The OAF Blog

Charitable Donations are still Lagging Pre-recession Levels

August 05, 2013

A recent study on charitable giving from foundations, individuals and corporations indicates that overall amounts are still below levels raised in 2007, the start of the recession and market downturn. While the securities markets have recovered, the ‘psychology of giving’ has not. An article from the Chronicle of Philanthropy confirms that donors at all income levels remain cautious about their personal finances. If you are working, the automatic assumption of annual salary increases and bonuses no longer holds true, and the prospect of layoffs remains a reality. Donations (in the US – we expect Canada to be similar ) are still 8% lower than levels experienced in 2007. This means that all organizations continue to face challenges in delivering programming or building capacity.


The Challenges

Two other themes exist that create challenges for not for profit organizations :

Government Funding – the ‘new normal’ as governments work to attack deficits, is funding programs are either static or may see a decline. If a government funding program is not cut, program administrators face a new challenge. The same amount of funding dollars must be allocated across existing and new/emerging organizations. Not for profits should no longer count on fixed year over year operating grants.

Broader Scope - Donations from individuals or corporations are being made locally, and nationally and internationally. Philanthropic funding is being spread more broadly, and local causes may receive less funding. As an example, one of the wealthiest communities in the United States (San Jose – silicon valley), sees only 33% of funding/grants going to local organizations.


Capacity Building

As organizations revisit their business models, the need for core operating support, or new resources to help build capacity is critical. Interviews with not for profit organizations conducted by the Stanford Social Innovation Review identified opportunities for individuals to:

Maintain support levels for operationsand  in particular provide support on a multi-year basis. This creates certainty for an organization and is efficient. The time and effort required to complete often complex grant applications every year, diverts employee time away from arts mission and programming. Unrestricted support for the ‘unsexy’ parts of a not for profit organizations budget is greatly needed in our current economic environment.

A task for the non-profit organization is to increase communications with government leaders, foundation grantors and other organizations – look for opportunities for partnerships, for sharing data and resources. Individuals can use their ‘voice’ and share their passion and commitment for a not for profit/arts organization with their contacts in government and foundations.



Not for profit organizations have always been nimble and creative in delivering programming when resources are tight. Given it may be that funds raised for charitable causes won’t reach pre-economic crisis levels till 2018, individuals can support organizations through a focus on core operations and creative ways for partnering within a community.


Background information and articles on this topic can be found at:




Awards and Scholarships: The Recipient’s Perspective

July 08, 2013


I am the winner of the Lambton County Music Festival Lady’s Sacred Concert Group.  I would like to thank you for your contribution.  Without donors like you, the prizes for this festival would not be possible.  Samantha


I just wanted to send you a little note to say thanks for the donation to the Festival.  I will be entering college in September and this money will help with my studies.  Melanie


You were so kind in granting me your award, and it helped make my trip to Peterborough to compete at the provincial level possible. I won the Grade 10 vocal award! Lauren


What is the impact of an arts award or scholarship?  As these young winners of the Lambton County Music Festival Hugh D. McKellar Scholarship told us this year, it is immense.


Awards and Scholarships

One of the most rewarding aspects of my job as Executive Director of the Ontario Arts Foundation is meeting and hearing from artists who are the recipient of a donor’s arts philanthropy through an award or scholarship.  The honour of knowing that they were selected by a group of their peers, received a financial reward, can add it to their c.v. and use it to continue their professional development as an artist is indescribable.

Donors provide financial support to arts organizations for their ongoing operations and arts programs.  But they may also be looking for a more permanent way to support an arts discipline they have a passion for.   Awards and scholarships can play an important role in arts philanthropy.

 The advantages of creating an award or scholarship are many.

  • Awards provide financial support to an individual artist at various stages of their career development.


  • Scholarships are highly important to students and emerging artists for continuing education or professional training.


  • Awards are both recognition of success or achievement in a discipline and create opportunities for continuing professional development.


Through awards and scholarships, donors can receive long term recognition and provide a legacy that recognizes their personal passion for the arts. Knowing that their philanthropy will be enduring can be a big plus.


The Recipient's Perspective

Christina Petrowska Quilico is a classically trained and accomplished pianist. In a recent interview with me she comments on how big a role awards and scholarships played in her development as one of Canada’s best known classical pianists.


I started piano lessons as a child at the Royal Conservatory, and was accepted into a program at Juilliard at age 14. During my career, I’ve received Canada Council grants and doctoral fellowships. Awards and scholarships provided financial resources that really helped me, that allowed me to live and study in New York. As a young artist, you simply don’t have the financial resources to support lessons, coaching sessions or auditions.


 In 2000, Christina established the Christina and Louis Quilico Award at the Ontario Arts Foundation to honour her late husband, renowned baritone Louis Quilico, and to recognize the next generation of outstanding young singers, pianists and composers for voice.

Art photographer Larry Towell, recipient of the 2010 $50,000 Paul deHueck and Norman Walford Career Achievement Award for Art Photography, told me he was sitting in his kitchen trying to figure out how to finance a trip to the Middle East to photograph people in a war zone. And then I called to tell him he was the recipient of a $50,000 award! This meant so much to him. He could now afford to go forward with his plans.


Awards for a Specific Purpose

Awards can be directed for a specific purpose, for instance career development.   The Virginia and Myrtle Cooper Award in Costume Design was established in 2006 by the late Dr. Virginia S. Cooper of Toronto.  This annual award is intended to enrich the careers of professional mid-career Canadian costume designers in Ontario through research and travel. Lea Carlsen, the 2011 winner of the Award, said that the $15,000 prize money would allow her to travel to Paris to study historical costumes, and then travel to Baffin Island to undertake a project to learn design techniques used by Inuit artists.  Both will deepen her knowledge and work in costume design.

 In some cases, artists may apply the prize money very simply, for instance to buy more paint to continue their work.  Others may really need  to undertake much needed repairs to a home studio.  As a bonus, under Canada’s income tax laws, awards are exempt from income tax, and therefore bring even more financial reward to artists. (Scholarships are fully taxable.)

In every case, I have been warmed by the deep appreciation shown by these artists for  being recognized by their peers and rewarded for their talents.  They are forever grateful that a donor has thought to fund an award.  I wish all donors could be present to hear the stories and positive outcomes from this form of philanthropy!



The Economic Impact of Volunteers

June 10, 2013

At the end of April, Canadians had the opportunity to recognize and thank the volunteers who support charitable/not for profit organizations. A part of almost every charitable organization are volunteers, those individuals who commit time, energy, their talents ( often also financial contributions ) to supporting the programs and work of a charitable organization. Their support, given without expectation of financial compensation has a significant economic impact.


An Economist's Case for Volunteering

A recent publication by TD Economics  provides a commentary on the positive economic impact of volunteer hours. The benefits of volunteering are both tangible in the sense of resources committed on an unpaid basis, and value created in the form of ‘social capital’. This can take the form of productivity from volunteers who return regularly to assist with a NFP program ( they know how to do the work and can offer ideas for improving efficiency ), or helping a person develop skills they can translate into work outside the NFP, or the positive impacts to a community. The bank report illustrates as well, the economic benefits arising from volunteers. In 2010, it is estimated that 13.3 million Canadians volunteered in some capacity. This can be translated as a little over 1 million jobs. If you assume an average hourly wage, the surprising economic contribution from volunteers equates to $50 billion in Canada.


Thank You!

For arts organizations, volunteers are an important resource, please remember to thank them for what they do and don’t hesitate to highlight the value they contribute to your organization’s work and arts mission.



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