Now is the time to Give Back to Your Community!
Dramatic challenges for Durham nonprofits in 2022 with declining donations and volunteers in the face of rising costs
The pandemic has been uniquely challenging for nonprofits, with donations declining, as revenue from events, fundraising, and activities in the communities decreasing. Meanwhile, there have been significant increases in the need for services for many charities as people have experienced isolation, health challenges, and mental health consequences during the pandemic, in addition to disrupted learning and food insecurity.
More than half of nonprofits in Durham 55% have scaled back programs or services due to the challenges that came with the pandemic. Many have seen service wait times increase, while others have cancelled programs or closed locations altogether.
While many nonprofits have had to cut back on services, while social issues continue to rise, at truly unprecedented rates. The gap between community needs and nonprofits’ ability to provide services is larger than ever.
A 2022 survey of nonprofits across the province conducted by the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) highlights some of the challenges of the pandemic for Durham Region nonprofits that persist into 2022.
In 2022, more than half 55% of nonprofits in Durham Region report their donations are down since before the pandemic. On the other hand, only 38% have seen their revenue increase since the beginning of the pandemic.
At the same time, the vast majority of nonprofits in Durham have seen their costs 83% and their demand for services 69% increase. This is made only more difficult because a strong majority are facing staff challenges 74% and a declining volunteer base 67%.
Many nonprofits have cut back services while need has grown during the pandemic
A few examples of the growing need in the community include:
- The percentage of people in Durham Region reporting at least a strong sense of community belonging declined by 30 points early in the pandemic
- The number of people actively experiencing homelessness in the region was 266 in October 2022, almost double the 135 in January 2021
- Opioid poisonings are almost four times higher in 2021 versus 2015
- Visits to the emergency room for self-harm in Durham Region had already almost doubled in the previous decade before the pandemic while a provincial study of Ontario students showed that 39% of students report their mental health is worse due to the pandemic
- 22% of households in the region experienced food insecurity in 2020, up from 14% in 2019, and data from Feed the Need (see below) suggests that demand for emergency food support has only grown further in 2021 and 2022
Charities are on the frontline of each of these issues. Declining donations and increased demand are causing extreme challenges for the social safety net they provide.
Charities rely on donations to pay tutors and counsellors for at-risk youth, support workers for those facing addictions, and peer workers and space for those facing homelessness. Donations cover the costs of staff, food, and space to support food banks. Community groups work hard providing events to help people feel a sense of belonging to their communities. Programs available to support newcomers are stretched, supports for young people hit hard by the pandemic have less capacity, and recreation and cultural programs do not have the resources to reopen events and activities that were shuttered by the pandemic.
Adding to these challenges, Durham region is one of the fastest-growing regions in Canada between the 2016 and 2021 Census and this growth has continued to accelerate to the point that the Oshawa, Clarington, and Whitby Census Metropolitan Area was the fastest-growing CMA in the entire country in 2019/2020. Even without factoring in drastic increases in costs for food and housing, the demand for services is going up just because the population is growing.
How this comes together can be quite alarming for the community. For example, Feed the Need distributes food to 60 different food banks and emergency food providers in Durham Region. Before the pandemic, there were typically 5000 to 6000 visits per month to FTN member agencies, but by September 2022 this has more than doubled to 14,000 visits. Meanwhile, donations are at the lowest levels their executive director has seen in his 8 years at the organization – even as the need is higher than ever.
What can be done?
The challenges of the pandemic need significant action from the government and from each of us.
If you can afford it, donate. And it is critical to give where you live, supporting your neighbours through donations directly to local charities and nonprofits. There are more than 900 charities in the region, you will certainly find a cause worth supporting.
You can view our Community Report to see some of the organizations we are supporting and give to them directly.
If you supported local events and causes before the pandemic and it’s been a while since you’ve last donated, reach out and donate. If you can’t think of a gift for someone who has everything, consider a charitable donation in their name. Many people make their major charitable contributions in the last two weeks of the year. There is still plenty of time to make charitable donations a part of your holiday season.
The decline in belonging in the community can only be reversed when people are participating and engaging, look for volunteer opportunities in the community. Charities need more volunteers for the short term, but they also need board members willing to commit to multi-year terms. They need people willing to give a significant amount of time over the long-term.
Donations are critical, but the challenges in our community require us to work together to solve these problems.
Durham Community Foundation is currently working on a Vital Signs Report to explore the needs of our region based on data. We look forward to sharing our insights with you in 2023. In the meantime, we encourage you to Give Back to Your Community especially during the holiday season.