Ryan Garnett   

You say we’re uniquely Canadian, eh?

by Ryan Garnett on June 26th, 2015

Canadians are known for many things. Maple syrup. Hockey. Saying sorry all too often. And of course, Justin Bieber (We really are sorry about that one…)

But Canadians are also unique for our giving habits. Some of the ways that we give are quite different from our friends in the south, and knowing Canadian giving habits is key to fundraising in Canada. Whether you’ve come to Canada from the US or abroad, or you were born in the Great White North (We actually don’t get nearly as much snow as some people think), the below list will help you understand some of the most important giving behaviours that make Canadians a little unique.

Canadians love to give to friends

Peer to peer fundraising in Canada is huge. In most major cities there’s runs, walks, bike rides, and other events happening weekly throughout the summer. All of these events are fueled by friends asking friends for money. And for Canadians this is very comfortable.

Looking at the global leaderboard for Movember last year Canadians accounted for 24% of worldwide donations. For a country of only 35 million this is quite impressive. And we were less than $1,000,000 behind the US in money raised, even though our population is 1/10th of theirs.

Do Canadians grow better beards than any other country in the world? Possible, but that seems unlikely. The success of events like this in Canada is simply because we love to support our friends in their charitable endeavours.

We don’t text to give

Although smartphone usage in Canada is among the highest in the world, Canadians just don’t text-to-give. There are some privacy implications which make running a text-to-give program more difficult, but even aside from that it’s just not a channel which Canadians seem to be overly comfortable with.

This could change in the future though: there is a group that’s working to change the privacy laws to allow more access to information for organizations. They’re going to be testing with five larger Canadian charities to see if they can get text-to-give to take off in Canada. But if that doesn’t work it’s likely that text-to-give will continue to be something that just doesn’t work for Canadians.

That being said, mobile giving in Canada is huge. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that all of your electronic communications are mobile optimized. Whether it’s an e-mail or a donation form everything your organization is doing should be optimized so that your donors can view it easily on their mobile device.

We’re comfortable being approached by strangers

Maybe it’s because we just don’t want to say no, but face-to-face and door-to-door fundraising in Canada is big. On a 15 minute walk through downtown Vancouver on a sunny afternoon you’re likely to be approached by at least 3 or 4 street canvassers asking you to join a cause. This is also true of most large cities across the country.

You’ll find booths set up in malls, kiosks at airports, and even sometimes people set up in transit stations. Door-to-door fundraising is also very common. Sometimes this is conducted by professional fundraisers, other times it’s done by donors, asking their friends and neighbours to join their cause.

And although the attrition with these methods of fundraising can be very high, the long-term value is potentially very large, and many charities have leveraged this to substantially grow their monthly giving programs in Canada.

We like to give monthly

Canada is actually far behind some countries like the UK in terms of the sophistication of monthly giving programs, but we’re far ahead of others like the US. Canadian organizations that established a monthly giving program back in the 1990s and 2000s are seeing massive benefits today. Some organizations have been able to grow their monthly donor file to the tens of thousands, representing tens of millions of dollars over the years. This all comes without much effort from the charity, as the retention rate with some monthly donors (particularly if they were acquired through direct mail) will be 90-95% year-over-year.

Because of this, Canadians are very comfortable being asked to join a monthly giving program. Many of us give monthly to multiple organizations too. The best part about monthly giving is that the value of a monthly donor is typically 2-3 times that of an annual giving donor. And monthly donors are also some of your best prospects for legacy gifts.

If your organization doesn’t already have a monthly giving program, you need to look at starting one today.

Canadians still give in traditional ways too

The above list details some of the things that make Canadian donors a little more unique. And a lot of this is actually more about the ways that younger people give. Older generations are still by far the most generous, and direct mail is still big in Canada for these donors. The popularity of direct mail is growing with younger donors as well. And it still provides amongst the lowest cost to acquire, and highest long-term value of any fundraising channel.Even with digital fundraising continuing to grow, direct mail is certainly not dying anytime soon.

For more information about how HMA can help you reach your fundraising goals, please contact us via e-mail at info@harveymckinnon.com

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