Research shows that donating to a good cause increases our sense of wellbeing. But we still need to be prompted to give - and one man says that's all in the math
There have been countless generous donations to Sunnybrook over the years, but one in particular sticks in the mind of Daisy Tse, vice-president, development at Sunnybrook Foundation.
One snowy winter day an elderly man arrived at the fundraising office, having read about one of the hospital's fundraising campaigns in a Chinese-language newspaper. He had travelled across Toronto on public transit to deliver his donation in person: two crumpled $20 bills. He hadn't sent a cheque or used a credit card, because he had neither.
"I want to give this to you because I am grateful to the hospital and for the Schulich Heart Centre," Ms. Tse recalls him telling the staff proudly.
The donor's simple act of generosity exemplified the kind of philanthropic spirit that John Hallward welcomes. A newly launched initiative called GIV3, a project of Mr. Hallward's Montreal-based Hallmont Foundation, has a straightforward goal: to encourage Canadians to give an average 3% of their income to charities and donate three hours of volunteer time each month.
GIV3 grew out of Mr. Hallward's family tradition of giving and his own professional life as a marketing researcher. "I learned about giving back from my family at an early age," Mr. Hallward says. "I'm one of 24 grandchildren who received a cheque on our 21st birthday from our grandmother. The accompanying letter read 'Here's $500. But it's not for you.' "
Instead, Mr. Hallward's grandmother wrote about his obligation to give to people less fortunate and how we all have a responsibility to help others. She instructed her grandchildren to choose five charities, donate $100 to each and report back in writing. Successful completion resulted in a $500 cheque of their own.
"It was a gift but with strings attached," he recalls.
In his professional life as a market researcher, Mr. Hallward authored a book on marketing. "I began to wonder about the focus on selling based on appealing to self interest and got to thinking about the role of altruism and how it makes us feel better when we give to others."
When he learned that Canadians' charitable giving is well below 1% of annual income, he decided to put his professional research skills to work, launching an Ipsos-Reid survey that probed Canadians' attitudes about charitable giving set against their actual levels of giving.
The survey came up with some surprising results, and was a catalyst to eventual formation of GIV3. Some findings:
- Seven out of 10 Canadians feel they are more generous than Americans, when in fact Americans donate double the percentage of income per capita.
- One out of every two Canadians donated at least $100 in 2007 but just one in ten donated $1,000 or more
- Higher income groups donate a lower share of income (0.5%) compared to versus the less wealthy (1.7%)
- One in four Canadians volunteer with meaningful regularity
The survey also found that Canadians who consider themselves religious and those with a philanthropic role model during childhood are more generous.
The majority of respondents said that Canadians should give 3% of income. "We aren't telling
Canadians what amount to give. They themselves have identified what they think are the appropriate percentages of income for charitable donations," says Woodrow Rosenbaum, executive director of GIV3.
We are encouraging a more thoughtful approach based on planning. We want to make giving a part of life. John Hallward, Hallmont Foundation
"Even if we got Canadians' charitable contributions up to 1% versus the current 0.72%, it would generate an additional $3 billion annually for charities and non-profit organizations," he adds.
While GIV3's focus is on increasing overall philanthropic rates, there is special urgency for those of privilege to set an example, says Mr. Hallward. According to GIV3 calculations, the top 15% of income earners in Canada give only 0.5% of their income to charity. If they met the national average it would generate an additional $1 billion annually. And if they donated at the level of low income Canadians, it would result in an additional $5 billion per year.
Mr. Hallward says two findings in the survey stand out: People who give to charity feel happier and more positive; and Canadians care about those in need but don't know how much they should be giving.
"Nobody wants to be a sucker and give more than others in their category," he says, "but neither do they want to be seen to give less."
That's why GIV3's web site provides a tool for determining what to give based on what Canadians stated in the survey. It's a fast and user friendly donation calculator - simply plug in salary and investment income to get your recommended level of donation.
The calculator reveals that at $30,000 the suggested level of giving is $539 (1.8%), while someone earning $100,000 should give $3,630 (3.63%) annually. In addition to helping Canadians understand how much to donate, GIV3 links donors to partner organizations so they can research organizations they might want to support. "We want to help Canadians cut through the clutter and noise of charitable requests which are ever-increasing," says Mr. Rosenbaum. "We are encouraging a more thoughtful approach based on planning. We want to make giving a part of life. It's about sitting down with your family or advisors and making some decisions." As for the self-interest factor that launched Mr. Hallward's study, it has a positive aspect when it comes to charity. "People feel happier and more positive when they give to others," he says. As part of GIV3's Happiness Presentation, he exhorts others to give for the sheer pleasure of it.
"And we're not asking them to be a hundred-per-cent giving. You can do whatever you like with 97% of your wealth. We're only asking that you be three-per-cent generous."
WHAT IT CAN MEAN
By donating 3% of a $50,000 annual salary, one person can have a critically needed impact. When that impact is added to that of others, the outcome is enormous.
Follow us on Twitter: