The COVID-19 pandemic challenged many aspects of Canadian society in different ways, but perhaps among the hardest hit was the charitable sector. A survey conducted by Imagine Canada in late 2020 revealed many organizations in the charitable sector were struggling. For example, 69% of charities reported a decline in revenues, with the drop averaging nearly 31%. These numbers are significantly higher when compared to the recession in 2008-2009, when 32% of charities saw an average decline in revenue of 0.75%.
While concerning, some charities faced a series of complex challenges that emerged during the pandemic that go beyond a drop in income. Consider Habitat for Humanity Canada, as an example. The charity helps families transition to independence with programs that empower them to build equity through affordable homeownership.
Social distancing government requirements meant a key source of revenue for the charity – corporate-sponsored home construction events at many of its housing locations across the country – was no longer possible. It also kept Habitat homeowners from volunteering their time on build sites or in Habitat ReStores, a key requirement for participating in the charity’s housing program.
Habitat, like many businesses in the housing sector, were also challenged by a shortage of building materials and the rising costs of some raw materials (such as lumber). Pandemic restrictions also forced Habitat ReStores – a public-facing donation centre and storefront that deals in home furnishing and building supplies – to temporarily close, pivot to curbside service or transition online at reduced capacity.
At the same time, the rapidly rising cost of real estate in many parts of the country translated into increased demand for affordable housing. And with many sectors of the broader economy shut down, such as parts of the retail, hospitality and restaurant industries, many Habitat homeowners and potential applicants faced a loss of income they depended upon to afford mortgage payments.
“COVID-19 emerged as a perfect storm of challenges for our homeowners, volunteers, partners and employees,” said Jennifer Hearn, Vice President, Resource Development, with Habitat for Humanity Canada. “It has tested – and continues to test –our resiliency, but it’s also been inspiring to witness the resourcefulness and innovation emerge with our people and partners as we navigate through the challenges of the pandemic.”
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Despite the pandemic, Habitat for Humanity was able to support those in need, with 200 working families becoming new Habitat homeowners. The charity also pivoted some of their core programs online or adjusted them to meet government pandemic guidelines. In fact, more than 2,000 youth received on-the-job skills training and instruction while over 11,000 volunteers were still able to help Habitat continue to build homes, operate its offices or storefronts and engage with communities.
Allstate Insurance Company of Canada and The Allstate Foundation of Canada recently launched a new charitable partnership with Habitat for Humanity, pledging to donate $50,000 in 2021. The money will be spread evenly to five Habitat Affiliates in Southern Alberta, Greater Toronto Area, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
Allstate Canada has a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy to support organizations that encourage an environment of inclusion, involvement and empowerment for those that experience barriers in their community, career or personal life. “Habitat for Humanity is a great fit for our Foundation and the types of charitable initiatives it supports,” said Melissa Marquis, Allstate Agency Manager. “Our agency in St. Catharines, Ontario has been supporting a local Habitat location for years and it’s become a big part of our team-building activities. Our entire agency really enjoys the experience of giving back to the local community.”
To learn more about Habitat for Humanity and the programs they run across Canada, visit https://habitat.ca/.
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This information and the opinions expressed in this blog are based on research and interviews with the authorities identified, conducted on behalf of Allstate Canada. They have been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice.