Donations – why are Canadians giving less?

and by Moira Campbell, Dogwood Initiative’s Development Director

Why do Americans give over twice as much to charity as Canadians? And why is the number of Canadians giving to charity decreasing?

A weak economy may be one factor. But a recent chat with one of our major supporters revealed concerns about charity scams and a perceived lack of public accountability. She didn’t like the fashion today of farming fundraising out to a telephone agency. She didn’t like the fact that some organisations that solicit donations by phone refuse to send out any written materials on their work. She worried that up to 30% of her donation could be going towards fundraiser’s profit, not the organization she wished to support. And she felt angry when fundraisers told her she was one of their supporters when she knew she hadn’t given to them before-a cheap trick, she thought, just to get her attention.

Sadly, it only takes one or two bad experiences like that to leave a bad taste in your mouth. But despite the occasional bad actors, most non-profit organisations are good stewards of the money that Canadians entrust to them. They are, on the whole, highly cost-efficient. At Dogwood Initiative we keep spending on administration and fund-raising below 20% of our overall budget. Our fund-raising is all done in-house. And we’re about to send out a membership survey that will ask exactly how our supporters want us to communicate with them: mail, email, phone or not at all. To us, being respectful of our supporters’ wishes is just common decency.

So why should Canadians give generously to non-profits? Talk to the non-profits you support, and you’ll be impressed with the dedication and commitment of the many people who are working to serve their communities.

You will hear about non-profits sharing offices and resources to make ends meet, of paid staff working for less than they would earn in other fields, or deferring their pay-cheques when there isn’t enough money in the bank and of the many volunteers who give their time freely to help the causes they believe.

You will hear about the vital job of holding the government and big business accountable for the impact their actions have on our every day lives, whether it’s the BC provincial government privatizing over 87,000 hectares of Weyerhaueser land, auctioning off the Crowsnest petroleum and natural gas drilling rights or the New VI (a Vancouver Island local cable station) sacking all of its political commentators. They need to be funded independently in order to be able to do this effectively.

Across the country, groups of committed people are taking on the responsibility of making this world a better one, for ourselves and for our children, with no profit. They deserve our support.

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