Ready to donate? Here are 5 things to consider

You’ve made your donation to the charity you care about – the one that raises awareness amongst youth about the effects of cyberbullying. Or maybe you’ve updated your will to include a major bequest to the hospital where your favourite aunt spent her final days being cared for by an exceptional team of doctors and nurses. Whatever the scenario, how and why you choose to donate is a reflection of the ways you’ve been touched by those in need. But with so many causes to choose from, how do you decide?

We wanted to find out how donors can create a closer connection with the causes they care about, what’s a good way to find a charity to support, and how technology is changing the way we give. So we spoke with Mary Cranston, Director, Individual Donor Relations, and Alpa Patel, Manager, Corporate Donor Relations at United Way Greater Toronto, about the questions that are top of mind for many donors.


1. The average Canadian family that claimed donations on their tax return gave $1,820.
2. 33% of Canadian families and individuals that filed their taxes claimed charitable donations in 2017; that’s 3% fewer than in 2010.
3. 49% of Canadian donors give to charities in the social services category and 36% give to those in the health category.
4. 18% of Canadian donors give to religious charities.
5. Just 1% of Canadian donors give to charities serving Indigenous peoples, 7% to those protecting the environment, and 9% to those in the arts & culture category.
6. Those with an annual income of $150-$199K earn 7.5 times more in income than those with less than $20K in annual income, but give just 2.5 times more in donations.
7. Manitoba has the highest percentage of families and individuals that claim donations.
8. Alberta has the highest average donation amount.
9. Monthly donations now represent 15% of all donated dollars and 33% of the number of donations processed by CanadaHelps. Monthly donors are more loyal and give almost two times more than one-time donors.
10. Each year, 35% of giving happens in December — 10% on the last three days of December alone.

Source: CanadaHelps (2018). The Giving Report 2017. [online] Toronto: CanadaHelps. Available at: [Accessed 25 May 2018].

T.E. What are the different ways of giving for someone who wants to make a gift or bequest? How can donors maximize the impact of their gifts?

U.W. Successful charities manage to engage their donors and their donors’ families in many different ways that go beyond mailing a tax receipt. For example, we provide opportunities for our donors to see the impact of their support firsthand by volunteering in the community, either by themselves or with their family. These opportunities abound during the holiday giving season, but are available year-round.

To have a better understanding of the impact of your donation, why not take a tour of neighbourhoods across your region to learn about the communities served by the charity you support? This can also be done online. For instance, our online Make the Month poverty simulator shows what it’s like to live paycheque-to-paycheque, and the impact that has on a person’s overall well-being. It’s not quite virtual reality, but it will give you a pretty good idea of the difficult decisions faced every day by the one in ten Canadians who live in poverty.

Major donors to United Way can engage even further by joining leading community experts and fellow philanthropists to discuss the issues at special events. United Way also recognizes these donors in our Major Gift Honour Roll. You can also put your strategic skills to work by volunteering at United Way, or for our network of community partners.

T.E. What advice would you give to readers who are planning to considerably increase their level of charitable giving, or who are planning a major gift?

U.W. Always start by considering what’s most important to you, as an individual or a family, in the community. Does the work of the organization align with your interests and passions? You’ll also want to find out about how your gift is being leveraged and what sort of impact your investment will have both in the long and short term. Asking questions about the management and track record of the operation is also very important.

T.E. How can donations be made more tax-efficient?

U.W. An individual who makes a gift to a registered charity receives a federal and provincial tax credit that can be offset against income taxes. Depending on the province, the combined federal and provincial tax credit can be as high as roughly 53%. There are other gift options to consider which can benefit the donor in terms of reducing taxes and making a positive impact in the community. It is, of course, always best to ask your financial planner about the tax implications of your donation.

To find out if a charity you wish to support is CRA-approved, you can use the dedicated search engine on the CRA website (

T.E. How is technology changing charitable giving?

U.W. There’s a new app called Philanthropy Cloud, built by (the not-for-profit arm of Salesforce) and made available by United Way. The app connects employees of large companies to their corporate-matched donations, and offers a platform to encourage more giving, more volunteering, and a greater sense of connection to the causes being funded. Each employee’s Philanthropy Cloud is personalized in a way that blends some recognizable social media and online shopping tactics.

More broadly, social media are making it easier for individuals to promote the initiatives they take part in to raise funds for their favourite charities, while raising awareness of the causes they are supporting. Donations can now be made in a couple of easy clicks. Most charities encourage donors to sign up online and schedule recurring donations on their credit card, and tax receipts are now mostly sent electronically.

T.E. Sometimes, donors who are gifting large amounts have very specific requests for how they would like their donation to be used. What’s the most unusual or memorable request a donor has made with regard to their donation?

U.W. This is a great question! We’ve been lucky at United Way in that most of the amazing people who are investing in our work understand the broad-based and vital nature of how we support communities. In other words, we haven’t had very many, “We’d like you to plant marigolds in perpetuity, to be enjoyed by children ages 10 to 12, in a garden adjacent to the grade school I attended” type requests that we wouldn’t be able to follow through on. We have had amazing donors bring up something important in their family life—sports, in one particular case— and work with us on an opportunity to fund a gym space in a community hub in a priority neighbourhood. It was a personal, specific connection that was made with an important community need.

You can check out if you’re interested in digging deeper into United Way Greater Toronto or call 416-777-1444 ext. 342 to have a staff partner answer any questions you or your family might have.

United Way Greater Toronto in a few numbers

• $88 million invested in the community in 2018 to combat poverty
• 475 programs and services to support people, including seniors, newcomers, people with disabilities, and women who have been abused
• 184 programs and services to help people access employment, shelter and food
• 214 programs and services targeting the education, employment and engagement of our region’s youth

This article was published in T.E. Wealth’s Strategies newsletter, June 2018 edition. Read the full edition here.

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These articles are for general informational purposes only. Please obtain professional advice before taking any action based on this information. No endorsement or approval of any third parties or their advice, information, products or services should be implied by any references to third parties contained in any article. Trademarks cited in these articles are the respective properties of their owners.

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