Top three charities have best pipeline to donors: poll

Transparency, use of funds among key concerns for those who give

A new poll of B.C. residents’ attitudes to giving show the charities most likely to get their donations are the B.C. Cancer Foundation, B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Canadian Cancer Society.

That’s one of the findings of an online poll of more than 900 B.C. residents conducted by Insights West.

The research firm found the average respondent donated $732 to charities last year, but that fell to $445 once the top four per cent of very large donors were factored out and the median donation was $200.

The top three branded charities each scored close to 95 per cent awareness and 52 per cent said they would give in the future to the B.C. Cancer Foundation, compared to 46 per cent for Children’s Hospital and 40 per cent for the Canadian Cancer Society.

Nine other charities, from Big Brothers and Sisters to the United Way, had 90 per cent plus recognition but only 20 to 30 per cent of respondents were likely to donate to them in the future – about half the rate of the big three.

The poll also found a 52 per cent majority of B.C. residents willing to give to local food banks – twice as many as other unbranded causes such as the homeless or religious institutions.

Insights West president Steve Mossop said charities face an intensifying battle with their competitors to get public attention and pull in scarce dollars from donors who already complain of being chased by too many causes.

Campaign events like runs and walks that pull in friends and family with a link to a cause are one of the creative marketing methods in use.

Personal belief in the cause was the top determinant of whether a respondent would donate to a charity, the poll found.

But transparency and good outcomes from donations were also very important.

The top two reasons not to donate to a charity – listed by 83 per cent of respondents – were that administration costs are too high and that too many groups want money.

“Charities that don’t do a good job of explaining where the money is going and aren’t up front about their administration costs are going to suffer in the future,” Mossop said.

“People are really looking at the percentages of overhead or the percentages of donations spent on fundraising and administration.”

One source of those numbers is watchdog organization Charity Intelligence Canada, which runs an online database of Canadian charities at

It shows fundraising costs consumed nearly 30 per cent of the donations collected by the Canadian Cancer Society’s B.C and Yukon division, an improvement from 40.5 per cent two years ago.

B.C. Children’s Hospital plowed 21.4 per cent of donations back into fundraising, while the B.C. Cancer Foundation rate was 23.7 per cent.

The B.C. Cancer Foundation was the only one of the three to appear on Charity Intelligence’s 2012 list of top-performing Canadian charities that it says give the best bang for the donor’s dollar.

The report said the foundation, which supports cancer research through the B.C. Cancer Agency, has sharply cut fundraising costs and that trend should continue as it limits major events, no longer uses lotteries and leverages more money from government.

Other B.C. charities that made the watchdog’s top picks list were the B.C. SPCA, the Victoria Hospice Society, Vancouver’s WISH Drop-In Centre for women, the Vancouver Native Health Society and Aunt Leah’s, a New Westminster-based non-profit for at-risk youth.

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