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Number of Canadians relying on charities increasing due to rising cost of living, poll suggests

More Canadians are using services offered by charities to meet essential needs such as food, clothing and shelter, according to a new poll.

The Ipsos poll, which was commissioned by CanadaHelps, says 22 per cent of Canadians plan on making use of charitable services, an eight per cent increase over a similar poll from January.

CanadaHelps, which facilitates donations to 86,000 registered Canadian charities through its online platform, says the increase is due to continued economic uncertainty amid the rising cost of living.

“We know that Canadians across the country are feeling the impact of rising interest rates and the high cost of living, but it’s staggering to see that two in ten Canadians will need support from charities to meet their basic needs,” said Jane Ricciardelli, Acting CEO of CanadaHelps.

According to the Ipsos poll, the group most needing help is Canadians between the ages of 18 and 34, where one in three (35 per cent) are expected to access essential charitable services in the coming months.

Over a quarter of people aged 35 to 54 (26 per cent) and one in four parents (27 per cent) also plan on accessing essential services.

Food is prepared in a Fred Victor kitchen. The charity says it helps 3,000 people a day with essential needs such as shelter and food, but has seen a decline in charitable donations this year. (Patrick Swadden/CBC)

Although demand for charitable services is rising, some charities themselves are facing significant shortfalls in funding as a significant number of Canadians scale back on charitable giving. 

The poll suggests 20 per cent of Canadians expect to reduce their charitable giving this year, while only 13 per cent of Canadians are planning to give more in 2022 than they did last year. Seventy-four per cent of Canadians who plan on giving less cite the same reason — the rising cost of living — as the key reason why they are scaling back, the survey found

“To see Canadians have to scale back their giving isn’t surprising, but it is very concerning,” said Nicki Lamont Cholfe, the director of donor marketing at CanadaHelps

CanadaHelps says 20 per cent of Canadians plan on giving less this year, which will affect charities such as Fred Victor. (Patrick Swadden/CBC)

This has a huge effect on charities like Fred Victor, which helps about 3,000 people who are experiencing homelessness find safe, stable housing every day.

Marie MacCormack, Fred Victor’s vice president of philanthropy and communications, says 85 per cent of their funding comes from the government, but they have to raise funds to close the shortfall of about $5 million through donations.

She says this was easier during the first two years of the pandemic when charitable donations actually increased.

“At the core of everybody’s heart is the understanding that we have to do something when disaster strikes,” said MacCormack.

Marie MacCormack, the VP of philanthropy and communications at Fred Victor, says charitable donations increased during the first two years of the pandemic, but have decreased recently. (Patrick Swadden/CBC)

However, the number of donations has dropped off considerably this year, amid high inflation and the rising cost of living, the housing crisis and what MacCormack calls a “massive demand” for food programs and other services the charity provides.

“It feels like we’re on the other side of that disaster and that disaster mentality of giving drops off,” said MacCormack.

“You can’t sustain that forever … It’s been a real roller coaster ride.”

CanadaHelps launches national awareness campaign

To help fight the decrease in charitable giving, CanadaHelps launched a national awareness campaign Tuesday to inspire Canadians called 12 Ways to Give.

“There are so many different ways that Canadians can make an impact,” said Cholfe.

The campaign details other ways to help, including volunteering with local charities, giving a charitable gift, including stocks or mutual funds, or supporting emergency response efforts in Canada or around the world.

Cholfe says she also hopes Canadians will participate in GivingTuesday on Nov. 29. Last year, CanadaHelps says more than $11.4 million was donated on GivingTuesday using its platform.

“We hope this year Canadians will recognize the growing need across the sector and help make a difference by donating in whatever capacity they’re able to their charity of choice,” said Cholfe.

The campaign formally launched during a charity media tour in downtown Toronto on Tuesday, with stops at Children’s Book Bank, Fred Victor and Anishnawbe Health Foundation.

MacCormack also says she hopes this will inspire Canadians to give.

“I think every Canadian should really be connecting to the causes that they feel moved by.”

The online poll by Ipsos was conducted between Oct. 28 and Nov. 1, 2022 on behalf of CanadaHelps.org, among a sample of 1,000 Canadians aged 18+.  Weighting was employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data. Margin of error for online polls cannot be calculated, but for comparison purposes only, a probabilistic sample of this size would yield a margin of error of ±3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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