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Weathering the Storm Survey shows how tough it was on BC charities in 2009 – and what’s expected in 2010

October 26, 2009

Vancouver Foundation released its report Weathering the Storm today. It is the first definitive study to examine the effects of the economic downturn on charities in BC.

October 26 – 2009 — Vancouver Foundation released its report Weathering the Storm today. It is the first definitive study to examine the effects of the economic downturn on charities in BC.

The survey, which was conducted in the last two weeks of September 2009, gathered information on what happened to charities in 2009, and how they responded. The questionnaire also explored what charities anticipate will happen in 2010, and how prepared they are for those challenges.

In total, 470 charities across the province participated. They came from a broad range of sectors: social services, arts and culture, education, health care, environment, animal welfare, sports and recreation, etc.

Key findings of the survey were:

    • Almost every charity was impacted in some way by the economic downturn in 2009. However, certain organizations – smaller charities, arts and culture and environmental groups – were the most negatively impacted by drops in their revenue base.
    • Overall, more than half of all charities (53 per cent) experienced a drop in revenue in their 2009 fiscal year, with the average decline being 19 per cent.
    • For certain charities, the bigger challenge this year was the increased demand on their services. Social service and health care organizations were both significantly affected by a jump in demand for services.
    • Many charities dealt with this year’s budget challenges by looking for new sources of revenue (62 per cent) or undertaking more fundraising (58 per cent). This means that more organizations are searching for what is, essentially, a shrinking pool of funds.
    • One-quarter (25 per cent) of charities surveyed had to layoff staff in order to cope. Of those who did reduce their roster of employees, the average reduction amounted to a 21 per cent cut to their total workforce.
    • Looking forward, charities are not overly optimistic about 2010. Most anticipate they will continue to experience a drop in key revenue areas, while some also predict a marked increase in demand for their services.
    • Half of all charities feel they are either “not prepared” or only “somewhat prepared” for the challenges of 2010. Several charities reported they had already cut to the bone, and there was no more left to cut: any further erosion of their revenue would likely lead to closure next year.

“We chose the name of this report very deliberately,” said Faye Wightman, CEO of Vancouver Foundation. “The experience that charities, including ourselves, have been through this past year is equivalent to a hurricane plowing through the community. Now the storm may be passing but it has left a lot of devastation in its wake. There is much repair and rebuilding that needs to be done. And some structures are now so fragile they could collapse at the first gust of wind. We expect 2010 will be harder than this current year for many charities.”

Click here to download a copy of the report.

Vancouver Foundation is Canada’s largest community foundation. Established in 1943, it works with donors to fund innovative projects in communities across the province. The Foundation is one of the largest funders of charities in B.C. and supports work in everything from arts and culture to environment, from health to homelessness.

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