15 Minutes on Canadian Charities in 2020

Episode Transcript

Lama Alsafi (00:00): Hello, and welcome to 15 Minutes to Change the World, where in 15 minutes, you can learn a bit more about the world and how you can help change it. My name is Lama Alsafi and I’m the host of this podcast. In this episode of 15 Minutes to Change the World, we’ll discuss how Canadians can support charities and how charities themselves can weather the challenges of this new era. Our guest today is Marina Glogovac, president and CEO of CanadaHelps, whose mission is to inform, inspire and connect donors and charities, and to improve access to effective technology and education in the charitable sector. Thank you so much Marina for joining us today.

Marina Glogovac (01:11): Thanks for inviting me Lama. I’m really excited to be here

Lama Alsafi (01:14): And thanks for your patience as we record our podcast today via Zoom. We have the joys of 2020 [laughs].

Marina Glogovac (01:21): That’s right.

Lama Alsafi (01:23): Well, first off Marina, can you tell us a bit about CanadaHelps and the work that you do?

Marina Glogovac (01:28): So CanadaHelps was founded in 2000. It is a registered charity that is dedicated to increasing charitable giving across Canada. We provide a safe, trusted one-stop destination for making donations, fundraising, or learning about any registered charity in Canada. And we also develop affordable fundraising technology and provide free training for charities, especially smaller charities so that regardless of size all charities have the capacity to increase their impact and be successful in this digital age.

Lama Alsafi (02:10): Well recently Canada helps released the 2020 Giving Report, which provides insights about the growth of online giving in Canada. Can you talk about some of the highlights in the report and what it means for Canadian charities and donors?

Marina Glogovac (02:23): First of all, it’s important to remember that the 2020 Giving Report was pre-COVID. We released it literally just before the pandemic kind of broke out. So we have to discuss it within that context. And I think our 2021 report, which is coming in March of next year will be very important to actually fully capture what happened this year. But some of the trends that we’ve seen, that we saw, in the 2020 report is an increase in online giving and especially increase in mobile giving. And we know now just from our own experience post-COVID, that this trend has been greatly accelerated. And I think that, you know, what came out of that is that the online fundraising infrastructure and the digital capacity really is just so crucial right now. And we also know from that report, and we’re experiencing it again this year, is that economic recessions are really bad for the sector. In the 2008 recession, the overall giving fell by about $1.4 billion and the, and the average amount of giving fell as well. And it hasn’t recovered yet. We know from some research by Imagine Canada in Angus Reid already, and anecdotally from talking to hundreds of charities, that this recession has actually hit charities a lot harder. But overall Lama, what we saw in the 2020 report, and it’s been consistent with the two previous reports, is that the overall giving in Canada has been on a slow decline since 2006.

Lama Alsafi (04:04): Is that, Marina, is that across age groups and demographics?

Marina Glogovac (04:08): Basically we see in the Giving Report that the overall participation rate in donating has been steadily declining. For example, it went from 25% in 2006 to 20% in 2016. And the biggest job in donation rates is in the 45 to 54 age band. But really all age bands have seen a decline. Now what’s interesting is the donors that are age 55 and plus gave almost double of all age groups. So this is clearly showing that donors for age 55 plus are really shouldering an enormous chunk of donations in Canada and the cohorts that are coming after them are really not keeping up with that level of giving. And of course we also see that very pronounced in younger age groups. And, you know, there has been many, there kind of has been many explanations as to why that is, from, you know, that they are different, they are more digital. They don’t have the same, you know, the same relationship to charities and so on and so forth. But I think when we look at this in, in the totality, we see that this is actually a very concerning overall trend that will at some point create a real crisis for the charitable sector in Canada. And of course the pandemic and what we’re experiencing this year is going to just, uh, really accelerate that.

Lama Alsafi (05:41): Well, one finding that stood out in the recent report was that donations to international and Indigenous charities have both seen higher than average growth, which is very positive. So what do you think we can attribute this trend to, and how can Canadian charities build on this increased interest and support?

Marina Glogovac (05:58): Donations to those two categories have been growing faster than they had in the past. And I think the reason is that, I mean, these two issues along with the environment are very pressing issues and they’re becoming more high profile issues, especially for younger generations. International giving is often driven by world events and crisis. And unfortunately there are just so many each year. We also see that initially that support of crisis is huge, but it’s not necessarily sustained over a period of time. I mean there are two major demographic categories of people who are giving to international issues. One are the donors, you know, that tend to be kind of middle age and older, you know, who typically have college education and incomes higher than the Canadian average, and then we also see younger people, younger demographics engage in this. And, you know, it’s interesting also to say that at least for the Indigenous peoples, which I’m really, we were so happy to see this, but still the overall amount given to Indigenous peoples related causes is about 1.6%. So it’s amazing to see this, this growth in giving, but overall, this is still such a tiny portion of the overall giving.

Lama Alsafi (07:31): What can charities do to reach people more effectively and to better meet the needs of support?

Marina Glogovac (07:35): One thing that has really come up in this time is, is the entire, sort of digital capacity, digital infrastructure. And most importantly, the digital know-how because all of a sudden we’re all on Zoom, we’re all online, we’re all digital. And the acceleration of digital economy is really evident and I think is here to stay. So I think, I mean, there is a lot to be said about, you know, how are you effective in this, you know, era? How are you effective in delivering your programs? How are you retooling and pivoting and introducing technology, not as adjacent to what you do, but now as sort of core of what you do, and then how do you reach donors online? How do you keep them? There is a massive skillset, which is very sought after, and of course not just in the charitable sector, but in all sectors, including for profit.

Marina Glogovac (08:35): So charities, I think, are now realizing that they need to start on that journey of kind of more dedicated, more focused acquisition of those skills, because they will need them for a very long time. I think this transition has now been kind of more complete. So I would say that, you know, learning how to operate and investing into the digital capacity, starting with, you know, website optimization, donation forms, just setting up basic infrastructure, email, communication, infrastructure, analytics infrastructure, website, optimization, homepage, just some simple things. And then really engaging in starting on this journey. And I remember one stat that stuck with me from all my research on, you know, digital transformation and you know, why so many don’t succeed and you know, what are the factors and so on and so forth. I think one thing that stuck with me is that digital transformation success is more than three times more likely in organizations that invest in sufficient digital talent. So I think also hiring digitally savvy people who can also relate to younger demographics is important because we often try to communicate to different demographic groups the same way. And of course, that’s one of the, you know, that’s one of the key learnings in all of it that we need to adjust our approach.

Lama Alsafi (10:16): What would you say to charities, Marina, who are perhaps too constrained in their budgets and unable to invest in technology? So what advice can you give these charities who really want to embrace this new technology, they realize it’s important, but they just don’t know where to start.

Marina Glogovac (10:32): Well, as I said, I think it’s important to make a case to their funders, to engage with their boards, to see how that investment could be made. It’s easy to start somewhere. And I think to be honest about the gap, I absolutely understand, and this is also, Lama, why I think so many charities are having a hard time now because they all kind of got caught in this moment of time when the lack of digital capacity overnight became so critical, many, many, many charities that are coming, you know, from years of not investing enough in themselves were just caught by not having tools that they needed to actually transition.

Lama Alsafi (11:18): Well, I know that connecting charities and donors through technology is a big part of your work. I wonder if you can tell us, are there any exciting technological trends or charities that are doing some, some exciting work in terms of acquisition and technology that you’d like to tell us about?

Marina Glogovac (11:34): We have a basic fundraising technology tool set that we offer to charities. And we just launched a very exciting, we launched the donor management system, which goes with the rest of our tools. So I would say that is the most basic thing that anybody can do. And then we also so many seminars and webinars, and we have white papers and other resources that charities can use to actually learn how to become better at online donor acquisition and retention, how they deliver those services. We actually launched on CanadaHelps we launched one cause fund, which is called charity innovation and adaptation fund, which is specifically designed to help charities invest into the acquisition of digital capacities.

Lama Alsafi (12:26): That sounds really neat. The webinars and the things that you mentioned can any charity or person looking to learn more access these?

Marina Glogovac (12:35): Absolutely. Absolutely. They’re all free of charge and they can all be found on canadahelps.org under the For Charities resources. And we have a huge library of all the past ones.

Lama Alsafi (12:50): Finally, Marina, what would you say to our listeners who are considering supporting a charity? What should they consider and how can they help beyond just making a donation?

Marina Glogovac (12:58): I think anyone who is financially able to do so, it would be great if they can make a donation to charities. You know the November and December giving season are really, really critical for charities in like normal times. But this year, November, December are even more consequential because charities have to replace a lot of lost revenues. And I think the average is something like 60%, but of course, if you’re not able to make a donation, anything that shows generosity that shows kindness, that, you know, helps amplify the voices of charities that do not have marketing budgets. Being on social media, supporting them that way is important. Also people can find a way to do something for their communities, maybe connect with somebody who is lonely at home, write them a letter, offer help, anything outside of ourselves that basically, is about helping someone else I think will be so important during this holiday season.

Lama Alsafi (14:07): Marina, thank you so much for your time today and thank you for all of your insights on charitable giving. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation.

Marina Glogovac (14:13): You’re welcome Lama. Thank you.

Lama Alsafi (14:15): And thank you to everyone for tuning in. As always, you can stay up to date on our newest episode of 15 Minutes to Change the World on Spotify, iTunes and on care.ca/podcast.