reeling in wake of recession

CanWest News Service
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In a plea to Canadians, the Salvation Army announced last week that, three weeks into a month-long fundraising campaign, the organization was about 40 per cent short of its target.
The lack of donations could be a product of being less visible during warmer months, said Andrew Burditt, spokesman for the Salvation Army, the international religious charity known well for its annual Christmas fundraising campaign.
Or, he said, the shortfall could be part of the hangover some Canadians are feeling as the country slowly recovers from a recession.
"Prior to the recession, our May campaign was slightly higher," Burditt said. "I'm not surprised the recession caused a little bit of a drop."
The Salvation Army is not the only charity in Canada that's been left reeling from the economic downturn.
A report on Canada's charitable sector published in April found that almost one quarter of registered charities expressed concern about their abilities to continue functioning and delivering their missions.
The report from Imagine Canada, a charitable organization representing charities and non-profit groups, found many organizations were still experiencing the challenges that began when the economy took a turn for the worst; one third of the 1,500 respondents, who were surveyed between November 2009 and January 2010, said they were anticipating difficulties in covering expenses this year, while one quarter said they were concerned their organization might not survive the year.
While the struggle for many Canadian charities continues, others say they have experienced little effect from the recession, mostly due to the generosity of individual Canadians.
"Canadians are incredibly generous," said Alison Frehlich, spokeswoman for the Canadian Red Cross.
"Despite what might be happening with the economy, Canadians are really generous. They always give what they can."
The humanitarian organization's finances are being finalized now, but Frehlich said they look to be on target. She also credited the Red Cross's ability to weather the recession on diversified fundraising.
"Providing Canadians with different ways to donate helped. So where we might see dips in some places, there are always increases in others," she said, noting that corporations often have difficulty maintaining donation levels when budgets are being stretched.
But last year, during an annual campaign with Walmart Canada, during which customers are asked to make a small donation while checking out, the Canadian Red Cross raised almost $3 million, beating their target by 20 per cent.
"That helped us compensate for what was lost in other areas."
The situation is similar with United Way Canada, according to its president, Al Hatton, who said donations were steady between 2007 and 2008, with a slight increase in 2009.
"In terms of corporate sponsorships, it seems people are a still being cautious," he said.
"But that loss was made up by smaller personal donations. People come forward and step up when they realize times are tougher. That's the amazing thing."
Still, Hatton said, Canadians won't give to just any charity.
"People are still cautious. The losses are still fresh. So when someone donates, they are probably more skeptical and discerning. So the charities better be making a difference."

Organizations: The Salvation Army, Red Cross, Imagine Canada Walmart Canada

Geographic location: Canada

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