Charting the Changing Nature of Giving in Canada

Giving is changing in meaning and method. Do we really understand its implications?

Why It Matters

If the potential exit of a third of donation revenues from the charitable system over the next decade happens, critical life-saving and life-enhancing services provided by charities across the country would be in jeopardy.

From the gig economy to importance of social capital, there are emerging trends that recent reports on giving in Canada touch on. Here is what’s worth keeping an eye on.


Analysis on Giving in Canada. Photo by Vek Labs.


The sixth global Giving Tuesday took place in November 2018. Leading up to it, two notable recent reports: 30 Years of Giving in Canada by Imagine Canada and Rideau Hall Foundation, and The Giving Report 2018 by Canada Helps, make cases about the overall decline in giving.

A key difference in the structure of the research is that the Imagine Canada report looks at the last 30 years (a generation), and Canada Helps this past year (with notable references to year-to-year comparables).


What Changed

Until about a decade ago, giving was largely a regular activity through few intermediary channels, including faith-based and workplace campaigns.

But now, due to demographic shifts, changing nature of work, social media, crowd technologies, data rights, and recasting of trust and relevancy, new alternatives have emerged.

Workplace giving models such as Benevity, practices such as Mastercard’s data philanthropy, data trusts such as #GivingTuesday Data Collaborative, and decentralized Blockchain applications such as Alice are not only reimagining the act of giving, but also its purpose and sense of accountability.


What to Watch

Unless the regularity, purpose, and stability of work magically revert back to how it used to be a generation ago, giving in Canada will need to be reimagined from the ground up.

The time is now for a different type of giving conversation—and not just because of the changing nature of work. The nature of purpose is changing.

In the next decade, the landscape of actors will be far more diverse, including digital autonomous organizations, data trusts, and massive movements.

We need to be ready to share power and space.

We need to learn from positive deviants in the system.

Current engagement and business models in fundraising will continue to be challenged in their relevance, transparency, power-sharing, and accountability.

Today’s charities will have to learn how to accept digital currency like Bitcoin and be well-versed in receiving donations of data.

It will also become much clearer in the next decade that financial capital alone cannot solve our deepest community problems.

Multi-capital frameworks, like the Thread Fund and Heron Foundation that are at the fringes today will increasingly demonstrate that data capital, social capital, human capital, and financial capital are equally important in determining overall fundraising success.