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The Next Generation of Canadian Giving


Have you ever wondered how the age of your supporters impacts the ways they engage with your cause?

When University of Toronto prof David Foot published his best-seller, Boom, Bust and Echo back in the ‘90’s, he gave us a fresh way to view society — through a generational lens — and furthered our understanding of why age does matter.

As one example, he showed us that Boomers (people born during the ‘baby boom’ that followed the Second World War and lasted until about 1964) make up such a large generational group that their values, needs and desires are constantly shaping everything in our economy and society, including the food we eat and the clothes we wear.

Foot’s book showed us how a person’s age can be a key driver of how they act, feel, and think.

Our report, The Next Generation of Canadian Giving by Stratcom, HJC and Convio, applies a generational outlook to the non-profit sector. It is the first Canadian study of its kind to examine key behavioural differences between generations of donors relating to how they engage with and support cause-based organizations.

Our survey of 1500 Canadians illustrated just how critical it is that we develop strategies to best fit each generation’s preferences — from the most loyal Civics (aged 65+) to Generation Y (aged 19-29) who are just starting to get involved. These strategies can help attract and retain new donors without compromising current revenue from our existing base of support.

The first thing we noticed is the huge strength of Canadians’ desire to give and to support good causes.  Nearly two-thirds (64%) of adult Canadians report giving to non-profit organizations – a sign of a very healthy civil society indeed.

Every year, Canadians are giving almost $10 billion to charities and not-for-profits. Canadians also give millions of hours of time, thousands of tonnes of food and clothing, and all sorts of valuable equipment, from tractors to computers, to help make a better world.

When it comes to overall giving behaviours, the results underscore the importance of the personal connection in making a gif. Regardless of generation, donors are most often motivated to give by a peer, friend or family member.

On the theme of how to engage donors, we found that donors may prefer to give through one channel (e.g. mail, email or phone) and engage through a different channel. As one example, on the whole, Boomer donors (aged 46-64) often give via direct mail, yet often wish to communicate with the organization they support through email.

The results also show that multi-channel fundraising is not just the way of the future, it is a reality right now. While not all generations give or engage through all channels, a majority of donors engage with and support non-profit causes via a range of online and offline tools.

So give your supporters a chance to tell you what they want — and when they do, listen. They may prefer you send them solicitations through mail but wish to communicate with you through email, or vice-versa. You may recruit a new donor through an event, but find they want to learn more about you online before they get more involved or give again. Our supporters don’t operate in silos and neither should we!

The results of this national study shed some light on how non-profit and mission-driven organizations can make better choices about who they engage, how they engage, and how to keep your supporters interested and involved in your work.

Read the full report: The Next Generation of Canadian Giving

Deanna Bickford, CRFE is Stratcom’s Senior Consultant, Campaigns & Research. She is an expert fundraising strategist, and co-wrote the national report ‘The Next Generation of Canadian Giving,’ which examined donor giving patterns and behavior across different age groups.

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