The Blackbaud Institute Index – Canada

As 2020 continued to unfold with rapidly evolving challenges and change, the social good community found itself navigating an unprecedented landscape. The global COVID-19 pandemic forced organizations to grapple with seismic shifts to their operations from canceling major fundraising events to working remotely to altering service delivery in adherence to government guidelines while meeting constituent needs. Social good leaders found themselves needing to respond to an overwhelming amount of unexpected change all at once. 

The way your organization adapts to challenges will determine both your current and long-term organizational health. The effects of the year’s many changes will continue to play out for some time. Strong leaders focus on resilience, ensuring the organization can weather the storm while still being positioned for future growth. The Blackbaud Institute Index offers data trends to help you understand the current situation.

Since its launch in 2014, the Blackbaud Institute Index has grown to include over 390 Canadian organizations and more than $950 million in giving. The Index is updated each quarter and reports year-over-year percent changes and giving to date for the last 12 months. For even more in-depth insights on how current and long-term trends can help you on the path ahead, read our newly released 2020 Charitable Giving Report.

Giving trend data is an invaluable tool, but it is only a retrospective that shows us what has already happened. Remember that charitable giving data is one facet of the philanthropic prism. Always track trends across your full revenue portfolio and target a sustainable funding mix in your long-term plans. 

Quarterly Overall Charitable Giving

  • Q4 2020 vs Q4 20192.6%
  • Last 12-Months-4.8%*

In 2020, overall charitable giving in Canada decreased by 4.8% on a year-over-year basis. Canadian organizations received 10.7% of their total fundraising from online giving. See the 2020 Charitable Giving Report for more.

*In the past 12 months ending in December 2020, Canadian organizations experienced a 4.8% decrease in overall fundraising and a 23.9% increase in online fundraising.

Navigating the Current Landscape

  • Consider how your organization is adapting to maximize digital engagement with supporters. As social distancing recommendations continue to keep in-person gatherings on hold, organizations across all sectors are forced to innovate and engage differently across digital marketing efforts. Embrace this opportunity to maximize the use of social media and digital platforms to stay connected with supporters. If your physical doors are shut to the public or services are limited, for the time being, staff should consider how they might be able to deliver some of the same programming or events through Facebook Live or other online platforms. Donors are more understanding than ever before, and unlike in the past, many are open to trying out these platforms.


  • Remember that donor retention remains one of the most essential factors in fundraising success. Donors give because they believe in the organization’s mission and believe their gift can make a difference. You should stay focused on communicating the continued value of your mission and stewarding your supporters. By this same token, don’t be afraid to be transparent with donors about challenges that your organization may potentially face due to a crisis. Supporters want to know how the causes they care about are faring. Earnest communication about challenges allows donors to engage and give the support that is needed.


  • Stay connected across teams so you can respond with agility. While you may still be working remotely, it has never been more critical for all teams across your organization to stay in sync. Your capacity for embracing innovative solutions to new challenges will rely on your team’s ability to stay connected. Now is the time for leaders to focus on transparency and communication. If it isn’t already part of your regular cadence, consider incorporating emails or video updates from leaders to keep staff engaged and on the same page. Continue to focus on  strong data management practices so that all teams can access the information they need.

A Message from Allan Hoffmann

Blackbaud President and General Manager of Blackbaud Canadaallan-hoffmann

“The Blackbaud Institute Index is an excellent tool enabling Canadian organizations to gauge the overall direction of giving across the country on a quarterly basis. I am thrilled the Blackbaud Institute continues to be a resource that organizations can use to understand trends, benchmark their efforts, inform their strategic planning, and ultimately make better decisions.”

How we create the Index

Each quarter, we draw actual giving statistics from the databases of over 390 Canadian charities using various fundraising systems to determine how much revenue was raised. We include giving from all sources of fundraising activities: direct mail, telemarketing, face-to-face fundraising, email, online, mobile giving, small- and large-scale events, and major and deferred giving.

We do not include the unfulfilled portion of pledge gifts, but we do include the donated value of in-kind and stock gifts. We include giving from individuals, corporations, and foundations but do not include giving by individuals or corporations to private and community foundations or other intermediaries. To include these gifts would double count the revenue when those organizations subsequently make grants to other charities. We do not currently exclude the advantage amount, or the value of goods and services provided in exchange for donations or event participation (for example: a campaign where donors who give more than $100 receives a coffee mug or the difference between the cost of a meal provided at a signature event and the cost of sponsorship or ticket). And lastly, we do include adjustments made to gifts (e.g., bounced checks and refunds) to provide a more accurate accounting of real revenues. As a result, you may find that indices values change slightly as we obtain newly adjusted data from each organization.

We report the Index as a three-month moving median of year-over-year percent changes in giving. We add up all giving for the prior three months and compare this total to the same three months one year earlier to calculate the annual percent change for each organization in our Index.

“Economic conditions, natural disasters, and market fluctuations have made it extremely difficult for non-profits to make fundraising decisions informed by the latest donor behaviour. That is why we created the Blackbaud Institute Index — to provide insight into what happened in the prior quarter and valuable analysis by leaders in the sector into what fundraisers can learn from it.”
— Chuck Longfield, Founder of Blackbaud Institute Index and Blackbaud Institute Advisory Board Member

Many organizations have big campaigns (events or mailings) that occur at roughly the same time each year. However, if an event was in late May one year but June the next, the change in monthly giving might be significant while the change in giving over a three-month period might be the same. An index based on a moving median is less sensitive to these small timing issues and will serve as a more practical decision-making tool. However, one downside of a moving median is that it can dampen large fluctuations caused, for example, by disaster relief giving.

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For more Canadian insight: 50 fascinating stats about Canadian Charities.
For more on these trends and additional insights, check out the Blackbaud Institute's annual Charitable Giving Report.

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Benchmarking: The Insight Track to Success

Listen to your data to transform your organisation’s strategy. The Blackbaud Institute Index and Charitable Giving Report keep you aware of the trends, and now this guide offers practical strategies for using these resources to introduce benchmarking across your organisation. Click below to download the free guide, no email required!

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