Charitable donors try to alleviate world poverty

By 
  • December 24, 2009
{mosimage}More than half of Canadians who give to charity are trying to do something about poverty and international development, according to an Ipsos Reid poll that probes Canadian patterns in giving.

The 51 per cent of Canadians who chose to make their charitable donations to agencies that work in international development and poverty trails only the medical category which attracted 77 per cent of donors. Poverty and international development outpaced third-place environmental causes, which attracted 31 per cent of donors.

The online poll of 1,055 Canadians was conducted in September, with results released Dec. 14. It's considered accurate within a margin of plus-or-minus 3.36 per cent 19 times out of 20.

Canadian desire to do something about poverty around the world has kept things hopping at the Catholic adopt-a-child agency Chalice. The New Brunswick-based charity raised $17 million in the year ending in June 2009, and hopes to raise $19 million by the end of this fiscal year in June 2010.

While the financial market meltdown may have hit some charities that rely on large gifts of stock or endowments, Chalice's reliance on small donors, including 42,000 who make monthly donations, has kept the recession at bay.

Last year the charity grew its donations 11 per cent. This year's goal is a 10-per-cent increase, with growth up to December standing at six per cent.

"People have cancelled in Ontario and in places that have been affected by the recession," said Chalice marketing manager Sehne Connell. "(But) people have really been generous and stepped up. People have taken up the sponsorships. We've continued to grow."

A big part of that growth is tied to aggressive and sophisticated use of the Internet. The charity has maintained a Facebook page with more than 500 fans for the last year. Its constantly updated web site (www.chalice.ca) gives people the opportunity to donate online. Its Christmas catalogue of gifts for Chalice-sponsored families and communities has helped donors to connect their Christmas giving with concrete benefits to individuals in poor countries.

For the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, 10-per-cent annual growth has not been part of the picture, but it has maintained its levels of giving despite the recession and online stories that linked D&P partners to lobbying for legal abortion in Mexico and elsewhere.

Using Ipsos Reid, D&P's director of marketing Jasmine Fortin has launched a complete overview of how the charity is perceived to identify where the opportunities are for growth.

So far Fortin notes that while church collections in the Share Lent and ShareLife campaigns have remained flat at just shy of $10 million, D&P has seen increased giving from its direct mail and planned giving campaigns. There's even been an increase in major gifts.

Planned giving, major gifts and direct mail campaigns raised $4.2 million in 2009. Emergency relief campaigns raised another $1.5 million. For the fiscal year ending Aug. 31 D&P took in $29.8 million, including CIDA program funds.

Fortin believes the agency needs to do more with Facebook, Twitter and other ways of building an online community.

"Absolutely gearing up to Web 2.0 is one of our priorities for 2010," she said.

But there's more to it than marketing, said Fortin.

"The cause is why we're here. We have to focus on that," she said.

Despite its success, Chalice feels there's still a lot of the Catholic community that just doesn't know them.

"We're actually working on a prayer ministry, which is going to be big for us within the Catholic community," said Connell. "To have a community of prayer where people can come in and pray for each other and pray for their children on the sponsor side."

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