Lessons U.S. Non-Profits Can Learn from our Canadian Counterparts | npENGAGE

Lessons U.S. Non-Profits Can Learn from our Canadian Counterparts

By on Jun 14, 2011


According to the Fraser Institute’s 2010 Generosity Index, Canadian’s tend to be less philanthropic than Americans.  Based on 2008 tax filings, the average Canadian tax filer donates only .73% of their aggregate income per year to charity, whereas Americans give an average of 1.38% of their income.  In fact, Manitoba, the most philanthropic province in Canada, shows a giving rate of only .94% of income, ranking it lower than all but three of the United States.

The Generosity Index focuses not only on dollars, but also on people.  “A higher percentage of tax filers donated to charity in the United States (27.3%) than in Canada (23.6%) during the 2008 tax year.”  On this measure, Prince Edward Island appears to be the most philanthropic province with 27% of its tax filers donating to charity.  Even so, nearly half of the United States shows a higher percentage of donors.

Some would say that philanthropic measures such as these would indicate that giving in the United States reigns supreme.  However, I am positively surprised every time I work with Canadian non-profits as some of their fundraising methodologies seem innovative and/or more successful as compared to U.S. counterparts.

Below are three areas that I have taken note of:

  1. On-the-Street Fundraising: Either by door-to-door solicitations or placing fundraisers (literally) on street corners, the Canadian non-profits that I have worked with seem very successful with community-based fundraising efforts.  My thought, although I have no data to support this, is that cultural differences between the two countries account for the differences in frequency with which these efforts are seen across borders
  2. Monthly Giving Programs:  These programs are far more popular in Canada, especially among younger and/or less financially wealthy donors.  Monthly giving offers donors a way to be more budget-minded about their giving, allowing them to make a more meaningful commitment over a one year time-frame than they may have otherwise been able to do.  Many non-profits in the United States have monthly giving programs in place, however in my opinion, frequency of and participation in these programs are significantly more prevalent in Canada.
  3. Planned Giving Awareness: Leave-A-Legacy, a public awareness program dedicated to promoting planned giving, has dedicated each May as “Leave a Legacy” month.  This year, at least 19 local chapters participated, many hosting events promoting planned giving in their local communities.  In addition, many cities also promote legacy giving through the use of bus advertising, billboards and purchased radio spots.  No effort that I know of in the United States reaches the scale and scope of this cross-country effort in Canada.

Melissa Bank Stepno is a consultant for Target Analytics. You may reach her at melissa.stepno@blackbaud.com.


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