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Policy priority: Help for nonprofits through COVID-19 and the recovery

woman putting on mask
Policy priority: Help for nonprofits through COVID-19 and the recovery

Nonprofits are playing a crucial role during the COVID-19 crisis, but many are facing financial losses and increased demand. They need support so they can continue to provide key programs and services.

Why it matters
The value of the nonprofit sector has never been more clear than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Communities are turning to our organizations for everything from food aid and educational resources to shelter and childcare. However, many organizations are experiencing a drop in revenue at the same time as they face increased demand. Providing nonprofit organizations with support during this health and socio-economic crisis is key to ensuring that they’re able to continue to serve communities throughout the pandemic, during the recovery and beyond
Did you know?
  • As of Spring 2021, more than 4 in 10 charities were still facing declines in revenue and among these charities, the average revenue decline is 44%.
  • Sources of unrestricted revenues (i.e. those that can be spent on core operating costs) such as donations and earned income have been destabilized by the pandemic. 
  • The diversity of the nonprofit sector is under threat. Larger organizations are more likely to be innovating and experimenting with new ways of carrying out their missions, while smaller organizations are more likely to temporarily cease operations.
Our ask
Current recommendations to the federal government:


  • The extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy past October 2021 for charities and nonprofits.
  • A top-up to the Community Service Recovery Fund of an additional $300 million. 
  • An increase to the disbursement quota (see our submission to Department of Finance)
  • Extend eligibility of the Digital Adoption Program to public benefit nonprofits and registered charities. 
  • Amend current direction & control requirements to shift focus from operational accountability to funding accountability in charity partnerships with non-qualified donees.
  • Creation of a home in government to enable a strategic partnership between the federal government and nonprofit sector during the recovery and beyond.


Please see the 2022 Imagine Canada and Equitable Recovery Collective pre-budget submissions for more details on these proposals. Please see our 2021 pre-budget submission for information about our policy work from earlier in the pandemic. 
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit sector has banded together to advocate for support. Together, we’ve achieved many notable milestones and victories, including: 


  • The creation of the $350 million Emergency Community Services Fund
  • The creation of the $400 million Community Services Recovery Fund
  • The inclusion of the nonprofit sector in the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, an estimated value of $3.1 - $3.4 billion as of Spring 2021
  • The inclusion of the nonprofit sector in the Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers
  • The inclusion of the nonprofit sector in the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy and the lockdown support
  • The inclusion of the nonprofit sector in the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Subsidy
  • The inclusion of the nonprofit sector in the Canada Emergency Business Account
  • The inclusion of the nonprofit sector in the Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program
  • The $31 million Canada Healthy Communities Initiative, which was available to charities, nonprofits, municipal governments and Indigenous communities
  • The inclusion of the nonprofit sector in the Canada Recovery Hiring Benefit
  • Targeted supports for food banks; seniors organizations; women’s shelters and sexual assault centres; mental health organizations; cultural, heritage and sport organizations; and more.
  • Increased focus on the nonprofit sector in Parliament; While prior to the pandemic, mentions of our sector in Parliament were few and far between, from March to December of 2020 there were more than 65 and there had already been more than 75 in the first 5 months of 2021.
  • The Minister of Families, Children and Social Development was given a mandate to “continue to work across government to ensure that charities and nonprofits have the tools that they need to modernize as they emerge from the pandemic to support the Government’s overall agenda in a manner that responds to the needs of Canadians in every region” in January 2021.
  • The House of Commons passed a motion calling on the Government to include measures to support the charitable sector in the 2021 federal budget with support from all four opposition parties in March 2021.
  • Budget 2021 recognized the nonprofit sector as a key partner in recovery and included numerous measures targeting nonprofits and charities
Research and Insights

Imagine Canada’s Sector Monitor: The uneven impact of the pandemic on Canadian charities
Imagine Canada, August 2021

The ongoing COVID-19 experience of Canadian charities 
Imagine Canada, February 2021

Sector Monitor: Ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic
Imagine Canada, February 2021

Sector Monitor: Charities and the COVID-19 pandemic
Imagine Canada, May 2020

Resetting Normal Report 1: Funding A Thriving Women’s Sector
Canadian Women’s Foundation, Ontario Nonprofit Network, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Kathleen Lahey with contributions from Imagine Canada, May 2020

Policy documents, statements and letters

Letter to the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister
Imagine Canada, March 29, 2021

2021 Pre-budget consultation submission
Imagine Canada, February 2021

7 actions to make CERS work better for nonprofits poster
Imagine Canada, March 2021

An agenda for an equitable recovery
The Nonprofit Recovery Collective, February 2021

Letter to the Prime Minister 
Imagine Canada, June 5, 2020

Letter to the Prime Minister 
Members of the People Centred Economy group, May 14, 2021

Statement on the creation of the Emergency Community Support Fund
Imagine Canada, April 21, 2020

Letter to the Prime Minister and other Ministers including endorsements and supporting quotations
Imagine Canada with endorsements from 200+ organizations, March 23, 2020

Letter to the Finance Minister and President of the Treasury Board
Imagine Canada, March 18, 2020

Letter to Prime Minister
Imagine Canada, March 11, 2020

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