Hostages to Fear or Agents of Hope?

Fear-based choices send us down the wrong road


Is a renewed “contagion of fear” taking hold in the charitable sector? 

There's lots to fear in current events and the economy. My RSPs are making no money, the world is in turmoil, Canada’s economic prospects have dimmed and on and on.

I am reminded of the dark days of 2008 and the following months, when the subprime housing market collapsed and dragged us all into an economic abyss. The atmosphere within the charitable sector (and others) turned very dark, and in some quarters fear led to paralysis or withdrawal. 

The sector did genuinely suffer. But fear-based choices made things worse. Here's how it works:


In case you’ve forgotten what it was like to be running a charity in 2008 and early 2009, here’s one headline from the CBC in November 2008: “Financial crisis creating 'perfect storm' for charity organizations.”

Multiply that by many such comments from many quarters, day after day, and little wonder everyone’s anxiety was stoked.

The sector did genuinely suffer. In 2010 Imagine Canada reported that “It is clear that the global economic downturn has had significant effects on charitable giving, at least as measured by claims made on personal income tax returns.” But that same report showed that donations actually rose between 2009-2010.

Statistics Canada has reported that

  • the “donor rate” (percentage of the population claiming charitable donations) held steady from 2007 to 2010
  • total charitable donations per year rose slightly
  • average $/donor did fall by two percent between 2007-2010 (but population growth propped up total giving)
  • average $/donor rebounded and by 2013 were 10 per cent higher than in 2007.

Almost all charities felt the effects in 2008-2010, especially in the United States. Some sectors – those dealing with immediate domestic human need for example – seemed to hold better than others. But even within charitable sub-sectors, some organizations seemed to suffer less than others, and some emerged in better shape.

Largely because they didn't let fear run their shop.

-- Larry Matthews

Illustrations by Charis Brown-Tobias.   © KMA Consultants Inc.