At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we believe every child should have the opportunity to reach his or her full potential – both as individuals and citizens. We believe that by changing the course of young lives we can in turn be changing the course of a community’s future.
Start Talking is a place where we want to raise awareness of key issues that face today’s youth. We will sometimes advocate, sometimes educate, sometimes inform, sometimes ask questions and always invite discussion about the pressing concerns that involve the younger generations of today.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Talking About Charities, yes - but are WE listening?

In late 2013 the Muttart Foundation and Imagine Canada released the findings from the most recent ‘Talking About Charities’ report, a research study involving interviews with almost 4,000 Canadians. This is the fifth edition of the report with the most recent version coming in 2008.

The study examined areas such as Familiarity with Charities, Perceived Importance and Attitudes about Charities, Trust in Charities and their Leaders, Fundraising, Information Provision, Business Activities of Charities, Advocacy of Charities and Monitoring Charities.

The report is jam packed with interesting findings. There are a couple of stand-out areas that require our collective attention.

Canadians clearly value hearing from charitable organizations about how the money being contributed is being used. ‘Talking About Charities’ probed these attitudes, relating both to importance in receiving information and how charities are ‘stacking up’ when it comes to reporting back.

There is a startling disconnect.

When asked about the importance of ‘information about the programs and services charities deliver’, 81% of Canadians rated this as Very Important (this skyrockets to 98% when Somewhat Important is included). When asked about ‘the effectiveness of charities providing information related about programs and services charities deliver’ only 7% of Canadians scored the sector as Excellent. There is a 74% gap between the value of this information and how organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters are doing in effectively reporting!

Similar gaps appear when asked about importance and delivery of information on ‘impact of charities’ work on Canadians’, ‘how charities use donations’ and ‘fundraising costs’. The results are layered and vary when geography, age, trust levels etc. are factored in.

There is a clear message in this one series of questions. Big Brothers Big Sisters has an opportunity to provide timely, relevant information and close the gap between expectations and current delivery.

A second telling finding from the report is that “the percentage of Canadians who believe that charities are generally honest about how they use donations is still high at 70% but this has decreased from 84% who felt that way in 2000. Similarly, only about one-third of Canadians (34%) believe charities only ask for money when they really need it, compared to 47% of Canadians who felt that way in 2000.”

The sector is now believed to be in a state of almost permanent fundraising. Many of us will attest to the fact that it certainly feels that way! This significant change in perception, however, could be affecting our donor and sponsor bases in a long-term way.

Organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters will need to digest and discuss the information from this report to better understand the subtle, but potentially significant, shifts in public attitudes towards the charitable sector.

Fortunately the future remains optimistic as children’s charities continue to score high with trust levels holding at 82%.

So…are we listening and responding to what Canadians had to say?

Bruce MacDonald
President & CEO
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada

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