Cardus hopes that its technology-driven and donor-focused Give 150 initiative will cultivate a culture of continuous charitable giving from younger Canadians. Photo courtesy of Daniel Proussalidis/Chimp

Cardus' Give 150 campaign tries to make charity a habit

  • April 6, 2017

Charity can be habit-forming — at least that’s the hope of the Christian think tank Cardus.

To try out the theory, Cardus has launched the Give 150 campaign, designed to create a life-long giving habit with the help of a dollar-matching incentive and a patriotic pitch as Canada celebrates its 150th birthday.

“It is a pilot project that we’re advancing to try to encourage Canadians to build that habit of giving,” said Michael Van Pelt, Cardus’ president and CEO. “The theme of Give 150 is really a way of saying giving as a habit will make this country a better country. Both giving financially and volunteering are key components to making this country the great country that it is.”

The pilot project, which will continue for the duration of 2017, has a goal of seeing at least 2,500 Canadians create online accounts with Give 150’s partner Vancouver-based Chimp, an online charitable giving assistant account. From a Chimp account, participants are able to direct donations to any of Canada’s registered 88,000 charities.

According to Chimp’s founder and CEO John Bromley, the current approach to raising money for charities fails to create repeat benefactors.

“Today Canadians only give if they are asked,” said Bromley. “While fundraising is a critically important part of the charitable sector, and always will be, it has failed to create sustainable and cost effective cultural charity. (So) I started Chimp to provide an accessible and practical solution for people who have something they want changed in the world and have something to give towards it.”

A Chimp account costs nothing to create and maintain. In fact, for the time being, simply opening an account as part of Give 150 will generate donation dollars.

“The minute you sign up you get a gift of $15 and the minute you make your own contribution to your own charitable account you get another match of $15,” said Van Pelt. “And then if you actually make a commitment to reoccurring gifts then you get another match. It is just a really cool idea.”

An anonymous philanthropist has put up $150,000 to fund the matching gift pool.

“It is a really interesting initiative on the part of this philanthropist who is basically saying I want to create mechanisms and encouraging ways for everyday Canadians to give and to give habitually,” said Van Pelt. “It is not an easy challenge.”

Since launching in 2013 Chimp has facilitated more than $200 million in donations, half of that money in the last year alone. Donations have ranged from a massive $4 million injection to more modest $15 donations.

Among the most popular charitable sectors are religious organizations and orders, education, health care research, social services and poverty reduction, noted Van Pelt.

He likened the creation of a Chimp account to establishing a personal charitable foundation.

“You just jump onto your own personal Chimp account where you have money that you’ve already given, make donations to the organizations that you see fit and make your own charitable priorities,” said Van Pelt. “It is actually literally a charitable bank account for an everyday Canadian.”

At the end of the year, Cardus will collect aggregate data from Chimp and then process that information.

“Who knows what we will learn out of this,” said Van Pelt. “But someone needs to take up the challenge of this and what better time to do it than as we celebrate Canada 150.”

Much of the challenge facing the charitable sectors, according to Statistics Canada, is the declining number of donors. Statistics Canada figures show that while the total dollars increased 14 per cent between 2004 and 2013, to $12.76 billion, the percentage of adult donors declined from 85 to 82 per cent.

Van Pelt said Canadians should be concerned about this downward trend on donor numbers.

“It will not be good for Canada if we keep seeing a decrease in giving,” he said. “Giving needs to be a muscle that will energize and maintain the vibrancy of the many charitable organizations across this country that are so important. If you live in a small town or live in a city, just look at the numerous charitable organizations.”

Michael Fullan, executive director of Catholic Charities which oversees the allocation of donations to two dozen social service agencies in the Toronto archdiocese, said the trend poses a very serious threat to Canadian charities as the older generation becomes unable to contribute.

“When you look at the older generations, those people are not going to be in a position to keep giving,” said Fullan. “They are going to pass on, retire or just have fewer resources. It is a real threat.”

What’s needed is a change in the culture of charity among younger Canadians, he added.

“I really applaud this (Give 150) kind of initiative,” he said. “It is a very good idea, whenever you have an opportunity, to cultivate a spirit of giving because you build seeds that will continue to grow in the future.”

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