Charities feel squeeze - Metro US

Charities feel squeeze

Alberta charities are being squeezed in the economic downturn, with few meeting fundraising goals and others pulling the plug on marquee events.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters Changing Lives Million Dollar Lottery will be scaled down in 2009, after organizers barely broke even last year. Slow sales extended the deadline of the lottery, just so the charity wouldn’t be in the red.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever had to do that,” said development manager Ruth McIntyre. “We were within hundreds of dollars of breaking even.”

Expenses for the lottery, including the million-dollar prize, were recovered through ticket sales.

Organizers were hoping to raise $1 million for Big Brothers Big Sisters and Kids Kottage in Edmonton and Calgary.

McIntyre blames harsh competition between charities and a frigid economic climate for the decline in ticket sales.

In Calgary, the Calgary Cares, the Wild Gala and Turn On Calgary can bring in as much as $200,000 per year, but due to lack of sponsorship in the case of Calgary Cares and lack of ticket sales for the Wild Gala and Turn On Calgary, they were all cancelled.

“It’s a sign of the times,” said Greg Belland, executive director of the Southern Alberta Parks and Wilderness Association. The organization runs the Wild Gala, which usually brings in 400 people. This year, only 100 tickets could be sold, and they need more than 250 ticket sales just to break even.

“We’re seeing fewer donations, so we also have to do a better job with donor relations,” Belland said, adding a drop in donations has major implications.

“We may have to start looking for smaller places to rent or lay people off.”

Calgary Cares, a gala for AIDS Calgary, typically earns up to $200,000 per year. The event was cancelled due to 50 per cent less support from sponsors.

“A gala event is very expensive,” said AIDS Calgary communications analyst Amanda Chapman. “So we’re making a switch to having an annual giving campaign, which would not incur the same costs.”

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