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Canadians are more confident than ever in the country’s charitable sector and demonstrated their support with a significant increase last year in the number of people making donations, according to the 2018 What Canadian Donors Want Survey.

Conducted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada in partnership with Ipsos, the survey found that the number of people who gave to charity in 2017 jumped to 70 per cent, 4 points higher than 2015, with each donor giving an average of $772. Although this was lower than the average donation of $924 in 2015, it is in line with the typical amount AFP expects to see.

The survey also found that 78 per cent of Canadians say they are confident in the organizations that comprise the charitable sector, the highest level ever and five points above the 2015 number.

Roger Ali, chair of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada, says the What Canadian Donors Want Survey is important because it both celebrates the power and impact of Canadian philanthropy and identifies better ways the charitable sector can inspire and engage donors in its missions.

“The goal of the AFP Foundation is to strengthen giving and volunteering across our country, and I’m grateful to every Canadian who participated in this survey – and to all Canadians who support charity and philanthropy,” he says.

Mary Bowyer, chair of the What Canadian Donors Want working group, says donor confidence is driven by charities moving away from simply asking for a donation, and embracing a closer, more engaged relationship where they work more closely with donors to support the organization’s mission.

In each iteration of the survey, donors have told us that trust is built by charities that have dynamic strategic plans in place that drive their mission forward.

Mary Bowyer chair of the What Canadian Donors Want working group

“Charities want to show the impact of what they’re doing, so we’re being more intentional about communicating what we do, how we do it, and how donors make the difference,” she says. “Donors aren’t just supporters, they’re partners, and I think that approach has made a real difference. In each iteration of the survey, donors have told us that trust is built by charities that have dynamic strategic plans in place that drive their mission forward.”

The survey also indicated that donors are changing how they want to give and interact with charities, which means the sector needs to adapt.

“It’s all about options,” says Ms. Bowyer. “Fundraisers are increasingly living by the maxim ‘People aren’t your donors. You are one of the charities they choose to support.’ The onus is on charities to provide different ways for donors to engage and support our causes, whether that’s through traditional means, or giving online, or running their own online fundraising campaign and getting their friends to give. We need to be as personal as we can with each donor, learn about how they want to give and what their priorities are, and then respond to them appropriately. To do this, charities need to invest in digital proficiency.”

She says the survey’s finding that there was a drop in volunteerism rates in 2017 compared to 2015 means the charitable sector will need to review and understand how people want to volunteer going forward.

“Time is an expensive currency, and volunteers look for areas where they can engage in an impactful and meaningful way on their own terms,” adds Ms. Bowyer. “The survey did reveal a significant increase in volunteer hours in Alberta, as well as an overall increase in volunteer hours among those in the 35 to 54 age group and those with annual incomes between $25,000 and $60,000. We would need to see the next set of data before calling this a trend, but it would not surprise me to see that number bounce back in the next survey.”

In the meantime, the sector needs to continue educating the public about how fundraising works and the role of the charitable sector.

“We need to work on retaining donors and developing relationships with them, especially with different generations,” she says. “There are some very dramatic changes in generational outlook and preferences – some donors wanting to go online, others still preferring more traditional methods of giving. Donors are becoming more sophisticated and have greater expectations about how charities should operate and communicate. We will have to work harder and smarter, and be more innovative and flexible than ever before, incorporating different ways of fundraising into our campaigns.”


The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) represents more than 3,000 Canadian fundraisers and charities, and more than 33,000 around the world, partnering with donors and volunteers to change the world through ethical and effective fundraising. AFP helps its members raise more than $100-billion annually for a wide variety of causes through advocacy, research, education, mentoring and the most rigorous code of ethics in the profession.

Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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