Brazil & Portugal  


The Unseen Cost of the Pandemic

Small Charitable Organizations have hit hard with the Covid-19 Pandemic

by Gerry Luciano, Manager, Fundraising and Communications | August 4, 2021

As a small charitable organization that works with women facing gender-based violence, youth, seniors, newcomers and those with low income and low education levels, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit our clients and the Portuguese-language community particularly hard.

Photo: dan-meyers-unsplash

The Resilience of Staff and Clients

For Abrigo, the need to adapt, innovate and shift to virtual counselling and assisting clients over the phone was immediate. We learned immediately that our client’s problems didn’t isolate themselves when the pandemic struck. In fact, the demand for services exploded as hundreds of clients both new and old called our agency for support after losing their job, coming face-to-face with a health or childcare issue or sadly, a domestic violence crisis. Yet, the resilience of our staff and clients shone through the darkest of days.

Seventeen months later the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our clients and our agency on a daily basis. Abrigo staff continues to work virtually, but are stretched thin and working extended hours to keep up with the demand for services. Our trusted and active volunteer base of more than 100 individuals who under normal circumstances are an interictal part of delivering client services has dwindled to a small handful of people helping out on special projects on-line or at vaccination events.

The Impact on Fundraising

The pandemic’s direct impact on fundraising for a small organization like Abrigo is profound. Simple and effective activities that we took for granted prior to the pandemic such as inviting donors and prospects in to meet on site and experience first-hand the incredible programs and services delivered at Abrigo have been eliminated for the last year and a half for the health and safety of our donors, volunteers and staff.

The inability to hold in-person events because of provincial capacity limits and more importantly the need to keep everyone healthy and safe, was particularly difficult on Abrigo’s fundraising activities. Last fiscal year, a number of in-person events such as our annual gala (our premier fundraising activity of the year) and other revenue generating activities tied to our agency’s 30th anniversary were postponed because of COVID and the accompanying dollars lost in its wake.

Abrigo is certainly not alone. According to a recent Imagine Canada survey of over 1,000 charities, half of the respondents reported a dip in annual revenue with an average decline of 43 per cent. Of course, event-based fundraising saw the biggest decline.

Photo: my-life-through-a-lens-unsplash

The Canadian Women’s Foundation and federal and provincial government subsidy programs

The good news in all of this is that government support programs were set up in 2020 to assist small agencies like ours through this difficult time. Abrigo did shift our focus to grants that would secure additional funds. Newly created opportunities from organizations like the Canadian Women’s Foundation and federal and provincial government subsidy programs helped keep our agency afloat during a particularly challenging time.

Photo: chris-montgomery-unsplash

Digital Fundraising

However, those days are not over, not yet. Provincial COVID restrictions and guidelines are still in place for many not-for-profit agencies and that does handcuff fundraising activities. The move to digital fundraising has been slow among our long-time traditional donors. A recent fundraising appeal for new furniture for our incredible Life and Hope seniors program saw our direct response mail program outpace our digital ask in total revenue generated, which in many ways, is still a concerning trend. Clearly there is more work to be done.

Although it’s not widely discussed, fundraising among smaller charities has taken a step back because of the pandemic and many of us are still trying to recover from a 17-month series of body blows. The unseen cost is how this reduction in revenue directly impacts clients. Many smaller agencies, particularly in rural areas or in the arts sector cutback or suspend their operations all together. That directly impacts people’s lives and livelihoods.

Support for Abrigo Centre: Donation makes a Big Impact

As we transition to more normal times, your support of the Abrigo Centre is still needed. Please consider donating to our agency and make a difference for someone in need. It could be an isolated senior, a newcomer, a woman and her children facing domestic violence or maybe, it is someone you know. Please know that your donation makes a big impact. Donate safely and securely today on our website through our partner CanadaHelps. Your support is greatly appreciated. Thank you.


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Gerry Luciano

Gerry Luciano has been the Abrigo Centre’s Manager of Fundraising and Communications for the last six years. He has an extensive background in both disciplines in the healthcare and social service sectors.

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