This morning, I heard a radio ad for a local fundraising event. The spot promised a day of free virtual golf at a centre that normally charges for this type of activity. The entry fee was $30 and it was mentioned that each participant would receive a "tax-deductible" receipt for their full $30.

This made me go "hmmm..." for two reasons:

1. My understanding is that under Canadian tax law, the value of any advantage to the donor must be subtracted from the value of the charitable receipt.

Unless the ordinary market value of the activity can be deemed to be of minimal value with respect to the gift amount, I'm not 100% sure that this organization should be issuing a receipt for the full contribution! I also question whether they should be providing tax information in a radio ad?

2. This is the third or fourth time in the past month that I've seen the wording "tax-deductible donation" used in fundraising marketing.

It's a fine hair to split, but for Canadian individuals, charitable donations trigger a "tax-creditable donation receipt." The difference may seem small, but it is important! 


A tax credit means that regardless of your income, you will receive a standardized percentage of your gift back as a credit on your income tax return.

If it were a "charitable deduction," the rate of reimbursement would be tied to a tax-payers marginal rate for income tax, which in many cases, is lower than the marginal rates for charitable tax credits.

CRA offers this nifty calculator that provides a great illustration of how it all works. 

Recognizing this seemly minute technical difference is also a recognition of Canada's generous and unique encouragement of charitable donations from members of the public.

A Solution?

A great term that I learned at one of the universities I worked with was "tax-smart giving." It gets to the point in your fundraising marketing materials without getting into sticky details. 

(Caveat: I speak as a lay-woman and not a financial or legal professional. Please remember to consult with your own professional advisors.)
Last night, I was happily catching up on my favorite TV show via the internet and the phone rang. 

The call caught me by surprise. 

It turned out to be a live "virtual town hall" hosted by one of the local candidates and callers were invited to "press 3" to ask a question.

Maybe this is a technique that others are more familiar with, but it was new to me and it was engaging enough to win airtime for a candidate I wasn't planning on voting for.

The call pool managed to get 6,100 participants on the line all at once and keep their attention for nearly an hour (during prime time). In Kingston, that's a big number!

This experience got me thinking...

I came across this blog post today from GoodWorksCo. on what fundraisers can learn from election campaigns. 

I wonder, what could fundraisers learn from the virtual town hall approach? 

What if the Director of your international aid non-profit set up something similar to talk to supporters and community members about a natural disaster - think Japan? 

What if the President of your hospital or university could answer questions about the upcoming capital campaign or the desperate funding needs of the institution?

How about when things go wrong at your organization? Would there be more public forgiveness in bringing the leader out from behind the press releases and into a conversation with concerned supporters?

There is no script here, there are sticky questions, it's not easy to be on the line, but the human connection here can be incredible. It created the feeling that my opinion and vote both matter in this election and to this candidate. It brought the party platform onto my phone line; into an intimate space in my home.

What I would have done differently? 

No surprises. I would have loved to know the call was coming and to be somewhat prepared with a good question. 

Controlling the medium means you get a say in controlling the messages. Harness the power of social media. Send out a hashtag and post live tweets from the speaker's account. This didn't happen and people were online looking for that conversation.

I created my own hashtag and sent out live tweets on request for those who didn't pick up the phone on time - that means I got to filter the information. 

Do you think we can use this in fundraising / have you ever given it a try or does it only apply to an election scenario?

Lately, a question that I receive from my colleagues in the charity sector has to do with technical gift planning knowledge.

Because I have completed the Advanced Canadian Gift Planning course and worked in two fairly large shops, some colleagues have wondered whether developing their knowledge of technical gift planning might help them to build momentum for the (typically small) program at their charity.

While a technical expertise does serve me well in working with financial and estate advisors to develop more creative philanthropic strategies, the truth is that in Canada, the "bread and butter" of gift planning programs still lies in simple bequest gifts. 

In my experience, the key to increasing overall program engagement for a charity had a lot more to do with marketing the opportunity to make a bequest gift than the ability to suggest more complex donation scenarios. 

For example, the most complicated life insurance gift that I'd ever seen had a face value of about 1 million dollars and took more than a year to arrange. In comparison, a new direct mail / telethon strategy to advertise bequests garnered over 7 million dollars in expected gifts in its first year with a repeat of that result in the second year and created a huge pool of interested supporters.

If you find yourself frequently speaking with donor's advisors and working on several complex strategies annually, then it might be time to look at deepening your technical knowledge. Otherwise, consider focusing your energy on simple marketing strategies, like direct mail, that help you to identify the supporters that can make a straightforward charitable bequest.

Just heard about this incredible session taking place on Saturday, April 16 at Queen's University in Kingston ON! Free registration to the first 25 participants and especially aimed at women working in the NGO sector. 

Quite sad that I'll be in Toronto at another conference, but please get in touch if you do attend and I'd love to hear about how the session went!


Invitation to a workshop for women working in NGOs

Sponsored by Queen’s University


Women constitute 52% of the population and just over 50% of the paid workforce.  But women’s perspectives account for only 16% of the columns and guest commentaries in Canada’s largest daily newspapers.  Why is this? Editors say women rarely submit op-ed pieces for publication, yet such ‘expert commentary’ influences the public policy agenda.


In an effort to bridge the current gender gap in information media Queen's University is offering a workshop entitled ‘Informed Opinions’ to help train women with an established knowledge base in their fields to contribute their views to the public discourse.   


A day-long workshop for women working in the NGO sector will be offered on Saturday April 16th.  Participants will: 


·       gain practice articulating their expertise with confidence

·       learn how to write clear, persuasive commentary   for op-ed submissions

·       gain insight into the submissions process

·       gain access to editing support to polish their writing and increase their chances of getting published

·       learn simple strategies to improve effectiveness in interviews

·       be considered for inclusion in an online expert sources list for journalists


The workshop is designed to help women leaders in the not-for-profit community increase the profile of their issue or organization in mainstream news media, specialty publications, or the blogosphere. 


This workshop has a regular cost of $250 per participant, however Queen's University is offering the session free of charge to a maximum of 25 participants.  Because of the limited space, priority will be given to women in the NGO sector who are most likely to use the skills they gain to impact public discourse about public policy and current issues.    


Informed Opinions Workshop Details:

Date: Saturday April 16, 2011

Time: 9:00 am to 4:30 pm

Place:    Queen’s University Club, 168 Stewart Street (on campus)

Cost: Free. (includes a modest catered lunch)

For more information about Informed Opinions, visit

To register for the workshop, please complete this survey:


Feel free to share this notice with your network. 


Sponsored by the office of Vice Principal Tom Harris and offered by Informed Opinions (a project of Media Action).  For more information please contact


Personally, I have been very lucky to spend a number of years in development programs that were able to support several full-time gift planning professionals and where I could focus my energy exclusively on building a legacy gift program.

However, industry surveys show that it is only a small percentage of fundraisers that are in this type of position. More commonly, gift planning is only part of one's responsibilities or not included at all. 

With limited time and resources, how can fundraising and financial planning professionals still build enabling legacy gifts into their work?

Tony Martignetti has posted an article about the 5 Ways to be a Planned Giving Evangelist. The good news is that his tips are all about attitude. If you can become an enthusiastic believer yourself, you will begin to see opportunities to share your own passion and inspire others. 

The truth is that marketing campaigns and advanced technical knowledge are must-haves for large programs, but for most people, all you need is to be able to introduce the topic and be ready to provide some very basic information to the donor's estate professional. 

Your own enthusiasm is the most powerful marketing tool in your arsenal and luckily, it won't be a line-item on your operating budget!

© 2011-2012 Christina Attard. All Rights Reserved