Next Generation of Canadian Giving Means Opportunity for Nonprofits

Inter-generational Survey Provides Insight into the Multichannel Preferences and Habits of Canadian Charitable Donors

A research study into the charitable giving habits and attitudes of Canadians—the first of its kind for the Canadian market—reveals how donors of different generations learn about nonprofit organizations, their preferred channels for engagement, the most appropriate channels for fundraising, and who and what influences their giving decisions.

The study, based on a major national survey conducted just before Labour Day, was released today by hjc, Strategic Communications Inc. and Convio.

Key findings include:

  • Boomers (aged 46-65 years old) and members of Generation X (30-45 years old) represent significantly higher donor pools than those over 65 (Civics), with total contributions for Gen X being on par with Civics.
    • 3.2 million Civics provide average contributions of $833, for estimated  $2.6B in annual contributions,
    • 5.7 million Boomers provide average contributions of $725, for estimated  $4.1B in annual contributions,
    • 4.2 million Gen Xers provide average contributions of $549, for estimated  $2.3B in annual contributions,
    • 2.7 million Gen Yers provide average contributions of $325, for estimated  $0.8B in annual contributions
  • Canadian donors give through many different channels with online surpassing direct mail because of its dominance as a preferred channel for younger donors:
    • 58.1% of donors have given a donation at a checkout within the past 12 months
    • 41.3% gave at fundraising events
    • 33.8% gave tribute gifts (that is, gifts in memory as a recognition of another person)
    • 32.8% shop at charity gift shops
    • 32.1% gave online via the charity website (41% for Gen Y and 37% for Gen X)
    • 26.7% mailed a gift
  • All generations report that mainstream media (newspaper, radio, television) is still how they first learned about a charity they currently support – a clear reminder that in the world of social media, traditional awareness-raising through traditional media is still very important. For Boomers and Civics mail was the second most common way they learned about a charity, while Gen Y and Gen X rely more heavily than older donors on friends, family and peers to learn about organizations.

“This study is the first of its kind that has shown, with quantitative data, that Canadian donors in different age segments want to be communicated with in different ways,” explained Michael Johnston, founder and president of hjc. “It is critical that nonprofits develop strategies to address each generation so that they can attract and retain new donors, without compromising revenue from their existing donor base. Nonprofits can take the information from this study and implement it in a framework that makes sense for their organization and donors.”

Other key takeaways were:

  • The channel through which donors are asked to give (solicitation), and the channel through which they actually make the gift (transaction) may be different. Donors are willing to give using a variety of channels, regardless of how their gift was solicited. 
  • Similarly, the way that people stay connected to their charity of choice is not solely a matter of how they donate. Many keep in touch in one channel (e.g. mail) but give in another (e.g. website) and want to engage with the charity’s work beyond making a financial gift.
  • Personal connections lead to the most donations.  The popularity of pledge-event fundraising is based on this factor.
  • Monthly giving is common across all generations. The data refuted the commonly-held belief that older donors prefer to give single gifts over monthly gifts. In fact, monthly giving was relatively even across all four groups of donors.
  • Social media and mobile phones represent a small portion of current giving — 2.6 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively — but these methods will grow in popularity as younger donors age.

“Our research sheds light on what strategies will be sustainable and fruitful for Canadian nonprofit organizations in the long-term,” said John Willis, director, campaigns & research at Strategic Communications, Inc. “It also serves as a reminder that, as fundraisers, we need to establish an integrated suite of tools and channels to engage people now, and start planning for the future.”

According to the findings, Canadian donors continue to increase their giving, and expect fundraisers to connect with them using a variety of channels, including mainstream media, email, mail, phone, and social networks.

Differences between Canadian and United States Donors

Because the study was based on a similar study into the habits and preferences of United States donors, the study also provides insight into the differences between Canadian donors and their American counterparts in areas such as monthly giving programs and mobile giving. Key differences between Canadian and US donors include:

  • 25% of Canadian donors give as part of a monthly giving program versus 14% of US donors,
  • On the whole, it is about twice as common for Canadian donors than US donors to say they support friends or family who are raising money for a charity,
  • US donors are more likely to be giving through their mobile phones (8% for US donors vs. 3% for Canadian donors)

“In today’s multichannel environment fundraising professionals are challenged to know their donors and respond to their needs,” said Vinay Bhagat, founder and chief strategy officer for Convio. “Historically Canadian fundraisers have had to rely on US studies to understand their donors. With this study we better understand the Canadian donor and can offer strategic and tactical recommendations to address the changes fundraising professionals are facing.”

About the survey
The inter-generational survey of 1,500 Canadian donors, from 18- to 80-years old, included more than 50 questions about their giving patterns, behaviors, and preferences. The survey was conducted by Stratcom and was fielded using a proprietary panel from August 25th to September 3rd, 2010.

Generational demographic profiles are:

  • Gen Y (b. 1981 – 1991) 55% give
  • Gen X (b. 1965 – 1980) 61% give
  • Boomers (b. 1946 – 1964) 66% give
  • Civics (b. 1945 or earlier) 73% give

Highlights of the full study are available at:

About hjc

Hewitt & Johnston Consultants (hjc) specialize in integrated fundraising, brand building, and campaigning. Since 1992, we have expertly worked with non-profits to bring online and other channels together for successful acquisition, retention, reinstatement, and advocacy campaigning. hjc’s strategic consulting team brings together some of the most innovative thinkers in the non-profit sector. Our in-house production team of designers, programmers and copywriters can do it all — delivering complete programs to engage your organization’s core constituencies and advance your mission and mandate. For more information, please visit www.hjcnewmedia.com

About Stratcom

Stratcom is an award-winning consulting firm that creates integrated fundraising and campaign strategies for nonprofit organizations. Stratcom has extensive experience in designing, implementing and analyzing opinion and donor research. We also offer a full range of nonprofit fundraising services including direct mail, telephone campaigns, and online advocacy. Over the past 20 years, Stratcom has helped hundreds of mission-driven organizations find, engage and retain supporters who can help them achieve their goals. For more information, please visit www.stratcom.ca or send us an email at info@stratcom.ca

About Convio
Convio is the leading provider of on-demand constituent engagement solutions that enable nonprofit organizations, or NPO’s, to more effectively raise funds, advocate for change and cultivate relationships with donors, activists, volunteers, alumni and other constituents. For more information, please visit www.convio.com

Press Contact:
Karoline McLaughlin
Director, Corporate Communications
Convio, Inc.

Next Generation of Canadian Giving Means Opportunity for Nonprofits | Convio