Charities feeling the recession’s bite

Charities across the country are seeing a drop in cash contributions, and food banks are receiving fewer donations because of the recession.

Charities across the country are seeing a drop in cash contributions, and food banks are receiving fewer donations because of the recession.

As more people lose their jobs, fewer donations of money and second-hand items are coming in. The problem is compounded by the fact that more out-of-work people are relying on charities to get by.

“People who used to be donors are now using our services and coming to us for help,” says Andrew Burditt, territorial director with the Salvation Army. “It seems donating to charities has become a second priority for most Canadians.”

Salvation Army branches in British Columbia and Alberta are seeing an increase in the number of people using their food banks, but fewer personal belongings are being donated to thrift stores and shelters, he said.

One of the charity’s main national fundraising drives — the Red Shield campaign, held every May — saw an 8.5 per cent drop in donations over 2008. Nearly $2.5 million was collected, but that was half a million dollars short of the $3 million goal. The steepest drop-off was in Alberta.

The United Way of Canada managed to break donation records in 2007 and 2008, but is worried about the future.

“Our organization anticipates a tough year ahead both in allocating resources and in meeting the increasing needs and challenges of funded agencies” says spokeswoman Emilie Potvin.

The recession has also shrunk the size of donations.

Since January, the average amount of an individual donation has dropped to $120 from $150, says Owen Charters, director of Canada Helps, an online portal for giving that directs money to 84,000 different charities.

“This is the time to give,” he says. “Those who have should balance it out for those who are suffering.”

Food banks are feeling the pinch as well. Food Banks Canada reported a 20 per cent increase in the number of users between January and March. Food banks were already helping 700,000 in an average month, suggests figures.

“That’s a significant jump and it is very concerning in a year period,” says Katharine Schmidt, Food Banks Canada’s executive director.

“Food donations have been falling significantly since January.”

A 7.3 per cent hike in food prices, compared with last year, is one of the main factors, she says.

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