The Giving Report – Insights into fundraising

The Giving Report, an annual report by CanadaHelps on trends within the non-profit sector, includes some alarming news for community organizations like Bruce House.

When adjusting for inflation, charitable donations have been flat in Canada since the 2008-09 recession and are still below pre-recession levels.  Families and single individuals are both less likely to give and likely to donate smaller amounts than in the past, with high income earners among the least likely to donate to charity. For non-profits this translates into working harder to reach fundraising goals, and often setting lower goals than in the past.

Supporters may be shocked when a cause they care deeply about cancels an event, particularly when donations still seemed respectable compared to previous years—however the reality may well have been that the amount invested in that event to maintain the donations grew too large to justify. All too often the public only sees what an event raised… they do not see what it cost to produce, nor the endless hours of staff time. At the end of the day the wisest decision may be to cancel a beloved tradition in favour of a simple direct-mail or social media campaign.

The Giving Report also sheds some perspective.  Charities employ 12% of Canada’s workforce, and are a significant part of our economy.  80% of charities have annual revenues of less than $500,000.  Smaller charities are also the most likely to depend on donations; conversely the largest charities are the most likely to receive substantial government funding.

You can see the challenge for organizations such as Bruce House!  With government funding accounting for only 45% of our annual budget, we are left with small grants and increasingly more difficult fundraising in order to maintain programs and services.

There are also lessons to be learned by Bruce House and other charities in this report, including:

  • There had been a clear and rapidly increasing shift to on-line giving. Are we as an organization making online giving easy, simple, and convenient for our supporters? Expect to see increased mention of the ways in which you can donate to Bruce House online. 
  • 73% of Canadians believe that charities spend “too much” on administration. Bruce House is typical of the national average, 10% of our expenses are administrative. How can we be more transparent about this? (Note: you can find the breakdown of expenses for any registered charity by entering its name on the CRA Charities web page. )
  • Donors want to know how their money is being used, the onus is on charities to publish impact statements. Is Bruce House communicating clearly communicating how your donations are being used? Can we do a better job of telling you how your gifts are used to help people impacted by HIV?

We our fortunate at Bruce House to have such a supportive community, with wonderful events produced by volunteer teams who fundraise for us, including The Rideau Speedeaus Swim-Eau-Thon, Drag ‘N Balls, and the National Capital Pride Run.  Nevertheless, as illustrated by this report, we face significant challenges in fundraising.  It is our hope that articles like this one help you, our generous donors, to understand some of the factors that guide our fundraising decisions.

If you have any thoughts or comments on how Bruce House can better communicate with you as a donor, better inform you of how we use your gift, and how we can improve transparency we welcome your comments.  Please send your thoughts to Patrick at .

If you are curious to learn about giving trends in Canada, and some of the challenges Bruce House faces, you can obtain the full report from

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