Cash strapped NGOs turn to crowdfunding

While the Yukon government trumpets its fiscal responsibility, local organizations are turning to innovative fundraising methods to stay afloat.

While the Yukon government trumpets its fiscal responsibility, local organizations are turning to innovative fundraising methods to stay afloat.

The Boys and Girls Club is looking for $5,000 to expand their after school programming, Weekday Warriors, to Dawson City. The organization is using CauseVox, an online crowdfunding platform, in hopes of raising the money.

The program, for children aged six to 12, currently runs in three Whitehorse schools and focuses on sports, recreation, nutrition, art and literacy, while also providing a meal. The service is offered for $140 a month for the full-time option (four to five nights a week) or $80 a month for part-time. To keep the programming costs affordable, the club needs more capital.

As of Friday morning it had raised $175, or four per cent of its goal.

If the $5,000 mark is not met within the allotted time frame of the fundraising campaign, no money is awarded.

“We’ve been trying to fundraise through a number of methods but it’s been really difficult,” said Boys and Girls Club executive director David Blottner. “We thought this was a little different than what everyone sees in Whitehorse all the time and we thought we might be more successful that way.”

Blottner said that there’s money for pilot programs but less so for established programs looking to achieve sustainability. Consistency, he said, is especially important in children’s programming.

“It’s tricky to provide the program year after year and keep the kids supported,” he said.

“I think as long as territorial and federal grants remain focused towards pilot programs then we’re going to see a lot more campaigning like this.”

The Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre is also turning to crowdfunding for support of A Safe Place, a drop-in program for women and children on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.

Each night offers a meal, with two facilitators on hand with training in counselling to lead activities and provide one-on-one or group support.

The centre has raised $1,600 so far of a $50,000 goal through the GoFundMe platform.

The program has been operating for the past seven months under the support of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the Women’s Directorate and the United Way, but that funding will run out by the end of the month.

On the group’s fundraising page, Larisse Macdonald, the program co-ordinator, wrote “women who attend really value the program and say there is nothing to take its place should we have to close it. A Safe Place is putting forward a call to the community for short-term support while other longer-term funding options are explored and (hopefully) secured.”

Kate White, NDP MLA for Takhini-Kopper King, said she’s furious that local organizations have had to resort to crowdfunding.

She also highlighted the current struggles of the Whitehorse Food Bank, which is low on food, low on money, and has already turned to food banks in Calgary and Edmonton for supplies. Since June 1, the food bank has been unable to supply full food baskets to clients.

“NGOs in this community have always been used to fill in critical government gaps – that’s just the way it’s always been. The more gaps they have to fill, the farther they have to spread, so instead of spending their energy offering the programs that are so helpful for the community they’re having to spend their energy trying to get the money to be able to offer the programs.”

White described the situation as frustrating and disappointing.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in the legislative assembly as they (the government) have bragged about their good fiscal management and their surplus.

“It comes back to that base belief system. The premier’s answer to the poverty reduction was ‘get a better job.’”

Earlier this month the government announced a $1.1 million contribution to the Klondike Visitors Association (KVA) in Dawson City to replace aging slot machines at Diamond Tooth Gerties Gambling Hall.

Critics have challenged that the money would have been better spent elsewhere.

“Through this investment we are helping ensure that Diamond Tooth Gerties continues to be a key tourism asset for Dawson City, as well as a significant source of revenue supporting tourism promotion by the Klondike Visitors Association,” Brad Cathers, minister of community services, said in a press release announcing the funding.

“Revenue from slot machines at Diamond Tooth Gerties is also a major source of funding for the Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Fund.”

Under Yukon’s Lottery Licensing Act, which limits licensed gaming to charitable organizations, the Yukon government receives 25 per cent of the KVA’s slot machine revenue, which it directs to the Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Fund.

White praised the effort of the community to come together in support of valuable local services, but said she doesn’t see crowdfunding as a sustainable solution.

“There’s money in the bank,” she said, referring to the Yukon government’s surplus.

“If there’s money in the bank how can we possibly let these programs idle?

“How much can you tap into a community? How deep are people’s pockets? People fundamentally want to help but times are not easy. I’m just so frustrated right now. The government is leaving it up to the community to take care of itself.”

(Visit bgcyukon.causevox.com and www.gofundme.com/bps2yo to support the programs.)

Contact Sam Riches at sam@yukon-news.com

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