The Blackbaud Institute Index – Canada

As 2021 unfolds, the social good community is navigating uncharted territory. We have adjusted to the day-to-day realities of operating in a pandemic, still uncertain about what the future holds or when we can confidently resume activities. Organizations that continue to focus on goals steeped in tried-and-true best practices can ensure success into the future. The time is now to ensure teams do not become stagnant by identifying and continuing to adapt operations and strategies to meet the rigorous demands of today.

Strong leaders can re-energize their teams by intentionally making space for exploring new ideas and concepts. Doing so will foster a sense of enthusiasm and help teams see their momentum toward progress. But leaders should also hold time for reflecting on the strategies that helped them weather the past year, such as digital, that will continue to work.

The Blackbaud Institute Index offers data trends to help you understand the current landscape, as well as the context you need to leverage this as a benchmark against your own efforts. Data can help crystallize your understanding and offer insights on what the recent several months illuminate. We hope you can use this Index to gain confidence in your own planning. These insights should help recalibrate and reinvigorate you in fulfilling your mission over the next few months and beyond.

Since its launch in 2014, the Blackbaud Institute Index has grown to include over 350 Canadian organizations and more than $900 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 the 2020 Charitable Giving Report published in February 2021, where you will find further unique data, information on how to benchmark yourself, and insights for many subsectors.

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

  • Q1 2021 vs Q1 2020-0.5%
  • Last 12-Months-1.5%*

A look at year over year changes shows overall charitable giving in Canada decreased 1.5% over the last 12 months. Additionally, online fundraising in Canada experienced a 35.2% increase in the past 12 months ending in March 2021 compared to the previous 12 months ending March 2020.

*Last 12 months ending in March 2021 compared to the previous 12 months ending in March 2020

Navigating the Current Landscape

  • Consider how your organization has adapted to maximize digital engagement with supporters. As social distancing recommendations were enacted last year, organizations across all sectors were forced out of their comfort zones with digital marketing and engagement. Continue to embrace social media and digital platforms to connect with supporters. Staff should consider how they might continue to deliver and expand their newfound success across virtual programming and events, through such online platforms as Facebook Live. It is an opportunity to consider how you can continue to engage constituents across a myriad of channels.


  • 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, supporters want to know how the organizations they care about are faring. You shouldn’t be afraid to be transparent with donors about challenges the organization is facing. Earnest communication about challenges allows donors to engage and rise to meet the need.


  • 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 350 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 organization’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 organization. Click below to download the free guide, no email required!

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