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Talking About Charities 2008

September 13, 201013 September 2010

Nonprofit sector information, donors and volunteers

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Based on a national telephone survey of 3,863 Canadians aged 18 or older, this report finds that “charities continue to enjoy high levels of trust, but need to be better at telling their story”. Overall, 77% of respondents have “a lot” or “some” trust in charities.

For those respondents with a lot of trust in charities, key reasons for their trust include: charities do what they say they do; charities do an important job; the respondent has volunteered for or been involved with a specific charity; and the perception that charities are accountable. In other words, “reliability, integrity, accountability, and personal involvement are key factors in promoting trust of charities”.

Of those Canadians who have less than a lot of trust in charities, 30% indicated that they have this level of trust because they are “not sure where the money is really going”.

The survey asked about trust in 13 different types of charities, including those that focus on arts. “Canadians are most likely to have a lot or some trust in hospitals (88%), charities that focus on children and children’s activities (86%), and charities that focus on health prevention and health research (85%).” Arts charities are trusted by only 63% of Canadians, higher only than international development organizations (59%). Across the country, arts charities receive the highest levels of trust in the Atlantic provinces (all four above the Canadian average) and the lowest levels in Saskatchewan (58%) and Quebec (59%).

Almost all respondents (93%) agree that “charities are important to Canadians”. In addition, 86% of respondents believe that “charities generally improve our quality of life”. The survey did not ask about the importance or impacts of different types of charities.

The survey results show that a strong majority of Canadians (62%) believe that charities do not have sufficient funds to meet their objectives. In addition, 93% of respondents agree that “it takes significant effort for charities to raise the money they need to support their cause”. Furthermore, three-quarters of Canadians (76%) feel that “charities are generally honest about the way they use donations”. However, many Canadians have concerns about overlapping mandates, with 72% of respondents indicating that “too many charities are trying to get donations for the same cause”.

Many Canadians feel that charities can do a better job of disclosing information to the public, including information about the programs and services delivered, the impacts of charitable work, the use of donations, and fundraising costs:

  • 48% of respondents said that charities do only a “fair” or a “poor” job of providing “information about the programs and services the charities deliver”.
  • 60% indicated that charities do only a “fair” or a “poor” job of providing “information about the about the impact of charities’ work on Canadians”.
  • 70% said that charities do only a “fair” or a “poor” job of providing “information on how charities use donations”.
  • 73% indicated that charities do only a “fair” or a “poor” job of providing “information about charities’ fundraising costs”.

For potential donors, the most common sources of information include printed material received from a charity, its website, a charity regulator’s website, a telephone call with the charity, and the charity’s financial statements.

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