Giving Guide: The generational shift reshaping Ottawa’s charitable sector

Why does a demographic shift matter for charitable engagement?

It’s a timely question for charities and businesses alike as a new generation of community leaders, corporate champions and decision-makers emerge. 

Discussions of the past five years or so have been dominated by speculation over the “millennial” generation. Who are they? What do they want? And what can they do for us? Within the charitable sector, there’s been lots of talk about the diminishing size of individual gifts and how to best solicit gifts among younger generations.

Looking at Canada’s population pyramid, there are two notable bulges: The 55-65 age bracket and the 25-35 demographic.

When I look at those graphs, I see a proverbial passing of the torch. A large swath of business owners, managers and professionals will be retiring within the next few years and will be replaced by a younger generation of decision-makers.

The fluidity of that transition and the resulting organizational culture will vary from organization to organization. Mentorship, professional development and shifting the way we evaluate hard and soft skills will likely shape the emergence of a new generation of leaders who are already making their mark (see our cover story, starting on page two).

But how will this affect corporate engagement with the charitable sector? I see two major factors. First, the next generation of fundraising professionals will infuse the sector with new ways of engaging with businesses. Second, a new generation of business leaders will bring their own values into decisions about who to support and how to involve themselves in charitable initiatives.

It’s unclear who exactly who will benefit from this transaction. But there is one takeaway that charities and business leaders should keep in mind as we move into this new age of corporate engagement: don’t forget that “millennials” are people too.

Branding, networking and building a strong case for support will continue to matter. People might change, but decision-makers will continue to respond to relationship-building and engage in partnerships that make sense. Whether you are 30 or 60, we’re all trying to find purpose and solve problems. This transition presents an exciting opportunity to see how corporate charitable engagement will evolve as the next generation establishes itself in a leadership capacity.

What’s inside

Jeff Todd, from Giving Guide partner The Foundation (WCPD), takes an in-depth look at how the next generation of change-makers are making an impact on their communities and beyond – as well as how others can support them in their mission.

The Giving Guide celebrates the achievements of Ottawa’s charitable sector, both through the lens of Ottawa Business Journal columnist Caroline Phillips – whose coverage of some of the region’s top galas and fundraisers starts on page nine – as well as through profiles of the 2019 Ottawa Philanthropy Awards, which starts on page 16.

We also explore several trends and opportunities within the charitable space with in-depth looks at corporate philanthropy (page 19), taxation (page 21) and fundraising (page 22).

The Ottawa Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals also offers an inside perspective on current issues shaping the sector, including a look at what makes Ottawa’s fundraising sector unique from other markets (page 78) and reflections on what a Senate report has to say about the future of philanthropy (page 83).

AFP Ottawa also explores the impact of the fundraising profession on the wider community (page 79) and encourages those working in the industry to consider their “self-preservation” (page 82). And fundraising strategist Sam Laprade explores an emerging questions facing charities and foundations: Should donations from cannabis companies be accepted?

The heart of the Giving Guide once again shines the spotlight on more than two dozen of the region’s leading charities with a series of profiles starting on page 23. I encourage you to learn more about their work and explore how, through donations and volunteering, you can make your mark on our community.

Victoria Stewart

Associate publisher, Ottawa Giving Guide

The Ottawa Region Giving Guide is presented by founding partners The Foundation (WCPD), the Association of Fundraising Professionals (Ottawa Chapter) and the Ottawa Business Journal.