The non-profit and charitable sector is a key part of the ecosystem we operate within, and it took and continues to take some pretty significant hits as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than half of charities and non-profits in Ontario reported revenue losses, with the average loss for charities nationwide being 43%. 24% of nonprofits laid off staff and 25% of organizations have had to dip into reserve funds.
Our youth-led participatory grant-making model is intended to fill existing gaps in charitable sector funding, and our original curriculum incorporates interviews and site visits with local charities as a way for youth to familiarize themselves with the organization they are pitching for funding. While these immersive learning experiences have proven valuable for building deeper and sustained relationships between youth and their respective charities, we also foresaw the additional burden that these engagements might have on organizations that were already struggling to survive and offer critical support to vulnerable populations during the pandemic. As a result, we revised our program guidelines to say that charity interviews and site visits were not required nor recommended in 2020/2021. We recommended that YPI students conduct online research only, and do not email, phone, or otherwise request interviews with charities. This is in addition to not conducting in-person site visits due to physical distancing requirements. These recommendations have been maintained into the 2021/2022 program year.
We have chosen to leave the final decision up to teachers, as there are charities that have expressed that they still would be open to phone calls and video interviews with YPI students, and many teachers and students have close relationships with local charities. In this sense, we understand that teachers are best positioned to know whether a particular charity would welcome email/phone interviews from their students and want them to retain agency in that decision while considering our recommendation.
As an alternative to charity site visits, we have also offered our support with connecting current YPI students and classes with their school’s alumni who are active in their community, or other guest speakers from their community’s local charitable and philanthropic sectors. This was a suggestion that came directly from students in our 2020/21 post-program survey, and we have been happy to support its implementation, particularly if it means easing the burden on an already stretched and understaffed charitable secto
- Make conscious shifts away from models of relating that are based on transaction (“I choose to be in relationship with you because I’m getting something of equal value in return”) and/or (“I choose to be in relationship with you because it makes me feel good about myself to help you”) SO THAT we can work toward building relationships that center reciprocity rooted in our inherent interdependence (“I choose to be relationship with you because I understand how our lives, livelihoods, and liberation are deeply and intricately intertwined”).
- Allocate time, resources, and energy towards understanding how our fellow collaborators are impacted by massive and/or ongoing shifts within the sectors we work in, SO THAT we can adapt in ways that not only guarantee our survival, but also support their survival and flourishing in an altered landscape.
- Understand where and how we are uniquely positioned to make adaptations in a crisis SO THAT we can leverage our power to support our collaborators to repair and rebuild, while upholding our commitment to cultivating equity, justice, anti-racism, and anti-oppression in all aspects of our work.
- Take time to pinpoint the ways in which we are experiencing strain, tension, and/or pressure as an organization and the sources of that strain, SO THAT we can take steps to relieve this pressure at its roots rather than downloading it onto our collaborators.
- Keep abreast of the consequences of the adaptations that we as an organization make SO THAT we can be accountable and responsive to both the intended and unintended impacts of our actions.
- Adopt an approach to funding (including fundraising and grantmaking) that prioritizes the needs of our organization while also accounting for the most pressing needs within the sectors we work in SO THAT we can respond to changes in funding priorities.