Skip the huge print-out with powerpoint slides, how about a postcard? Destination? More Information!

Today, I presented as part of an exceptional panel of professional advisors in philanthropy at the Canadian Association of Gift Planners, South Saskatchewan chapter in Regina. ("Exceptional" here categorizes my colleagues!)

We looked at Financial Planning, Estate Planning, Investment Management and Gift Planning in light of the current turbulent economic situation.

The take-aways? 

Donors are getting smarter as investors in the social-profit industry. They want their advisors to be knowledgeable about the topic and to discuss giving with them. 

The giving discussion, whether it be with the estate planner or the development officer has to be values-based and put the donor-client at the centre. The economic climate means that fewer Canadians are giving, though the ones that are engaged are giving larger sums - this is the time to start providing them with greater opportunities to become partners in charitable missions rather than expecting they participate as checking accounts for non-profit  projects

Everyone involved in the process of managing and distributing wealth is responsible for ensuring that the right questions are being asked - both when it comes to the client's needs and when it comes to understanding what it means to invest for oneself, to invest for others and to invest in others.

None of this is particularly novel. It's been said in CAGP and AFP circles in Canada for years; it's the thrust of so many advisory practices and blogs and it's what drives so many of the top third-sector professionals. 


What has changed, in my view, is that the timing to adjust how we market as fundraisers and re-align our values has become more urgent. 

To summarize one comment from the audience: How do we advise clients when charities seem to proliferate so quickly, with so little regulation from CRA, and with insufficient information provided to help the public understand what differentiates one from another?

The third-sector is a free-market economy - there is no reason that the charity that exists today will necessarily exist tomorrow. These aren't permanent government programs or ministries. 

In a tighter giving market, the organizations who rise to the occasion and differentiate themselves by meeting the public's demands for transparency, accountability and a vision for a better future will thrive and those who do not respond to the challenge, will not. 

This is a good thing. 

As they say in Latin, O Felix Culpa! that the economic downturn has brought about an opportunity for Canadian charities to begin innovating how they reach out to the public for support - I see amazing examples of organizations who get it right each day and it inspires me to keep working to help charities ask better and donors give smarter!

If you are looking for more information about the state of giving in North America, Gift Planning and the new culture of philanthropy, check out my new web-resource page created specifically for this event here.

If you were at the talk (or even if you weren't present) your comments here are quite welcome and I hope you'll consider continuing the conversation on this space!


On November 16th, the Canadian Association of Gift Planners for South Saskatchewan is hosting a panel discussion for anyone who serves (or wants to understand) clients and their gift planning needs in a professional capacity. 

The group will be aiming to give a 360 degree view of working with clients from a legal, fundraising, insurance and investment perspective with a view to the volatility of today's markets.

I'm excited to be presenting from the perspective of a gift planner working on the charity side. 

Hope you'll be able to join us!

Registration info can be found here.
I'm not much of a newspaper person. 

BUT I have to admit that I'm regretting not having a subscription to the Globe and Mail this weekend as they are providing some in-depth coverage on the state of charities and philanthropy. As with most news these days, I heard about this via Twitter

The Globe and Mail has created, in addition to a number of excellent articles, a great interactive information resource showing giving by the numbers. The coverage does an excellent job of addressing the need for charities to ask better in a tougher Canadian market and for the public to give smarter by evaluating fit and impact when they give.

I loved this Donation Action Plan chart:
Looking at the various graphs, there are a few key seismic shifts in the Canadian landscape:

1. Those who give are predominantly older individuals with a significant drop in donation dollars coming from those aged 35-44.

2. There is a huge pressure on corporations to use their donation dollars in a more strategic fashion and on the overall, there has been a large drop in corporate charitable contributions.

3. Canada still provides strong support for social services with roughly 43% of charity revenue coming from taxpayer's dollars. Donation dollars from individuals have decreased in recent years and the number of those giving has dropped dramatically.

4. The use of donation tax-shelter schemes (the majority of which are under heavy scrutiny by the CRA) has been wide-spread enough to actually skew the overall statistics.

Is the system in trouble?


Ask Better

Charities need to be serious about marketing to a new breed of Canadian that is looking for accountability, transparency and impact. The new breed of philanthropists want to see themselves as investors and partners, not ATMs. It's also time to put serious effort into engaging younger generations and building relationships with new sets of donors - how else can the system be sustainable as the bulk of those participating in giving ages?

Give Smarter

No one wants to lose the good work done for our society by the thousands of agencies that make life better for Canadians every day. There is clearly interest in giving when it comes with very generous tax concessions (as the popularity of donation tax-shelter schemes has demonstrated). What can we be doing to increase and promote the idea of investing in Canada's charitable sector in a fair and legislated way? Are you, as a donor, seeking out advice about the various (legitimate) ways to give on a tax-reduced basis? Do you regularly evaluate the service and satisfaction that you receive from the charities that you are supporting?

I applaud the Globe and Mail for opening and exploring this topic so intelligently and in such great depth. The third sector remains a bit of a mystery in the public consciousness, but it plays such a vital role in Canadian society.

I'd also like to thank Paul @UinvitedU for his coverage of the feature via Twitter.


Today, Malcolm Burrows at All About Estates weighed in on the "Strategic Giving" coverage in the Globe and Mail and I wanted to share his insights as part of this discussion.

Great fundraising involves exceptional planning 

and an artistic execution
Swiss architect Le Corbusier Venice, 1952

Today, I would like to share two great pieces that came across my desk in the past week. One is about capital campaigns and the other is about consultants to charity - since a lot of charities hire consultants to lead them through the campaign process, these seemed like a good fit.

The 10 Pillars of Great Relations Between Charities and Consultants

Working on a campaign together is not a short-haul project. It's a relationship for everyone involved and like all other relationships, communication and respect have to be at the heart of making it work. The Agents of Good have taken a solid stab at identifying the elements that need to be in place for everyone to feel satisfied.

I probably feel most strongly about the need for conversation and I would suggest that anyone looking to hire a consultant should feel that they are bringing on a person that they can have honest and frank (and sometimes difficult) conversations with.

Running a Successful Capital Campaign

This article was a real keeper because it gives a good overview of the key elements that need to be in place when approaching a capital campaign. I especially agreed with this point:

In the 90s people gave to institutions, in the early 2000s, they gave to projects.

Today, it’s about impact. So when positioning your story, make sure you indicate how your project will make a difference in the community it’s meant to serve.

Much of the rest of what was suggested can be summarized to say that successful capital campaigns involve heaps of strategic planning. Do people want to give, why should they give, who to ask, when to ask, what to ask for, how to say thanks...these are the big questions that come first. It's why communication with your consultant is so important - getting through the process of asking and answering these questions involves a lot of conversations and a realistic set of expectations on both sides. 

We don't need Planned Gifts, it's a capital campaign...

Another question that I think belongs in any capital campaign is about "what happens in ten years from now? How does the financial future of this organization look? What can we be doing now in this campaign to create that reality?"

It's where I think legacy gift planning has a place in current dollar campaigns. 

Those bequest commitments may not do much in terms of meeting current needs, but when the relationship building happens now (and preferably seamlessly with the campaign fundraising), there is a better chance that sustainable support for the charity will be in place down the road.

The debate about how to count and recognize legacy gifts is a big one in Canada, but I think the important thing is to open the door to those opportunities as much as possible even during campaigns - your donors are thinking about their relationship and giving in a comprehensive way, why not present asks in the same way?

What are your thoughts?

Do you get too much mail from charities each year asking for money? 

Not me - I love every piece because of how much I learn from them all! 

Since a big part of my work revolves around creating marketing and solicitation pieces for fundraising campaigns, I want to share a bit about what gets me excited.

In short, I love the ones that make me feel something. 

What are the emotions? 
Connectedness, urgency, passion, the knowledge that MY GIFT is crucial both to me personally and to those whom it will aid. 

(ok, I secretly like postage-paid envelopes so I can respond right away!)

I won't lie and tell you that I got onto this passionate feeling thing on my own. This is where I first got my inspiration.

Here is my perspective on what makes for great charity marketing:

 Let's talk about ME

This week, I saw a capital campaign brochure that used the word "we/our" 7 times in the main, 3 sentence long, "case for support" paragraph. 

The brochure showed me a lot of giving charts. It also had a lot of detailed tax-related info.

I felt nothing.

There was no story about me. It didn't address the question: "here's how we're a part of your/others' life now and with/without my gift/partnership, here's what's possible for others and for me."

I look for solicitations that tell me about all the great things that the charity does, how it changes lives and how participating will change my life / affect my feelings (positively!). 

The truth is that most charities, even boring sounding ones, do really make life better - the stories are there, but they need to be told as the lead story before any asking happens.

There are 12 steps to hand washing?

WHY is more important than HOW

Though I specialize in tax-smart gift planning, I believe in limiting tax planning info in a general brochure. 

The most important thing that has to be communicated is the "why" of giving and not the "how to give."

Let's step into the shoes of our donors and imagine how we'd like them to think about giving:

"Yep, I finally decided to start supporting hungry kids in my community because I realized that my tax credit rate was 44% after the first $200 of giving and I just wanted to keep every dollar out of the hands of that wretched CRA!"


"Well, I realized that a lot of the kids that Feed the Kids was helping could be the friends of my own kids at school and so I decided I could help out and feel good about supporting families like ours in my own community!"

So really think about the space that's being dedicated to explaining tax implications and limit it to a very brief, high-level invite to talk more about what might be possible. 

At the same time, I feel reassured when I see a charitable registration number included and perhaps a short note mentioning that gifts are eligible for a donation receipt as per CRA regulations.

Don't bite off more than you can chew!

Many fundraising pieces include a full menu listing of 8-10 gift planning options.

When's the last time your typical small, urban charity thought they might have a use for ecologically sensitive property? 

Yep, it may be a gift planning option, but there's no need to list all of them unless the charity has the capacity or alignment of mission to accept such gifts. 

Less is often more. It's important to open the door in marketing material to gift planning options, but I think the menu should be limited to bequests - and maybe insurance, RRSPs, securities - basically, the most common options. 

Ask Better, Give Smarter

I love this scene from the Mad Men series where ad exec, Don Draper, literally reinvents the wheel for Kodak by introducing a campaign for the Carousel slide projector. 

There's even an engrossing story to be told about something as boring as a slide projector! 

The sales pitch is 100% about me and what I am going to feel personally when I use this product. Draper drives it home by telling an emotional story about his own life through the slide show.

Ask better by telling the story of your charity and give smarter by looking for charities that share why your individual participation matters! If we can get passionate together, great things are possible!

"Create a sentimental bond with the product...
It's not the wheel, it's the carousel"


One of the most challenging problems that comes up for many fundraising campaigns is just how to approach board members about their own financial support of the charity. Looking at it from another perspective, there can also be feelings of frustration for board members who want to contribute, but because of their birds-eye view of the charity, they're not always sure of how or when to help.

As part of my weekly research, I subscribe to a free service calledMovie Mondays and receive a 5-10 minute video on some aspect of fundraising - often there are great tips and ideas on working with boards both from volunteer members and fundraisers. 

Yesterday, I received a video featuring a board member speaking about what motivated her to become a major gift donor and create a legacy gift for the charity that she volunteers with. 

The key points? She was treated like a major gift prospect - a very personal approach was taken by representatives from the charity and it helped her and her spouse to better understand specifically how they could help. Their satisfaction with their experience as philanthropists and partners was a strong driving factor in their consideration of a legacy gift for the charity. Her own commitments helped her develop as an advocate in encouraging others to follow suit.

Interestingly, while this donor is aware of potential tax savings that come into play with giving, her testimonial is a great reminder about how it's passion and connection that are the main drivers, not technical tax planning! 

(I know, I know, this seems obvious, but 90% of the gift planning marketing material I see is still mostly about rattling off a list of tax incentives!)

Listen carefully to what this donor has to say right around minute 2:45 about the transformational power of her gift - it's what we all hope to experience as donors and hear as fundraisers...

Ask Better?
By recognizing that the "ask" cannot happen at the board meetings or by "osmosis" alone and instead, by creating an opportunity to treat this board member like a major gift prospect and make a targeted and personal ask, the charity was able to secure a much larger commitment than they might have expected.

Don't assume that a volunteer necessarily understands where their contributions can have the greatest impact!

Give Smarter?
If you are on a board and feel driven to do more through your giving, invite representatives from the charity to consider making a proposal and presenting it to you privately. Challenge them to look for an opportunity that matches your interests with an integral part of their mission. 

Thank you to Christopher Davenport at Movie Mondays for permission to share this video! For more, head on over to his site and sign up for your free subscription.
Head on over to Marc A. Pitman's great site The Fundraising Coach for some great resources for fundraisers AND to see my guest blog post!

The post highlights my Top 5 Travel Tips for Fundraisers.  

You've probably got a few great ideas to share - so please, join in on the conversation and comment on the post! I'd love to learn more from your experiences.

Happy trails!

PS. The Fundraising Coach was named one of the Top 20 Blogs in Philanthropy this week! Congratulations, Marc!

Have you heard of Michael Chatman? While we hear from so many brilliant fellow fundraisers, what's unique about Michael's voice is that he speaks from the perspective of a philanthropist. His mission is to celebrate the joy of giving and he shares the stories of his own and other individual's philanthropy. His main medium is a radio program called the Giving Show, which is available online. 

Today, Michael posted a list of his Top 20 Blogs in Philanthropy, culled from a list of over 350 candidates.

It really highlights the best-of-the-best and also introduced me to a couple of blogs that I hadn't been tuned in to yet.

If you're looking to sharpen your fundraising game this fall, or your giving game, for that matter (!), add a few of these URLs to your morning news reading list.

Thank you to Michael Chatman for creating this great resource!

Happy reading...

PS. Stay tuned - I'll be making guest blogger appearances on two of the top 20 blogs listed in the coming weeks.

The term "social entrepreneurship" has been on my mind all summer thanks to an AFP conference panel on the topic that I attended late in the spring. 

The concept of the "double bottom line" where business and charitable activities can be formally paired and both can profit is a fairly new one for me (though not a new concept in general). It was fascinating to hear some different case studies demonstrating how organizations and investors have worked together to create this result. 

What is so fascinating to me is that there is such a personal investment both of time and money in trying to launch this type of venture - I like the combination of volunteerism with philanthropy with entrepreneurial creative thinking. It is also an experiment in whether government, individuals or the free market is best positioned to address social issues.

I understand that in the US, there is legislation coming into place that would allow organizations to categorize themselves as L3Cs - kind of like a hybrid between a charity and a business where both social good and economic development can be combined. One of the panelists at the AFP session in Toronto said that he is aware of a push in Canada to create something similar

This brings me, finally, to the topic of dragons. Namely, Brett Wilson, who is known as both an entrepreneur and a philanthropist and as a "Dragon" co-host of CBC's Dragon's Den

I encountered Brett some years ago at a Calgary Chamber of Commerce breakfast. He wore jeans and plaid in a room full of dark business suits. He was also the guest speaker that morning. 

What I liked about him is that for him, being a philanthropist seemed like a matter-of-fact part of his personality. His efforts are considered and strategic, but it appears that he simply assumes that donations and fundraising are part of the deal and should be part of everyone's day to day life. For him, they are an integral part of how he runs his businesses and fit directly into his marketing strategy.

Mr. Wilson is a great real-life study in how a social entrepreneurship style approach can work.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to see this great interview with Mr. Wilson by Donna Messer come up via twitter tonight: 

Brett Wilson: The Man, The Philanthropist, The Host of Risky Business

The byline? 

"In Brett Wilson’s view, charitable giving programs are an investment, not an expense. He sees them as investments with long term value. In his opinion, entrepreneurs should have philanthropy as part of their marketing strategy."

Ask Better
  • How can charities help (prospective) donors get their "hands dirty" and get them involved and invested personally in their work? 
  • Can charities demonstrate new and creative ways for donors to partner and invest in their work while offering clear goals, transparency and accountability?
Give Smarter
  • Can business goals and philanthropic strategy be better aligned?
  • How might involving employees or family in strategic philanthropic investments help build community/closeness?
  • Is it worthwhile to develop new socially responsible business practices/products in hopes of attracting other social entrepreneurs as investors?
Our family is re-locating this summer. Today, we begin the move from Kingston, Ontario to Regina, Saskatchewan. We'll be in the new home in about three weeks from now. It's one of those monumental moves across the country that will always be talked about in our family.

The reason? After many, many years of studying, writing and teaching, my partner was asked to fulfill his life-long dream of becoming a tenured professor in Regina. It happened at the end of May and the move has happened in a very short time-frame.

My plan is to continue my work in advising charities and donors in Regina and virtually (with some travel) for clients outside of Saskatchewan. 

One of the most interesting things I've been reflecting on about this whole process are some of the non-traditional philanthropic aspects:

Transaction Fees for Charities

The real-estate firm that we contracted in Regina to help us find a home just sent a certificate letting us know that they've made a gift to the Children's Miracle Network in our honour as a thank-you for choosing to work with them. I also learned yesterday that the interest that will be earned by our lawyer's trust account on our purchasing funds will be pooled with other earnings and distributed to charities.

Both make me feel great and were a good added bonus in that they allowed us to share some of the financial profits from the sale with members of our former and future communities. 

The Mitzvah Circle

Isn't moving all about a lot of good deeds? The help and encouragement from families and neighbors, the meals, that last roll of toilet paper that you had to borrow...

We had live and virtual garage sales over the past week and ended up giving away more than half of what we had. It was a nice feeling to be able to share with others, especially people just starting out, and pay-back some small portion of what was given to us. We spent last evening delivering furniture to students without cars. 

I guess it's obvious that some (good) stuff also went to the Salvation Army, which I hope will be helpful for creating good in the community. I learned this winter that it actually costs some charities money to dispose of useless items that are donated and it makes more sense to recycle than donate if the item is damaged beyond use.

Finally, moving also brings people together - the weekend was spent talking for hours with our neighbors just because we were out on the front lawn for two whole days. When we arrive in Regina, I'm sure that it will be much the same.

Keep your fingers crossed for us as we navigate through the boxes and make the transition to our new home in August!

© 2011-2012 Christina Attard. All Rights Reserved