Heart & Stroke, like other health charities, is facing unprecedented financial challenges due to our decreased ability to fundraise during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have made considerable cost reductions across the Foundation including cuts to all program budgets and discretionary spending, and laying off 45% of our staff across all levels. We have also strategically pivoted as many fundraising activities as possible, shifting to some virtual events and online fundraising.
The Board of Directors established a working group on research that I chaired, composed of Board members with significant knowledge of Canada’s research community. The mandate of the working group was to provide recommendations to the Board on the research funding envelope for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 and determine options for the 2020/21 and 2021/22 competitions. Our research funding envelope has decreased 35% because of the pandemic, but we are still committing $19 million to cardiovascular research in this year.
The working group recommendations were discussed by the Board and after careful consideration, we have made decisions regarding our research program. While difficult, these decisions ensure the continuity and momentum of our research program. They safeguard current investments, provide necessary funds for the current competition and support future planning.
Current 2018/19 and 2019/20 Grants-in-Aid holders have been asked to reduce their remaining budgets by 20%. These investments are highly valued and we are committed to supporting them to completion. Although we are not in a position to fund any full GIA awards, the 20% reductions will be used to create the funding envelope to allow us to fund a limited number of the best research applicants from the 2020/21 research competition. One-year (only) bridge grants will be offered to the highest ranked 2020/21 GIA applicants. A small number of senior personnel awards for National New Investigators will be provided. Reductions were also made in areas of directed research such as the Heart & Stroke Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery, chairs and professorships and smaller initiatives.
Research remains at the core of what we do and is the largest single investment that Heart & Stroke makes on an annual basis. It is key to our mission and to why people across the country donate their money and their time.
We are all in this together. We thank our research community as well as our donors, and volunteers who remain committed to supporting life-saving research during these difficult times.
Andrew Pipe, CM, MD, LLD(Hon), DSc(Hon), FRCPSC(Hon)
Chair, Board of Directors, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada