Shannon Doram knows she doesn't have all the answers. She also knows that's okay.
As the president and chief executive of the Calgary YMCA, Doram is accustomed to being the one people turn to in their moment of need. Doram and her team are fixtures in the Calgary community helping people of all ages belong, grow, thrive, and lead through their health and wellness, leadership, community outreach, and child care programs.
But the financial challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic have left many not-for-profits, including the Calgary YMCA, looking for insights and direction themselves when it comes to managing their new realities.
Many Canadian not-for-profits operate within tight margins even in normal circumstances, relying on a combination of private and public funding, to fundraising events, and individual sponsorships to survive. Unfortunately, as Andrea Barrack, Global Head, Sustainability and Corporate Citizenship at TD points out, many of these budgets have been dramatically altered by the pandemic, forcing these organizations to either lay off staff or close their doors permanently.
And at the same time, in many cases, the demand for their services has accelerated, and their expenses have increased as they seek to protect their stakeholders and deliver online.
To help Canadian not-for-profits as they look to adapt to their new financial situations, TD launched a series of webinars, with the first held in June, designed to help equip both not-for-profits and the TD colleagues working alongside them with critical information and tools needed to successfully navigate the economic impact of COVID-19, together.
Getting the big picture perspective of global markets and the trickle-down effect that changes have or might have on us, like philanthropic revenue, is critical to helping us see the big picture of our financial future and think about other ways we might raise funds," said Doram, who was one of 459 participants who joined the inaugural webinar.
The Calgary YMCA, adds Doram, just re-opened in late July, so the webinar's timing was very helpful.
"It gave me something to go back to the drawing board with to start looking at what we might do in the future and how we might pivot and re-think economics and revenue," said Doram.
"Overall, we're heading into a couple tough years, but the webinar certainly gave me confidence in where I'm at and that it's OK that I don't have all the answers right now because no one does. We are all learning and helping each other as we go."
Building economic resilience in the not-for-profit sector
Imagine Canada, a national charitable organization that supports charities and not-for-profits, is projecting that COVID-19 will cause Canadian charities to lose as much as $9.5-billion and lay off more than 117,000 employees in 2020 alone. According to Imagine Canada, not only will the 2.4 million Canadians employed in the sector be negatively impacted, but also the communities they serve.
"We spent over a month doing research before designing the first webinar," said Andrea Robertson, who helped lead the design of the webinar series as Vice President, Not-for-Profit and Responsible Investing Services at TD.
"I first spoke with many leaders in the sector and sat in on numerous webinars to find out what information not-for-profits needed to have access to that was currently missing," Robertson explained. "We wanted to ensure, given the demands on their time, that we were providing value."
The first webinar of the series brought together economists and leaders in the not-for-profit space, including Bruce MacDonald, President and CEO of Imagine Canada along with the organization's chief economist, Brian Emmett. They were joined by TD Chief Economist Beata Caranci.
This first installment of the series presented a broad, cross-sector economic outlook for not-for-profits as a result of COVID-19 in order to help participants understand current and potential changes underway and to identify revenue opportunities as they plan for an uncertain future.
Supporting the not-for-profit sector from within
In addition to offering the webinars to those working in the not-for-profit sector, the bank has also been readying colleagues who work with the sector to better support them through a series of internal webinars for employees under the TD Community Resilience Initiative (launched in April of this year to support the not-for-profit sector during COVID-19), part of the TD Ready Commitment. The $25 million CAD initiative is committed to funding and on-going collaboration with organizations and community groups.
The first of these internal training webinars helped employees at the Bank get up to speed on the ever-evolving government business grants and financing initiatives available so that they could impart this knowledge to community organizations.
More than 100 TD colleagues who serve the not-for-profit sector attended the internal webinar for a detailed review and to clarify eligibility information of all government grants and subsidies available for not-for-profits and charities, as well as bank loans and services to support organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"After going an informal audit across business lines to see how our small business and commercial banking, advice centres could better support the sector, we found that even though staff had received lots of training on the new grants and loans programs, the language that was used by the government was ambiguous," said Robertson,
"Given how quickly the programs were set up, there was still some confusion around the eligibility criteria as it pertained to not-for-profits, so we worked at getting knowledgeable on these quickly, " she added.
"We are supporting the not-for-profit sector by ensuring that our business advisors understand how these programs are applicable to organizations that deliver these essential programs and services to communities across Canada," said Robertson, adding that the design process for the webinars is by no means finished as the pandemic continues to evolve.
"We are continuing to work with not-for-profits to collect feedback on what future webinars would be helpful to host. By learning and collaborating together our hope is that this will ultimately benefit our communities."
Join the conversation
For those interested in registering for upcoming learning sessions on endowments and fundraising:
Managing your Endowments in COVID-19 Markets: July 30th, from 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. E.D.T.
Join Bryan Lee, Vice President and Director, TD Asset Management, who will discuss recent activity in the market, historical context, and an outlook for potential scenarios, as well as how to think about optimizing outcomes through strategic asset allocation. Register here.
COVID-19: A Fundraising Outlook: August 5th from 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. E.D.T.
This webinar will discuss how we can reimagine the not-for-profit sector through broader collaborations and possible new granting models. This conversation will help not-for-profit leaders understand the fundraising challenges and opportunities as they plan for the future. Register here.