According to a recent report from the Fraser Institute, using tax data, the percentage of Canadians giving to charities has diminished to about 21% from a level of 25% ten years earlier. It has also gone down as a percentage of income.
Americans compare more favourably on this particular scale, with nearly 25% contributing and at a much higher rate of income than Canadians.
Manitobans are the most giving in Canada, but the province only stands 37th in a ranking of North American provinces and states.
While this doesn’t seem to square with the comparatively compassionate image of Canadians, there are those who dispute the results, based on limitations of the data source.
For example, there are increasingly opportunities – which some would term intrusive advocacy – to make small cash or credit card donations at store check-outs, albeit usually for worthy causes. Crowdfunding, especially popular with younger adults, is a source of giving for some. Neither of these more modern methods are accounted explicitly for in tax returns.
Then there’s donating one’s time and energy, extremely valuable to the recipient charity, but not on the books for tax time.
Dependence on tax data favours baby boomers, more accustomed to writing cheques, over younger folks who are more accustomed to activity engagement. For those of us who do ascribe to the conventional route of charitable giving, there is measurable financial benefit coupled with the psychic.
However, as with so much else in life, there is a trade-off: being immersed in the appeal syndrome, involving not only those charities to which one regularly, or at least periodically, gives, but also similar organizations on whose contact lists one appears unrequested.
While approaches by mail continue to flourish (for yours truly, anyway), the phone call has largely been supplanted by social media such as email; this is presumably effective for the charitable organization in maintaining a more relentless, targeted approach. Of course, while more expensive, mail has the advantage of putting promotional merchandise, such as calendars, labels, and pens in the hands of recipients, creating a sort of moral suasion to respond with a donation. After all, in this age of the instant response media, would charities still rely on such a method if it didn’t work?
So, what of the rewards?
The obvious ones are tax credits and positive feelings, effectively enhanced if one selects a type of charity which feels right, or at least is the practical best option.
For me, it’s the local humane society. I confess to being one of those who finds it difficult to even briefly watch stories, often on behalf of animal advocacy groups, about cruelty to animals. For me, making contributions is the way to go, and to ‘earn’ empathic response.
Thanks to the never-ending financial focus, one does tend to be a frequent recipient of both appreciation and continual appeals from the charity. But to me this is a livable price to pay, to connect my charitable dollars to where the most emotionally laden reward exists.