Make Giving Back a Holiday Tradition

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There’s no question that November and December are critical times of year for charitable fundraising. At CanadaHelps, 39% of all annual donations we process are made in these two months. It is a time when most Canadians, even those who don’t celebrate winter religious holidays, think about ways we can give back, and buy gifts to acknowledge those in our lives that we care about. Knowing this, how can we ensure that we are using this time to create social good and improve the lives of our families, communities, and the world we live in?

Let’s Get Youth Excited About Charities

I’m personally tired of the endless hand-wringing articles about “millennials” and all the ways that older generations perceive them to not be living up to expectations. It doesn’t achieve anything. What if instead, older generations saw it as their role to engage with young people, to guide them but also listen to their passions and concerns?

Research continues to show that younger generations are giving less in financial donations than older generations, despite making up a larger portion of the population – CanadaHelps’ annual Giving Report is a good source on these demographic changes. At the same time, we are seeing that young people demand more social responsibility from the places they work, the rise of BCorps which prioritize more than profit, and an increasing number of consumer goods and brands that are committed to “doing good.” This is a passionate generation that cares deeply about social justice and making the world a better place, but they do it differently than their parents; they want to support the fight against climate change, gender equality, or clean water, but they don’t have the same attachments to individual organizations that older generations did. To combat the decline in giving we’re seeing in Canada, we need to help younger generations channel their passion into philanthropic mindsets. There are some easy ways we can use the holiday season to do this, such as:

    • Speaking to our children about causes they are passionate about, and discussing actions they can take to support those causes. We can help them find organizations doing work in
      the areas they care about, and challenge them to engage by signing up for email communications or reading their website and annual reports, making a
      financial donation, or visiting the charity to better understand the impact of its work.
    • Creating family traditions around giving. This could include giving part of your gift purchasing budget to a charity you’ve chosen together, volunteering for a local organization, and connecting with neighbours and your community members during a time of year that can be isolating for many.
    • Talking about creating long-term change for everyone, and the importance of investing in expert institutions that help many rather than just individuals. When you are having these conversations, approach it both as an opportunity to share something you’re passionate about and believe in, but also to listen to their concerns; be open to learning or changing yourself.

Give Better Gifts

2015 research from the Red Cross found that 59 per cent of Canadians would rather receive a charitable gift than a traditional gift. Our incredible privilege in Canada means that many of us have far too much “stuff,” much of it disposable. Instead of buying gesture gifts that may end up in the landfill (contributing to the climate destruction we’re now waking up to), the holidays can be an opportunity to give gifts of philanthropy.

Consider a Charity Gift Card, or a virtual item from a charity’s gift guide for teacher and colleague gifts, hard-to-buy-for family members, or as tokens for holiday party hosts. It has the added benefit of spreading the giving spirit and practice amongst our community members.

Give More Strategically and Have a Greater Impact

Each year, charities receive a surge of donations in the winter holiday season before the deadline for tax receipts, and in response to giving campaigns during this generous season.

One option many people don’t think about is making gifts of securities. Many larger charities have the ability to accept these unique gifts directly, but all charities can accept these gifts through CanadaHelps (itself a charity), a service we pioneered in Canada to ensure all charities have access to this valuable fundraising opportunity. Because gifts of securities given directly to a Canadian charity are eligible for a tax receipt for the full value of the securities, donors receive a larger tax receipt and don’t pay any capital gains tax on the appreciated value of the securities, and charities receive a larger gift than they would if the donor had sold the securities and donated the post-tax cash.

When you’re making your end of year donations this year, think about starting off 2020 on the right track by setting up a recurring donation for next year. Recurring donations are critical for charities to help them plan their finances and programming for the year based on reliable, regular income, and it often allows people to give more over the year by spreading out the expense. Planning for charitable giving for the following year also means you’re likely supporting the causes you care about the most, rather than rushing to make decisions before a deadline. There is no single way to create holiday traditions around giving, but approaching giving strategically and habitually will contribute to growing the culture of philanthropy in this country that is critical to the long-term sustainability of these necessary organizations. Charities are educators, care providers, innovators, environmental protectors, champions of the vulnerable, and creators of art and beauty. Charities touch all of our lives every day, even if we don’t know it; lets not take them for granted.

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