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Canadian donors say they have more to give

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In her third annual Cygnus Donor Survey, author, researcher and fundraising expert, Penelope Burk has found a lot to get excited about. Forty-four percent of Canadians she surveyed said they could have given more last year - and they offered clear advice about what it will take to unleash their philanthropy at a whole new level.


Young donors are ready to soar but are largely overlooked

Canadians are optimistic about their plans for giving in the next year, with 81% intending to donate the same or more to charity while only 8% plan to give less. But young donors are even more confident, it seems, and they are ready and willing to step up to the plate now. Thirty-seven percent of donors under the age of 35 intend to give more this year than last, compared with 18% of middle-age donors and only 10% of donors over the age of 65. “But,” Burk cautions, “attracting that untapped reserve means crafting solicitations and communications that appeal to the unique preferences of younger and older donors.”

The 2012 Cygnus Donor Survey confirmed what Burk has been noticing for several years – that young donors have a higher capacity to give and are very serious about being philanthropic, but that fundraising strategies designed for older donors are not resonating with young people. As well, fundraisers may be assuming that donors under 35 cannot give at higher levels instead of asking themselves if their own fundraising tactics are causing younger donors to hold back.

Young donors who are employed enjoy household incomes averaging over $70,000. They are open to giving to more causes, whereas middle-age and older donors are reducing the volume of charities they support. Young donors are also interested in giving to charities that work in areas under-funded by older donors, such as environmental causes. And, young donors are very willing to volunteer but are seldom asked to sit on boards or volunteer in other responsible ways. Since young people are more likely to give to organizations with which they are closely involved, voluntarism is an important door-opener to their untapped philanthropy.

Canadian fundraisers outshine Americans in monthly giving

Ninety-four percent of Canadians surveyed said they had been asked to join a monthly giving program and 49% indicated they were currently active monthly donors. This is a far better penetration than in the US, where only 76% of respondents in the American edition of the Cygnus Donor Survey had been asked to give monthly and only 29% are active monthly donors now. Canadian fundraisers’ success with monthly giving is even more dramatic with young donors where 53% give monthly versus only 23% of young American donors.

While monthly donors give far more generously and stay loyal longer than donors who make single gifts, the program may have one inherent weakness. Monthly donors are no more likely than single gift donors to consider moving their philanthropy up into the major gifts arena. Burk explains that the program’s design, which is a boon to charities’ immediate revenue, may be at the root of the problem. “It is easy to see the practical benefits of giving monthly, but the emotional, joyful sensation is simply not there when gifts are quietly deducted from a donor’s account or charged to his credit card. That thrill donors feel when they make the decision to give also motivates them to give as generously as possible.” She suggests that charities compensate by communicating results of what donors’ monthly gifts are achieving in measurable terms and inspiring them to want to give more by showing them what they have already accomplished.

Cygnus survey finds hidden potential in fundraising events

The Cygnus Donor Survey investigated donors’ views about participating in or sponsoring someone in athletic-type fundraising events such as walk-a-thons. Satisfaction with their most recent experience is very high with over 90% of participants reporting that they would definitely or probably take part in the event the next time it is scheduled. Similarly, 78% of sponsors said they would definitely or probably sponsor again.

Burk was especially interested in learning whether event sponsors are good future prospects as direct donors. “I am very excited about the potential for converting sponsors into donors,” she said, “especially when we compare this potential with more traditional ways in which new donors are acquired.” Among Canadian event sponsors who have never been asked to give to the host charity, 14% would definitely or likely make a direct contribution if asked. This compares very favourably with the 1% or 2% of prospects who give when purchased lists are used to acquire donors through direct marketing appeals.

The 2012 Cygnus Donor Survey solicited the views of more than 11,000 active Canadian donors. The full 76-page downloadable report contains more than forty recommendations for how charities can improve their fundraising this year. It is available directly from Cygnus at

Cygnus Applied Research, Inc. is a research-based fundraising consulting firm serving the charitable sector. President Penelope Burk, a renowned author, speaker and researcher, leads the company which is best known for its flagship strategy for sustaining donor loyalty and increasing gift value - "Donor-Centred Fundraising". The company’s training programs and client services are devoted to helping professional fundraisers, managers and leadership volunteers increase profitability by adopting a more customer service-oriented approach to fundraising. Cygnus has offices in Hamilton ON, Chicago and the United Kingdom. For further information, please visit

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Big Ups Canadians. May God reward you abundantly. I wish you success in Olympics. You deserve only medals.
Families in Uganda affected by HIV/AIDS are suffering a lot. No income, children not going to school, malnutrition, HIV, malaria, no shelter. How can some one access funding to address these problems.
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Hi Ray,

We do have a list of funding organizations on our site:

You might want to try looking there for funding. Best of luck!
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