Guide to Charitable Giving
Want to support a cause, but don’t know where to start? We’ve rounded up some tips to help you get started and donate with confidence.
They enrich the lives of thousands of individuals in our communities every day. Without the dedication of nonprofit staff and volunteers, there would be no homeless shelters, literacy programs, mental health support, or arts & culture programs.
Donating to a charity is a great way to support your community. This Guide to Giving presents tips and information to help you make more meaningful contributions to the causes you care about most
- Ignite Lab public opinion poll, 2021
-Mental Health Research Canada, 2021
1. Give to a cause you are passionate about
Consider your donation a contribution toward the world you want to build. Ally yourself with organizations that reflect your ideals and invest in the future you want to see. What causes are you passionate about? That’s the first question to ask yourself when considering donating to a charity.
2. Impact vs. overhead
It’s easy to focus on a charity’s fundraising and administrative costs, understanding impact is not. Evaluating or ranking a charity solely on how much it spends on overhead is misleading. The bottom line is that the measure of an organization’s effectiveness is the impact it makes on the community, not what it spends. Charities need the right tools to get the job done and, like businesses, have hard cost ‘checks and balances’ to ensure it is accountable, transparent and effective.
3. Registered charities & tax receipts
Charities and nonprofits are not exactly the same and there are different rules governing these two categories of organizations. One simple distinction is that only registered charities are able to issue tax receipts for donations. If a tax receipt is important to you, visit the to confirm if an organization is a registered charity.
4. Where to find and research charities
Most people are familiar with the charities they donate to on a regular basis but what if you wanted to learn about other organizations? Obviously, a good Google search can be useful but time consuming. We suggest starting with giving portal sites such as CanadaHelps. Not only do they feature all of Canada’s registered charities, but charities can also add additional information about their impact.
5. Your rights as a donor
Giving to your favourite cause should give you joy and personal satisfaction. If someone asking for a donation makes you feel uncomfortable, pressures you or does not have the information you need to make a decision, do not feel obligated to give right away or at all. Ask for a brochure or website address and tell them you’ll make up your mind once you have more information.
6. Leadership matters
The most successful charities are the ones that are well managed. Strong leadership and good governance are the qualities you want to look for when considering donating to a charity. You can explore this information on your own by visiting a charity’s website or reviewing their annual reports and financial information, or you can look for third-party accreditation. For additional information and tips about donating to a charity, read our Perfect Donor blog post.
If you’re looking for an organization or a cause to support, one way to get started is by looking for the Imagine Canada Standards Program Trustmark – a symbol of excellence and leadership in the charitable sector.
Through the Standards accreditation Program, the Trustmark is given to charities and nonprofits that have taken action to bolster excellence by identifying and reducing organizational risk, improving board governance practises, being transparent and accountable with finances and fundraising, and fostering a strong workforce.
Right now, more than 250 organizations from all causes, sizes and regions have been accredited, and every year more are joining. There are many charities and nonprofits that do amazing work in Canada, but if you are looking for somewhere to start, take a look at our list of accredited organizations.