First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?
Marina Glogovac: My family and I are very lucky. This has been a stressful experience for us all, and my grown sons and I are all working out of our home, but we recognize the incredible privilege we have in being able to do so. We are safe, healthy, and still employed, so I am very grateful.
This has not been the case for so many people in our city and around the world. In Toronto where we live, public health data revealed some of our lowest income neighborhoods were the hardest hit by infection. It is critical that we keep our focus on the impact of this virus on our most vulnerable communities. In my work at CanadaHelps.org, I get to see first-hand the critical work that Canadian charities are doing to support vulnerable and marginalized groups during this time, and supporting these charities will be more critical than ever.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined CanadaHelps
Marina Glogovac: I’ve been the President & CEO of CanadaHelps since 2013. CanadaHelps is a really unique organization as both a charity and a technology company. We give Canadians an easy way to give to every charity in Canada through www.canadahelps.org, while also building affordable, accessible, and high-quality fundraising software (plus free education) for more than 23,000 Canadian charities – especially the smaller ones that wouldn’t normally have this access.
While I had long been involved with non-profits in a volunteer capacity, it was a significant career change for me after more than 20 years in media and digital companies. Prior to joining CanadaHelps, I held roles including CEO of the successful online dating company Lavalife Corp, CMO at Kobo Inc, and Group Publisher at St. Joseph’s Media, overseeing the business of their award-winning publications.
For some, transitioning to the non-profit sector seems like taking a step down on the career ladder, but it has been the most challenging, creative, and satisfying part of my career.
The walls separating the non-profit and for-profit spaces are becoming more permeable, and there will be more crossover in the future. With corporate social responsibility becoming more deeply integrated into the core business sector, the growth of social entrepreneurship, the emergence and growing popularity of B corporations – companies that exist to have a positive impact on society as well as make money – new social finance vehicles, and the application of innovation and technology to drive social change, the charitable space is an incredibly dynamic place to be in right now.
The opportunities for innovation are substantial at a time when our communities need more cross-sector, problem-solving models for addressing persistent global and local problems. At the same time, charities are being asked to become more self-sufficient and entrepreneurial. The new pressures come amid an influx of venture-style, social return-on-investment-inspired views, government funding cutbacks and the changing face of philanthropy driven by demographic and technological factors.
This growing pressure calls for radically different ways of thinking about the charitable sector, and there is incredible opportunity for growing the impact of charities through the adoption of technology, innovation, and new ways of thinking without losing focus on the social value charities create.
How does CanadaHelps innovate?
Marina Glogovac: CanadaHelps is the oldest online donation platform in Canada. It was created during the dot com era, and has been a critical piece of infrastructure in the charitable sector. In my time at CanadaHelps, we have grown our impact exponentially – increasing the donations we drive for Canadian charities from $72 million a year when I started to $300 million a year now. But our impact on the sector was never more obvious than after COVID-19 hit Canada, and businesses across the country, including most charities, were shut down due to physical distancing restrictions.
At CanadaHelps, our rapid switch to becoming a virtual office was happening at the same time as we realized we needed to quickly put supports in place for our charity partners. Our whole team responded quickly to help thousands of charities across Canada adapt — through helping charities new to online fundraising set up donation forms for the first time; creating resources on hosting virtual fundraising events and other COVID-related topics; helping charities launch hundreds of campaigns to fundraise for their COVID-19 response; and joining with our sector colleagues to advocate for support for the charitable sector during this time.
One thing we did that I am especially proud of is launch our two COVID-19 Cause Funds. We know that offering innovative ways for Canadians to give will be key to changing downward donation trends, and these Funds enabled Canadians to easily support hundreds of COVID-19 response campaigns with a single gift (and with the confidence that their gift is going to the right place), ensuring critical donations were quickly reaching food banks, hospitals, seniors’ facilities, shelters, and more. Taking the decision making out of the equation during a crisis helped Canadians respond quickly when they knew they could rely on CanadaHelps to get money to registered charities quickly. The Funds raised more than $4 million in the first two months.
In May of this year, we were once again able to respond quickly to the desires of the Canadian public to support communities during the heightened awareness of anti-Black racism and police violence spurred by the death of George Floyd in the US. We launched the Black Solidarity Fund in support of charities across Canada focused on the advancement of Black Canadians. We were able to secure $1 million in match donations, and the support from Canadians and businesses has been strong.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Marina Glogovac: As a leader, my focus has been to protect jobs and ensure the sustainability of our organization because 23,000 charities are relying on us. We were lucky that a shift to digital has meant more people are giving online, but it was critical that we did not become complacent. Our research from The Giving Report shows that people are generous in times of crisis, but that higher levels of giving are not sustained in the long-term. In addition, so many Canadians are struggling financially, it is hard to know just how much people have to give.
We knew we had to innovate, push through challenges, and do more to reach the people who are able to give so we can support our charity partners. The needs of Canadians are high right now and charities are doing so much to help – from food access, childcare, healthcare, advocacy, shelter, supporting seniors, and so much more. We can’t let them down.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Marina Glogovac: In recent years, there have been many tech start-ups and corporate offshoots entering the online donation space because they’ve realized it can be lucrative. But as a truly independent organization that is not driven by corporate strategies nor dependent on venture capitalists to fund our work, we can continue to make our decisions in the best interest of our charity partners and the donors that rely on us.
We have been building trust within the sector for more than 20 years, and our stakeholders know that we will be there for them in the long-term. In turn, our charity partners have also invested in our success as an organization because it benefits them and the entire sector.
We are guided by our charitable mission to democratize access to high-quality software to all charities, and to engage Canadians in charitable giving. We’ve built a team of passionate, brilliant, and dedicated people who are committed to the success of the charitable sector, and we’re not going anywhere!
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