Sunday, June 17, 2018

TOFU, MOFU, BOFU and International Development

Last February, communicators and marketers from over 40 Canadian NGOs met in Ottawa.

The subject was international development—and how we can engage more Canadians about it.

At the meeting, we heard from pollsters who told us that the majority of Canadians have no idea what international development is—what it means, why it matters, or who does it.

Kevin Chapelle, Manager of Public Opinion Research for Global Affairs Canada, noted that many Canadians know nothing about development.

“We have a huge challenge ahead of us in terms of getting the word out there,” he said.

Margo Matias-Valencia of the One Campaign noted that issues such as development and foreign aid do not rank highly with Canadians, and that most think Canada is giving too much foreign aid—although they don’t know how much that is.

Julia Anderson of CanWach noted they did two surveys about Canadians and development, in 2015 and 2017.

Their research showed no movement in understanding about international development over the two years.

“The ranking remains the same,” she said. “We haven’t moved the bar.”

She added that 64% of Canadians cannot name one NGO.

What was needed, she said, was a “national framework” for all NGOs to use to engage Canadians.

Matias-Valencia added that this framework needs to employ simple messages, noting that words like “development” and “foreign aid” don’t resonate with Canadians.

“We over-explain what we do and how we do it, we put too much into each message,” she stated. “We’re not engaging the people we need to reach. We shouldn’t be afraid to use simpler messages, not package too many things into stories.”

Later, during a break-out session about communicating with Canadians, it was agreed that NGOs need to work together to increase their effectiveness. But people also agreed it would be hard.

And why is that? With each NGO focused on meeting its budget and attracting new donors, it would be hard to convince EDs and CEOs—not to mention fundraising colleagues—that they should collaborate as a way to lift all boats.

And that’s where TOFU, MOFU and BOFU came in.

It was Katherine Harris, who directs communications at Plan Canada, who brought it up.

TOFU, she reminded us, stands for “top  of funnel.” MOFU is “middle of funnel.” And BOFU is “bottom of funnel.”

The term comes from the world of marketing, and describes the process people go through before making a decision to buy. (Similar to the Communications Ladder.)

TOFU is where people simply become aware of a product. MOFU is where they begin to do research to find out more. And BOFU is where they decide to buy—or, in this case, to make a donation.

Since a majority of Canadians know little about development, Katherine asked: Could we work together to simply get more people into the top of the funnel?

In other words, at the top of the funnel we don’t worry about brand awareness. We aren’t concerned with making a sale. We simply want to get people to stop and pay attention to something they might not have thought about before.

Those who want more information can follow a link, and maybe discover an NGO they want to support and be a part of.

It was suggested we could emulate campaigns that promote milk or eggs. They are not designed to promote a particular business, but the sector as a whole.

Can NGOs do it? Can they put aside concerns about brand awareness and getting immediate donations in order to increase the size of the donor pool over the longer term? That’s the big question.

Or, as I like to say, just trying to make this year’s budget is a matter of management. Trying to ensure your organization survives 10 or 20 years from now involves leadership.

That, and TOFU, MOFU and BOFU

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Giving Behaviour of Canadians: Who Gives, How, and Why?

Who, why and how Canadians give is the subject of a new report titled 30 Years of Giving in Canada.

The report, commissioned by the Rideau Hall Foundation and Imagine Canada, the umbrella group for Canadian charities, is designed to help charities better understand the current giving landscape in Canada, and to use that knowledge to help them do better fundraising.

Earlier, I interviewed Bruce MacDonald, President and CEO of Imagine Canada, about some main findings of the report, including the impact of declining religiosity in this country.

Here are a few more highlights.

Decrease in Donors

Starting in 1990, the proportion of taxfilers claiming donations began to decline fairly steadily, dropping from a high of 29.5% in 1990 to 20.8% in 2014.

Despite the decline, the amount given to charity by individual donors increased from 1995, reaching $1,640 by 2007.

This drove rapid growth in donations, even though the percentage of taxfilers claiming donations declined.

The overall trend is clear, according to the report. “The donor base is getting ever-smaller. From the peak in 1990, the percentage of taxfilers claiming donations has dropped by roughly a third, while the average amount claimed has nearly doubled.”

This means, the reports states, “that charities are relying on an ever-smaller number of people for donations.”

The Best Givers

Both the likelihood of giving and the average amounts donated generally increase with age, income, frequency of attendance at religious services, and education.

Men are less likely to give than women, but tend to make larger donations when they do donate.

Those who are married are most likely to donate, while widows and widowers tend to donate the largest amounts.

Those who are single are least likely to donate, and tend to contribute the smallest amounts.

Role of Religion in Giving

The report confirms previous research about religion and giving, showing that those who attend worship services regularly tend to give more often and more.

91% of those who attend at least once a week give $1,284 a year, while 90% of those who attend at least once a month give $633.

As for those who attend at least three times a year, 90% give $428, while 83% of those who attend once or twice a year give $287.

As for those who don’t attend at all, 76% give, donating $313 a year.

In other words, the less people attend worship services, the less they give—a chilling thing to realize at a time when attendance at worship services is declining overall.

Giving Trends

The report says there have been several shifts in how Canadians give since 2004.

First, giving to Religious organizations is decreasing, both in terms of number of donors and amounts donated.

Second, giving to International organizations is increasing, both in terms of number of donors and amounts donated.

Third, the amounts donated to social services organizations have increased, even though the number of donors has remained flat.

Fourth, the number of donors to health organizations and hospitals has declined significantly, although the amounts donated have been less affected.

Why Do People Give?

“Most Canadians are motivated to donate by a mixture of personal and ideological factors,” the report says.

Ideological factors “include feelings of compassion towards those in need and the desire to make a contribution to their community.”

Personal motivators “include belief in the cause of the organization and being personally affected or knowing someone who is affected by the cause.”

Other reasons for donating, including tax credits received in return for donating and religious obligations, are reported by less than a third of donors.

How do People Give?

Three ways of giving stand out, according to the report, providing two-thirds of donations.

They are: Donating at a place of worship; donating on one’s own initiative; and

donating in response to a mail request.

They are followed by donating in memory of someone, paying to attend a charity event, and donating at work.

The remaining five methods are donating in response to a telephone request, by sponsoring someone in an event, in response to a television or radio appeal, via door-to-door canvassing, or in a public place such as at a shopping centre or on the street.

Collectively, these five methods accounted for only about one in every ten dollars donated.

After donating by mail, the next most important method is donating online.

The report says that not while more needs to be learned about online giving, it is clear it is on the rise.

In 2013 12% of Canadians reported making at least one donation online; collectively they contributed at least $860 million online, equivalent to approximately 7% of total reported donations.

Donors who are younger, have higher levels of education, and higher incomes are more likely to donate online.

Where do Canadians Learn to Give?

The report notes there is not much data available that can shed light on how Canadians learn to give.

It refers to the 2010 Giving Volunteering and Participating survey, which found the main ways people learned to give or volunteer were religious organizations, student government and organized sports.

The survey also showed the importance of parents setting an example for children; respondents indicated they were more likely to give or volunteer if they saw their parents doing those things.

Of all the ways people learn to give, “being active in a religious organization when young had by far the largest impact,” the report states.

Religion also influenced how much people gave; “being active in a religious organization as a youth had the largest impact on the amount donated as an adult.”

Those who had parents who volunteered or saw someone they admired helping others also donated more.

Youth and Giving

The giving behaviours of younger Canadians differ from those of older Canadians in several significant ways, the report found.

“Most importantly, younger Canadians are less likely to donate, tend to make smaller donations, and support fewer individual causes,” than older people, it says.

Those aged 15 to 24 are less likely to donate than those aged 25 to 34, the study found, and people in that age group are less likely to donate than those 35 and older.

Those in the youngest age group also donate less, on average, than those in the middle age group, who in turn donate less than the oldest age group.

Older People and Giving

Older Canadians give larger amounts and donate to more causes. In terms of total donations to all causes, the average donation made by those 65 and older is about one-and-a-half times the average donation made by younger donors.

Older donors devote more of their giving to organizations working in the areas of religion; international development and relief; grant making, fundraising & voluntarism; and education & research.

Those aged 65 to 74 are the most likely to donate to secular causes, while those aged 75 and older are most likely to donate to religious causes, the report says.


The findings presented in Thirty Years of Giving in Canada suggest that, despite the unquestionable generosity of Canadians, much could be done to increase giving in this country.

It suggests that charities need to find ways to more effectively engage young people and new Canadians.

With the decline in religious attendance, this could include the expansion of formal efforts to teach young people about giving, in both secondary schools and in colleges and universities.

"Even small increases in the proportion of Canadians who give and/or small increases in average donation amounts would have an enormous impact,” it states.

Time, however “is of the essence,” it adds.

“The Boomer generation, which has been the mainstay of the charitable sector

for most of the past 30 years, is aging. There is a limited amount of time left to tap into the philanthropic impulses of this generation and it is unclear if younger generations will be willing or able to take their place.”

Charities also need to find ways to engage immigrants, which are becoming a growing part of the population.

“Over the coming decades, immigrants will make up an even greater percentage of the population and this group is often unfamiliar with and distrustful of the charitable sector,” it notes.

Charities also need to recognize the way Canadians give and the causes they give to is changing.

“Organizations that are adept at understanding changing attitudes and preferences will be in a better position to adapt their messages and tactics,” it says.

“To navigate this uncertain future, the sector will need more and better data and strong digital strategies to facilitate future giving.”

Finally, collaboration will be important.

“Collective efforts to encourage a more robust giving culture should also be considered,” it states.

Download the report here.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Decline in Religious Attendance a Challenge for Charities

In 2014, Canadians gave over $14.3 billion to charity. That’s good news, and worth celebrating.

But there are worrisome signs ahead. Today, fewer Canadians are making donations, and the future is of giving uncertain.

That’s the conclusion of a new report from Imagine Canada titled “30 Years of Giving in Canada.”

The report, which uses taxfiler data to explore how giving has changed over the past three decades, found the number of Canadian taxfilers claiming a charitable deduction is falling.

In 2015 20.9 percent of taxfilers claimed a deduction, compared to 25.1 percent ten years earlier. In 1989 that figure was over 29 percent.

it also found the size of donations is decreasing. Baby boomers give less than their parents. And it appears their children and grandchildren will give less than them, too.

The report concludes that charities will need to find new ways to engage younger people—before it’s too late.

“The Boomer generation, which has been the mainstay of the charitable sector for the past 30 years, is aging,” the report states.

“There is a limited amount of time to tap into the philanthropic impulses of this generation and it is unclear if younger generations will take their place.”

I contacted Bruce MacDonald, President and CEO of Imagine Canada, to get his take on the challenges and opportunities facing the charitable sector today.

“The data is crystal clear,” he says. “The population that does the most giving is getting older.”

These loyal and regular givers are keeping charities alive today, he adds, “but they are aging out, they are literally dying.”

At the same time the best givers are getting older, “the data shows the number of donors is dropping and the percent of tax filers [claiming a charitable donation] is going down.”

It’s like a pipeline, he says. At one end is a bulge of older donors and boomers. At the other end, however, where younger people should be, “the pipeline isn’t full. Instead, it’s shrinking.”

It’s not that younger people aren’t interested in making the world a better place, he states. “They have social justice coded into their DNA.”

But how will they learn about the importance of donating, not just signing petitions or marching for justice?

That's where faith comes in, MacDonald says.

“When I talk to older Canadians about where they learned to give and be generous, many cited their churches or other places of worship,” he shares of how they learned about giving as children.

“That’s where they learned the value of giving, the importance of volunteering and being an active community member.”

But with fewer people—especially fewer younger people—going to places of worship on a regular basis, he wonders where that modelling for giving will take place today.

If people no longer learn about giving at places of worship, he asks, “how do we create new social norms around giving?”

“Liking something on social media isn’t the same as putting money in the collection plate,” he states. 

In its report, Imagine Canada notes that “giving is a learned behavior. Canadians who participate in giving or volunteering activities when they are young . . . are more likely to donate as adults.”

With attendance at worship services dropping, where will the next generation learn to be givers?

Charities—and Canadian society at large—will need to figure that out, and quick. Or, as MacDonald puts it, “we will all be in trouble in the future.”

From the April 21 Winnipeg Free Press. Download the full 30 Years of Giving in Canada here.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Giving for Relief & Development is Up, But Why? And Who is Doing the Giving?

In a previous post, I noted that between 2000-13 there was an increase in the number of Canadians donating to international relief and development.

In that time frame, 1.2 million more people made a donation to an international NGO (from 1.9 million to 3.1 million).

By 2013, 10% of donations were going to international relief and development, up from 5% in 2000.

That made it the fourth most popular cause in terms of giving, after religion, health and social services.

What accounts for the increase? I have a few ideas.

One reason is growing need, both in Canada and around the world—earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, typhoons, hurricanes and hunger emergencies have been in the headlines.

Another reason is that NGOs are getting better at fundraising and marketing.

In the 1980s, when I started in the sector, there were very few fundraisers and virtually no marketers or marketing campaigns.

To be honest, fundraising was considered sort of grubby and dishonorable, a dark and unseemly art.  

Things are very different now. Every NGO employs people today whose main task is to ask for money, and many have sophisticated marketing campaigns. (Bought a goat or chicken recently?)

Then there are the government matches for humanitarian disasters.

Since the first 1:1 match in 2004 following the southeast Asia tsunami, there have been 13 matches to date. Altogether, they have raised over $600 million from Canadians for disasters around the world.

It’s no surprise they’ve worked so well; Canadians love a deal. The prospect of seeing a donation doubled is very appealing.

The rise of social media might have helped, too; it’s never been easier to share information about needs in the developing world.

Anyone else have other reasons to suggest?

Who is Giving?

That’s the why for giving to international causes, but who is giving? What characteristics do they have?

According information supplied by David Lasby of Imagine Canada, the significant predictors of the likelihood of donating to International causes include age, level of education, marital status and religiosity.

As for age and marital status, research shows that married people (or those in long-term committed relationships) and older people give more to charity in general. 

But why to they also give more to international causes? Maybe it's just because married and older people give more, period, and NGOs are among the beneficiaries. (But if anyone has another answer, let me know.) 

In the end, there aren’t huge variances for age and marital status; the groups are separated by only a few percent. (Although older people tend to make larger donations.)

The bigger differences are in education and religion.

It’s no surprise that people with higher educations donate to international causes; they are likely more aware of events in the world.

But what about religion—why is that a predictor?

There are at least two reasons.

First, religion teaches that people have a duty or obligation to help the needy. And almost every major religion subscribes to some form of what Christians call the Golden Rule (treat others they way you want to be treated).

And as a 2017 Angus Reid survey discovered, religiously committed Canadians are twice as likely as others to say “concern for others” is one of the most important things for them.

Second, places of worship regularly tell attenders about the needs of the world, through pastoral prayers, sermons, sharing, Christian education classes or before the offering.

Church mailboxes for members are also filled with appeals from groups that churches support.

This correlation between religiosity and giving is supported by research from Statistics Canada, which also found that religiously-active people also donate far more than others ($1,004 vs. $313, 2010 figures).

But here’s the thing about religion and education; while the number of people attending university has grown since 2000 (currently holding around 2 million students a year), the number of people who attend religious services is falling.

Indeed, the fastest growing “religion” in Canada today is the “nones”—people who, when asked which religion they affiliate with, say “none of the above.”

That figure stands at 24%, up from 1% in 1961. Most of these “nones” are younger people.

Since there is a strong correlation between attendance at worship services and donating for relief and development (or giving and volunteering in general), decreasing attendance is a worrisome thing for NGOs (church and non-church alike, since religious people also give outside their church groups).

So while NGOs can celebrate the rise in giving to international relief and development, there are some danger signs on the horizon.

Graphs courtesy of David Lasby of Imagine Canada. Photo at top: Somali family, 2011. Credit Frank Spangler, ADRA.