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When good is cool

As Canadians donate more than ever Vivian Moreau discovers younger Canadians are learning that giving makes a difference

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By Vivian Moreau

Last year in the days leading up to Christmas, the Salvation Army’s nine donation kettles in the Squamish and Whistler area were only one-quarter of the way toward the $10,000 goal.

But in the final days before Dec. 25 the kettles placed near entrances to shopping malls and food stores filled up with donations.

This year there hasn’t been the same delay. Salvation Army spokesperson John Murray says there are a number of reasons for the increased early giving.

“The tenor of the donor fatigue that perhaps we were seeing last year due to some significant world disasters has started to dissipate,” Murray said, “and people are remembering and have an opportunity to remember their own communities.”

The Whistler Arts Council has noticed that same trend.

“It’s been a really great year in terms of participation from the local business community,” said Doti Niedermayer, executive director of the arts council. This year the Whistler Arts Council received almost $200,000 from federal and local grants to its endowment fund . A conditional donation has also been pledged by a commercial property owner for a further $100,000.

The arts council, which organizes arts events for Whistler like the children’s festival, art walk, summer art workshops and street entertainment, has shifted strategies. Rather than constantly approaching local businesses for donations the council is looking to cultivate funding “partners,” corporations who have similar audiences, like Crayola or Lego, or, like Telus, already have a vested interest in the community.

It’s a move the Lower Mainland’s United Way has also been working towards. Traditionally the United Way has targeted individuals through at-work campaigns but the organization that gathers donations for distribution to dozens of charitable organizations has altered its focus, appealing to a smaller group of donors who can contribute larger amounts of money.

It’s a trend borne out by recently published Statistics Canada data that show numbers of donors increased by less than one per cent in 2004 but total donations increased — an indication that those who give are giving more.

Canadians last year donated more than $7.5 billion to charity, up 14 per cent from the previous year. According to Statistics Canada, the median Canadian donation for tax filers reporting donations was $240, up from $230 in 2004. On a per capita basis, Nunavut continued a six-year lead giving the most of provinces and territories with a median donation of $400.

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