What Canadian Donors Are Thinking in 2017

By the time the 2017 Burk Donor Survey closes this week, more than 8,000 active Canadian donors will have shared their views on philanthropy. In a rapidly changing world, donors are not standing still. They are narrowing their giving choices, they are more confident about what they want from charities they support, but they are also ready to give more.

About one in three Canadians held their philanthropy back last year. I thought you might enjoy seeing what some respondents said when we asked, “What would it take to unleash your philanthropy at a new level?” Canadian donors offered heartfelt assessments of their own giving and meaningful advice to fundraisers who work diligently behind the scenes building meaningful – and profitable – relationships.

What works for me is to give to one annual campaign with a clear goal, not to continuous solicitations throughout the year. Demonstrate that your organization is cost-effective; respect donors and provide acknowledgement and receipts right away.

What would unleash my philanthropy? Trust, as odd as this may sound, I review my donations over the past year at tax time. It is usually then that I see that I could have contributed more, and so I try to adjust. Even though I experienced a wage cut this year, I know there is always a way to contribute more if the need is genuine.

Monthly giving improves my level of comfort about giving more. I know that $10 a month extra is the same as giving $120 in one lump sum…but it seems more affordable.

Here is an example of what would be ideal for me as a donor: A local shelter has a tough case and requires more funds for a particular animal’s treatment; the shelter sets a goal that is reasonable, they cap the goal, and they stop accepting donations for this project once the goal is reached. In that scenario, I’d be OK with the shelter then letting donors know they can still give to something else, or to the annual fund because they would have already proven that they do good work and get things done. That would make me feel like I helped accomplish something which, in turn, would make me want to give again.

I get bombarded with mail every day, with pleas on Facebook, with promotions in the media. It becomes so overwhelming that I end up doing nothing instead of giving more.

Soon after I give to a cause over the phone, there are ten more organizations calling for money. It makes me wonder how they got our phone # and if organizations share this information. I’ve had to start blocking their calls.

The thing that bothers me most is the constant mailing/emailing of charitable requests – often before I get the receipt for the donation I actually made. I like the charities I donate to but I’ve started cutting off the ones that do this. It’s disappointing.

As a donor, I want to engage and I want to learn, not just give. If I were invited, along with other donors, to an interesting lecture or training session that had something to do with the business that the charity was in, I’d be excited by that – even if I were asked to pay to attend.

I started making monthly contributions when the organization was under threat of closure. That was several years ago but not once have I been told whether the campaign was successful and what they have been doing since then. I worry that being a monthly donor makes it too easy to be taken for granted.

I could give more, but first I would have to face my own selfishness.

I would give more to organizations that worked together more. There are so many common causes, like climate change, and so many groups are working on different aspects, splitting talent and funds. It’s not the best way to tackle big problems.

My income last year was unpredictable. I was hesitant to give a lot over the course of the year because I didn’t know what my annual income would be. I maintained my monthly giving, but did not give to any new organizations or make incidental donations. At the end of the year, I analyzed my financial situation and my giving and found I gave less than my charitable giving target. I will be adding the difference to my giving this year.

My husband died two years ago and he was supporting several charities. I contacted each one by phone and asked to have my husband’s name taken off their mailing list. I am still receiving letters addressed to him from several of these organizations. This is very discouraging.

My daughter had just graduated with two Majors and a minor (Anthropology, History and Spanish) but it took her almost two years to find a full time job. It pays so poorly, though, that she cannot live out on her own. When I was her age, I was married, working full time and going to night school. I am frightened for my daughter’s future and for mine because I can’t see a time when I will be able to stop working. So many women are in this same situation.

I’m motivated to give more by communications that focus on the success of programs that are funded by donations, rather than on the needs of the organization. It is so much more exciting to get behind a winner rather than a charity that can’t demonstrate success.

It is always easier to consider increased donations if I can relate financially to the project. For example, my $500 does nothing in the context of a $5 Billion building extension but it could cover the cost of training a street teen in a self-supportive skill. When I can see it like that, I’d probably double my gift to $1000.00. Give me something to believe in.

Instead of going to bars to gamble by playing VLT machines, I now opt not to go… instead I stay home and make a donation. It makes me feel better. Thanks!

I’ve been thinking about how charity takes a back seat to other choices in my life, like renovations or buying new things. I think the tendency is to spend more once we make more, even if that spending doesn’t really improve quality of life. It’s easy to get caught up in that cycle.

As I do better in life, I am exhilarated by the possibility of taking other less fortunate people along with me. That’s the great thing about philanthropy.

I think acknowledgement of outstanding support from mid-level donors who are at a young point in their lives is important. I’m not a major donor yet but if a charitable organization is paying attention, they’ll see that we give more than our peer cohort on average. If they cultivate us properly now, they’ll likely become our charity of choice when we reach major gift levels (which we plan to do in the next 10 yrs). Too bad no one we support is doing that.

I respond to both requests for help and success stories–preferably balanced over a period of time.

I am annoyed when organizations try to heap all the responsibility for their financial success on donors, saying something like, ‘Your support is crucial; without it our good cause is in peril and many people will suffer because of you’ (Okay, maybe those aren’t the exact words but the intent is there.) I don’t think donors should be made to feel guilty as a ploy to get them to give.

I especially hate being phoned at home, thanked for a previous donation, and then in the same call, asked for more.

I like to give single larger sum donations once per year for two reasons: it helps me remember who I’ve donated to and my gift feels more meaningful in light of project costs.

I work in the nonprofit sector and it’s jaded my view of the quality of work really being carried out at many charities. They’re doing good work but there’s not a lot of high quality strategic thinking happening. They’re stuck in old ways of doing things and don’t have the resources or leadership to make the kinds of changes needed to modernize their approach.

I would like to see a new way of giving that doesn’t involve attending a Gala and spending money on fancy dresses and hairdressers.

I have e-mailed/written several times to organizations about the waste in return envelopes sent to me after I give. One sent me 12 in response to a single gift of $25 I made sometime in the past. There can’t be anything left over for their good works.

I have a high regard for all the charities I support. Therefore, it comes down to which invests the most in cultivating and recognizing my support. Everyone sends form letters, but only a few make personal contact and offer opportunities to see the results of my philanthropy. Not surprising, they are the ones that get more support.

I am one of those who is irritated by the constant need for donors to be acknowledged, especially including naming rights and such. Thank me once and I’m done. We should donate because it’s the right thing to do – period.

I expect to retire in the next 5 years. That said, I am in my peak earning years now. My company has reduced its staff by more than 50% since 2013 so I constantly worry about being forced into early retirement. If that happens it will be hard to maintain my current level of giving. I could give more now, but I also want to continue giving in retirement, so I hold back. It’s a dilemma.

I appreciate that my church educates me about and openly discusses financial management – living within my means, not being burdened by debt and believing I’m poor when I’m not. Having those lessons reinforced has shaped my attitude about spending and giving.

Why do charitable organizations define themselves in the negative (non-governmental, not-for-profit)? It is time they got over their inferiority complex.

I have complete trust in the organizations that I am funding. I like what they are doing in making a difference to those whom they are committed to helping; I appreciate their accountability.

Honestly, I’ve just got to get my act together. I’d like to give more. I make enough money; I’m just horrible at budgeting. Do any charitable organizations help people with that?

I have student loan debt that will take many years to pay off and this greatly restricts my options when I want to give. I feel that I must make responsible financial choices – working to pay off my debt as quickly as possible, but also giving regularly to charities that I support. It’s a tough balancing act.

Crowd-funding appeals to me as I can see a direct benefit to a particular person(s) or organization.

I see my contributions as investment in change, not just hope for something better. I want to see a tangible return, just like I do with all my investments. And don’t come back asking for more until you can show me the truly amazing things you’ve achieved with what I’ve already invested.

I’d jump on board to support an organization that will work to fix the root cause of an issue, not just put a band-aid on it. I’d give money to test a new approach or expand a new program that has already proven itself. That would be exciting.

  • Sean

    I work for an international professional association, with an ever growing presence in Canada. From what I read, the most troubling thing that Canadian donors mention is the over communication. The organization that I work for sends out at least one email a day, that provides an update on what the Association is doing. This communication does not always provide updates on what the Foundation of the Association is doing. The Foundation of course is the only thing that we fundraise for with the execution of Political Action Committee solicitations. This article covers the effects of over communication on an individual donor, but I wondered if there were any feed back received from corporations. I was also curious if there was any affect on donors giving habits when they receive communication that is not directly related to their donation.

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