How to give charitably through COVID-19 this holiday season

Photo by Kim Stiver

Written by Shantal Otchere

2020 has been an exercise in managing perpetual levels of stress and confusion. Since the coronavirus first swept across the world earlier this year, prompting shutdown after shutdown in each city it encountered, we have had to adjust and adapt our daily routines accordingly. For many of us, that has meant seeing friends and family members far less often than we’d like, scaling back our social lives, and running errands with a protective mask in tow.

Now, we’re just weeks shy of the new year, and the holiday season is fast approaching. So for many people, the question of how to perform the usual annual task of charitable giving is beginning to arise. While we can’t remove all of the questions surrounding our daily lives, we can certainly take the guesswork out of how to help an organization you care about through these unprecedented times. For seasoned donors and for everyone new to giving to non-profits, here’s how to give charitably through COVID-19 this holiday season.

  1. Check the organization’s website for specific COVID instructions.

Gone are the days when you could head down to a local organization and inquire about all the ways to offer your support. Many, if not all, organizations have safety precautions in place to protect staff, people accessing their resources, community members, and you. These precautions may include limiting the number of people they allow into their facilities, which is the case for us here at the YW Kitchener-Waterloo.

As part of the region-wide effort to flatten the curve, we encourage everyone who wants to donate to our organization to visit our website for updated instructions on how we will accept donations. Like many organizations continuing to provide services through COVID-19, we have all had to change the way we operate, and that includes the way we all accept donations. Before you visit an organization – whether with a collection of items to hand off or money to donate – check out the organization’s website for specific instructions on contributing. If instructions aren’t available, give them a call to make sure they can receive your gift and be sure a safe drop-off plan is established.

2. If you can’t give monetarily, donate much-needed items.

Lending your support to an organization doesn’t always mean dipping into your checkbooks. Like the organizations providing services to our communities, we know that COVID-19 has meant difficult times for everyone. Whether you work from home, were forced into early retirement, are an essential worker, or have had to leave the workforce, each of us has had to reassess our finances to prepare for the worst.

So, we understand that monetary donations aren’t always feasible during this time. While giving monetary donations allows organizations to allot funds to the areas that need it most, the needs or organizations can also be met with items donations. 

How do I know what items to give? You may ask. Most organizations publish an updated list of what they need. For the YW Kitchener-Waterloo, you will find these items on our Wish List.

While COVID-19 restrictions prevent us from accepting used items, the people and families that access our services could use new and inexpensive things like toothpaste, winter gloves, deodorant, brushes, and combs. Gift cards also make fabulous donations, especially in times like these where foodbanks have seen unprecedented demand amid nationwide layoffs. Gift cards for grocery stores, like Zehrs or Sobeys, or places like Tim Hortons, McDonald’s, or Walmart allow people experiencing homelessness the autonomy to get the things best suited to their individual needs.

3. Give what you can #EveryDonationCountsYW

Organizations providing vital services are primarily under-resourced as the need has grown exponentially through this time. But this growing need does not mean that you have to give big this holiday season. Giving anything you can is the way to go. While a $25 donation may seem inconsequential to some, for us, it may mean the difference between being able to provide a bed night for a person in need and not being able to. No donation is too little.

Remember, we’re still in this together.


Consider donating to the YW Kitchener-Waterloo and help us house women and families in need through this difficult time. 

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