We are proud to present DSRF's Annual Impact Report for 2019. The second year of our five-year strategic plan was a success, with a number of major strategic priorities achieved.
Thank you to all who invested in empowering individuals with Down syndrome over the past year!
Just as it has for every person, business and charitable organization in Canada, the COVID-19 crisis swiftly and completely changed the landscape for the Down Syndrome Resource Foundation. We take very seriously our obligation to protect the health and safety of our clients, families, volunteers and staff, and as such we were an early adopter of social distancing practices. Ultimately, on March 17, we closed our doors to the public and instructed all staff to work from home until further notice.
Services for Families
Within days, everything had changed for DSRF – both practically and financially. We were fortunate in that the first two weeks of closure coincided with our scheduled spring break, giving us a couple weeks to reimagine how we could continue to deliver our programs and services in the time of COVID. By the time spring break ended, we were ready to begin hosting our adult educational programs via videoconferencing. A week after that, we unveiled newly developed one on one teleservices, delivering both individualized therapy sessions and parental consultations to families in their homes – services that have been very gratefully embraced. One family shared that DSRF is "the most important element in their child’s life, even more so than school." It’s a sentiment that seems to be shared by many of our clients. Meanwhile, we are also being contacted by families outside our regular service area who are interested in partaking in remote services.
Even as we pivoted our programs and services, our team also got to work developing a new resource: a "Learn At Home" section on our website (http://DSRF.org/LearnAtHome), where we post one or more home education exercises each day, including free downloadable materials so that parents can do it themselves. Our teachers and therapists have gotten very creative, filming demo videos for various skills. These posts have caught the attention of not only our current families, but the worldwide Down syndrome community and other homeschoolers. This has driven our highest-ever web traffic numbers, raising our average daily web views from approximately 500 to over 800. Just last week we had our highest daily web views in DSRF history, and April 2020 will be our best month ever - beating the previous monthly record by more than 50%. One of the few silver linings of our current circumstances is that we are expanding our reach beyond our immediate geographic area through our wealth of online learning resources.
While our program team reimagined their whole approach to caring for families, we also had to come to grips with our new financial reality. Understanding the strain and uncertainty many of our families are facing, one of our first decisions was to make all DSRF programs and services available free of charge to families in financial need for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. Under normal circumstances our programs and services are highly subsidized by fundraising, but nevertheless, program fees represent approximately 25% of our annual revenue. Forsaking just a portion of these fees would take a major bite out of our budget, but we felt this was an important step to take for our families when they need our help more than ever.
Approximately half our families receive public funding from external sources which they use to cover DSRF services. This has allowed us to continue collecting program fees from those families who receive funding, which in turn helps us to offer free services to families who don’t have this kind of funding. We have also expanded our bursary program to include more families facing more serious financial challenges including those at or below the poverty line (see http://DSRF.org/funding).
There remains a significant gap between the funds coming in from program funding and emergency government support, and the cost of maintaining our operations for the duration of the crisis. In order to meet this need, our fund development team – much like our programs team – has quickly changed course, making difficult decisions about some of our upcoming events and campaigns, and working to identify new funding opportunities.
In the short term, Up the Down Market Toronto was rescheduled to October, while Up the Down Market Calgary has been cancelled. Run Up for Down Syndrome – our biggest annual fundraising event, has been reimagined as a virtual event: Run Apart for Down Syndrome (http://DSRF.org/RunApart). We are inviting supporters to participate as virtual runners, and run or walk in and around their homes on June 7, with some fun additional activities online. We are also asking participants to proceed with their fundraising as they usually would. We have, however, drastically lowered our expectations for the event.
Looking ahead, we expect that COVID-19 will have a long-lasting and significantly detrimental impact on our fund development. Whether we are able to proceed with the three Up the Down Market Dinners scheduled for this fall is an open question at this time, and even if we can, it remains to be seen the extent to which the economic downturn will impact their success.
Once our centre reopens, and assuming the emergency wage subsidies will end in short order, we will face tremendous pressure to restore our fund development to meet needs amidst a very difficult economic environment. In the meantime, however, our focus remains fixed on caring for our families during this time when they need us most and ensuring that DSRF continues empowering people with Down syndrome through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.
To do so, we need your help. We understand that these are difficult times for everybody, and not everyone can afford to give right now. But for those who are able, your support now means more than it ever has. You can rest assured that we are stretching every dollar for maximum impact.
We would like to suggest two ways to help if you are able to do so:
1. Join us on June 7 as we Run Apart for Down Syndrome! The entry fee is just $10. Invite your friends and family to join you in doing BIG things for people with Down syndrome by donating through your page or participating themselves. Visit http://DSRF.org/RunApart to get started.
2. Become a Triple-21 monthly partner. Many people find it’s easier to give a small amount each month than to make a larger one-time gift, especially during difficult times. Your $21 a month will add up to a big impact in the lives of students with Down syndrome. Learn more and sign up at http://DSRF.org/Triple21.
Whether or not you are able to give at this time, please know that we you are deeply grateful for your support through the years, and we wish you and your family good health as we face this challenge together.
Chief Executive Officer
Down Syndrome Resource Foundation