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Donors to government: Step up support to non-profits when times are tough


A few weeks ago we ran a survey asking more than a thousand adult Canadians (outside of Quebec) about government support for charities and non-profits, especially in these difficult economic times.

We asked respondents to choose which of the following statements they felt was closest to their own view:

In these challenging economic times, government should do more to support charities, either by providing more direct funding to charitable programs, or giving donors additional tax breaks.

Governments should maintain their current level of funding.

When times are tough, governments need to cut back their own spending and charities need to make do with existing resources.

So, a clear majority want governments to step up their support for charitable causes, as they themselves are expected to do, during these times when unemployment remains high, retirement security is deteriorating, poverty is still ubiquitous, and the promise of a middle class life eludes more and more families.

Here’s the unique part: We only surveyed people who directly donate (by mail, phone or online) to charities and non-profits. In other words, the people who foot most of the bills for advocacy, social innovation, and delivering non-governmental community services in this country want to see more – not less – public support for that work. As far as I know this is the first study of its kind in Canada and the first time this type of question has been put to the grassroots of the Canadian charitable sector.

It is worth remembering that these donors do more than give money – they also give vast amounts of volunteer time, goods and services to support the work of their favourite civil society organizations.  And they pay taxes – which they trust will be used to further support charitable organizations through tax write-offs and direct grants by federal, provincial, and local governments.

This, in other words, is the cream of the crop of engaged citizens, the ones who don’t just talk about making Canada a better place – they act on it.

This is a group of people worth listening to.

It’s encouraging that governments across Canada are interested in partnering more with non-profits (as reported on CharityVillage in December). Undoubtedly, the type of ‘capacity building’ favoured in provincial capitals and Ottawa can help our communities deal with the economic downturn, but Canada’s hard-working charity donors remind us that good old fashioned material support – long-term funding and tax incentives – is also essential to ensure that nonprofit organizations can meet the new challenges we all face.

The Stratcom donor survey was fielded December 2 to 7, 2011, to an online sample of  1,028 Canadians living outside Quebec who have made a financial gift to a charity or non-profit within the past 12 months, excluding their church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship.  Respondents were drawn from an established consumer research panel of more than 400,000 Canadians.  The final sample is unweighted. Data were analyzed in SPSS 12.0.

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