Three Things Canada’s Small Charities Don’t Do Well — And How You Can Help

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Canada’s small charities do a lot of things well. As the backbone of our communities, they provide on-the-ground programs and services for an incredible diversity of causes and issues. They also bring unrivalled passion, working tirelessly to help families across the country by addressing unfilled societal needs.

But, the sad truth is their great work often goes unnoticed unless you or a family member happens to need their services. Despite bringing light to the world, small charities still operate in the shadows because they are painfully underfunded. Small charities — those with less than $500k in annual revenues– only receive 0.1 per cent of all government funding, according to the 2017 Giving Report.

Without government funding, Canada’s 86,000 small charities must rely on donations from Canadians. Unfortunately, however, statistics show that small charities receive less than a quarter of all annual donations despite making up more than 80 per cent of our country’s charitable sector.

Because of this funding shortfall, here are three things that Canadians small charities can’t help but fail at:

Asking for Donations 

“Ask and you shall receive”- it sounds simple, but asking for donations is essentially a form of marketing, and smaller charities simply do not have the capacity to develop and execute sophisticated strategies. While a big charity may have two dozen people in their marketing department, many small charities are run by volunteers. Additionally, a lot of these charities don’t even have a database or CRM system to help them segment and/or learn more about their donors. Without the capacity to reach out effectively, it’s almost impossible to establish success.

Planning for the Future 

In the charitable world, it’s a transgression of sorts to spend money on yourself — on training people, learning, setting up technology, and building bigger capacity to scale results. Most donors and funders will only contribute to specific programs, so most charities live in a perpetual state of pitching programs rather than core work because they can’t get funded to help build the internal organization. So, while it’s only natural for donors to fear their money won’t be spent efficiently, Canadians must recognize that small charities need to invest in their core capacity/infrastructure. Anything less would be short-sighted and damaging.


Coming from a marketing background, I’m always amazed by the deeply moving personal stories that small charities have at their disposal. I only wish more of these charities were better at sharing them because if Canadians could see and hear more of these powerful human-interest stories– and understand what these charities are accomplishing on a daily basis– they would be truly moved, and give much more generously.

These stories are why I’m at CanadaHelps. It’s why I’m motivated to help small charities across the country.

We’re uniquely positioned to help smaller charities succeed against almost impossible odds, providing them the technology they need to fundraise online, and helping to connect them to donors through our easy-to-use platform where Canadians can discover, donate, or fundraise for any of Canada’s registered charities. And initiatives like the Great Canadian Giving Challenge, now in its fourth year, provides charities with a platform to reach out to donors who, in most cases, are eager to hear from them and looking for a reason to give more. Small charities with limited budgets also benefit from the umbrella marketing campaign, where they receive pre-built donor messaging, visuals and contest materials, helping them accomplish their fundraising goals with very little overhead or prep work.

By helping small charities tell their stories and reach out for the funding they so badly need, last year the Great Canadian Giving Challenge helped raise more than $8 million from over 50,000 Canadians. If you would like to contribute to a smaller charity that’s doing great work in your community, participating is easy: every donation made to a charity in June through or automatically enters the charity to win the $10,000 prize. For every $1 a charity receives, it automatically grants them one entry for the contest, increasing the charity’s chance of winning the randomly drawn grand prize on Canada Day.

By contributing today, you can help Canada’s struggling small charities do what they do best: help others.

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