Donate Cash Carefully This Holiday

Updated 12, 16, 2019; Originally published 12.17.2017

Now is a time of celebration and tis’ the season for giving. In fact, the last month of the year is one of the most popular times Canadians donate to charities.

In the 2010 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating one-third of Canadians were reported to donate in response to canvassing at a shopping center or on the street. Canvassing yields 2% of the total donations charities receive annually. Calculate those numbers at 2017 levels against what donation activity is anticipated this holiday season the amount of cash donations expected is significant.

Admittedly, I have in the past dropped cash in kettles, coin boxes and in the hands of canvassers throughout December without question of how the donation will be handled or what level of direct impact will made. However, in my giving I am quite familiar with the charities I support and hold a high level of trust in what they do.

In 2010, “…one-third of Canadians were reported to donate in response to canvassing at a shopping centre or on the street.Canvassing yields 20% of the total donations charities receive annually.” Encouraging these types of donations is made more challenging today as we use technologies for our purchasing transactions.

As you consider your charitable gifts this holiday, I offer some considerations to the donors and charities engaged in canvassing for cash contributions.

Canvassing for cash donations isn’t for everyone or for every charity. Charities should be comfortable with this form of donor solicitation and the message it communications about its brand.

Canvassers should be trained to respond to donor questions and have collateral materials on hand to share, including: contact information, charitable registration number and purpose for the canvassing.

Donors should ask questions of canvassers and only contribute to organizations that are well-known to them. Donors being alert to any red flags and reporting any misrepresentation or fraudulent behavior is in the best interest of the charitable sector.

Many charities will state on their websites, if and when, they engage in door-to-door canvassing. Organizations like Easter Seals and the Canadian Cancer Society communicate very well when they conduct yearly campaigns, while most schools and youth organizations continue to communicate their move away from any canvassing outside immediate families.

Charities should have a responsible collection and control process in place to manage non-receipted cash.

Donors need to be mindful of the professionalism of the charity, including: presentation of the canvasser, quality of the  coin receptacle, quality of the information available and if they are pressured to make the decision to contribute by the canvasser. The Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) provides some helpful advice to donate wisely and avoid fraud.

Reputable coin box programs like those administered by Tim Hortons, Wendys or McDonalds or in shopping concourses (e.g. Salvation Army) are well administered, secured and monitored by staff at the point-of-donation.

Large retail chains like Shoppers, LCBO and Sobeys will collect at the cash register and are often supporting a charity drive with corporate matching donation programs. Monies received are recorded in the cash register deposits and remitted with reports to the charity, while coin boxes do not have this immediate level of accounting and security.

Being canvassed over the telephone or through unsolicited email with requests to send cash should send off alarm bells for any unsuspecting and trustworthy donor. Reporting this type of canvassing to local police is best, in my opinion.

Give generously with the knowledge of who, what and why you are donating. This will ensure your gift is making the difference you hope with the charity of your choice.

If after reading this article you decided that it was helpful, share it with your network and/or reply with a comment below. Thank you and Happy Holidays!

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