This year's Giving Tuesday kicks off a very different charitable season

·3 min read

Dec. 1 marks Giving Tuesday, the follow-up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday that encourages people to consider where they can make a charitable donation or find some other way of giving back to the community.

With the COVID-19 pandemic this year, however, there's a renewed focus on the needs of the most vulnerable, says Kate Bahen, the managing director at Charity Intelligence, a non-profit that evaluates the Canadian charity sector.

"We're putting the basic necessities back to the forefront. The women's shelters. The food banks," Bahen said on CBC's B.C. Today. "We're hearing from a lot of donors who used to give to, you know, symphonies, art museums, etc., and we're seeing a real rotation in giving back to the community and back to the essential services."

Bahen has a few tips for those interested in giving back this season.

Do your research and give with intention.

It's important to know what impact your donation is having in the community, says Bahen, especially at a time when dollars need to be stretched.

Bahen says Canadians give $17 billion to charities each year, but early estimates show that giving is likely going to be down by about 37 per cent due to hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"When you're giving at this time, we need donations to do the most good possible," she said, pointing out that Charity Intelligence has research and analysis available on its website that can help inform a giving decision.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

She said going through previous statements can help you judge whether a charity needs help this year, or whether another one might be better served.

"Just like some people are very well off and are going to be fine and some people are really struggling, there are some charities that are really well off. They have tens of millions of dollars in the bank, they'll be able to come through COVID fine, absolutely fine," she said. "There are lots of other charities that are really trying to keep their lights on."

Sometimes, cash is best.

Bahen says pay attention to what people need. She notes that food banks would much rather have cash than items purchased at a grocery store and then donated.

"A local food bank ... has its purchasing power. It can buy four times as much food with that dollar as you could spending it retail. It knows its clients. It knows what it needs," she said.

The same goes for gift cards or cash vouchers for families in need.

"Giving cash has dignity with it. It's a trust, it's a respect. It's saying to them … get what you need, rather than what we think you should have," she said.

It's a tough year. Take care of yourself, too.

Finally, Bahen said, not everyone will be able to give in the same capacity as previous years — and that's perfectly fine.

"When you've lost your job, when you've faced financial uncertainty, you cannot make a charitable donation. You have to take care of yourself," she said.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

"[For] those who are in a position to give, it's time for us to dig deep and help out our neighbours."

On Dec. 4, join us virtually for special broadcasts and digital Meet and Greets with your favourite CBC British Columbia hosts, and donate to Food Banks B.C. from the comfort of your own home. For more, visit