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Leah Eustace - Chair of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada

Michelle Valberg

Canada has an extraordinary tradition of philanthropy, and is by many measures one of the most charitable countries in the world. The World Giving Index, which looks at total giving, volunteering and how often a citizen helped a stranger, ranked Canada in 2015 as the fourth most generous country, and we were ranked second as recently as 2013. Canadians give nearly $13-billion in gifts and almost two billion hours in volunteer time annually, according to Statistics Canada's most recent General Social Survey on Giving, Volunteering and Participating. It should come as no surprise that Canada was the first country in the world to permanently recognize and celebrate National Philanthropy Day on November 15 of every year.

As we near our country's 150th anniversary in 2017, it's a good time to celebrate everything that philanthropy has helped to accomplish. It's also a moment to look at where the charitable sector is now, the challenges our charities and our society face, and what it will take to continue to make an impact on our world.

The success of Canada's charities is based on one thing: you. Your giving. Your volunteering. Your ideas. Your involvement that makes our communities and our country a better, fairer, more just and more humane place. Philanthropy simply can't occur without you getting involved.

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So it's critical that charities know what you want – what matters to you. It's one of the reasons the Association of Fundraising Professionals Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada works with Ipsos Canada to publish a biannual survey called What Canadian Donors Want. Its goal is to see what you like about charities and their fundraising, how you want to be communicated with, and what you want to accomplish with your generosity.

Charities have been serving our country for more than a century, and Canadians have been helping one another (and people around the world) for even longer. Generosity is the hallmark of our country, and it all starts with you.

From the results of the survey, what stands out is your confidence in the sector, with almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of Canadians being very or somewhat confident – higher than the private and public sectors (63 and 62 per cent, respectively). Public trust in Canadian charities has increased by six percentage points since the 2011 survey, and large majorities also believe that charities act responsibly with the donations they receive and that they are well managed.

These figures are incredibly important for Canada's charities because trust is the foundation on which philanthropy is built. Without your trust and confidence in the sector, charities cannot perform their missions. We are proud of this level of trust, but also know that the sector has to keep working at it, continually showing that we are worthy of your gifts and commitment.

One key way we demonstrate our trustworthiness is communicating to you about what we do with your money. A growing number of donors – now more than eight in 10 (83 per cent) – say it is important that they receive information on how their donation has made a difference. And close to half of you (44 per cent) proactively seek out information about a cause or a charity, and will often contact organizations on your own to make a gift. Most of you access charity information online (72 per cent), while one-third look to family, friends and coworkers for ideas on which causes and organizations to support.

There are areas in which charities need to improve, too. It's clear that the sector needs to be clearer with donors when communicating about program and administrative costs. And half of you indicate that charities are still asking for money too often (though this figure is down six percentage points from previous studies), especially when it comes to telephone fundraising and street canvassing.

We are listening to you, and the sector is committed to improving your experience whenever you decide to make a gift to a charitable cause, because it matters what you think. You – the donor and volunteer –  are the heart of philanthropy.

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Charities have been serving our country for more than a century, and Canadians have been helping one another (and people around the world) for even longer. Generosity is the hallmark of our country, and it all starts with you. As we celebrate National Philanthropy Day this year, and contemplate our country's sesquicentennial next year, I want to thank you and look forward to even greater things over the next 150 years.


This content was produced by Randall Anthony Communications, in partnership with The Globe and Mail's advertising department. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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