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Surprises abound in 2013 Next Generation of Canadian Giving Study

Resource Center - Foundation

The 2013 Next Generation of Canadian Giving Study reveals the charitable giving and communication preferences of four generations of Canadian donors: Gen Y, Gen X, Baby Boomers and Civics.

Commissioned by hjc and Blackbaud, this national study of more than 800 Canadian donors demonstrates the rising strength of Gen X in philanthropy. This latest study expands on a similar study from 2010 and shows differences among Canada, the US and the UK—which is rare in the nonprofit sector. The study also has the benefit of continuing over a number of years, allowing it to identify and highlight trends as they appear.

Gen X better off in Canada than in US, UK

Unlike the 2010 study, the 2013 study included questions about face-to-face charitable interactions on the street, at the door or at the mall and other important channels.

Mike Johnston, founder and president of hjc, says, “What’s surprising about the results is the rise of Gen X. Here’s something that’s interesting: we don’t see the same rise as quickly in the United Kingdom, nor in the United States, as we do in Canada.”

“One contextual reason is that both of those countries went through a deep recession,” he continues. “We did not. Gen X is just reaching the first stage of disposable income.  They’re maturing for the first time.  In countries with deep recessions there has been a holding back financially.  Here we saw a forward movement with Gen X.”

Text giving down, smart phones up

The second surprise is the decline of text giving and the rise of the mobile smart phone.  “A huge percentage of Gen X and Gen Y say they are interacting through mobile browsers—smart phones—touching and typing all of their information into a browser page,” Johnston reveals.  “Their predisposition to text to give has been declining.  People have just leapt right over that and are telling charities, ‘I want a richer experience—my iPhone or Android can give me that.  Why would I text to give when I can have a richer experience?’ That’s why Blackberry got killed.  There is huge potential for Gen X and Gen Y to grow through this medium.” 

Facebook shows little fundraising impact

What’s also surprising, he notes, is the low fundraising impact of social media like Facebook.  Over the past three years since the last study, its self-identified, per-capita use in support of charities has declined.  People are using social media to connect, but it is not the place for transactions.  It influences where people will go to conduct e-commerce, but ultimately it’s an engagement opportunity, not a transaction opportunity.

The last surprise—across all eight demographic sub-sets—is that all ages use all channels, or are at least open to contact through all channels to stay in touch. 

What does it all mean?

The key question for many fundraisers will be how to use this data.  Fundraisers need to carefully review the differences and similarities in generational use of different channels and ways to give. Then, rationed by limited resources, choose the most effective integrated fundraising program you can that will move Gen Y, Gen X, Boomer and Civic supporters up the donor pyramid.  A report like this reminds us to have an infrastructure and a plan to take care of donors over their life cycle.

The last word belongs to Johnston:  “This document is a clarion call to do the hard work.  We cannot afford to come up with wonderful creative ideas without the cross-generational, cross-channel lifecycle plan in place. In the commercial world this would never happen.  We’re more than capable—we understand the theory of how to take care of people.  The nonprofit sector can be better than the commercial world because we deal with things that matter.  I hope this report is going to be a part of that.”

To download the full study, visit

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