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Survey Results: What Canadian Donors Want

The 2015 survey of What Canadian Donors Want shows that in challenging economic times, Canadians donate to charities that have a clear purpose and demonstrate corresponding impact.  The findings also indicate that public trust in Canadian charities has increased six percent since 2011. Additionally, more Canadians believe that the nation’s nonprofits are well-managed and act responsibly with the donations they receive.

What Canadian Donors Want is a biennial survey conducted on behalf of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Foundation for Philanthropy - Canada by Ipsos. The 2015 survey, the third of its kind, was designed to measure public perception of issues central to the nonprofit sector in Canada.

“The What Canadian Donors Want report gives all of Canadians a reliable barometer of citizen impact on the work being done to advance communities and causes,” said Leah Eustace, ACFRE, chair of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy-Canada. “But it also provides critical information to Canada’s charitable sector leaders about what motivates donors to be generous and the expectations donors have for solicitation and stewardship of their money.”

Views and attitudes of the charitable sector

The survey reveals that -  

  • Canadians continue to express higher confidence in the charitable sector than in either the private or public sectors (73 percent compared to 63 percent and 62 percent, respectively). 
  • However, four in ten Canadians believe that charities overstate the ratio of donor dollars allocated directly to programs versus administrative overhead, including one in ten who believes charities intentionally mislead the public.

Trust in the sector is important because the survey indicates that donors are looking for transparency and want to support charities that are efficient with their budgets and have a clear impact.

Solicitations and giving decisions

  • Two-thirds of Canadians report having made a financial donation in the past 12 months.  This is down four points from 2013 and represents the lowest figure reported since 2007 when this question was first posed to respondents.  The drop is most prevalent among Canadians with middle education and lower household incomes.  Donations are also down directionally in Alberta (from 77 percent to 67 percent) and Quebec (from 61 percent to 54 percent.) 
  • While there were fewer donors in 2015, those who did give gave more money than before. Canadians gave an average of $924 in 2015 compared to an average of $726 in 2013. 
  • Donors continue to report contributions to their local community over charities with a national or international mission. Since 2013, donations to organizations with a local focus increased from 49 percent to 54 percent, while donations to organizations with a national focus declined from 35 percent to 28 percent.
  • More than half of donors say they are “very likely” to make another gift to the charity to which they last donated.
  • When looking for information on charities they support, Canadians primarily access it online (a total of 72 percent on charity website or online) and from family, friends and coworkers (32 percent).
  • Fifteen percent of Canadians on social media say they have donated in response to a request posted on social media. More than half are open to receiving social media donation requests but note that their proclivity to respond depends on who posts the request and the cause the charity represents.

Donor motivations 

The survey revealed six segments of donors:

  • Affiliative: Enjoy going to fundraising events and motivated to donate to charities from which they, or someone they know, has benefitted
  • Communal: Donate to locally-based charities that benefit those in their community
  • Pragmatist: Family tradition of donating to a specific charity and motivated by the provision of a tax credit
  • Benevolent: Doing good is a moral obligation and want to help those in need
  • Reactive: Do not strongly associate with charities they donate to, and wait to be approached to donate
  • Adherent/Reverent: Donate to charities that share their beliefs or moral and motivated by their religious beliefs

The largest proportion of Canadians express helping those in need is their main motivation for giving.  Compared to 2013, more Canadians say giving is the right thing to do, and there is a moderate increase in those who say giving makes them feel good. A growing number of donors say it’s important that they receive information on how their donation has made a difference (up 6 points from 2013 to 83 percent) and fewer indicate needing some kind of acknowledgement for their donation (38 percent). 

The survey indicates that many donors want to support charities that are efficient with their budgets and have a clear impact.  Of donors who gave in the past 12 months, 97 percent say the charities to which they gave have a clear purpose and mandate; 96 percent say the organization has a strong reputation and 95 percent say the organization is successful in fulfilling its mission.

For more information, download the three fact sheets created based on survey findings.

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