Majority of Canadians rank charity effectiveness high when it comes to making giving decisions - Charity Savant

We can argue till we’re blue in the face about how to measure a charity, but a recent poll conducted by Charity Savant found that 89% of Canadians agreed that charity effectiveness plays an important role in their giving decisions.

That means the majority of Canadians are making their giving decisions based on how effective they perceive your charity to be.

But what does this mean for you, the nonprofit staffer?

We who work in the sector understand the flaws in judging a charity by its effectiveness or overhead expenses. We know that smaller nonprofits often require more administrative support. That “overhead expenses” mean working computers and positive staff morale. That paying fair wages and training employees attracts better staff.

Unfortunately, this is not the stuff that’s top of mind when a donor is choosing who to support. And the reality is, we need to do better getting donors to understand where we’re coming from.

When we broke down the numbers in the poll Charity Savant conducted on the Angus Reid platform, we found that 93% of households with incomes over $100,000, and 90% of 18-34 year olds agreed that charity effectiveness is important.

By not addressing the issue, we’re leaving potential major gifts on the table. We’re leaving out opportunities to engage younger donors.

So what can you do to make sure donors see your nonprofit as effective?  

Communicate impact.

Along with telling donors about how much you spend on your programs (groan), make sure you’re giving them the full picture of what that spending means. Your communications channels can be used to share beneficiary stories, to talk about your successful programs, and to highlight the difference your donors are making.  

Be as transparent as possible.

Financials statements aren’t the only thing we mean when we talk about transparency in the nonprofit sector. Letting the public in on the challenges your organization faces helps people understand the scope of the problem you’re trying to solve, and helps them feel like part of the solution when they get involved. It’s okay to be vulnerable and openly discuss your challenges and the ways you’re trying to address them.

Talk about your vision for the future.

So many nonprofits focus on the here and now. And that’s fair – we don’t always know where funding is coming from to sustain our existing programs, let alone dream about the future. But it’s important to let your donors in on what you’re vision is. They need to know you have a plan (hopefully a strategic plan!) and aren’t just flying by the seat of your pants – or worse, running the same programs without evaluating them.  

Train your staff.

Training employees will reduce turnover, improve the pace of work, and move projects along smoothly. When donors see the same staff faces over and over, they’ll understand that your organization is a great place to work, and the effect that has on your beneficiaries. Check out Charity Savant’s cost-effective Charity Campus Memberships and toolkits for easy to use training options for your organization.  


From June 29th to June 30th, 2016 an online survey was conducted among 1,003 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to education, age, gender and region (and in Quebec, language) Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.