The 2024 Giving Report: Insights and Takeaways for Charites

Taking the Temperature on Canadian Giving

Each year since 2017, CanadaHelps has published an annual Giving Report on the Canadian charitable sector. Our most recent report dropped this past Spring. The report uses 2023 data, collected from surveying 3,000 charities to produce a peak behind the curtain at the current state of giving across Canada. 

The Giving Report synthesizes national trends, challenges, opportunities, and any noteworthy changes Canadian charities face. Many of the highlighted trends have been culminating for decades, even if they are only reaching their peak now. 

For those working in the charitable sector, the report is a treasure trove of useful information that your charity can look to for strategic planning. It suggests best practices and actionable steps that charities can implement to make positive, data-informed decisions to meet the current moment. Armed with the information in the Giving Report, charities can safeguard their impact and build a stronger Canada for everyone.

Where is the charitable sector at right now? What challenges is the sector facing?

Charity usage in Canada is at an all-time high. Last year, 22% of Canadians reported that they expect to turn to charitable services to fulfill their needs. Inflation, the high cost of living, and some of the residual consequences of the pandemic have contributed to the increase in charitable demand. As more Canadians cut back on necessities, people are turning to charities to fill the gaps.

The number of Canadians making charitable donations continues to decline. Following an eleven-year trend, the number of Canadians donating to charities continues to go down, across all household income brackets. In 2022 for example, 20% of Canadians planned to reduce their charitable contributions.

It’s getting harder to raise funds. Sector-wide, charities are reporting that financial gifts from a variety of primary funding sources – including governments, corporations, and individuals– are all in decline. This trend is especially impactful for smaller charities and for charities that have limited fundraising diversification.

A disconnected society is a less generous one. Research tells us that when individuals are disengaged from their communities, they are less likely to donate their money or time to charitable causes. There is a proven connection between strong charitable giving rates and healthy, engaged communities overall. This fact, combined with the national downward giving trend mentioned earlier may indicate that societal attitudes towards caring for and participating in communities are changing. 

Charities are still navigating post-pandemic impacts. As touched on earlier, over 40% of Canadian charities continue to experience an increase in demand that began during the COVID pandemic, but has never let up. Moreover, over 56% of Canadian charities received relief funding from the government. 

Although the Community Services Recovery Fund (CSRF) ended in 2023, the loss of this funding continues to threaten the survival of many Canadian charities, especially given the inflationary waters they are navigating.

In addition to demand and funding, the pandemic had long-term consequences on charity volunteer programs, and volunteering rates have still not bounced back to their pre-2020 levels.

Burnout and retention are sector-wide issues. The Giving Report shows one of the top issues impacting charities, is staff burnout. Out of 24 issues they were surveyed on, staff burnout ranked as the second highest concern for charities today. 

Sector-wide burnout is a symptom of the sustained increase in charitable demand, with the ability for charities to offer competitive salaries, and retain staff long-term, further fuelling staff burnout.

Given these challenges, how can your charity meaningfully adapt to meet the current demand?

Learn more about your donor base 🙇

In a world where people can give their money to any number of worthy causes, remember that your donors choose your organization – what an honour! For most people, giving to a specific charity is a very personal, thoughtful decision – and it’s keenly important to understand what motivates your donor base to support your cause. 

This means relationship cultivation and donor research. The relationship between you and your donors requires nurturing. Your charity’s resources may be limited, but investing in relationship cultivation with your donor base is still a worthwhile endeavor, and something you need to prioritize.

 Here are some valuable questions to start with when learning more about your base:

  • Why is your charity’s work important to them?
  • How did they come to learn about your organization?
  • What communication channel do they prefer?
  • What types of updates they’d like to receive?

Get youth engaged with your organization 👬

Half of the Canadian charities surveyed report low or unsatisfactory support from young Canadians. But consider that only 21.9% of responding charities say they have implemented a strategy to intentionally attract younger supporters. 

Creating a youth-specific strategy that engages with younger generations, meets them where they’re at, and brings them on board as supporters is the first step. Our research shows that charities who report fundraising at higher levels now than they did pre-pandemic have higher levels of youth engagement.

Rebuild your value proposition for volunteers 🧑‍🌾

We know that 55% of charities report having fewer volunteers than pre-pandemic. The truth is, that successful charitable organizations need thriving volunteer programs, as volunteers are the heart and soul of our sector. 

Be mindful that many volunteers are experiencing burnout, and invest resources and attention into establishing a roadmap toward rebuilding your charity’s volunteer base. 

Simply start with learning about your current volunteer base, and use their answers to guide your next steps. 

Take steps to address staff burnout ❤️🩹

Charities can thoughtfully address the crisis of staff burnout across the sector in several ways – by investing in employee perks and benefits, and most importantly by measuring staff wellness as an important organizational KPI. Additionally, prioritizing professional development and making responsible investments in staff wages are other crucial means to address the extremely high levels of burnout we are seeing across the charitable sector.

Up your digital game 💻

There’s no way around it – in our tech-forward world, today’s donors expect a holistic digital experience. Donors expect personalized communication journeys, easy payment flows, and user-friendly mobile and web design. They judge making an online donation not just against other charities, but against the seamless checkout flows offered by companies like Netflix and Amazon. 

Giving your donors a seamless digital experience is the most effective way to future-proof your charity and ensure long-term viability. While the digitization process is costly and labour intensive, taking the time to map out all the actionable upgrades that are needed, and openly discussing how to execute your digital vision is the first step to getting you moving forward. 

Consider recruiting volunteers with specific technical skills, or researching grants to hire staff or contractors to do the same.

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