Vancouver charities pivoting to address COVID-19

April 02, 2020
6 min read

Caroline Dobuzinskis

Sr. Manager, Digital Marketing Content

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We spoke with charity leaders in Vancouver on how they are adjusting to the new situation created by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. They provided insight on how donors can continue to sustain the charitable sector in this challenging time. 

Charities across Canada are feeling the squeeze. Due to increased demand on services some are ramping up their efforts. At the same time, charities are adjusting to working remotely, cancelling events, and reorganizing fundraising. 

The economic downturn is affecting individuals, businesses, and charities alike. The charity association Imagine Canada is asking the federal government to offer more support to charities in the form of an $8 billion stabilization fund for the sector. The federal government has already stepped in to provide emergency relief that will help keep some charities afloat (loans and wage loss subsidies for small businesses and non-profits). 

Despite this alarming news, donors should not feel disempowered. While the size of this crisis is daunting, now is the time to give if you can. Small charities make up the majority of those across the country — many operating with annual revenues of less than $400,000 annually. Donor support continues to be integral to a sustainable, and thriving, charitable sector.

Room for hope

While the emergence of COVID-19 has brought unforeseen challenges, it has been accompanied by a noteworthy effort to build community resilience, solidarity, and generosity. Individuals have been creating virtual support networks and Canadians have started a “caremongering” trend

At Charitable Impact, we feel grateful and optimistic because of the continued generosity of donors. A number of charities supporting the response to COVID-19 have seen an increase in donations of more than 400% on Charitable Impact, compared with the same period last year.

Charities shifting in response to COVID-19

We spoke with charities near our HQ in Vancouver to learn more about how the situation is affecting them. We asked how they are pivoting or adjusting to emerging issues. 

SVP (Social Ventures Partner) Vancouver brings together prominent philanthropists with organizations and charities that are making a difference in the lives of young people and their families. Since the start of the pandemic, SVP Vancouver has been conducting outreach to the non-profits they work with in order to better understand and meet their needs at this time. 

“The nonprofits that we support are quickly finding new ways to support vulnerable communities, whether it’s taking their teaching and counselling online, or pivoting operations toward food delivery for kids that used to rely on school meals,” said SVP Vancouver Executive Director Kevin Moorhead in an email interview.

“But these nonprofits are also losing money and staff at an alarming rate. They require resources immediately to continue their important work,” he added. Still, Moorhead is optimistic about the ongoing generosity of donors, and SVP is assisting to direct donor efforts effectively. 

“Emergency situations, as terrible as they are, can bring out the best in people,” said Moorhead. “ I’m seeing a lot of people going above and beyond any reasonable expectations to lend a hand where it’s needed. This makes me feel really optimistic about Vancouver as a connected community.”

Small organizations making deft pivots

In Vancouver, one small grassroots organization, the Binners’ Project has shifted its focus from social enterprise to income support. Typically the organization provides an honorarium to individuals who “bin” from public trash, meaning they do a public service of diverting a significant amount of recyclable trash from landfills.

Out of concern for the health and safety of binners, the Binners’ Project (part of Tides Canada Initiatives Society) has chosen to suspend all their social enterprise programs. The organization continues to help close gaps in services by offering replacement income to binners, and the crisis has impacted their financial projections for the next year.

“In this current situation, donors are incredibly valuable, as they are what is keeping our binner members afloat,” said Binners’ Project Director Landon Hoyt. “As government supports in response to COVID-19 thus far do not support peer worker programs like Binners’ Project, our members are not receiving anything close to the amount they would receive from the work they do weekly.”

Innovating new ways of meeting needs

The Harvest Project, whose mission is to “extend a hand up” to hundreds of vulnerable families across Metro-Vancouver’s North Shore community, has also quickly adjusted its day-to-day operations. Food insecurity is a growing need with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis as many individuals cannot work or have lost jobs. Obviously, delivering food is difficult in a time of social distancing.  

“As the COVID crisis has unfolded, we’ve adapted our programs to a more ‘virtual’ model — delivering grocery-gift cards to each client-family’s residence and connecting with each one by phone or email,” said Harvest Project Development Officer Kevin J. Lee in an email interview. “These changes have increased our need for immediate financial support, as we did not have cash reserves to implement these new measures. 

The support of donors is integral to the continued success of the program. “Many in the community have already responded with generous donations,” said Lee. The Harvest Project has also stepped up itself to do their part by donating their monthly office food budget to the local food bank. 

Have you been inspired to help these or other dynamic charities working to meet the needs of the current COVID-19 crisis? You can donate to any registered charity on our platform. We are also here to help plan your giving. 

We will continue to update and provide information on the ways in which the charitable sector has been affected by COVID-19, and how donors can make an impact with their giving. If you want to learn or talk about how to get more engaged to help those around you, please reach out to us. Our Donor Experience Team is here to respond to your questions. Get in touch by phone (1-877-531-0580), chat (, or email ([email protected]).