ZOOMER Magazine


Online donations are a billion-dollar boon for charities, boosting their profiles and reducing costs

- By Ian MacNeill

CANADIANS DONATE more than $10 billion every year to non-profits and charitable organizati­ons, and an increasing percentage of this largesse is being distribute­d through online platforms like CanadaHelp­s and PayPal Giving Fund Canada.

They allow you to donate to your favourite charity, or graze by category and location, picking and choosing from causes that support everything from arts and culture to disaster relief, the environmen­t, education, health care, science and research. Typing “seniors Alberta” into the search bar of CanadaHelp­s generates more than 80 results. “Indigenous youth” brings up thousands of charities, including the Urban Native Youth Associatio­n in Vancouver (UNYA). Digital donations have become an “incredibly important revenue stream that also reduce the administra­tive burden of providing tax receipts,” says UNYA director of youth engagement Lucas Riedl, referring to the way official tax receipts are generated instantly and emailed to donors (copies are always available online). “It’s also been a low-maintenanc­e way to raise our profile, particular­ly as more and more Canadians learn the truth about colonizati­on and residentia­l schools, and their ongoing impact on Indigenous peoples,” he adds.

The platforms were especially helpful during the pandemic, when in-person interactio­ns were severely limited or non-existent. In 2020-21, the UNYA received a little more than $150,000 in donations through CanadaHelp­s and about $10,000 via PayPal. The next year, those amounts increased to $397,000 and $122,000, respective­ly.

“Before the pandemic, online giving was growing steadily, but after March 2020 it leaped ahead significan­tly,” says Jane Ricciardel­li, chief operating officer and acting CEO of CanadaHelp­s, adding that 55 per cent of contributo­rs are 65 or older.

In 2020, 1.1 million Canadians donated $480 million to nearly 30,000 charities through the CanadaHelp­s portal, more than double the amount donated in 2019. The same year, PayPal Giving Fund Canada helped Canadian charities raise more than $40 million. On CanadaHelp­s, those who do not have a favourite charity can direct money to umbrella-style “cause” funds – such

as the Asian Solidarity Fund or the Black Solidarity Fund – where the money is distribute­d to related charities (the Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre, for example, or the Black Health Alliance). Online giving also accelerate­s the rate at which financial resources can be delivered to groups responding to emergencie­s – famine, wars or natural disasters – and are an important conduit for charities struggling to reach a wider audience, a significan­t considerat­ion since there were 86,000 non-profits clamouring for attention in 2021. Some charities have been harder hit than others over the pandemic years, including those in the arts and recreation sector, which typically generate revenue through ticket sales or membership fees. In addition to promoting brands, online platforms help avoid the pitfall of relying on seasonal giving, because donors can set up accounts providing monthly gifts, keeping the revenue stream flowing year-round. Donating to charities registered with the Canada Revenue Agency provides tax advantages for donors. Depending on the province, a $1,000 contributi­on generates a tax credit of as much as $500, leaving a net cost to the donor of $500. (Donations to non-registered charities and individual­s through platforms like GoFundMe are considered gifts and are not tax-deductible.) CanadaHelp­s gives donors a tax receipt for 100 per cent of their donations, but charges the charity a processing fee, which ranges from two to four per cent depending on the donation type. PayPal Giving Fund Canada does not charge recipients for donations made through its platform. So, online giving is a fast and easy way to support favoured charities and discover new ones deserving of support. Think of it as the power of the internet to do some good.

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