Are we doing enough? Getting to the bottom of volunteer, donation shortage in Wilmot

New Hamburg resident Nigel Gordijk spoke to organizations, politicians regarding fundraising, volunteers in Wilmot

Volunteers for the annual Poor Boys Luncheon in 2019, organized by the Wilmot Family Resource Centre.

Are we giving less than we ever have?

A report released by The Fraser Institute at the end of 2019 suggested that the amount of money donated to charities by Canadians is falling. (Generosity in Canada and the United States: The 2019 Generosity Index www.fraserinstitute.org/studies/generosity-in-canada-and-the-united-states-the-2019-generosity-index)

“The general trend in recent years is that a declining percentage of Canadian tax filers are donating to charity and they are donating less as a percentage of income,” it says.

The report’s authors used tax filings as the sole basis for their study. However, smaller cash donations aren’t eligible for tax receipts. Neither are certain types of popular fundraiser, such as silent auctions, because the supporter is receiving something in return for their contribution.

So, have local non-profits seen a drop in Wilmot residents’ generosity?

The Wilmot Family Resource Centre runs programs that help low income families.

“Every year our fundraising and donation totals go up, but the cost of running our programs, inflation and demand also increase," said executive director Trisha Robinson.

“Fundraising is always hard work, and we try to be creative to find new ways to get people involved. People donate to what is important to them and what they are passionate about. Our community cares deeply about their neighbours and one another.”

Other than money, Robinson says WFRC benefits from other types of donations, such as “items for the food bank, volunteering, or professional services.”

Robinson isn’t alone in seeing generosity being exhibited in ways that aren’t financial.

The New Hamburg Lions Club works in partnership with other community groups to raise funds during events like Moparfest and the Lioness Tree of Light.

Those funds are distributed to local groups that the Lions support, including WFRC.

“We receive portions of the overall proceeds from events based upon our involvement hours. Our fundraising this past year has been relatively consistent with previous years," said past president of the Lions Club, Paul Mackie.

“As our members age, and efforts to recruit new, younger members remains a challenge, our ability to continue to provide physical hours of labour and assistance is getting more difficult each year.”

Mackie says this will “result in fewer hours being provided, which will be reflected in the proceeds that we receive from events.”

Angie Hallman, Chair of Canada Day in Wilmot, with special guest, Batman (Photo Canada Day in Wilmot)

Angie Hallman, Chair of Canada Day in Wilmot, with special guest, Batman (Photo Canada Day in Wilmot)

Ward 1 Coun. Angie Hallman is chair of the Canada Day event in Wilmot. Her committee raises money through breakfasts and sponsorship “to bring the community a full day event of engaging activities for families (that’s) as free as possible.”

She’s found that fundraising is getting tougher. “Our totals have gone down, which led to us needing to charge a nominal (entry) fee to adults, but we continue to not charge children.”

Matthew Isert Bender, clinical director at Interfaith Counselling Centre, still sees plenty of local philanthropy.

“We receive donations from individuals, businesses, service clubs and churches every year," said Bender. "I think having organizations which are a little smaller helps people feel more connection and ownership in who we are at ICC, which encourages generosity.”

“In memoriam (giving) is another form of donations we are beginning to receive, and we’re deeply grateful that we’re thought of as one of a person’s last donations.”

Bender also says recruiting volunteers is becoming more of a challenge.

“Our board currently could use a few additional members.” ICC’s fundraisers all require volunteers, and the organization has found help from other non-profits. “Different service clubs are offering volunteer hours to support our fundraising and community events.”

“From every corner of our community, we need volunteers," added Hallman ."The biggest thing to remember is that even small commitments of a couple of hours or a small donation of a few dollars at a single event will make a large impact on many lives in our community. The soul of a community is the act of volunteering. It’s these people’s actions who make a difference and shape the place we wholeheartedly call home.”

Nigel Gordijk, a New Hamburg resident, is a guest columnist for the Independent.