Most Canadians agree: charities important in filling society’s gaps

publication date: Apr 18, 2012

Most Canadians agree (25% strongly, 47% somewhat) that charities play an important role in society as a change agent to address needs not being met by government or the private sector, according to a new Ipsos Reid poll. The Association of Fundraising Professionals launched the survey last November and released it in conjunction with its international conference in Vancouver at the end of March.

Seven in ten respondents say they've made a financial donation to charity or a nonprofit organization in the past twelve months, with Albertans (79%) and Atlantic Canadians (78%) being the most likely to say so. Those over the age of 55 are most likely (83%) to have donated, followed by those aged 35 to 54 (67%) and 18 to 34 (58%).

Most Canadian donors give to more than one cause, with 14% giving to six or more. Most give to 2-3 (43%) or 4-5 causes (18%), while just one quarter of the 70% who have made a donation only give to one charity.

Why Canadians give

Canadians give first and foremost to help those in need (44%). Other reasons include knowing the charity does good work (34%), wanting to give back to the community (23%), that it's the right thing to do (22%), that the charity has a good reputation (22%), a gift in memoriam (19%), it feels good (18%), to support friends, family (18%), and for a tax receipt (18%).

One in ten say they donate because they've been personally affected by what the charity does, that they've benefited from those services and want to give back, and that it's a part of their religious beliefs.

What Canadians expect

Canadians have some strong opinions about how charitable organizations should operate.
  • Nine in ten agree (50% strongly, 41% somewhat) that charities should have a strategic plan for how they intend to achieve their objectives.
  • Most agree (40% strongly, 46% somewhat) that charities that address similar issues should work together and share plans and resources.
  • Eight in ten agree (34% strongly, 48% somewhat) that charities should strive to maintain a certain level of standards by measuring their performance and comparing themselves to benchmarks.
Some donors support management excellence

While a majority (78%) of Canadians are closer to the opinion that nonprofits should spend less money on administration and more on the causes they support, 22% align more closely with an opposite point of view, supporting the idea of a nonprofit using donations to attract and retain well-trained, experienced management to lead the organization effectively.

Three-quarters (74%) believe that charities should spend resources on more innovative ways to increase donations, while just one-quarter (26%) are close to the opinion that charities should continue to spend resources on traditional ways of fundraising.

Impact sought, not always presented

Eighty-three percent of Canadians need to know a charity's purpose before they donate, and a similar proportion want to know if their donation made an impact. However, just one in three is actually aware if the charities they support have come closer to achieving their objectives.

Two in three (63%) agree that the charities they support should invest in pamphlets, brochures and publications that show their impact on the community they serve and the cause they support.

Trust is high

In general, Canadians trust their charities. They believe that:
  • charities in Canada act responsibly with the donations they receive (57% agree, 21% disagree);
  • they are trustworthy (55% agree, 18% disagree);
  • they are well-managed (54% agree, 22% disagree);
  • they handle donations responsibly (57% agree, 21% disagree);
  • they are well-managed (54% agree, 22% disagree).
Ipsos Reid conducted the poll between November 15-30, 2011. A sample of 1,027 adults was interviewed online.

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