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The Great Canadian Giving Challenge: Disrupting the (charitable) dog days of summer

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We've seen many different fundraising campaigns in Canada over the last few years – Giving Tuesday, the Ice bucket Challenge, and others - which capitalize on a propensity for donors to buy into unique, disruptive giving opportunities for their favourite causes.

This month, a relatively new fundraising initiative is going into its sophomore year, brought forth by the same people who co-founded the Canadian Giving Tuesday campaign in 2013. Over the next month, Canadians are being asked to accept the Great Canadian Giving Challenge, a joint effort by CanadaHelps and the GIV3 Foundation.

The month-long campaign calls on donors across the nation to give to their preferred charities, with every gift making the donor eligible to win $10,000 more for his or her charity of choice. It’s a prizing incentive – provided by the GIV3 Foundation - that will likely succeed, just as it’s cousin campaign, Giving Tuesday, has succeeded in each of its runs.

But with the Giving Tuesday campaign already a winner for charities across the country, why bring forward the Giving Challenge?

CharityVillage asked CanadaHelps what its motivation and calculations were behind issuing another call-to-action out to Canadians this summer.

Plan of action

Kathleen Grace, marketing and communications manager with CanadaHelps, said the intent behind the Great Canadian Giving Challenge – which piloted in 2015 – is to spur more giving during a month that is typically slow on the donation front for most charities.

“Summer is a wonderful time in Canada, great weather and longer days mean more fun outdoors...and weekend getaways. It's an easy time for Canadians to forget to support their favourite charities and causes,” she said. “The Great Canadian Giving Challenge is designed to help save charities coast-to-coast from the summer giving drought.”

Grace added that campaigns like this new Giving Challenge and GivingTuesday can greatly benefit smaller charities since they are “a packaged promotion” that those organizations can use easily and make their own in order to engage their stakeholders and supporters.

Beyond that, CanadaHelps is also laying the groundwork for a Giving Challenge tie-in to the country’s 150th birthday in 2017.

“The charitable sector is working to create a generosity and charity-focused 150th birthday celebration for Canada next year,” she said. “We wanted to participate in making this vision a reality. Given that over 16,000 charities use CanadaHelps to fundraise online and over 1.1 million Canadians have donated using CanadaHelps, this type of contest, when backed by a generous prize from The GIV3 foundation, was an exceptional way for us to inspire participation. To maximize our success in Canada’s 150th birthday year, and to help today and into the future, we launched the Great Canadian Giving Challenge in 2015 to build awareness and momentum.”

It should be noted that aside from sharing a common goal and tactics, CanadaHelps and the GIV3 Foundation also share some leadership. The former’s CEO, Marina Glogovac, is also an advisory board member of the foundation.

Great success or great challenge?

Given the myriad fundraising campaigns launched by charities and nonprofits across the country every year, and the similar esthetics of both the Giving Tuesday and Great Canadian Giving Challenge, is it possible that this new campaign could get in its own way and increase donor fatigue or indifference, or possibly even confuse donors?

Certified fundraising executive Denny Young, professor and program coordinator at the Fundraising Management Program School of Media Studies & Information Technology at Humber Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning, believes that on the whole, the Great Canadian Giving Challenge is a good addition to the charitable landscape.

“I think that anything that promotes philanthropic giving is a good idea. What I particularly like about this [campaign] is that instead of just voting for a charity (there are many contests out there) the campaign requires that individual donors first make their own commitments,” Young said.

Additionally, he noted that he has not seen any other campaigns like this in his experience. “We do know that matching campaigns tend to do well. Donors like the idea of their gifts stimulating further giving by others.”

And the idea that donor fatigue may set in or that this donor challenge might cause a backlash of some sort?

“Donor fatigue almost always is a result of people feeling over-asked by charities with whom they already have some type of relationship. And usually their fatigue is a result of feeling repeatedly asked without hearing about how monies that they've donated in the past have helped the cause,” Young said. In his estimation, the Great Canadian Giving Challenge is a campaign that “won't cause fatigue, because those who don't wish to donate will simply ignore it.”

Grace, concurs.

“Charities run campaigns throughout the year. This is particularly true of larger, better-resourced charities. [Our] campaigns...are tools all charities can use and...are of greatest use to smaller charities that often don’t have the capacity to create their own campaigns. As a result, we believe both are highly effective programs that promote giving across the board and helps to level the playing field for charities of all sizes,” she argued.

And to the suggestion that the Giving Tuesday and Giving Challenge campaigns may look and feel too similar to be effective, she continued: “Confusion is avoided by two key factors: 1. The campaigns are spaced six months apart. 2. The campaigns are very different in approach. GivingTuesday is more than just asking for donations, it is a day dedicated to giving - in whatever way that means to people personally. The Great Canadian Giving Challenge is a contest designed to inspire Canadians to give during a low giving season.

“2015 was the first year of the challenge, and we saw tremendous results: 41,000 Canadians participated, and donated more than $6.3 million to over 7,500 charities. We hope to continue and grow the challenge this year, to set the stage for unprecedented generosity next year, Canada's 150th Birthday.”

Not just giving for giving’s sake

Back in 2013, the first year of Giving Tuesday in Canada, Brady Josephson, charity strategist and principal at Shift, a consulting agency to the charitable sector, wrote a Huffington Post editorial titled Why I Hate #GivingTuesday.

While he praised the idea of Giving Tuesday in general terms, he also sent out a warning to organizations that used the campaign – or “packaged promotion” as Grace termed it above – reflexively, and without real thought to what value it was bringing the donor.

“Are organizations spending time building up their value to donors leading up to #GivingTuesday with stories, reports and information about their cause and their organizations work? Perhaps,” Josephson wrote.

But more commonly, at the time, he saw charities just sending out “cash grab” emails. “Give today. Donate now. Make your donation. Why you might ask? Well...uh...because it’s #GivingTuesday seems to be the response.”

His warning then: make sure when your organization uses a pre-packaged fundraising promotional campaign, that it does so with the mission of adding value for the donor.

From all appearances, the Great Canadian Giving Challenge is doing just that with its matching donation component and a view to incentivizing Canadians to make 2017 – Canada’s 150th birthday – a year donors can be proud of.

What do you think? Will the Great Canadian Giving Challenge be successful? Is your organization participating this year? Let us know in our comments section.

Andy Levy-Ajzenkopf is a professional writer living in Toronto. He can be reached at

Please note: While we ensure that all links and email addresses are accurate at their publishing date, the quick-changing nature of the web means that some links to other web sites and email addresses may no longer be accurate.

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