The personal philanthropy project: Inspiring Canada’s affluent to give more (Part three)

publication date: Aug 10, 2017
author/source: Michèle Benoit

With the end goal of increasing personal charitable giving among the more affluent in Canada, the Personal Philanthropy Project is essentially engaging in the shaking-up of an existing system, so-to-speak. A shift that will ensure Canadians recognize their capacity to give generously.

While considerable research and data is available about high net worth donors and their giving patterns both from Canada and abroad - and has been examined for this initiative (see Part 1 and Part 2) - very little exists about how to encourage increased giving.

A need to learn more In 2016-2017, Imagine Canada conducted additional quantitative and qualitative research, probing for any measure of success for “moving the dial” in giving attitudes or behaviour. Two possible approaches were investigated:

The “Standardized Approach” The interventions in this approach are intended to alter the giving pattern of the target audience, which will, in turn, aim to increase charitable giving. Information is provided to help guide donors about an “appropriate” annual donation amount relative to their personal and financial circumstances. The four Standardized Approach interventions include:

  • A giving calculator that provides an “appropriate” amount to give based on personal key variables such as income, net worth, life stage, age, debt, etc. It can be used as a stand-alone tool or as a support tool for professionals working with donors and clients.
  • The donor is provided with a recommended percentage of income, “does the math” and then makes an informed donation decision. This could serve as a social norming intervention.
  • Predetermined tiers provide the donor with an opportunity to gauge where they “fit in” relative to others who are “similar” to them, offering a benchmark by which they can determine their own giving amount.
  • The peer influencer model allows the donor to learn, either directly or indirectly, of a financial peer’s annual giving which, in turn, can incent a higher personal gift.

The “Systematic Approach” is a mobilization of personal finance professionals that significantly elevates philanthropic discussions with affluent Canadians leading to increased personal charitable giving. This testing approach will engage wealth advice and planning professionals to identify means, processes, and/or products that will support and encourage values-based conversations; help grow the advisor-client relationship; and lead to a more intentional culture around philanthropy, ultimately increasing charitable donations in Canada.

Imagine Canada has tested the four interventions in the Standardized Approach as part of an online survey including just over 2,000 Canadians with above-average earnings and investable assets. The survey was completed in March and Imagine Canada will share findings by the summer of 2017.

Researchers have also carried out focus groups across the country to examine the Systematic Approach. This research with personal finance professionals launched in April of 2016 and was completed in January of this year. These sessions considered whether wealth professionals could be an effective lever to promote more informed and higher levels of giving by establishing deeper communications strategies with their clients. These findings will also be shared by the summer.

Still to come By the fall of 2017, The Personal Philanthropy Project will move from a testing phase into an action phase. With the Project’s research now complete, Imagine Canada will be seeking to transition key learnings into measurable strategies and tactics. Possible areas of focus may involve:

Personal finance professionals

This includes investment advisors, financial planners, financial advisors, accountants, and estate lawyers.

Charitable sector professionals

Fundraising professionals, executive directors, and key volunteers, among others.

Canadian donors

Citizens with above-average annual incomes and investment capacities for charitable giving.

Anne Frank once said, “No-one has ever become poor by giving.” One question remains: do Canadians agree?

Please visit the Personal Philanthropy Project web page for new findings and related news that will be updated with relevant Project research, information, and data as it becomes available.


Michèle Benoit is Manager of the Personal Philanthropy Project at Imagine Canada and brings her leadership experience in project management from the corporate, public, and private sectors to carry out this important national initiative.

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