Posted by & filed under Advocacy, Analytics, Donor Centric, Metrics.

Who’s giving to charity in Canada today? How do we give? Are we as generous today as we were 30 years ago? Why do we give? And what stops us from giving?

Thanks to a deep dive that was recently undertaken by Imagine Canada into the giving patterns of Canadians, we now have a more in-depth understanding of the answers to those questions than ever before.

As part of its Giving Behaviour Project, Canada’s Rideau Hall Foundation asked Imagine Canada to mine and analyze all publicly available data sources on Canadians’ giving habits from 1984 to 2014[1], the result of which is the most comprehensive long-range picture of individual giving in Canada that has ever been compiled.


Canadians Continue to be Generous
Canadians have long demonstrated a strong sense of generosity, and that spirit of giving continues to be evident. Total receipted donations rose from $3.8 billion in 1984 to $9.6 billion in 2014. When unreceipted donations are included, Imagine Canada estimates that giving by individual Canadians totaled $14.3 billion in 2014.

“These numbers indicate that Canadians continue to express generosity through the medium of charitable giving in a meaningful and robust way,” says Bruce MacDonald, president and CEO of Imagine Canada.


Fewer Donors, Older, More Affluent and Increasingly Female
While Canadians’ generosity continues to be evident, Imagine Canada did find that the makeup of the Canadian donor base is changing, and in 2014, it is best described as smaller, older, more affluent and increasingly female compared to what it was in 1984.

Their analysis highlighted that charities are increasingly reliant on fewer donors, as the proportion of Canadian tax filers claiming donations has declined from a peak of almost 30 percent in 1990 to 21 percent in 2014.

And if you delve into those numbers, there are further, and in some cases troubling, nuances, including the aging of the donor base. “Back in 1984, the percentage of donations coming from people who were 50 and over was about 54 percent,” notes MacDonald. “By 2014, that had jumped to 74 percent.”

The most elderly group (those aged 70 and over) alone accounted for 31 percent of donations, up from 16 percent. At the other end of the spectrum, donors under 40 accounted for almost 50 percent of donors in 1984 but dropped to about 35 percent in 2014. Even more striking is the drop in donation value among the under 40 population. In 1984, donations from this group represented 26 percent of donations in 1984, while only 11 percent in 2014.

Imagine Canada also found that the donor base is becoming increasingly more affluent. In 1984, the top one percent of tax filers (then earning $80,000 and up) accounted for only 16 percent of donations, whereas by 2014, the top one percent (those earning $250,000 and up) accounted for 31 percent of donations.

The final factor of note is the growing importance of women. Donations from women make up a significantly larger proportion of total donations, up from 36 percent in 1984 to 41 percent in 2014.


Giving by Cause and Method[2]
Religious organizations continue to receive the largest amount of charitable donations, with two of every five dollars donated being directed to them. They also have the largest donation rate, with 41 percent of donors indicating they make gifts to these types of charities. Health-related charities come in second, attracting 13 percent of donations, followed by social services and international development (12 percent and 10 percent respectively). Hospitals rank fifth, attracting just over four percent of donations.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there are significant differences in interest in particular causes based on demographics. Older donors are much more likely to give to hospitals, with 22 percent of donors aged 65 and older giving making gifts to hospitals compared with only five percent of donors under age 35.

In terms of giving method, again not surprisingly, there are generational differences, with older donors are much more likely to give through the mail. Among donors aged 65 and up, more than 43 percent make their gifts through the mail compared with only 17 percent among the under-65 cohort.  When it comes to online giving, the story is reversed, with less than 6 percent of donors aged 65 and up giving online, compared with 14 percent of those under 65.


Willingness to Give More
One encouraging finding was the healthy number of donors who indicate a willingness to give more. Imagine Canada found that 25 percent of donors who make gifts to charity indicate that while they are happy with what they give, they could give more. “This finding should provide great hope for organizations as they will certainly be connected to some donors who fall into this category,” says MacDonald. “We found that these people tended to be older, have higher incomes and are more likely to be men, which can provide some further direction for charities related to who to look for.”

MacDonald goes on to say they believe that improved communication of impact could be key to unlocking the greater giving potential of this group of donors. “When we were talking with our researchers about these donors, there was a feeling that this group might be receptive to more messages about impact, going to them with quantitative, quantifiable data that talks about where their donation went and the difference that it made in the community.”

Not only do these insights from Imagine Canada’s research help to clarify the state of Canada’s giving landscape, they can also help charities to plan their future fundraising programs.  And in planning those futures, it’s critical to take a balanced approach.

“I think there is lots of opportunity in the short term to focus on those committed donors who can give more,” says MacDonald. “But as this group is becoming increasingly older, it’s going to be critical for the future sustainability of organizations that they also work diligently to attract new donors from groups who are not yet showing the same level of philanthropy as those most engaged donors. So, whether it’s new strategies to appeal to young people, leveraging the growing involvement of women as donors or taking advantage of new donation instruments like online or digital based giving, building future donors is going to be essential.”

For more information on Imagine Canada’s report, please visit the Rideau Hall Foundation website. And to hear an interview with Bruce MacDonald about the research and its findings, check out this episode of The Ask, KCI’s monthly podcast that explores issues and topics related to the future of fundraising in Canada.


About the Author

Nicole Nakoneshny is a Senior Vice President and Partner at KCI, Canada’s largest consulting firm focused exclusively on the non-profit sector. As part of the firm’s commitment to advancing philanthropy, Nicole leads KCI’s Thought Leadership activities by curating the knowledge that it generates through its various practices and also keeps an eye on the key and emerging trends in fundraising and philanthropy in Canada and around the world…translating that knowledge and information into useful insights for charities and fundraisers. She serves as Editor of KCI’s online publication, Philanthropic Trends Quarterly and Host of its monthly podcast, The Ask.


[1] 2014 was the most recent year available at the time the research was undertaken.

[2] Data in this section and Willingness to Give More based on 2013 Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating

Posted by & filed under Speakers, Special Events.

The night featured seven new storytellers and had an unprecedented turnout (over one-hundred listeners!)

I had the good fortune of joining this project on the ground floor. My president at Stephen Thomas Ltd, Paula Attfield, introduced me to this brand-new committee and provided my credentials for working at various nonprofit mixers and conferences in the past. The Speaker Discovery Series (or, as the cool kids say, SDS) was the brainchild of Laura Champion – Fundraising Strategist at fellow agency Blakely Inc.

Laura saw that a few rungs were missing on the ladder to the speaking circuit in fundraising and nonprofit marketing. A lot of untapped talent was just waiting for an opportunity to hit the stage, share a story, and build their portfolio as presenters. The plan was simply to give new speakers that audience and provide a few coaches for valuable professional feedback.

But what Laura didn’t know was just how successful her idea would become.

The first night of this series took place in July of 2017 and it was a marvelous proof of concept – we were proud to see nearly fifty people attend and thoroughly enjoy the night. It was fresh, they’d say. Grassroots, candid, offbeat. And they couldn’t wait to attend another.

Our committee regrouped and began planning. We wanted each event to have a theme and decided our second night would encourage people to share ‘Whoops’ stories from their fundraising careers. Pobody’s nerfect. And we wanted to celebrate that fact.

It was a fitting theme choice because numerous mistakes and surprises were ahead of us. A confirmed speaker ended up having a conflict; there was a miscommunication with our venue and they ended up cancelling our reservation; one of our coaches caught the flu and cancelled at the last minute; and finally, one of our committee members ended up having to drop out. Life happens. I’m sure you can relate. Best-laid plans, and all of that.

Somehow everything still fell into place… New volunteers stepped up, we continued to promote and fine-tune the event, and (to our amazement) it was going to be more than twice as popular as our first night of the series.

Yes, over a hundred people filled our space. Our new venue, the Gladstone hotel, provided a room that delightfully resembled a swank comedy club. Our speakers got a stage with a bare-brick backdrop and rows of theatre-style seats filled with peers, colleagues, and new friends. A few stories earned an uproar of laughter and others compelled misty-eyed contemplation. And, as a committee member, I opened the night for our speakers with an ice-breaker story about when data goes hilariously wrong.

This evening was such a hit, in fact, that you may hear about other Speaker Discovery Series starting up at other AFP chapters across Canada. I’m proud to be on this pioneering committee alongside Sam Barr, Jess Wroblewski, Yunis Kariuki, Dela Kumapley, and our champion Laura who invited us all along with her.

Our next event is May 9th so mark your calendars now. Stay tuned for other details. If you missed the first two nights of this series, you can file that under ‘Whoops’ and we will hope to see you next time. And if you do want to catch up, you’ll be pleased to hear that we recorded a podcast of the big night and you can listen to it here.

Interested in speaking? The Call for Speakers will be coming soon.  If you are nervous about submitting – please reach out, as we’re always happy to have a chat.


Scott Jeffries
Stephen Thomas Ltd.

Scott is a senior manager specialized in data brokerage at Stephen Thomas Ltd. He is also on the committee responsible for the annual Digital Leap conference. While Scott’s background was originally book publishing – with a specialization in sales & marketing – he has redirected his passion into a unique career using analytics and tenacity to connect charities with their ideal prospective donor audience. In his free time, Scott runs a monthly discussion group for science and philosophy enthusiasts. And he’s a donor to (or participant in) every charity walk that’s brought to his attention.

Posted by & filed under Advocacy, Announcement, Government Relations, Leadership/Management.

Originally posted February 20, 2018 on the Imagine Canada blog by Bruce MacDonald.


Dear Prime Minister:

I am writing on behalf of the charitable and nonprofit sector, at the mid-point of your government’s mandate, to share my thoughts on the progress that has – and has not – been made on several important mandate letter commitments. As Imagine Canada is the national umbrella for the sector, my comments focus on issues and commitments that affect the sector as a whole, as opposed to those that relate to the missions of particular organizations or subsectors.

Several mandate letters contain commitments of broad applicability to our sector, including the mandate letters issued to the Ministers of Employment, Labour and Workforce Development; Families, Children and Social Development; Finance; National Revenue; Innovation, Science and Economic Development; Justice; National Revenue; Public Services and Procurement; and the President of the Treasury Board. As many mandate letter commitments overlap, they are organized thematically below.


Legal and regulatory reform

The mandate letters to the Ministers of Finance, National Revenue, and Justice all made reference to modernizing the regulatory and legal frameworks that govern charities and nonprofits more broadly.

The process of legal and regulatory reform is important for many reasons. Limits on charities and nonprofits income-generating and investment activities have been identified as a potentially significant hurdle in implementing a social finance and social innovation agenda; organizations that want to participate as partners or funders may find themselves prevented from doing so. As another example, the rules on the ‘direction and control’ of charities’ resources reinforce an outdated, paternalistic approach to working with communities in Canada and abroad that is at odds with the government’s own approach to, for example, international development partnerships. The 17th century framework under which we operate needs to be re-examined in light of 21st century realities.

We were very encouraged that the mandate letters seemed to open the door for a conversation on fundamental and meaningful modernization. We were also very pleased when the Minister of National Revenue appointed an advisory panel to hold consultations on political activity and other regulatory issues charities might choose to raise. We strongly support the advisory panel’s recommendations pertaining both to political activity and broader legal and regulatory reform.

We are very concerned, however, that almost a year after the advisory panel reported to the Minister of National Revenue, there has been no formal response from your government to the recommendations specific to political activity, nor has there been any indication of a process to examine the broader modernization question. There is a real risk that the momentum and goodwill generated by the advisory panel process will be lost. We would welcome a clear indication as to when the government intends to respond to the advisory panel and move forward with its commitments in this area.

We note with great interest and enthusiasm that the Senate has voted to form a special committee with a mandate to study the effect of laws, regulations, and policies on charities and nonprofits, as well as the sector’s broader impact. We trust that a government response specific to political activity will be forthcoming before then, but we believe the Senate process will provide a forum to begin exploring some of the larger issues. We encourage the government to acknowledge the Senate’s undertaking and to indicate the government’s readiness to act where possible on recommendations made by the special committee.



The Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development was asked to improve the quality of publicly available data.

As you may be aware, Statistics Canada no longer generates or disseminates data about the charitable and nonprofit sector as a whole. Previous data products, such as the National Survey of Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations, and the Satellite Account of Nonprofit Institutions and Volunteering, gave us crucial information about the sector and its economic and employment impact. The most recent available data indicates charities and nonprofits generate more than 8 percent of GDP and employ two million Canadians. These data, however, are now more than a decade old.

We have been in discussions with Statistics Canada and the Minister’s office as to how this situation can be rectified. Canada was once a world leader in generating information and data about this sector and we hope it can be again. The commitments your government has made in the policy areas included in this letter make it imperative that we have current, good quality information about the sector. There appears to be recognition of the importance of this issue, but no urgency to find the resources required to collect the relevant data.


Grants and contributions

You asked the President of the Treasury Board to encourage departments to devote a fixed percentage of program funds to experimenting with new approaches to existing problems and measuring the impact of such efforts.

We are pleased that Treasury Board has provided flexibility for increased experimentation by departments. We hope departments will take advantage of this flexibility and that Treasury Board will collect and share information about how this policy has been put into action.

You also emphasized the importance of evaluation in asking the President of the Treasury Board to work towards a “strengthened culture of measurement, evaluation, and innovation in program and policy design and delivery.” There is a potential stumbling block here as impact evaluation and measurement are too often not treated as allowable costs in grant and contribution agreements. Furthermore, the overall administration of grants and contributions – which is too often short-term, focuses on outputs rather than outcomes, and risk-averse – limits the extent to which innovation can occur. We understand Treasury Board is reviewing its policies on transfer payments and we encourage your government to ensure that grants and contributions are administered in such a way that they encourage innovation.


Social Finance and Social Innovation

The Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, and Employment, Labour and Workforce Development were tasked with developing a Social Innovation and Social Finance strategy. The Minister of National Revenue was also asked to assist in this process.

We are pleased a Social Innovation and Social Finance Steering Group, supported by Employment and Social Development Canada, was appointed last summer and has undertaken a consultation process. Although we recognize that several Steering Group members have an understanding of the charitable and nonprofit sector, we are disappointed the sector is not directly represented in the membership of the Steering Group. Nevertheless, Imagine Canada submitted a brief and recommendations to the Steering Group and participated in consultation sessions, and we know other charities and nonprofits have also done so.

We understand the Steering Group will likely report this summer and we look forward to seeing its recommendations. We trust that the government will give serious thought as to how it can properly invest in and resource the Strategy in order to stimulate innovation within the sector. We believe that a whole-of-government approach will likely be required.



The Minister of Public Services and Procurement was mandated with modernizing the federal procurement system in such a way as to help achieve a number of government priorities, including social procurement.

We are pleased Public Services and Procurement Canada has begun to consult on how social procurement might be embedded in a range of government procurement activities. While it is still early in the process, we hope significant progress can be made towards this goal.

We are also hopeful Bill C-344 will be adopted. Where they have been used, community benefit agreements have proven an effective way of achieving multiple benefits through public expenditure without increasing procurement costs.


Youth employment

The Minister of Employment, Labour and Workforce Development was mandated to “[i]ncrease the number of good quality, permanent jobs for younger workers,” in part by increasing investment in the Youth Employment Strategy and improving its impact.

Charities and nonprofits are significant employers of young Canadians. Any reforms to the government’s youth employment initiatives will, we hope, recognize this fact and ensure charities and nonprofits are not disadvantaged. We are very pleased the Expert Panel on Youth Employment recognized that charities and nonprofits should be part of any program or policy design – not just from the perspective of providing services to youth, but from the perspective of being major employers of youth. Members of Imagine Canada’s policy working group on youth employment in the sector have been asked to participate in consultations with the Minister of Employment, Labour and Workforce Development. We hope this marks a commitment to seeking input from all sectors as economic and employment policies are considered.

We are all dedicated to strengthening the economic and social prospects of the communities we serve. Charities and nonprofits are eager to continue working with you and your government to improve the framework under which we operate so that we can build on our existing impact and contribution.


We appreciate your consideration of the issues raised here, and look forward to hearing your thoughts.


Yours truly,

Bruce MacDonald

President & CEO
Imagine Canada


Posted by & filed under Fundraising.

As I bounce back from vacation and start preparing for the year ahead, I’m struck by the changing environment the fundraiser of today faces. While each organization is different and a lot of the fundraising fundamentals still hold true, a review of the trends can give today’s fundraiser something to ponder and bring back to their organization. Here are three such trends that I’ve been chewing over lately.

While story telling is as old as fundraising, it’s the way we tell stories that now keeps fundraisers on our toes. In 2018, as technology gets both cheaper and easier to use, the best story tellers will be live streaming, blogging, and using virtual reality. One of the most powerful ways to connect to a donor is to get them “into the field” to see the work first hand. While this may be easier to do when building a hospital wing in a donor’s home town, it is possible to create a powerful experience for a donor who you can’t get there in person. Take at look at Clouds Over Sidra, a short virtual reality documentary following a 12-year-old Syrian refugee (you can view it here: This incredible VR experience raised 70% more than expected at $3.8 billion. While this size and scale may be out of reach for most organizations, this technology is not.

The second trend that I find fascinating is collaborative fundraising. With trust in our sector continuing to wane, and the cost to attract a new donor higher than ever, perhaps it is time to consider working with other organizations. Benefits include cost savings, broader reach, and increased credibility. While the challenges are real, and it may take creative and potentially difficult conversations to get started, the possibilities are huge. Check out this series on the subject:

Finally, innovation in the sector, whether we like it or not, is having an impact on our donors, our organizations, and our fundraising. Donors are wealthier, younger, and more sophisticated. This new group of donors is looking for new solutions – including innovation and creativity in how their money is used and invested  We have to rise to the challenge and meet our donors where they are. Some may view this trend as a threat to our sector, a sector which has operated in a largely transactional way with our donors giving them few opportunities to participate in our charitable work. I, however, think it can be a real opportunity.  With donors looking to deploy not only their philanthropic dollars but also their invested dollars, as well as seeking a deeper connection to their philanthropic work, organizations will have to be nimble, invest in building our own sophistication, and be able to partner strategically.

I’m excited to be reviewing the innovations in our sector and seeing which ones fit for the work I’m doing. I encourage all fundraisers out there to do the same.


About the Author

Elissa Beckett, MBA, CFRE, builds philanthropic solutions for donors at Tides Canada and is an instructor at Ryerson University where she teaches Entrepreneurial Fundraising, a course that looks a partnerships, trends, and entrepreneurialism in the non-profit sector. The course is offered in class and online through Ryerson’s Chang School of Continuing Education.

Connect with Elissa on LinkedIn


Posted by & filed under Announcement, Board of Directors, Leadership/Management.

January 2, 2018

AFP sends its warm congratulations to the members who were recently approved by the membership to serve on the 2018 AFP Canada Board of Directors.

In a recent AFP Canadian member vote, the Board slate was approved with 94.4% saying yes, 1.47% saying no and 4.13% abstaining.  Almost eight percent of the full Canadian membership participated in the vote.

“2018 will be a critical year for the AFP Canada Board, which is only just nine months old,” said Mike Geiger, president and CEO of AFP. “The Board’s second year will be focused on strategic planning, as well as identification of key issues and areas that are critical to our Canadian members. It’s an ambitious agenda, but one that I know our talented Board members can fulfill.”

Scott Decksheimer, CFRE, will continue to chair the board in 2018. “Great leaders have stepped forward to develop AFP Canada both last year and now, again, this year.  This member vote ensures that each brings a critical voice to help set us on a path as a voice for Canada.”

Here is the 2018 AFP Canada Board:

Dana Ades-Landy, CEO, Heart & Stroke Foundation, Montreal, QB.

Roger Ali, CFRE, Chair, AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada, President & CEO, Niagara Health Foundation, St. Catherines, ON.

Paula Attfield, Chair-Elect, President, Stephen Thomas Ltd., Toronto, ON.

Daniel Brunette, Director, Development and Donor Services, The Community Foundation of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON.

Ms. Tracey A Comeau, CFRE, MA, CEO, QEH Foundation, Charlottetown, P.E.I.

Scott Decksheimer, CFRE, Chair, President & CEO, Vitreo Group, Calgary, AB.

Leah Eustace, ACFRE, Founder & Chief Problem Solver, Blue Canoe Philanthropy, Ottawa, ON.

Mike Geiger, CPA, MBA, President and CEO, Association of Fundraising Professionals, Arlington, Va.

Ann Hale, CFRE, Chair, AFP International Chair, Chief Development Officer, Anchorage Museum, Anchorage, Alaska

Jennifer Johnstone, President & CEO, Central City Foundation, Vancouver, B.C.

Ken Mayhew, President & CEO, William Osler Health System Foundation, Brampton, ON.

Pamela G. Simmons, Owner, Coreniche Consulting, Winnipeg, MB.

Dino Constantinos Sophocleous, CFRE, President & CEO, Hospitals of Regina Foundation, Regina, SK.

Wayne Steer, Secretary, Director of Fund Development, Fresh Start Recovery Centre, Calgary, AB.

Karen Willson, ACFRE, Treasurer, Senior Vice President, KCI (Ketchum Canada Inc.), Toronto, ON.

Mr. Adam Zawadiuk, CFRE, Manager, Fund Development, YMCA of Northern Alberta, Edmonton, AB.

Posted by & filed under Announcement.

With all this change, there’s no better time for another D3! Mark your calendars for February 13, 2018 when Canada’s charity leaders will join together for another great day of debate, debunk and delight.

We don’t get a chance to meet together as often as we’d like and I encourage you to join me, and the best lineup of speakers we’ve ever had to think, discuss and reconnect.




Posted by & filed under Announcement.

December 12, 2017

The AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada is pleased to announce it has received a grant of $96,160 from the Minister of Canadian Heritage under its Multiculturalism Program to expand the Fellowship in Inclusion and Philanthropy Program across Canada in 2018.

The Fellowship in Inclusion and Philanthropy is a one-year program targeting under-represented groups in the fundraising profession.  The program will train diverse fundraisers from across Canada to promote intercultural understanding of diverse philanthropic practices to increase engagement with the communities they serve.

Roger Ali, CFRE, Chair of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada shared that, “This grant will allow the Foundation to expand our successful Fellowship program which began in Ontario with 61 Fellows graduating over two years, into a national program for all of Canada.”

The one-year Program includes:

  • Education in ethical fundraising and specialized training in diversity and inclusion through  conferences/courses and webinars
  • One-on-one mentorship with a seasoned fundraising/non-profit/diversity executive
  • Fellow and Alumni networking based on collaborative learning in-person and online

More information about how to apply for the Fellowship will be forthcoming in the near future.

“The Foundation has made diversity and inclusion a strategic priority and this grant will provide important resources to make that happen,” said Mike Geiger, president and CEO of AFP. “The Fellowship was such a fantastic program, and to be able to offer it across the country is critical for the future of our profession.”

There has been growing concern within the sector that fundraising and organizational leadership needs greater diversity and is lacking inclusive leadership.  Enhancing diversity better reflects the demographic and ethno-centric composition of Canada, especially those who voluntarily support and/or receive service from Canada’s charitable organizations and nonprofits.  It also expands best practices in inclusion training, allows career paths to be strategically developed for people from a wide-range of backgrounds, and increases intercultural understanding and awareness of the benefits of diversity for the social, economic and civic life in Canada.

The Fellows will represent ethno-cultural, racial, religious and immigrant groups, aboriginal peoples, women, youth, people with disabilities, francophone and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ2) populations.  These fellows will be poised to become the sector’s future leaders and thereby help to disseminate their knowledge and practices across local communities.

For more information about the Fellowship in Inclusion and Philanthropy program go to

Article originally posted on AFP IHQ

Posted by & filed under Congress.

Through the generousity of the AFP Foundation of Philanthropy – Canada and Vitreo, this AFP Congress session can be presented here. Listen to AFP Congress 2017 Session, R-04: The Disrupters’ Panel – Breaking Barriers, Smashing Ceilings and Changing Minds through Effective Leadership with Sharon Avery, Peter Dinsdale, Sandra Hawken, Caroline Riseboro, and Jill Zelmanovits.

Special thanks to the webcast sponsors: