From Grandma to Grandson, Donating Online Increasingly Popular Across Generations

A new Canadian donor study shows differences in generational giving

A new study released today examining charitable giving across generations has found that young or old, donating to causes online is only growing in popularity in Canada. 

The study, titled “Future of Giving: Online Across Generations,” was commissioned by PayPal Giving Fund Canada in late 2021 to uncover the impact the pandemic has had on charitable giving in Canada.

It found the majority (84%) of Canadian donors surveyed who donated online in 2021 said they were likely to keep donating online in the next 12 months. Moreover, over a third of offline-only donors said they were likely to donate online in the next year.  

All generations donated online, the survey says, but Millennials were perhaps the most comfortable with this form of charitable giving. On average, Millennials made about 65 per cent of their donations online. However, older Canadians were also enthusiastic about online options. Most Canadians surveyed over the age of 57 (62%) said they were likely to donate online in the next 12 months. 

“Digital fundraising is a permanent reality and can help ensure the future growth of the charity sector in Canada,” said Wen-Chih O’Connell, PayPal Giving Fund Canada’s executive director. “Social Media has completely changed the way we interact with each other and is a constant companion in our busy lives. It only makes sense for charities to tap into the platforms where donors like to hang out and socialize.”

Loyalty vs. Impact

While looking at the attitudes and behaviours towards charitable giving across five generations – Gen Z (18-24), Millennials (25-40), Gen X (41-56), Baby Boomers (57-75) and the Silver Generation (76 and up) – the study found marked differences in the reasons people decide to open their wallets for others. 

Older Canadians surveyed (ages 41 and up) are loyal and consistent in their giving, donating repeatedly to causes they are deeply passionate about and committed to. Younger Canadians, between the ages of 18 and 40, are driven to donate when they know it will make a difference and have an impact. This younger demographic is also influenced by causes that are in the news, or that are being touted by the social influencers in their lives. In fact, 54 per cent of Gen Z Canadians who responded say they are likely to give to a cause that is important in the moment, compared to 39 per cent of Baby Boomers and 27 per cent of the Silver Generation.


However, the generations had one thing in common – twice as many Canadians of all ages who gave online in the past reported donating more to causes than they did pre-pandemic, as compared to offline only donors. 

There are important lessons here for the charity sector, O’Connell says, particularly as they plan for the future. 

“As older Canadians currently represent the majority of donors for charities (67% in our survey), charities need to continue to engage their loyal older donor base while building their confidence and trust in online donation methods,” she said. “At the same time, it will be extremely important for charities to clearly communicate the impact donations have in order to attract a future generation of donors. And of course, charities need to spread their message where younger donors are paying attention -- on social media.”

Trust and Secure Transactions Top of Mind for Online Donors

The survey also looked at some of the top considerations for donors looking to support a cause online. 

Across all generations, at the top of the list for surveyed Canadian was ensuring their financial information was kept secure (38%) and that the payment platform was a trustworthy one (33%). Other important factors for all generations were for the donation experience to be easy (29%) and convenient (27%).

Older and younger donors differed in few different respects.  Older Canadians were concerned about receiving a tax receipt for their digital donations while Gen Z and Millennials were the only age groups to identify that being informed about the impact of their donation was in their top five considerations for donating online. 

Tips for Charities

The report also included some tips for charities looking to grow through digital donations, including:

  • Re-evaluating current channels and key messages to help attract future donations from target donor groups 
  • Optimizing for social sharing to enable donors to share the cause with their networks, potentially bringing in more donations/support 
  • Focusing attention on social media platforms where there is more trust —ones that offer a reliable donation process, and where trusted influencers are active

The online survey was conducted by independent research company Logica Research between 26 October and 4 November 2021, among a total of 1,500 adult Canadian donors. Participants had to have made a monetary donation to a charitable organization in the past 12 months. The study included a nationally representative mix of gender, age, and geographic region.

For more information on how PayPal Giving Fund Canada helps connect charities with online donors, granting funds to charities without charging for its services[i], click here

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[i] Some ecommerce partners may charge fees on donations made through their platforms. See FAQ for details.


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