Canadians are known for their compassion. At home and around the world, you lend a helping hand to those in need, and once a year have...
a day to show how much you care
National Philanthropy Day (NPD) on November 15 is an opportunity for Canadians to renew their commitment to the care and compassion they are known for throughout the world, says Scott Decksheimer, CFRE, chair of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Canada (AFP Canada).
“Philanthropy is one of the greatest ways for people to influence the lives of others; they can influence their community, they can influence the education of children, and they can help people right next door every day,” says Mr. Decksheimer. “Philanthropy demonstrates our love for humankind in the most basic way.”
NPD came into being globally in 1986. In 2012, Canada became the first country in the world to permanently recognize November 15 as National Philanthropy Day through legislation.
The objective, says Mr. Decksheimer, is to celebrate philanthropy – giving, volunteering and charitable engagement – and to highlight the accomplishments of everyone involved in the philanthropic activities that make the world a better place.
He believes that celebrating philanthropy on a specific day creates optimism among Canadians about the future because it demonstrates what can be done by caring for others.
Roger Ali, CFRE, chair of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy - Canada board, agrees.
“For AFP in particular, National Philanthropy Day highlights the work done by our 22 chapters in Canada. It allows us to engage with our local communities and celebrate the talent and passion of our members, volunteers and donors,” he says.
It’s also a day for Canadians in general to reflect on what philanthropy means to each of them and to the country as a whole, adds Mr. Ali.
“Philanthropy is very important to Canada. It has advanced a better quality of life for people in need, enriched the lives of volunteers and had a positive impact on all of us,” he says.
Brandie Lea, faculty development officer at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, says NPD recognizes Canadians “on the front line” fighting to improve their communities.
“They are our local heroes who give of their time, talents and treasure to improve conditions that add to our quality of life,” she says.
Ms. Lea says Lethbridge, which was recently recognized as one of the three most charitable cities in Alberta, is a good example.
“The people and companies in Lethbridge work hard to show care and pride towards our city. They demonstrate what philanthropy stands for – goodwill towards the welfare of others and the love of humankind,” she adds.
This year’s NPD celebrations in Lethbridge will include lights on the city hall reflecting the blue and yellow colours that represent philanthropy, businesses lighting up the roadsides with electronic messages of thanks, social media stories and NPD flags.
“The thought behind a city-wide celebration is that it creates an atmosphere of appreciation and helps people feel pride in what they have accomplished,” says Ms. Lea. “When people see the impact they have made for the greater good, they tend to emulate that and want to do even more. Our celebration will build pride in our city and help people feel more appreciated and hopefully help them recognize that their generosity and compassion are very important to building fantastic communities.”
While NPD provides specific focus on philanthropy on November 15, charitable activities are ongoing, and people need to be continuously encouraged to support worthy causes, says Mr. Decksheimer.
“National Philanthropy Day is a way to support and encourage people’s sense of giving back, whether it’s a small amount or it’s something that they want to do that has a big impact,” he says.
This is important because tax filings with Revenue Canada indicate that there has been a decline in Canadians’ charitable giving in recent years.
Ms. Lea says the downturn in the Alberta economy, an increase in the minimum wage in the province of Alberta and the looming tax changes for small businesses have impacted fundraising.
“People who may be typically inclined to support a non-profit or charitable organization are hesitating and taking more time to decide where they will offer support,” she says. “Couple those factors with the increasing number of non-profits and a decreasing number of volunteer hours, and you will see that our sector is definitely feeling an impact.”
Mr. Ali says it’s important for Canadians to understand that fundraisers play an important role in philanthropy.
“Fundraisers are enablers of social good in our communities and trusted advisers to Canadian donors. That’s not well-understood,” he adds. “Without a catalyst, a person in the middle, to bring together the donor, who’s interested in making a difference, and the cause, the magic won’t happen.”
Mr. Decksheimer agrees.
“Research has shown that if no one asks for funds, money does not flow to charitable organizations, and when money doesn’t flow, those charities don’t get to run their programs, don’t get to help kids, don’t get to help seniors, and don’t get to fix parks,” he says. “So fundraisers need to continue to do their work. Sometimes they face headwinds, and that’s why ethical fundraising is really important. And that’s what we celebrate on National Philanthropy Day.”
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