Our Readers Most Likely To Give

By Barbara Risto

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According to a report released by Statistics Canada, those who give the most are more likely to be older. They volunteer more hours per person than any other age group, and the majority of those who volunteered said they responded because of an advertisement they read.

Throughout the years of publishing Senior Living, we've come to understand these statistics first hand. As we've written about the lives and achievements of older people, it is more common than not to discover that these people are strongly connected to their communities and exhibit a deep desire to help others in some fashion.

It is for this reason that our May magazine contains a "planned giving" editorial feature and an invitation from a number of charities to consider them as worthy candidates for your charitable dollars.

As government tightens the purse strings, private citizens have become the lifeblood of many non-profit organizations. Their continued contributions are keeping the doors of many charities open, and ensuring important causes continue to move forward.

Some have thoughtfully included their favourite cause as a beneficiary in their will or estate plan. In doing so, they will continue to make a difference in the lives of those that follow. This has come to be known as "leaving a legacy."

These legacies ensure research continues in the effort to eradicate diseases, buildings continue to be built to house the impoverished, stray and unwanted animals continue to be fed and adopted, kids from low-income families continue to go to camp – and the list goes on.

What particular cause pulls at your heartstrings? This month, take some time to find out how you can make a difference, not just today but ongoing.

Here are more of the findings discovered by Statistics Canada:

  • Those who give the most are more likely than others to be older.
  • Although donors with higher household incomes tend to donate larger amounts in absolute terms, those with lower incomes give more when their donations are expressed as a percentage of total income.
  • The most frequently reported motivations for making donations were feeling compassion for those in need, wanting to help a cause in which the donor personally believes, and wanting to make a contribution to the community.
  • Donors also give because they or someone they know has been personally affected by the cause of the organization or because of religious beliefs.

The reasons most frequently reported for volunteering were to make a contribution to the community, to use skills and experiences, and having been personally affected by the cause the organization supports.

Other reasons, reported by close to half of the volunteers, were to explore strengths, to network with or meet people, or because friends volunteered.

Volunteers also identified a number of benefits that they received from their activities. The most common benefits were the development of interpersonal skills, communications skills and organizational or managerial skills.

Generally, the likelihood of giving tends to increase with age, with the donation rate rising from a low of 71 per cent for 15 to 24 year olds to highs of 89 per cent for those 45 to 54 and 88 per cent for those 55 and over.

A similar pattern exists for average donations, which were lowest among

15 to 24 year olds ($142) and peaked at $611 for those over 65.

Canada's top donors – the 25 per cent who donated at least $364 and accounted for 82 per cent of all donated dollars – are an essential source of revenue for many charitable and nonprofit organizations.

These donors tend to be older, to have higher household incomes, and to have more formal education. They also are more likely to be employed, widowed, and to attend religious services on a weekly basis.

The likelihood of being a top donor increases with age. For example, 31 per cent of those who are over 65 were in the top donor category, compared to only 6 per cent of 15 to 24 year olds.

The 65 and older top donor group made up only 5 per cent of the total population but contributed 20 per cent of the total value of all donations.

There are a number of personal and economic characteristics that distinguish those individuals who are most likely to volunteer and who volunteer the greatest number of hours from others.

Higher levels of volunteering are associated with increased age, higher levels of education and household income, being employed and having children in the household.

Generally speaking, the likelihood of volunteering decreases with age while the number of hours volunteered increases.

Fifty-eight per cent of 15 to 24 year olds volunteered, compared to 36 per cent of those 65 and over. However, those 65 and over volunteered an average of 218 hours while 15 to 24 year olds volunteered an average of only 138 hours.

Just under half of volunteers (45 per cent) said they approached an organization on their own initiative to become involved as a volunteer, while 48 per cent were asked to volunteer by someone.

Those who approached the organization on their own learned about the volunteer opportunity in a variety of ways – 14 per cent said they became involved because they responded to an advertisement such as a poster or in a newspaper, three per cent responded to a public appeal on TV or radio, 3 per cent learned about it on the Internet, and two per cent were referred by another agency.

To obtain more information, visit www.statcan.gc.ca

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