The OAF Blog

Characterizing Donors and Motivations for Giving

April 22, 2013

I recently read a report prepared by a group Hope Consulting – “Money for Good II” which researched factors motivating donor preferences for supporting financially a charitable organization. The motivation for the research was to gain a deeper understanding of the ‘voice of the customer’ for charitable giving – what drives an individual, or a granting organization to decide to financially support an organization. What type of information is key to the decision making process?

It is an interesting read – you can delve into detailed research findings, or scroll through the summary findings. I liked the way the report characterized donors into six segments:


¢ Repayer :

“ I give to my alma mater, I support organizations that have had an impact on me or on a loved one”  23% of donors
¢ Casual Giver :

“ I give to well-known nonprofits because it isn’t very complicated”  18% of donors

¢ High Impact  :

“ I support causes that seem overlooked, I give to nonprofits I feel are doing the most good” 16% of donors

¢ Faith Based: “ We give to our church, we only give to organizations that fit with our religious beliefs”  16% of donors
¢ See the Difference :

I think it is important to support local charities, I  give  to small organizations where I feel I can make a difference” 13% of donors

¢ Personal Ties:

“ I give where I am familiar with the people who run the  organization” 14% of donors


 Key Drivers

Overall and not a surprise, a key driver for a donation is ‘caring deeply about the cause’ – 35% of donors. Generally donors are not highly motivated by maximizing social impact. Few donors ever research a charity before making an initial donation. When research is undertaken about a not for profit, it is more to confirm the ‘acceptability’ of the organization, and not on finding organizations that are ‘best in class’. Individuals and granting organizations begin to differ in behavior in some respects – individuals want to support organizations which make good use of their dollars. They care about legitimacy, respect and where the funds are going. Granting organizations differ in that they seek to maximize impact and find the most ‘effective’ organizations.  A high premium is placed on effectiveness and impact of their grant. Granting organizations research almost every grant and have a high need for comprehensive information about the organization – they are ‘information hungry’. Any arts organization applying for grants know this well….



All groups tend to be loyal with their giving – repeated donations to organizations they develop a relationship with.  All donors would like financial information from the organization they support, followed by information on the effectiveness of programs. It appears that information describing effectiveness of programs represents an ‘unmet’ need, or opportunity. This is an opportunity for not-for-profit to enhance their reporting in order to attract additional or increased support. An interesting comment was made on the role of advisors – the report suggests that advisors tend not to advise clients on where to donate. When you consider that most financial advisors want to be involved in every aspect of a client’s financial affairs, it is interesting that this is an area where they are less involved.


The implications of the research suggest that not for profit organizations can be more responsive to donors by:

  • Improving information, particularly on the impact of programs, charitable activity
  • Provide information in more detail, following a ‘consumer reports’ style format
  • ‘Push’ information to where people look for it today – people rarely ‘shop’ for a charity – websites/forms of solicitation to build awareness
  • Adapt constantly – always try new things


The report did not break out the not for profit sector, it would be interesting to see if the general results change at all for arts organizations.

For more detailed information, you can access the report here



How We Manage Endowment Funds

April 01, 2013


The expectation of an arts organization holding an endowment is to receive a stable long term income to support their mission/programming and assist in covering operating costs. Endowment income is also a source for funding to implement change, education and programs to build audiences.


Long Term Perpetual Funds

The majority of endowments with the OAF are long term perpetual funds. The capital is held in ‘perpetuity’, which for investment purposes means a horizon longer than 10 years. Income is paid out annually based on a return established by the Board each year, based on actual investment results. Our portfolio objectives are to achieve at least a 5% investment term return over 5 years. That return is intended to cover operating costs, create a reserve for inflation and allow for annual income payouts in a range of 3 to 5%.



Investment Policy Statement

Investment strategy/allocation of assets (equities, fixed income) is documented in an Investment Policy Statement, which is reviewed annually. The board considers what level of risk it is willing to accept to achieve target returns and links that risk assessment with selection of assets to invest the portfolio. The actual decisions for security selection and security trading, is delegated to several professional investment managers. The asset mix strategy is based on a combination of risk tolerance, return requirements and our outlook for long term investment returns. The Board holds responsibility for setting strategy, hiring managers and monitoring their results. The managers are expected to deliver value added returns that meet or exceed our target return expectations.


Strategic Review

Coming out of the economic downturn and extreme market volatility of 2008/9, the Board conducted a strategic review of investment strategy. When we looked at our objectives, we identified there was a gap between the current portfolio asset mix and the desired long term return. We could ‘close’ the gap by investing in higher growth assets, which implies taking on higher risk. As our objective is stability of returns, we looked for alternate solutions. The Board evaluated way in which the OAF could lower overall risk in the portfolio, introduce potential for increasing returns in a prudent way and maintain oversight through ongoing review of asset mix/investment policy.  We identified asset classes that could help the foundation achieve its objectives - small cap equities and absolute return strategies (hedge funds).

We engaged a consultant, conducted manager search and interviewed candidate firms. Our conclusion was that different types of asset management can diversify risk, increase returns and lower the volatility of the foundation portfolio. Investing in the new asset class of Alternatives – Absolute Returns created the opportunity to close the gap between our required returns (5%) and expected return from the asset mix of the investment portfolio. The new strategy was implemented at the beginning of 2012.


So how did we do?

2012 was a strong year in investment markets. The results achieved by the three investment managers employed by the Foundation, was a positive 12.6% for one year. Three and five year returns were 6.93% and 3.93% respectively. Over the short and medium term, we closed the gap between our required return (meet expenses, allow for inflation and pay 3 – 5%) and actual results. Markets continue to be volatile, but we believe that our strategy will deliver positive results and allow the foundation to deliver stable, long term income to the arts organizations and private awards/scholarships we support.

Based on the actual returns in 2012, the Board approved a payout of 4%, or $2.2 million to over 270 arts organizations across the country. This continues a strong history of financial support – since 1991, the Ontario Arts Foundation distributed over $21 million in endowment income payments. 

The Foundation continues to grow assets ($1.5 million in 2012), reflecting contributions by arts organizations to increase their endowments, gifts from private donors, and receipt of matching funds through the federal Endowment Incentives program of the Dept. of Cdn. Heritage. Total assets under administration now exceed $60 million. Careful and continuing stewardship of our investment responsibilities, and a diversified strategy is expected to continue to achieve positive results and ability to support arts organizations in Ontario.



2013 Federal Budget – Application to Charities

March 22, 2013


The 2013 Federal Budget contains a number of items that will be of interest to charities. The government references a continued dialogue with the charitable sector on measures that can increase the number of Canadians making donations. Initiatives promoted by the charitable sector, such as the ‘stretch tax credit’ or capital gains tax relief on donations of private company shares or real estate were not included. Many of the recommendations contained in the Report of the Standing Committee on Finance – Tax Incentives for Charitable Giving in Canada (February 2013) remain just that - recommendations.

That said, there are measures of interest – a good summary is found in the Charities and Not-for-Profit Newsletter published by Miller, Thomson, a Toronto law firm.


Canada Cultural Investment Fund: Endowment Incentives Component

For large charities, extremely positive news in the Budget – the $10 million limit on matching funding through the Endowment Incentives Component of the Canada Cultural Investment Fund is being increased to $15 million for the life of the program ( 2015.)

Economic Action Plan 2013 announces that the Endowment Incentive component of the Canada Cultural Investment Fund will increase to a maximum benefit of $15 million over the life of the program, an increase of 50 per cent. The Endowment Incentives Component of the Canada Cultural Investment Fund helps promote corporate philanthropy and private investment in the arts by providing government grants to match private sector donations.

Starting in 2013, the amount of funding an arts organization can benefit from, over the life of the program, will increase from a maximum of $10 million to $15 million, an increase of 50 per cent. This will help ensure that large arts organizations such as the National Ballet of Canada, the Orchestre symphonique de Montreal, the Banff Centre and the Stratford Festival can continue to demonstrate leadership in building private sector support, while maintaining access to the program for small- and medium sized arts organizations. With this program adjustment, the Government of Canada is taking concrete steps to help ensure that Canada’s arts and culture sector contributes to a strong economy, with arts organizations becoming more resilient and self-sustaining through the continued support of the private sector



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