On September 28th, 2020, Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw mother of 7 children, died at the Centre hospitalier de Lanaudière in Saint-Charles-Borromée, Quebec. Before her death, she recorded a video that showed her screaming in distress while healthcare workers verbally abused her with racist slurs.
The RCAAQ released a statement shortly after her senseless death, denouncing the inaction of the government in addressing the unequal treatment of Indigenous people in public services. The organization that plays an important role in advocating for better public policy for Indigenous people, called out to all Quebecers in their press release: “may we have the courage to act together so that the tragic death of Joyce Echaquan is not forgotten. Together, let’s take action for lasting change!
The urgency to take action
Waskapitan – A Benefit Concert to Unite All People
The wheels of change were set in motion only a few weeks after the tragedy. The RCAAQ quickly responded to the public dialogue on systemic racism and called on Phil to offer strategic fundraising support for an event never before organized by an Indigenous-led coalition in Quebec.
Along with their 12 partners and the Centre d’amitié autochtone de Lanaudière, our client was determined to create an event that allowed people to come together to grieve, celebrate, and most importantly denounce the injustice and racism faced by Indigenous people in Quebec. Waskapitan, meaning “coming together” in Atikamekw, was the name of the online event created, featuring more than 25 artists and performers inspired to use their talent to draw attention to issues that are so often ignored.
Putting Context into Strategy
Having an understanding of the long-standing barriers facing Indigenous organizations in fundraising needed to be taken into account when creating a successful strategy for this event.
Unpredictable baseline government funding has posed challenges for Indigenous communities. From 2012 to 2015 alone, more than $60 million was cut from federal funding to Indigenous groups. The situation is not much better with funding from private foundations. According to a study by the Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada, in 2011 only 6% of Canadian grantmaking foundations gave grants to Aboriginal causes.
Being unable to count on the support of large donors year over year creates a precarious financial situation that causes real problems when it comes to human resources. Many small or mid-sized organizations are left without the necessary staff and resources needed to organize and execute all the moving parts of a major fundraising event like a benefit concert on this scale.
Indigenous causes have not been a popular choice for individual donors in Canada, ranking much lower in total donations than charities supporting education and health issues. Many misconceptions about the financial support Indigenous communities and organizations receive from the government unfortunately exist, leading individuals to conclude that their charitable donation is not necessary or urgently needed.
These are just some of the hurdles that needed to be taken into account to achieve the goal of raising 50,000$ through this unique online event. It took the documented loss of a brave woman to be the tragic catalyst for a public awakening on the inequitable treatment of Indigenous people in Quebec.
Event Website & Easy Online Donations
By creating a simple and mobile-responsive WordPress website that integrated Simplyk’s free donation platform, Phil provided RCAAQ with a turnkey communications tool useful for this event and beyond. We ensured that Google Analytics was implemented to track information that will be valuable for donor profiles and for future digital opportunities.
Event Branding and Promotion
Phil developed all of the new branding visuals used to promote the event through multiple channels including posts for Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, email signatures and newsletter templates. Media relations for the event were handled by our team and included the content development and distribution of press releases.
In conjunction with the fundraising strategy developed by our team for this unique concert event, a customized social media content calendar was implemented to establish a regular cadence of original material highlighting the different artists sharing their talent and the important issues they were rallying for.
The concert was broadcasted using Facebook’s Live Stream feature as well as on YouTube. Phil coordinated the logistics needed to make sure the event was accessible to an online audience of more than 30,000 people. By choosing to dedicate a portion of their fundraising budget to purchase targeted digital advertising, the RCAAQ and the Centre d’amitié autochtone de Lanaudière increased the numbers of viewers to their event.
Going into the fundraising campaign, the RCAAQ had set relatively modest expectations for the donations they hoped to receive due to the widespread public misconception about the funding opportunities available to Indigenous people and individual donor apathy which has meant low giving in the past.
However, because of the media’s interest in the issues relating to systemic racism and the fundraising support provided by Phil, including a website that made online donations a breeze, over 108,000$ was raised in a period of 30 days, surpassing the organization’s goal. The majority of donations came from individual donors, surprising many organizations working with Indigenous communities. According to the recently published 2021 Giving Report from CanadaHelps, “the Indigenous Peoples category saw the fastest online growth of any category of giving in 2020” for Canadian donations.
The money raised will allow for the creation of a public work of art commemorating the life of Joyce Echaquan and to establish the Waskapitan Fund, whose vision is for all Quebecers to support, in concrete and constructive ways, the well-being of Indigenous peoples, by uniting in the fight against racism.
Continued collaborations are in the works between the RCAAQ and Phil to help continue fundraising and awareness efforts through the Waskapitan Fund. At Phil, we are strongly committed to be active allies and agents of change, in Quebec and beyond.