Media Release: Impact of flood on nonprofits and charities to be felt in the months to come

In the immediate aftermath of the extensive flooding that began in Calgary on June 20, 2013, Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (CCVO) and Propellus (formerly Volunteer Calgary) began to assess the immediate and long-term impact that the flood has had on local nonprofits and charities.

Overall, the message from the nonprofit sector is one of resilience. While many organizations were called upon to redirect their services towards flood relief, most local nonprofits and charities were not directly affected by the flood waters. And while many organizations are now finding themselves back at work, the long-term effects of the flood will be felt in a number of areas.

While the survey is ongoing, the following emerging trends have been identified:

The volunteer response throughout the flood crisis has been overwhelmingly positive.  It was primarily grassroots driven and widespread and in some instances pre-empted attempts at ‘organized’ responses.  In the long-term, organizations noted that they will require individuals to continue with their ongoing volunteerism in addition to the crisis volunteering. 

Demand for Services
Not surprisingly, many organizations reported a rise in demand for services, particularly in the Social Service sector. This combination of the needs of the temporarily displaced, coupled with ongoing and steadily increasing demand for services has created an ‘operational squeeze.’

Immediate Financial Pressures
Increased service demand, damage to facilities and equipment, and loss of revenues from cancellation of fundraising events have all contributed to financial pressures on many organizations. Many efforts that were hailed as successful responses to the crisis, including the relocation of multiple shelters and crisis housing, came with a hefty price tag, one which the already-stressed organizations did not anticipate.

Concern about future funding
A large portion of those surveyed expressed concerns about funding for on-going programs, anticipating a shift in donor engagement towards flood relief, and concern that funders may have to shift their priorities to address the greater need that has arisen from the disaster.

There is also concern that the overall capacity for individual donors to give may be reduced, either by redirecting earmarked donations to flood recovery, or by individuals having their own financial challenges, and being unable to continue to support their charity of choice.

Jamie Niessen, CEO of Propellus, on the volunteer impact:  “It seems many organizations have not had sufficient time to thoroughly assess the long term impact of the flood crisis. Organizations will be tracking to see if their ability to recruit volunteers for ongoing work is negatively affected in the months ahead.  We also wonder if ongoing volunteerism will increase in response to the backlog of projects created by the crisis or will volunteer fatigue and burnout become a factor? It’s too early to know the answers and will require long term monitoring of the local sector.”

Funders have already begun to address the need for a long-term strategy for providing relief, with United Way of Calgary and Area and The Calgary Foundation developing ongoing rebuilding funds that will support and complement on-going project and operational funding.

“Throughout the next few months, and extending into the next year, it is critical that we don’t forget the on-going needs of the nonprofit sector,” says Katherine van Kooy, President and CEO of CCVO.

“While urging Calgarians to ‘shop local’ we should also remember to extend that rallying cry to the nonprofit sector, whether that means increasing your attendance at local performances, volunteering after the flood to in-need organizations, or contributing financially to on-going programs. It will take an effort from everyone to get back to business as usual, but the flood showed the best of Calgarians ‘can do’ spirit and I am confident we will all continue to match resources with areas of need.”

Media Contacts

Johanna Schwartz, Communications Coordinator
Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations
403.261.6655 ext 230

Karen Franco, Director, Communications
403.265.5633 ext 436