Canadian Mail Strike Backs Up Holiday Appeals, Donations

Canadian charities approached their busiest time of year with an added challenge: a series of rotating strikes by Canada Post that started in October, delaying mail across the Great White North by almost 30 days.

The postal union’s rotating regional strikes ended early this month after being legislated back to work, according to CBC, but not before a backlog of mail accumulated. At one point last week, Canada Post faced a backlog of about six million parcels, a spokesperson told CBC Radio, and briefly halted incoming deliveries from foreign postal companies.

Ted Garrard, CEO of Sick Kids Foundation, estimated that December donations to the organization are down by about one-third compared to last year. “It’s quite unusual because all other aspects of our fundraising are going very, very well, except for the mail campaign. I have to believe there’s some correlation,” he said during a telephone interview with The NonProfit Times today.

The foundation raises about $150 million annually for The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario. Donors have decided not to risk having their contributions go through a mail system that’s still clogged up, he said.

Garrard is hopeful that donors respond but year-to-date fundraising from direct mail donors is still down.

Ultimately, the impact will be felt in terms of the amount of money granted to the hospital, he said. That’s likely to mean less funding for things like research or delaying the acquisition of a particular piece of medical equipment.

Garrard believes that many of the donors that the foundation has not heard back from prefer to write checks and tend not to use technology to make their donations. Many also are motivated by getting a year-end tax receipt, which will be difficult given the limited amount of time before Dec. 31 to do another mailing. “That’s not realistic, and costly,” he said.

Garrard said he’s heard from many other colleagues experiencing similar declines. Canada Post, he added, has been very good about encouraging the public to not forget their charity of choice at this time of year.

Other charities have tried to cope as well. In a blog post last month, the Ottawa Food Bank detailed how individuals could donate through other channels besides traditional mail, such as, online, by phone or in person. The organization also apologized in advance in case people received fundraising letters multiple times as a result of delays and rotating strikes.

“The postal strike is also impacting the delivery of our fundraising letters. This is the busiest time of the year for us and we do send out donation letters to help raise the much-needed funds. We print these letters in advance and they are scheduled to go out through out the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Years,” they wrote.

A spokesperson for the Ottawa Food Bank said it has not experienced difficulties this year as a result of the rotating strikes.