Fort McMurray Fires: Where to Give

Updated May 11, 2016

The wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alberta, is catastrophic, forcing the evacuation of 80,000 people. Thankfully there have been no lives lost at this stage. This will likely be Canada's largest disaster, surpassing the 1998 Quebec Ice Storm. The 2011 Slave Lake wildfire destroyed 433 properties, forcing the evacuation of 7,000 people. In Fort McMurray, 2,400 properties are destroyed (10% of Fort McMurray's buildings). 

All Canadians want to know how to help. Charity Intelligence is recommending:

1. For emergency response to help evacuees, donate to local charities in Edmonton (e.g. Edmonton Food Bank)

2. For rebuilding, consider local charities in Fort McMurray (see below).

Canadian Red Cross Update: as in all disasters, the Canadian Red Cross receives the lion's share of donations. As of May 11, the Canadian Red Cross has received $67 million in donations, before the matching funds from the Federal and Alberta government. Canadians have been unbelievably generous in their support for Fort McMurray. This is the largest and fastest donor response to a Canadian disaster. 

May 11, 2016: The Canadian Red Cross announces that it will be distributing $50 million of these donations in cash transfers to Fort McMurray evacuees. This size and speed of disbursement is unprecedented in Canadian Red Cross history. Charity Intelligence applauds this decision. It empowers each evacuee to best meet immediate needs. In disaster response, speed matters. Direct cash transfers is a proven, effective way to provide aid. 

Consider giving to charities other than Canadian Red Cross: the vast majority of donations for this disaster response go to the Canadian Red Cross; Fort McMurray's local charities are largely overlooked by donors. In looking back over the Lac Megantic train disaster and also the Alberta Floods of 2013, Charity Intelligence was particularly impressed by how local, grassroots charities responded quickly and were able to provide effective disaster help and also lead the rebuilding. In this emergency, give differently, and donate to local charities. 

Listen or Read Kate Bahen's interview with CBC Radio As It Happens Carol Off, "Fort McMurray: Why is Ottawa only matching donations to the Red Cross?"


Fort McMurray local charities

When people return to Fort McMurray, its local charities will need donations to help the people. The needs will be greater than ever. Charity Intelligence has pulled from the CRA Charities Listing a full list of Fort McMurray local charities that received donations over $100,000 in 2013 (the most recent year available). Charity Intelligence has a rating and review on only one of these local charities. But given the size of their local support with donations over $100,000, these are the local charities the people of Fort McMurray supported most (see below). 

Fort McMurray's disaster response will likely have 2 distinct phases: first, the disaster response helping 80,000 evacuees live and cope in temporary shelter, and second, helping these people rebuild when they return to Fort McMurray. 


For Fort McMurray's evacuees - disaster response:

Edmonton's Food Bank - first responder providing food and essentials to so many of the evacuees who have fled to Edmonton. In addition, Edmonton Food Bank will send food shipments to Fort McMurray and other local centres helping the evacuees. Click to read Charity Intelligence's report on Edmonton's Food Bank 

Donate to Edmonton's Food Bank

Salvation Army Community in Fort McMurray - donate online to the Salvation Army Alberta Fire Response or text FORTMAC to 45678

CBC Edmonton has posted this information regarding the family pets of evacuees. One may think that disaster recovery is not a time to support animals. However, the emotional distress of losing family pets can increase the psychological distress on evacuees. For families living in their cars or in emergency shelters, taking care of pets can be a heavy burden. 

Alberta's SPCA is rescuing pets from Fort McMurray and coordinating their return to their families. Donate to Alberta SPCA

Edmonton Humane Society - can shelter family pets and is preparing to go to Fort McMurray to rescue any animals left behind. Click to read Charity Intelligence's review on Edmonton Humane Society 2011

Donate to Edmonton Humane Society

CBC Edmonton also reports Alberta Animal Rescue Crew doing similar work. 

Donors know that Edmonton and Alberta have highly-developed economies. It is heart-warming to hear about groups across Canada preparing to send items like toiletries, diapers, clothing, food and water to Edmonton. These good intentions are sincere, but a waste of essential resources. When far away from a disaster location, sending money is the most efficient way to help. 


Rebuilding Fort McMurray

Rebuilding Fort McMurray will be a long-term project and will likely cost far more than the emergency response. Families and charities with insurance should have the financial support to get back on their feet. Fort McMurray charities will also have lost their buildings. It isn't known right now which Fort McMurray charities have suffered loss. There are 74 charities registered in Fort McMurray. Churches, and other religious centres are often the community hub that will need to be rebuilt. We will keep monitoring the situation to understand which local charities also need to rebuild. 

United Way of Fort McMurray click to read Charity Intelligence's 2015 rating on United Way of Fort McMurray 

Donate to United Way of Fort McMurray

The agencies the United Way supports in Fort McMurray include: 

Charities helping seniors: St Aidan's Society, McMan and Golden Years Society 

For Youth: Fort McMurray Boys and Girls Club, Centre of Hope, the Children's Centre operating since 1994, provides free pre-school early education program for toddlers and parents preparing children for school. 

Waypoints: formerly Fort McMurray Family Services just opened in June 20155 a $25 million new building providing 78 apartments providing second-stage housing and a women's shelter. 

Donate to Waypoints

A Summary of Fort McMurray's local charities with donations over $100,000 and not government charity agencies (school boards) with low cash and investments to tap into:

Charity Name

Donations in 2013 Funding Reserves in 2013*
United Way Fort McMurray 6,399,032 9,474,274
Keyano College Foundation 3,089,540 1,653,527
no additional information found    
McMurray Gospel Assembly - Donate 2,841,342  1,247,698 
A Christian fundamentalist church helping Fort McMurray know God by representing Christ's interests in humanity. Read the February 2016 newsletter for a full view of events    
Family Christian Centre (Fort McMurray) - Donate 2,784,866  1,243,355 
Donations to Family Christian Centre Fort McMurray go through ERDO, a member of Canadian Council of Christian Churches. Providing counselling for all Fort McMurray evacuees. Runs children and youth programs, bible study    
Northern Lights Regional Health Foundation - Donate 1,653,679  6,200,703 
Early reports say that Fort McMurray's hospital is fine. The Northern Lights Regional Health Foundation fundraises to buy medical equipment for the hospital.    
North Light Fellow Baptist Church - Donate 1,050,775  1,307,940 
Serves a weekly congregation of 250 people and runs a soup kitchen. It also has a small outreach church in Anzac serving 20 people. It has set up a temporary site in Edmonton to serve its community.     
Redeemed Christian Church of God (Daystar Chapel) - Donate  787,938 1,365,907 
Twice a month Daystar ministers to seniors, each September holds "Sound of Victory" to bring together people from all walks of life to worship and praise God.     
Fort City Church - Donate 593,134  141,637 
Even in the fires, Fort City Church was running services for the First Responders. Fort City serves its community with creative arts workshops, youth and adult ministries.    
Salvation Army Fort McMurray - donate link not found 376,063  381,530 
Provides direct services and supports, like group living supports and day programs to people with developmental delay. Also runs Marshall House, a 32-bed shelter for homeless men in Fort McMurray, and soup kitchen.    
Wood Buffalo Food Bank - Donate 395,679  686,844 
In September 2015, Fort McMurray's food bank reported a 69% increase in people helped due to the oil sector downturn and providing service to First Nations, Fort McKay and Conklin. In 2015, the food bank helped 2,344 people, including 962 children, distributing nearly 20,000 lbs of food throughout the year. Wood Buffalo Food Bank's 2015 annual report    
Fort McMurray SPCA - Donate 273,259  987,850 
Shelters dogs and cats and helps pet adoption. Advocates for spaying and neutering. In 2014, gave 3 hour workshops to 365 children teaching animal kindness and empathy. Sheltered 13 animals for families leaving abusive relationships.    
All Saints Anglican Church - no donate button found 209,230  71,275 
A congregation of 300 members to be a Christian community for a society in need nurturing God's love. The downtown church holds services throughout the week and AA and NA meetings. Address is 9902 Manning Ave, Fort McMurray, AB T9H 2B9    
Evergreen Christian Reformed Church 201,064  112,850 
With a congregation of 60 people, Evergreen expresses the good news of God.    
St. Thomas' Anglican Church - Donate 192,706  185,685 
Holds a Sunday and Wednesday service each week.    
The Hub Family Resource Centre - Donate 159,535  283,252 
Founded in 2003, the Hub strives to see every child has the opportunity to learn and grow to reach its potential. In 2015, the Hub served 5,600 residents of Fort McMurray. It provides programs for children from birth to age 6. It is the safe visitation exchange for children in shared custody arrangements is a supervised setting.    
Jesus the Anointed One Church - No donate button found  118,031  13,109
A church serving Fort McMurray's Filipino community to bring more soul in the Lord    
CMHA Wood Buffalo - Donate 113,279  296,649 
Working in Fort McMurray since 1984, CMHA Wood Buffalo promoted mental health for all in Fort McMurray and supports people experiencing mental illness. CMHA Wood Buffalo provides counselling, workshops on managing stress, school programs focusing on mental health, and other supports. One of the tips from Slave Lake's experience highlights the need for professional counselling after a disaster. A Fort McMurray United Way agency.   



*cash and investments the charity holds for an emergency contingency 

requested by a Ci donor; figures from 2014 audited financials. Financial data pulled from CRA Charities Listings for 2013. Descriptive information found on the charities' websites. 


May 10, 2015: The Globe and Mail reports that Fort McMurray's schools are fine. Fort McMurray's Northern Lights Hospital is apparently fine. 

Charity Intelligence has not included in this list Fort McMurray Catholic Board of Education (reporting funding reserves of $19.1 million), Fort McMurray School District No. 2833 (this is a provincially-funded school and it reports $11.1 million in cash and investments), and Fort McMurray Historical Society (funding reserves reported at $6.3 million). 

Local charities and the Red Cross

How much of Red Cross donations goes to local charities? On May 12, 2016, the Red Cross released its community grants reporting that $12.0 million supported 102 local Alberta charities in the Alberta Flood relief efforts. This represents 28% of donations. This is significantly higher than the 2% Charity Intelligence reported. Charity Intelligence appreciates the Red Cross' disclosure. Charity Intelligence's explanation on these revised numbers 

It is noteworthy that the Canadian Red Cross also recognizes that donations in the hands of local charities can be the most effective way for communities to rebuild. 

People Charity Intelligence highly respects in Canada's charity sector, Malcolm Burrows at Scotia, Bob Wyatt at the Muttart Foundation and Eva Friesen at the Calgary Foundation are also recommending donations to local charities for Fort McMurray's disaster relief and recovery. Globe and Mail May 14, 2016 article



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