RECAP: Non-profits and public relations in the season of giving

December 14, 2020
Julie Williams

With the realities of operating through a pandemic and many donors finding themselves going through financial difficulties, 2020 has presented many new challenges for non-profit organizations that rely on donations. On December 3, CPRS Edmonton hosted a conversation with several speakers that highlighted the realities, challenges and opportunities facing communicators and charities during this very different season of giving. 

Phoebe Dey, Vice President of Communications and Marketing with the Alberta Cancer Foundation, kicked things off by highlighting how her organization has managed to pivot in the wake of COVID-19. By focusing on a range of revenue streams and a mixture of virtual events, individual donors and gaming (lotteries and 50/50), their innovation has helped them increase revenue. Phoebe stressed that it is vital to look for cost savings and to bring services in-house where possible. Not only does it help with costs, but it helps build the skills in your team. 

Danica O’Neill, Director of Community Engagement and Fundraising for The Good Samaritan Society/Good Samaritan Canada, highlighted the challenge facing many non-profits: the small size of their teams. Like many organizations, hers had to drastically change direction this year to address the realities of fundraising during a pandemic. Events that were typically the organization’s main fundraisers were cancelled, and new virtual runs and ‘events in a box’ were created to help raise money for their care homes and programs. Other fundraising successes included virtual silent auctions and increasing the organization’s focus on grant writing. Danica highlighted the importance of engaging a younger donor base through social media advertising and the challenges that charities face when negatively portrayed in the media.

Jocelyn Davison, Founder of The Virtual Effect, was up next and she chatted with the group about the various ways that we can all support the causes and charities that are important to us during these challenging times. Even if supporting them financially is not an option, you can help raise awareness about a charity’s cause, share their messages, or volunteer your time and skills. When choosing a charity to support, you should consider what is important to you, whether you’ll need a tax receipt, and whether you want your donor dollars to remain local.

Carrie Creaser, Manager of Fund Development for Boys and Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters (BGCBigs) closed out the conversation with an informative talk that focused on the importance of telling your story. Charities and non-profits need to be honest and transparent with their stakeholders as to what they need. Carrie stressed how essential it was for her organization to ask the community what their needs were so they could better support them when the initial shutdown happened this spring. This led to her organization adapting and coming out of this year stronger than ever with significant community connections and valued partnerships. 

In closing, all of our excellent presenters reiterated that while 2020 was a challenging year for everyone, there was a lot of good that came out of it, including stronger community connections. Organizations were able to adapt and learn, and teams were able to add to their skill set, ultimately setting themselves up for more success in 2021.

If you missed the webinar, you can watch it by signing in to the Bill Rees Learning Centre on

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