Blue Bridge Foundation
President and CEO
Alain.Roch@bluebridge.caPandemic and Major Gifts: An Equation with Many Unknowns
While COVID-19 crisis management has myriad consequences for our lives, our economy and our relationships, it has an even greater effect on foundations and other non-profits. Many of these organizations have had to reinvent themselves and limit their work.
According to Imagine Canada’s Guide to 2021 Fundraising Trends, Canadian organizations have reported a 30.6% drop in revenues since the onset of the pandemic, with 69% reporting decreased revenues, and 30% of organizations had to lay off staff (compared to 23% during the 2008-2009 financial crisis). The charitable sector could experience financial losses as high as $6.3 billion.
In the context of the pandemic, many organizations are seeing an increase in demand for services juxtaposed by a steep decline in resources.
Nevertheless, foundations have played an important role in 2020, as indicated by Celeste Bannon Waterman, Partner at KCI, Canada’s leading consultants to the non-profit sector, in her recent article Major Gifts in Canada during the COVID-19 Pandemic – The First Six Months. By value, foundations really stepped up, as 25% of gifts of $500,000 or more were from corporations and 58% came from foundations (vs. 17% and 19% respectively for gifts at the same level in 2018 and 2019).
While foundations and corporations moved quickly to support charities and the people they serve, it was obvious that announcements regarding major gifts from individuals were far fewer. Individuals typically account for the majority of major gifts.
As Ms. Waterman said, for individuals, caution and uncertainty have certainly been key themes during this period, particularly when we consider the economic turmoil we’ve seen during this period. Major gifts at the $500k + level are typically derived from individuals’ assets and investments. Recently we have begun to see stabilization and growth in the markets, presuming this trend continues, wealthier Canadians may be in a more fiscally sound position to advance their philanthropic interests in the future.
Interestingly, gifts received during the first six months of the pandemic went primarily to Community Service causes (43%) or Health charities (34%). However, Health charities commonly receive about a third of gifts at the $500k+ level. The real difference was that significantly more gifts were directed to Community Service charities than we typically see, while other sectors, particularly Education and Arts & Culture, took a bit of a ‘back seat’ during this period.
What does the future hold?
As Ms. Chantal Thomas said in her article Helping Donor Clients – A Social Role, “… giving is a reflection of the giver and there is often a story behind the act of giving. It’s a tale that is sometimes told but which, at its core, is most often profound, personal and private. The more significant the gesture, the more complex the motivation can be …”.
Indeed, baby boomer donors born between 1944 and 1965 give primarily to health, social services and religious causes, while millennial donors–born between 1980 and 1995–support civil rights, healthcare and education. It is clear that gift recipient organizations change their work as issues of immediate concern and generations’ focus areas shift. Generation Z donors–born between 1995 and 2015–to lead the way to save the environment, fight for human rights and champion equality.
In the meantime, society relies heavily on philanthropy; a good Samaritan that is both aware of individuals’ needs and economically and psychologically depressed. So let’s give generously!
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