Now what? Getting charities ready for the ‘Roaring 20s’

Children playing
Children playing
Editor's Note

This article is sponsored by KCI.


By Nicole Nakoneshny, partner / lead, knowledge + insights, KCI

It’s hard to believe, but we are past the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic. While we aren’t out of the woods yet, we are moving ever closer to the exit and there is increasing evidence that, just like after the 1918 pandemic, we are heading towards another Roaring Twenties – a time of economic growth, technological progress, widespread prosperity as well as social, artistic and cultural dynamism.

But what about the charitable sector? What will this period of growth and prosperity mean for charities? How do we prepare to be ready to take full advantage of it? In other words…

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Now what?

Before tackling that, let’s look at how the pandemic has affected fundraising results so far. A “mixed bag” might be the best description, with 55 per cent of charities saying revenues were down in 2020 and 45 per cent reporting they were flat or greater. We also know that Canadians continue to give. Canada Helps processed $480,295,283 in online donations in 2020, an increase of 116 per cent over 2019. And, according to tracking of major gifts in Canada (gifts of $100,000 and more), KCI’s Research Team counted 650 gifts of this size made in 2020 totalling close to $1.06 billion.  

While interesting to look back, what’s more important is where to from here? And this quote from Robert Kennedy – “The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.” – feels like a good way to frame our thinking on that. The future, and our success in it, are neither a gift nor a given, but rather will be driven by what we do today, tomorrow and over the upcoming weeks and months. 

The most overarching piece of advice is not let this time go to waste. Now is a time to do both strategic and fundraising planning and get yourself in line with your donors. It’s time to shape your vision for the future and to share it with your community. 

The other reason not to waste this time is because charities are enjoying a once-in-a-generation level of mindshare. The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the sector and its work and contributions in a way we could have only dreamed of in pre-pandemic times. Take full advantage of this period when we have the attention of Canadians to make the case for why you’re important and what your plans are. 

Here are some other thoughts on what to do and think about over the next six to 12 months.

  1. Keep talking … and asking: While this may seem obvious, if you feel any reluctance, don’t. Donors are absolutely still willing to engage and keen to give … and in fact, are expecting to hear from the organizations they support. 
  2. Develop a retention strategy: The best future prospect has always been one who has already given. So whether you’ve seen an influx of new “crisis response” donors or you find yourself needing to bring back lapsed donors, make donor retention efforts a priority. 
  3. Grow your relationship-based fundraising capacity: Even pre-pandemic, we had begun to see a shift to Canadian donors making larger gifts. An analysis of tax-receipted giving by Canadians between 2017 and 2019 shows that the only donor group showing growth was those giving $5,000 or more. Creating fundraising programs rooted in relationships, like mid-level and major gifts, will be key to success.KCI table


  4. Emphasize women’s philanthropy: Women and family philanthropy were also a recommended focus area pre-pandemic and as we emerge from it, signs say it should continue to be. At the end of 2018, high-net-worth women (those with more than $1 million in financial wealth) controlled approximately $550 billion of wealth. By 2028, this amount is projected to reach $1 trillion.
  5. Plan for a hybrid future: Many are wondering what the balance of in-person and online will be. While research tells us there will be an appetite for in-person activities, given all the advances we’ve made in digital, it won’t be a wholesale going back.  A hybrid model will be the future.
  6. Take action on DEI: The charitable sector has been having conversations for years about the need to make DEI a priority. Sadly, we’ve got a long way to go, as evidenced by a StatsCan Survey reporting that only 12 per cent of board members identified as a visible minority. The time for talking is over and it’s now time for action. Assess your current environment, identifying obstacles to progress. Build a more diverse talent pool for staff and volunteers. And nurture a culture that values DEI.

With these ideas in mind, here’s to a fabulous Roaring Twenties for all!

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