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How has COVID-19 impacted non-profits? We check in with six Ontario charities

Posted: June 1, 2020

(May 31, 2020)

By: Megan DeLaire, Durham Region

Ontario’s non-profit sector may be the largest in Canada, contributing $50 million to the provincial economy, but it’s not immune to the viral pandemic that has shut the province down.

We reached out to some charities to find out how they are doing three months into the COVID-19 crisis. Here is what they shared with us.


Donations to UNICEF Canada’s emergency funding have risen, but donations that support UNICEF’s non-emergency work in providing protection, health care and immunizations, education, safe water and sanitation and nutrition have dropped. UNICEF Canada’s inability to host fundraising events or do face-to-face fundraising has challenged the organization to find new virtual ways to reach potential donors.

“UNICEF Canada’s monthly donors, who are providing $5, $10 or $20 a month, have shown an incredible commitment to helping children around the world,” said David Morley, UNICEF Canada’s CEO and president. “Their continued support makes our work for children possible.”

Canadian Cancer Society

As a result of COVID-19, the Canadian Cancer Society anticipates its revenue will be significantly impacted in the next year and beyond. Nationally, the society raises almost $200 million per year, and it expects to see a reduction of $80 million, or 40 per cent, this fiscal year.

“We rely on donations for everything we do, and the people of Ontario are among the biggest supporters of the Canadian Cancer Society,” said Andrea Seale, CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society. “We’ve had to cancel fundraising events because of COVID-19, but people are giving online at and taking part in virtual fundraising activities.”

Diabetes Canada

Diabetes Canada reports a decline in revenues of more than 50 per cent. Many of the organization’s usual fundraising events are not possible this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, and the temporary closure of Value Village stores has impacted its Declutter program — a significant source of funding to support Diabetes Canada’s operations.

“We have had to convert many programs like our camps for kids with Type 1 diabetes or our major annual conference to virtual events. We’ve also had to introduce new services to support patients,” said Jake Reid, national director of government relations for Diabetes Canada. “And we’re doing this with fewer staff and financial resources than ever.”

Diabetes Canada is part of an Ontario Health Coalition that is seeking urgent support from the provincial government in the form of a non-profit sector stabilization fund.

Heart and Stroke Foundation

Heart and Stroke has had to cancel or postpone its spring and summer fundraising events or move them to virtual platforms. As a result, the organization expects to lose $25 million.

It launched an urgent appeal campaign in April, and while the revenue from the campaign has helped the Heart and Stroke Foundation continue to deliver its services, the organization says it does not offset the financial losses caused by the pandemic.

“Ninety-five per cent of our funding comes from donors and at a time when Heart and Stroke faces a $25 million shortfall, we need the support of people more than ever,” said Avril Goffredo, executive vice-president of Heart and Stroke in Ontario and Nunavut.

Kids Help Phone

As of May 22, Kids Help Phone says it has provided more than double the service sessions compared to the same period last year. The increase in demand for services comes as the organization has had to cancel its largest annual fundraising event, which it says has created a significant funding gap.

Though donors have responded with historic levels of support, senior vice-president Aaron Sanderson says the organization needs more help.


The YMCA says COVID-19 had a significant impact on its fundraising efforts, the full effect of which it likely won’t feel for months. The organization has adapted by offering some of its programming online while locations are temporarily closed, but says without the additional support from donors, its ability to continue offering programs and services is in jeopardy.

“This is why we are looking to our partners in the federal and provincial governments to help stabilize community charities like the YMCA, so that we can continue to stay strong and serve our communities through this pandemic and into the future,” a statement from the YMCA said.

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