Giving for COVID-19: Prepare a plan

Giving for COVID-19: Prepare a plan

We are all bracing for the full brunt of the coronavirus pandemic to hit Canada. These are anxious times. We hear the devastating news from around the world and pray that our preventative measures create a German scenario rather than a nightmare like Italy.

Many Canadians are asking how they can give to help the COVID-19 pandemic. Charity Intelligence is closely monitoring the spread of coronavirus in Canada to make high impact recommendations for donors. Like many Canadians, our inboxes are filled with charities asking for donations for their COVID-19 response. Canadians need to carefully sort through these requests. Today, with the stakes so high, Canadians need to give intelligently. 

You want your giving to go where the need is greatest for a COVID-19 response. Coronavirus appears to hit particular regions intensely. It has ravaged Lombardy in Italy, Mulhouse in France, and is currently hitting hard in New York City and Seattle in the US.[i] Which Canadian region will COVID-19 hit hardest? Will it be a rural community with limited health care resources, or will it be cities with high caseloads overwhelming large hospitals? 

Events are changing rapidly. We will immediately update when we see critical needs.

See Charity Intelligence's home page for Coronavirus recommendations and resources.

For now, plan your giving. Just as data is critical in fighting a pandemic, donors too need data to give effectively. Just as you prepared for the shut down, plan your giving.

For now, plan your giving. Just as data is critical in fighting a pandemic, donors too need data to give effectively. Just as you prepared for the shut down, plan your giving.


Donor’s To-Do List for COVID-19 Response

1. Plan your giving. Assess how much you can afford to contribute over the next year. Get ready to give.

2. Prioritize basic needs. Review your list of charities that you have previously supported. The shutdown to prevent the coronavirus spread has caused massive layoffs and economic contraction.

Review if recent changes warrant adjustments to the charities you support.

Consider adjusting your donations by lightening up on donations to:

  • foundations,
  • arts and cultural,
  • environmental (for environmental donors, perhaps the current shutdown is our best donation for the planet right now), and
  • universities.

Don’t forget to review monthly donations that are often forgotten on credit card statements.

Depending upon the charities you support, this may make more money available to give to frontline charities.


3. Check the charity’s balance sheet. Use Charity Intelligence's reports to see the program cost coverage ratio. This shows if a charity is “rich” or “poor”. Charities with one year or less of funding reserves will need donations more than rich charities that have stockpiles of money.


We are seeking answers to three questions:

1. The greatest need. Which Canadian region will be hit hardest? Will COVID-19 hit the homeless shelters or elderly centres, or will it be ripple effects like domestic abuse? As we are seeing, sometimes the most urgent needs come out of the blue.  

2. Find the gaps. Where are the gaps where donations can help the most in the wake of government funding? 

3. Which charities. Some charities are stepping up to the challenge, and some are shutting down. We are tracking the news to keep up with this rapidly changing situation. Sadly, some charities have closed services at this critical time.


Before giving to a charity’s fundraising for COVID-19, be informed. Many charities are fundraising for “potential needs” or “to prepare”. Read the information and understand its plan to use your money and when.  

Also look how much government funding a charity receives relative to donations. We expect government funding will remain constant during the coronavirus pandemic, if not increase. We are particularly worried about charities that rely mostly on individual donations.

Some charities are emphasizing meeting longer-term needs or after-effects. One of the current trends in disaster response is to spread donations over three to five years. Charity Intelligence has always recommended short-term giving for the greatest effect – you want your giving to be on the frontlines and used within 12 to 18 months rather than 5 years from now. The need will be immediate. 


Internationally, the charity picks are much clearer

Experts are extremely worried about how coronavirus will affect developing countries with limited health care resources, crowded living conditions, and lower hygiene. (For disaster responses, Charity Intelligence recommends one time donations rather than monthly.)

Doctors Without Borders – few if any charities have such a stellar record in responding to medical emergencies and epidemics internationally as Doctors Without Borders. This is a Charity Intelligence Top Impact charity.

To donate 

Farm Radio International – Farm Radio’s communication platform of radio programs on over 1,000 stations across 41 countries in Africa can help spread the word and critical information to people about coronavirus. We all know how much we depend upon radio and communication at this time.

To donate


In Canada, for the shutdown to prevent coronavirus spread:

Foodbanks across Canada will be facing a surge of demand helping those recently laid off.

Charity Intelligence's list of Canadian food banks


Follow Charity Intelligence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for updates 



[i] Steven Bernard, Cale Tilford, John Burn-Murdoch, Keith Fray, “Coronavirus tracked: the latest figures as the pandemic spreads: The countries affected, the number of deaths and the economic impact.” Financial Times, accessed March 25, 2020



Legal disclaimer:

The information in this report was prepared by Charity Intelligence Canada and its independent analysts from publicly available information. Charity Intelligence and its analysts have made endeavours to ensure that the data in this report is accurate and complete but accepts no liability.

The views and opinions expressed are to inform donors on matters of public interest. Views and opinions are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, organization, individual, or anyone or anything. Any dispute arising from your use of this website or viewing the material hereon shall be governed by the laws of the Province of Ontario, without regard to any conflict of law provisions.


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Charity Intelligence researches Canadian charities for donors to be informed and give intelligently. Our website posts free reports on more than 800 Canadian charities, as well as in-depth primers on philanthropic sectors like Canada’s environment, cancer, and homelessness. Today over 500,000 Canadians use our website as a go-to source for information on Canadian charities reading over 1.6 million charity reports. Through rigorous and independent research, Charity Intelligence aims to assist Canada’s dynamic charitable sector in being more transparent, accountable and focused on results.


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