Excerpt from Chapter 11 of the book “Intersections and Innovations: Change for Canada’s Voluntary and Nonprofit Sector,” edited by Susan Phillips and Bob Wyatt and published as a free e-book by the Muttart Foundation.

Chapter 11: New Technologies and Fundraising

By Marina Glogovac

Giving in Canada is on the decline. The reasons for this disturbing trend are complex, multi-factorial, and understudied. The potential long-term consequences on charities’ declining ability to meet demands for their services, which are actually increasing, cannot be underestimated.

In The Giving Report 2021, analysis from CanadaHelps and Imagine Canada found a number of troubling patterns:

  • The number of Canadians claiming a charitable donation on their tax filings, what we call the “participation rate,” fell from 24% of tax-filing individuals in 2007 to 19% in 2017.
  • Even as Canada’s population has grown, total donations haven’t kept up at the same rate as the growth.
  • CanadaHelps’ projections of total giving in 2020 show that the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession have hurt the charitable sector in similar ways to the 2008 Great Recession, with an estimated drop in total giving of $1.2 billion in 2020.

In addition, research suggests that Millennials are giving less in monetary donations than previous generations, and this group is not expected to start donating more even as their age and incomes increase (Rovner, 2018). One exception is related to social justice causes. For example, after the start of protests in May 2020, young Canadians became more active regarding colonization, police brutality, and racism in Canada—and, increasingly, they are donating more to charities involved in social justice movements (CanadaHelps, The Giving Report 2021)

Still, Millennials (also called Generation Y) give the least amount in average donations, compared to other demographics, and they give to the fewest charities overall (Rovner, 2018). The Millennial generation considers influence among peers as currency and their time to be as useful as a cash gift. They want to see impact, are much more interested in causes, and have little regard as to who is actually doing the work (i.e., social enterprise vs. traditional charity). Just as fundraising is multi-channel, and donations are difficult to attribute to a particular campaign or program, Millennials are comfortable with multiple approaches to making a difference.

These demographic shifts and changes in attitudes have meant that philanthropy in Canada is increasingly falling on the shoulders of a shrinking pool of older donors. A 2018 research study, 30 Years of Giving, published by the Rideau Hall Foundation and Imagine Canada, confirms some of these troubling metrics. “The overall trend is clear: the donor base is getting ever-smaller and changes in total donations are now primarily driven by variations in how much donors give. From the peak in 1990, the percentage of taxfilers claiming donations has dropped by roughly a third, while the average amount claimed has nearly doubled. This means that charities are relying on an ever-smaller number of people for donations.” (Lasby and Barr, 2018).

The decline in giving is occurring against a backdrop of a technology upheavals occurring with increasing intensity in the last couple of decades. Philanthropy, like the media, travel, retail, publishing, and music sectors, is being affected and transformed by the proliferation and widespread adoption of digital, mobile, and social technologies. In this age of technology and all things digital, many charities are failing to engage donors who have become digitally savvy. Charities are failing to move successfully to a place where consumers gather – online and via mobile devices – and failing to replace direct mail or shrinking corporate or government support. As CanadaHelps’ Digital Skills Survey 2021 makes clear, our sector as a whole, and smaller charities in particular, need to transform digitally, and at a much faster rate.

We live in a time of “disruptive innovations” and “creative destruction”. Entire industries have been wiped out, weakened, and in many cases replaced by new ones that did not exist a few years ago. This era of creative destruction has brought about a fundamental change in the way people engage with each other, with businesses, with government, and with charities.

Read the full chapter, including sources, at https://muttart.org/resource-library.

Marina Glogovac is president and CEO of CanadaHelps.org, a non-profit foundation that provides fundraising and donation technology to other charities and donors. Through CanadaHelps, 1.1 million Canadians donated more than $480 million to charities online in 2020. Glogovac has been a technology and media executive for more than 25 years, including roles at Kobo, Lavalife Corp. and St. Joseph’s Media.

Saturday, July 17, 2021 in
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