AFP Foundation for Philanthropy-Canada Releases Biennial Survey: What Canadian Donors Want

Canadians looking for clear mission and evidence of impact; trust in the charitable sector is up; fewer donors giving, but amount of gifts is increasing; motivations for giving identify six Canadian donor types

The 2015 survey of What Canadian Donors Want shows that in challenging economic times, Canadians donate to charities that have a clear purpose and demonstrate corresponding impact. The findings also indicate that public trust in Canadian charities has increased six percent since 2011. Additionally, more Canadians believe that the nation’s nonprofits are well managed and act responsibly with the donations they receive.

What Canadian Donors Want is a biennial survey conducted on behalf of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada by Ipsos. The 2015 survey, the third of its kind, was designed to measure public perception of issues central to the nonprofit sector in Canada.

“The What Canadian Donors Want report gives all of Canadians a reliable barometer of citizen impact on the work being done to advance communities and causes,” said Leah Eustace, chair of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy-Canada. “But it also provides critical information to Canada’s charitable sector leaders about what motivates donors to be generous and the expectations donors have for solicitation and stewardship of their money.”

Views and Attitudes of the Charitable Sector

The survey reveals that Canadians continue to express higher confidence in the charitable sector than in either the private or public sectors (73 percent compared to 63 percent and 62%, respectively). However, four in ten Canadians believe that charities overstate the ratio of donor dollars allocated directly to programs versus administrative overhead, including one in ten who believes charities intentionally mislead the public.
rust in the sector is important because the survey indicates that donors are looking for transparency and want to support charities that are efficient with their budgets and have a clear impact.

Solicitations and Giving Decisions

Two-thirds of Canadians report having made a financial donation in the past 12 months. This is down four points from 2013 and represents the lowest figure reported since 2007 when this question was first posed to respondents. The drop is most prevalent among Canadians with middle education and lower household incomes. Donations are also down directionally in Alberta (from 77 percent to 67 percent) and Quebec (from 61 percent to 54 percent.)

Among those who have not made a donation in the past 12 months, there has been an increase of five points in those saying they cannot afford to make charitable donations and a three-point increase in those who say there are no charities worthy of their money.

While there were fewer donors in 2015, those who did give gave more money than before. Canadians gave an average of $924 in 2015 compared to an average of $726 in 2013.

Donors continue to report contributions to their local community over charities with a national or international mission. Since 2013, donations to organizations with a local focus increased from 49 percent to 54 percent, while donations to organizations with a national focus declined from 35 percent to 28 percent. More than half of donors say they are “very likely” to make another gift to the charity to which they last donated. More than four in ten Canadians proactively pursue information about a cause; the rest prefer to be solicited by a charity before giving. These figures are relatively unchanged since 2015. When looking for information on charities they support, Canadians primarily access it online (a total of 72% on charity website or online) and from family, friends and coworkers (32%).

Fifteen percent of Canadians on social media say they have donated in response to a request posted on social media. More than half are open to receiving social media donation requests but note that their proclivity to respond depends on who posts the request and the cause the charity represents.

Types of Charities Benefitting From Canadian Donors

Disease-related and medical charities remain the most popular type of charity, although the percentage of donors contributing in this area fell from 54 percent in 2013 to 42 percent in 2015. The highest share of contributions, 48 percent, was made to places of worship, followed by disease and medical charities at 44 percent, and children/youth charities at 40 percent.

Donor Motivations

The survey revealed six segments of donors:

  • Affiliative: Enjoy going to fundraising events and motivated to donate to charities from which they, or someone they know, has benefitted
  • Communal: Donate to locally-based charities that benefit those in their community
  • Pragmatist: Family tradition of donating to a specific charity and motivated by the provision of a tax credit
  • Benevolent: Doing good is a moral obligation and want to help those in need
  • Reactive: Do not strongly associate with charities they donate to, and wait to be approached to donate
  • Adherent/Reverent: Donate to charities that share their beliefs or moral and motivated by their religious beliefs

The largest proportion of Canadians express helping those in need is their main motivation for giving. Compared to 2013, more Canadians say giving is the right thing to do, and there is a moderate increase in those who say giving makes them feel good. A growing number of donors say it’s important that they receive information on how their donation has made a difference (up 6 points from 2013 to 83%) and fewer indicate needing some kind of acknowledgement for their donation (38%).

The survey indicates that many donors want to support charities that are efficient with their budgets and have a clear impact. Of donors who gave in the past 12 months, 97 percent say the charities to which they gave have a clear purpose and mandate; 96 percent say the organization has a strong reputation and 95 percent say the organization is successful in fulfilling its mission.


This year, AFP partnered with CanadaHelps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to promote charitable giving in Canada. The What Canadian Donors Want survey also was conducted among donors who have a history of making donations using CanadaHelps. The purpose of including this group is to understand the differences and similarities between Canadians who donate online versus Canada’s general population.

CanadaHelps donors are more likely than the general population to donate to more causes. Seventy-seven percent of CanadaHelps donors give to six or more causes compared to only 17 percent of the general population. They are more likely than general population donors who gave in the last 12 months to say they are very knowledgeable about the charities they support (38% compared to 22%)

Like their peers across Canada, CanadaHelps donors who gave in response to an invitation or post on social media say they gave because the posts came from someone they know. They also are invested in charities that they know to be efficient with donor dollars and effective in their work, but to a much more significant extent. Eighty-two percent of CanadaHelps donors are motivated by a clear purpose compared to 53 percent of the general population.

The largest proportion of CanadaHelps donors say their most recent contribution was to a place of worship and they are more likely than their counterparts in the general population to have donated to this kind of charity. They are also more likely to have given to international charities and to causes advancing the arts, culture, and the environment.


The general population survey of Canadians was conducted November 3-10, 2015. For this survey, a sample of 1,502 adults from Ipsos’ Canadian online panel was interviewed online. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. The general population survey is accurate to within +/ – 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled. The survey on the CanadaHelps sample is based on 955 donors who have a history of making donations using CanadaHelps and receive their marketing emails. This survey is accurate to within + 3.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all CanadaHelps donors been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

About AFP

Since 1960, the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) has advanced effective and ethical philanthropy by providing advocacy, research, education, mentoring, collaboration and technology opportunities for the world’s largest network of professional fundraisers. AFP’s more than 33,000 members raise more than $115 billion annually. For more information, go to


Ipsos is Canada’s market intelligence leader and the country’s leading provider of public opinion research. With operations in eight cities, Ipsos employs more than 600 research professionals and support staff in Canada. The company has the biggest network of telephone call centres in Canada, as well as the largest pre-recruited household and on-line panels. Ipsos is a leading global survey-based market research group. To learn more, visit

About CanadaHelps allows donors to safely donate and fundraise online for any registered Canadian charity and provides charities the secure online fundraising platform they need to succeed. As a registered charity itself, CanadaHelps has facilitated over $550 million in donations to Canadian charities online since it launched in 2000. Over 1 million Canadians have donated to charities using CanadaHelps and over 16,000 Canadian charities fundraise online using the CanadaHelps platform. The mission of CanadaHelps is to engage Canadians in the charitable sector and provide accessible and affordable online technology to both donors and charities to promote – and ultimately increase – charitable giving in Canada.


Orginal Source


What Donors Want: Webinar Recording
What Canadian Donors Want: Polling Responses During Webinar
What Canadian Donors Want: Webinar PowerPoint Presentation (PDF)
What Canadian Donors Want Full Report – March 8, 2016
What Canadian Donors Want Fact Sheet: Views and Attitudes about Charities
What Canadian Donors Want Fact Sheet: Motivations for Giving
What Canadian Donors Want Fact Sheet: Solicitations and Giving Decisions

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