The 10 Myths of Holiday Giving
The run-up to the Holidays is a time when many Canadians choose to give to charity, but for many people the decision is still a difficult one, wondering: “Can I afford it? Will my gift make a difference? And how can I be sure my gift will even go to a charity?”
To help you decide we’ve pulled together some of the more widely circulating myths around giving to charity. Here are the 12 myths of Holiday giving.
1. Myth: We can’t trust anyone anymore who asks us for money, they’re all just bogus
Reality: It’s easy to check if a charity is real: look for the charity registration number on any literature and ask questions about who the collector works for. Yes, there are some people out there who are trying to take advantage of our goodwill, but they are few in number and they are being brought to justice.
2. Myth: It’s pointless giving to charity, most of your donation goes on administration costs
Reality: Most charities are well run and do things as efficiently as possible. Delivering programmes means charities need buildings and staff, most of whom are frontline, but this often gets mistaken for being administration.
3. Myth: Fundraising costs wipe out most of our donations before they even get to the charity
Reality: For the vast majority of smaller charities fundraising is purely voluntary and there are no costs or fees for fundraisers. The ratio of fundraising costs to fundraising revenues is used by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) as a starting point when assessing a charity’s fundraising performance. Ratios below 35% are not likely to raise any questions or concerns from CRA.
4. Myth: Charities are just big businesses now, there’s no point giving to them
Reality: Not really. The biggest fundraising charities in Canada, or the Major 100, account for 37% of donations received. Though be small in number, this group of large charities often shape how Canadians view all charities – a result of their mailings, posters and press stories.
5. Myth: There are far too many charities anyway – they’re just wastefully duplicating what each other does.
Reality: There are a lot of charities: over 85,000 across Canada. And yes, there is overlap. Many people in charities are working to reduce this. But do you really want to start closing down any of the parent teacher associations or playgroups and nurseries? Like many other charities, these are local and specific to the people who use them. And many are supported by their members’ contributions.
6. Myth: We’re letting government off the hook by giving to charity – we will just end up paying for things that our taxes should be paying for
Reality: Charities often supplement the provision that our taxes pay for, such as buying equipment in schools or funding new or innovative medical procedures or research. Many charities work to prevent problems from happening – early intervention – that if not addressed end up costing the state even more down the line. So there is an enlightened self-interest in giving to charity.
7. Myth: Most people aren’t rich enough to give the sort of gift that would make a difference anyway
Reality: According to GIV3, the average level of giving in Canada is 0.7% of income. The top 15% wealthy Canadians give less at 0.5%. It is important to remember that small donations can make a big difference, particularly to small charities. It helps even more if donations are planned, or regular, so charities can be certain about their resources.
But we’ll leave Margaret Mead to have the final word on this one: “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
8. Myth: Rich people don’t give, so why should I?
Reality: Despite all the banker-bashing and the like in the media, the reality is that rich people do give to charity. According to Imagine Canada’s 2007 report called Caring Canadians; those who give the most are more likely than others to be older, to have higher household incomes and more formal education, to be married or widowed, and to be religiously active. Although donors with higher household incomes tend to donate larger amounts in absolute terms, those with lower incomes give more when their donations are expressed as a percentage of total income.
9. Myth: Charity doesn’t begin at home anymore; my money goes overseas
Reality: According to Imagine Canada’s 2007 report called Caring Canadians; just 6% of donations go to international organizations.
10. Myth: Giving to charity won’t make us any happier
Reality: Research suggests that giving time and money to good causes makes us feel happier, although it might be the case that happier people give. Although giving to charity isn’t perceived to be a substitute for receiving, the two often work well together – which is why ethical gifts or products such as charity Christmas cards are so popular.Adapted from an article by Karl Wilding, the head of research at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), UK.