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Committee Chair Conversation Series: John Gormaly, Chair, Research

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John Gormaly, Chair, Research


So much of AFP’s work happens at the committee level. Through our Committee Chair Conversation Series, AFP keeps members informed about current issues facing the organization and the sector, and how we are responding. Today’s conversation is with John Gormaly, chair of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy - Canada’s Research Committee, who talks about the importance of research, where gaps exist in current data and studies, and the research AFP has done.

Why is research important in philanthropy?

Research is important in philanthropy, and every field, because it supports discovery and learning. It fills in gaps of knowledge that can lead to a shift in the way that things are done. For leaders to consistently make the most informed decisions for their organizations, they need reliable and up-to-date data and research.

Where are the research gaps in Canadian fundraising, would you say?

At a high level, there is a research gap on philanthropic trends and the challenges and opportunities impacting fundraising.

What are your current research priorities?

Our priority is to bolster our understanding of Canadian philanthropy and fundraising through research. The AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada Research Awards and Grants Guide, available  in English or French outlines our eleven priorities, which include:

  • Accountability & Governance;
  • Capacity & Sustainability;
  • Funding Processes & Mechanisms;
  • The Fundraising Profession;
  • Globalization & Impact;
  • Government & Regulatory Environments;
  • Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Access (IDEA);
  • Leadership Development;
  • Partnerships & Alliances;
  • Research: Tracking Coordination, Synthesis & Application; and
  • Stronger & Diversified Donor Base.

What sort of research has been done recently?

Last year we published the 5th iteration of the biennial What Canadian Donors Want (WCDW) research study (full 2021 report in English and French) which seeks to understand views on charities and donation behaviour. The report includes four main data sections: attitudes toward charities, donations and volunteering behaviour, drivers of donating and volunteering, and channels of information.

We also have an annual grant which funds research on issues central to philanthropy, fundraising, the profession, and leadership development. Earlier this year we selected the project, ‘Assessing the role of foundation grants in achieving sustainable fundraising by Canadian charities,’ by Iryna Khovrenkov to receive the grant. The report will be delivered at the beginning of 2023.

Previous projects funded include:

  • Fundraising Effectiveness Project (English).
  • Donor Engagement of Women in Canada: Insights on Fundraising Programs and Practices, Juniper Glass, 2020 (English | French).
  • Canadian Fundraising Leadership Survey, Mikhael Bornstein, 2019 (English).
  • Retail demand for impact investing: Financing solutions for creating shared value, John Gormaly and Dr. Brent McKnight, 2017 (English).
  • Responsible charitable investing: an analysis of investing disclosure and practices in the top Canadian charities, Chelsie Hunt and Sean Campbell, 2016 (English).
  • The new regulatory regime for social enterprise in Canada: potential impacts on nonprofit growth and sustainability, Dr. Pauline O’Connor, 2014 (English).

How can members access prior research? 

Visit the Research Programs & Resources section of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy -Canada website.

How can research lead to change?

Research can help foster greater understanding of the Canadian charitable sector and identify the challenges and opportunities currently facing our country’s fundraising landscape. This will help drive innovation for social good and equip our leaders with the data they need to be more proactive in a rapidly changing and increasingly digital environment.

As research chair, what are your goals for the coming year?

I have two main goals for this year. The first is to ensure that the recently published WCDW research is utilized, and the second is to support the delivery of the upcoming research grant project, ‘Assessing the role of foundation grants in achieving sustainable fundraising by Canadian charities.’

Do you have a message for members?

Keep striving to make data-informed decisions by blending research and data with your experience.

Read More

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