News Digest

News Digest: June 2, 2020

In this week’s News Digest: more data on COVID-related revenue erosion, a focus on equitable stimulus, and pro-bono consulting for arts groups.

Plunging revenue, plunging morale

According to a new Imagine Canada report that compares the COVID-19 crisis to the 2008/09 recession, revenue losses are significantly higher for charities and non-profits this time. In 2008/09, almost a third of charities reported revenue declines of an average of 0.75%. Since the onset of the pandemic, 69% have seen an average drop of 30.6%.

Many of the 1,458 charity leaders surveyed felt pessimistic about future prospects, according to the report. Only one in five believe they will be able to continue at their current level of operations for the next three to six months. Global News reported that one in four BC non-profits could close. In total, nearly 40,000 full-time and nearly 50,000 part-time workers have been laid off.

Equitable stimulus

Community Foundations of Canada (CFC) is gearing up to “think and act more boldly than ever before,” according to a recent announcement, with initiatives such as the Equality Fund. The CFC, in collaboration with the Red Cross, United Way Centraide Canada, and a network of non-profits, will apply an ambitious equity lens in distributing the $350 million from the federal Emergency Community Support Fund. The coalition plans to distribute the funding using gender-based analysis and truth-and-reconciliation-focused decolonizing practices.

These approaches are overdue, many critics say. A group of non-profits is preparing a new series of reports, Resetting Normal, focusing on the gender impacts of the pandemic. The first, Funding a Thriving Women’s Sector, was co-authored by the Canadian Women’s Foundation, the Ontario Nonprofit Network, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and Queen’s University professor Kathleen Lahey, with contributions from Imagine Canada.

The women’s sector entered the crisis “under-funded and under-valued,” with women accounting for about 80% of charity and non-profit employees. The report argues for recognizing the current crisis as an opportunity to “rethink and redesign the role of government and funding models.”

Similar messages are coming from some arts organizations. In Achieving Equity or Waiting for Godot, Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario (CPAMO) warns that the crisis could “wipe out the gains made by Indigenous, racialized, the deaf and disabled and other marginalized artists and arts organizations.” Citing a report by the Wellesley Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, CPAMO points out that racialized people earn 81.4 cents for every dollar paid to non-racialized people, and stakeholder decisions concerning the arts should better reflect such realities.

Pandemic relief for off-reserve Indigenous organizations

Indigenous organizations that serve off-reserve and non-status Indigenous people, such as the National Association of Friendship Centres, are welcoming a shift in dialogue with the federal government’s May 21 announcement of $75 million for organizations that serve First Nations, Inuit, and Métis populations off-reserve, as reported by CBC News. Inadequate amounts of previous funding for these groups felt like “a slap in the face,” said Robert Bertrand, national chief for the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.

The intangibles of recovery

While economic interventions are important in a crisis like this one, First Policy Response, a coalition of policy experts, warns that the solutions are not just about money. In the group’s latest Week in Review, they focused on “the intangibles of recovery.”

Quoting an article by Danielle Goldfarb, head of global research at RIWI Corp, First Policy advised that “any moves toward recovery should also bear in mind the intangible factors that often affect people’s economic behaviour far more than financial considerations alone.” First Policy also highlighted the importance of Canadians’ perception of safety and transparency surrounding data collection. The old normal, wrote Kwame McKenzie, CEO of the Wellesley Institute, was “failing Canadians,” and its shortcomings should guide policy response as the country embarks on a path to recovery.

Supporting the supporters

While many charities have seen their volunteer operations suffer because of social distancing requirements, a handful of volunteer organizations have stepped up to bridge this gap. Calgary’s Volunteer Connector has added a COVID-19 tag and is offering organizations free subscriptions, which include a suite of management tools, during the pandemic.

Yukonnection, meanwhile, has introduced a COVID-19 volunteer-matching system, offering a range of services – from playing online games to dog walking to “pretty much anything” volunteers deem reasonable. “If we’ve learned nothing else over the last few weeks as we deal with COVID-19, it’s that Yukoners are amazing helpers and that our strength lies in our community connections,” the group’s website says.

LEAN on me

The hard-hit arts sector is getting a much-needed assist from the Leadership Emergency Arts Network (LEAN), a grassroots organization launched in April that offers pro-bono support to arts leaders. The network now boasts 170 advisers from every province and territory, assisting nearly 200 non-profit arts organizations.

Launched by three former arts leaders – incoming interim Luminato CEO Celia Smith, executive career coach Michèle Maheux, and arts consultant Jeanne LeSage – the self-described “LEAN Team” provides services such as crisis response and financial analysis to groups of all sizes.

Going beyond neutrality

In the wake of widespread protests against police violence and systemic racism, climate and social-justice non-profit Youth Climate Lab has been tweeting out resources, organizations, and voices to follow, among them activists and educators. “As an organization, we recognize that we cannot be silent about racism and violence against BIPOC [short for Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour],” the group said in a recent tweet. “By doing so, we are complicit in upholding this behavior.” Community Foundations of Canada has amplified the message on social media.

Other Canadian charities and non-profits have added their own calls to action, including FoodShare executive director Paul Taylor, The Circle on Philanthropy, and Soulpepper Theatre Company, which tweeted an evocative passage from a forthcoming play, Pipeline, by Dominique Morisseau.

Online roundup

Free online educational opportunities and conferences continue to proliferate as charities and non-profits scramble to find new ways to deliver services and maintain their profiles.

From June to December 2020, the Community Sector Council of Nova Scotia is partnering with the Unama’ki College of Cape Breton University to launch a weekly live webinar series, Decolonization Learning Journey. The first takes place Tuesday, June 2, and focuses on the Mi’kmaw creation story and pre-contact way of life.

In celebration of National AccessAbility Week (NAAW), the Halifax-based reachAbility is hosting its annual week-long conference online. “We at reachAbility felt we can’t let National AccessAbility Week pass by,” Tova Sherman, founder and CEO of reachAbility, told Global News. The free, open-to-all conference, which runs until June 6, features interactive workshops, a speaker series, and more.

On the west coast, Simon Fraser University’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue’s digital guide, Beyond Inclusion: Equity in Public Engagement, highlights “eight principles to guide the meaningful and equitable inclusion of diverse voices when planning and implementing public engagement initiatives that will inform decision-making processes.”

In central Canada, Ontario’s Pillar Nonprofit Network and the Centre for Research on Health Equity and Social Inclusion have produced Voices from the Margins of a Crisis since the beginning of the pandemic, focusing on how social inequities unfold. In a City Symposium video recently posted to the site, Jenna Rose Sands, a Cree Anishinaabe artist, says, “We need to re-format the sort of dialogue that we’re having.”

Angela Long is a freelance writer currently working on a book about rural journalism in Canada. You can follow her on Twitter @angelamaelong.