No bailouts for the charities

City’s non-profit groups look for ways to generate money during recession

Bruce Michalski of Winnipeg Harvest hopes that people will give back to the community in ways other than donating money during the recession. Mark Reimer

Though they are still holding on, Winnipeg’s non-profit charities are already worried how the bleak economic future will impact donations.

“It is certainly a concern we have as a food bank,” said Bruce Michalski, interim general manager of Winnipeg Harvest. “But we haven’t seen a decrease in donations yet.”

Michalski already heard from some supporters that their donations won’t be as high as last year.

Melanie O’Gorman, economics professor at the University of Winnipeg, expects donations to all kinds of non-profit groups to decline by one per cent.

“People will have less discretionary spending, which is the money left over after basic expenses have been paid.”

O’Gorman also suggested corporate donations will decline.

“Large charities with endowment funds invested in the stock market have also fallen drastically in value,” O’ Gorman said.

Winnipeg Harvest is now thinking of alternative ways to gain support from the public.

“We’re hoping people will give in a different way, whether it’s through volunteering or growing extra food in their garden,” Michalksi said.

Some corporations are planning on providing Winnipeg Harvest with more volunteers instead of money, he added.

We’re hoping people will give in a different way, whether it’s through volunteering or growing extra food in their garden.

Bruce Michalski,  Winnipeg Harvest

Winnipeg Harvest, which delivers 8.5 million pounds of food to Manitobans every year, needs enough volunteers to fill hours equal to 113 full time positions.

The organization is also looking into directly connecting with food producers and growers to make up for the lack of donations.

On the other hand, O’Gorman expects an increase in the amount of volunteers for non-profits during the recession.

“People will have a decrease in their hours at work, or they will be laid off,” O’Gorman said, leaving them more free time to devote to good causes.

The federal budget also did not provide any increases in funding for those groups, O’Gorman added, despite repeated requests.

“The non-profit sector called for an increase in the charitable tax credit,” O’Gorman said.

“There won’t be a bailout for the charitable sector.”

The drop in corporate donations doesn’t affect everyone.

Linda Warkentin, communications co-ordinator at Siloam Mission, said that although they do receive corporate donations –  the Asper Foundation recently donated $30,000 for an art program – they do not rely on them to stay afloat.

“We require a constant flow of money, as the donations we receive tend to go out fairly quickly,” she said.

Instead, Siloam depends on a lot of small givers.

Although Warkentin said they haven’t seen a slowdown in donations just yet, the spring and summer are usually the slowest times of the year.

“We’re not sure what that will bring,” she said.

Published in Volume 63, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 5, 2009)

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