COVID-19: Impact on Food Banks and How You Can Help
Before the novel coronavirus, more than one million Canadians relied on support from local food banks every month. As the global pandemic continues to impact every aspect of our lives, the number of individuals and families in need of services from food banks has spiked. Many Canadians have lost jobs, drop-in centres have closed, and kids can no longer access food programs through schools.
In Canada, food banks and other charities are doing even more (with less) to respond to these rising issues to ensure that food reaches the most vulnerable in our communities. But with dwindling food supplies, fewer volunteers to pick up and drop off food, and many centres closed due to physical distancing measures, the strain on these essential services is mounting.
The silver lining in these unprecedented times is the goodwill and kind-heartedness of people rising to the occasion to help with charitable donations. Among these donors include famous Canadians such as Ryan Reynolds and the cast of Schitt’s Creek. But you certainly don’t need to be famous to make a difference. Here’s how donors and investment advisors can help food banks during COVID-19.
How donors can help
Food banks are appealing to donors with initiatives focused on addressing their greatest needs. While many of us think of food donations, which are always appreciated, financial donations support the less obvious, operational costs faced by food banks and local charities. For example, financial donations help pay for gas in vehicles that pick up and drop off food, cover utility costs which keep the lights on, or purchase additional food supplies such as milk and meat to supplement food items that are difficult to acquire through food donations alone.
Donors who have already established a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) are in the advantageous position to revisit their giving intentions. Oftentimes donors refer to their DAF as a rainy-day charitable fund because the initial amount that they invested with a charitable foundation (recognized by the Canadian Revenue Agency) is invested and gains are sheltered from tax. Grants can then be directed where and when they are needed—and these uncertain times have all the elements of a rainy day.
Donor’s who wish to help a charitable cause they previously supported might consider checking in with that charity’s website to better understand how the crisis has altered their organization. Can the charity continue to serve the same constituents and communities? Are they able to administer the same or slightly modified programs? Can they achieve the same results, or have they refocused their goals? What do they need from donors now? Learning the answers to questions like these will help inform your philanthropic planning.
Once a donor understands the need, they can determine the best method of giving. For donors who have an existing DAF or would like to establish one of their own, a good first step is to speak with your financial advisor to understand your options and how to take action. To see if an organization you would like to support is eligible, a list of registered charities can be found on the CRA website.
Donors may also benefit from consulting with a reputable charitable organization, such as Gift Funds Canada, for experience and knowledge that is valuable to donors who want to do something but are not sure how to go about it.
How investment professionals can help
As various levels of government, the media, and celebrities shine a light on the rise in need for support by Canadian food banks, we can expect that donors will be inspired to help and be contacting their trusted financial advisors for guidance. In this case there are a few things advisors can do to support their clients.
Communicate with your clients. It might seem like a baseline measure during these extraordinary times, but with social distancing keeping people at home and no watercooler for friends and colleagues to discuss around, donors are wondering how they can help.
Ensure clients understand their options and the giving vehicles available to them. This might include ways of giving, reviewing with them the timing of granting and where those granting dollars go.
As the experts, investment professionals are seen by clients as the source of all the answers, which is true to some extent, but it doesn’t mean you need to have all the answer in hand. Consider seeking advice by contacting a reputable charitable organization. The experienced team at Gift Funds Canada remains dedicated to providing essential services to donors and the charities they support by processing grants and assisting those who are helping the many grant recipients, including food banks.
As food banks adapt to their rapidly changing circumstances, it’s clear that help is needed. With some adaptations and extra measures by both donors and the financial advisors who assist them, much needed donations can reach the charities and organizations that are striving to provide food for our communities’ most venerable.