Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, Madam Vice-Chair, and honourable members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance and parliamentarians for the invitation and opportunity to present and discuss with you our views on charitable giving and incentives for encouraging Canadians to donate to important causes.
My name is Owen Charters. I am the president and CEO of CanadaHelps. CanadaHelps is Canada's online charitable foundation. Since our founding in 2000, we've facilitated more than $250 million in giving to charities across the country. At CanadaHelps.org, donors can find and give to any Canadian charity from big to small. Our donors are from every corner of Canada and from all walks of life.
CanadaHelps was founded by three university students, students who saw an opportunity to use the Internet as a medium to help engage Canadians in giving, and especially as an attractive medium to engage younger Canadians in giving. Twelve years after they started, we now transact almost $70 million in giving annually to tens of thousands of charities. Our donors are average donors with an average transaction value of just over $150.
We're here today because we're concerned. We're concerned that fewer Canadians of average and modest means are giving year over year and because we see small and medium-size organizations increasingly struggling to find funds to do their good work.
While we know that the total amount of aggregate giving has been on a slight upward trend, tax data also shows that fewer donors are giving year over year. Currently, the tax regime favours larger gifts, such as gifts of securities and the mega-gifts that usually go to large institutions.
This support is crucial, but equally important are the many organizations that depend on community-based philanthropy, the gifts that come from involved, engaged citizens who offer modest contributions.
I've been privileged in my work to see firsthand the work of small, local charities across this country. Of the tens of thousands of charities that use CanadaHelps, I've been able to visit several, such as the World Fisheries Trust in Victoria, B.C., which provides hands-on lessons to school children about local marine life and the impact of urban living on polluting a fragile aquatic environment. I was able to witness how children with behavioural disorders were immediately calmed, focused, and stimulated by the simple hands-on experiences provided by the World Fisheries Trust.
Or there's the story of Hope's Home in Regina, Saskatchewan, where a neonatal critical care nurse realized that day care facilities did not exist for infants and pre-schoolers with serious disabilities and that thus parents were not able to return to work to provide an income for their dependent family, as might be expected. Through community fundraisers, she has put together an incredible, loving space for these children and their siblings, allowing parents to enter the workforce again. Her model is now a template for others across Canada and the globe.
Each of these organizations and thousands more depend on small, modest contributions raised from local citizens in their community. These organizations struggle to pay the bills and make payroll, and often I witnessed the toll that the passion and dedication of founders, employees, and volunteers can take on their own paycheques, their health, and their relationships.
So I'm here today because we are concerned, but I'm also here because we see an opportunity in a proposal put forward by Imagine Canada, the stretch tax credit.
Under the stretch tax credit, Canadians would receive, as you've heard, an additional 10% tax credit for each dollar of their charitable donations that exceeded their previous highest giving level.
We believe this incentive would work. In 2010, the economics department at McMaster University undertook a survey of more than 250,000 of CanadaHelps donors. Significantly, 42% said they would definitely increase their giving if there were an increase in the tax credit, and another 23% said they were likely to increase their giving in response to an increase in the tax credit.
We know that donors are motivated by tax incentives. Our donation servers handle 6% of all of our annual traffic in one single day, December 31 each year, the last possible day to make a donation for the tax year.
We also know that donors have choices. Marketing research we received recently indicates that donors see substitutes for giving: paying a premium for local or organic produce, or the purchase of cause-marketing products. These may be worthy ways to support community, but they also displace donor dollars. Charities, as a result, continue to struggle.
There is also the potential benefit of new sources of earned revenue and the possibility of social finance tools for the non-profit and charitable sector, but these will be accessible at the start to only a few organizations, and significant revenue from these models is uncertain and likely many years away.
Finally, donors are struggling in the shadows of mega-gifts. They are seeking meaning in their giving in the midst of ever-larger campaigns and major donations. Canadians need to be reminded that their gifts are important, are valued, and that there are many small and mid-sized organizations worthy of their support.
Charities continue to struggle to provide key services and programs every day across Canada. They respond to local needs and need donor support.
The stretch tax credit is an incentive that motivates new behaviours and increased giving. These tax incentives for average Canadian donors will provide essential benefits to maintain the capacity of the charitable sector. A stretch tax credit will encourage Canadians to start, to grow, and to continue to support the organizations and communities they care the most about.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear today.