A cornucopia of commercialism is around the bend with Black Friday and Cyber Monday next weekend, but in Waterloo Region, it’s the day afterwards that the big deal. On November 28, after the weekend shopping bonanza is Giving Tuesday, where taking takes a back seat to giving, and the region comes together to support their local communities.
The Giving Tuesday campaign is meant to raise awareness for local charities, explains organizer Scott Williams, and encourage people to give. Whether that’s in monetary donations, deliveries to the food bank, a trip to the blood bank, or some volunteer work, it’s a day meant to reflect our generosity.
“This is the third year we’ve been doing it here,” said Williams about the campaign. The original idea for Giving Tuesday began in New York, he explains, in 2012 as a way to “kick off the giving season.” From there, the campaign spread globally, including all across Canada. Encouraged by its success, Williams worked with local partners to bring the campaign into the region.
“So here in Waterloo Region we use it to help to promote the various non-profits and charities that we have, which there are many, and try to give people an idea of what they do in the community and how they can be supported.”
The campaign has already had significant success in the region, notes Williams. According to information provided to him from participating charities, last year there were $200,000 worth of donations on Giving Tuesday. Moreover, 500 volunteer hours were clocked, 70 blood donations recorded, 45 organ donors registered and 25,000 lbs of food donated to participating food banks, all just in the Waterloo Region.
Awareness amongst charities has also gone up, with 190 organizations involved in this year’s Giving Tuesday, over last year’s 135. However, while the word is getting out there, Williams points out that the number of donors in the region has been declining in recent years.
According to data from Statistics Canada, the number of donors as a percentage of the number of tax filers in the region has declined almost each year between 1997 and 2015. In 1997, the earliest year available in the data set, 31 per cent of tax filers were donors; in 2015, it’s dropped to 23 per cent. The median value of donations, meanwhile, has risen, and faster than people’s incomes, suggesting fewer people are donating more of their incomes to charity.
Some of the reasons for this trend may be the recession that hit in 2000’s, suggests Williams. Others may be that people are not aware of the local charities in the area.
“It could be an awareness thing, people just aren’t aware these organizations exist, or where they get their funding. Possibly people are under the misapprehension that it’s all government funded,” he said, giving his workplace, KW Counselling Services, as an example.
“At KW Counselling Services, only about 35 per cent of our annual budget is from government sources. The rest comes from grants, fundraising, [the] community,” he notes.
The point is mirrored by Greg Bechard, executive director of Elmira District Community Living (EDCL), one of the not-for-profits being promoted under the Giving Tuesday banner. The organization, which supports people with intellectual disabilities, receives some government assistance, but much of their services wouldn’t be possible without the community’s largess, he explained.
“The community of Elmira, of Woolwich Township has some pretty amazing volunteers and volunteer groups that are worthy of your support,” said Bechard.
“And the things that you enjoy in this community as an individual, many of them happen because of those groups and those volunteers, whether it be the maple syrup festival, or hockey, or soccer … They all need money to operate and provide those supports. So somewhere, you’ve been touched by an organization that would benefit from your donation and your support.”
Part of Giving Tuesday’s mission is to raise awareness of all these organizations and the work that they do. To that end, information on all participating organizations has been aggregated conveniently to a single website, www.givingtuesdaywr.ca.
“I would say take five or 10 minutes and visit the website,” said Williams. “Look under the “Give” tab, and just take a look and explore the different organizations that are there, because one of them is bound to connect with you. There are so many doing really important work in the community and they really rely on community members to help them do that work.”
Giving Tuesday is on November 28, following the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Information on the not-for-profits themselves and how to donate can all be located at www.givingtuesdaywr.ca.