Charitable Giving

salvation army playing euphonium - j_laiBlog post by Colin Hung

The December holidays are one of my favorite times of the year. I love the way the streets are all lit up, I love the holiday music on the radio (yes I still listen to the radio) and I love getting together with friends and family over dinner.

The holidays are also the time I think about the charities that I regularly donate to. Maybe it’s the ads on TV or maybe it’s the Salvation Army on every corner. Either way, when the calendar rolls over into December I get out my credit card and go online to the sites of my favorite non-profits.

In my local city of Toronto the Syrian refugee crisis and controversy has been dominating the news. I know in many Western countries there is political resistance to welcoming large numbers of people fleeing from this part of the world. Canada has a history of accepting refugees and even here there are concerns over safety and national security. That didn’t stop the Canadian government from moving ahead with a humanitarian effort to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada (by comparison Germany has accepted over 800,000 refugees).

Over dinner the other night we got onto the topic of charities and volunteering. One of my friends asked me if I would be diverting some money to the refugee drive. It was a cause that was near and dear to him since his grandparents were refugees that were accepted into Canada back in the 50’s. His question sparked a discussion about the criteria we use to decide which charities to donate our time and money to.

I told my friends that last year I did my own private audit of the charities I donate to. Using a variety of online tools like the Charities Listing by the Canada Revenue Agency and various rating sites like this one from MoneySense. I verified that the organizations receiving my donations were legitimate and in good standing. I also looked into what percentage of the donations goes directly to the funding the people/places who need it vs the administration/running of the charity. Because of the latter, I ended up dropping two charities off my list because I found out more than 50% of the money they collect goes to administration related costs (yikes!).

Ever since I started working in healthcare I have focused on charities and non-profits that are health oriented. This includes hospital foundations where our children were born, charities for cancer research because of my dad and organizations that provide medical care in impoverished countries. I somehow feel it’s my duty to contribute to charities in the healthcare field.

This feeling of duty is altogether different than being “forced” to donate to charity. During that same dinner conversation, one of my other friends was bitterly complaining about how much pressure he was under to donate to his company’s charity drive. Apparently the head of his department wanted to stand on a stage at this year’s holiday party as the head of the team that raised the most money. My friend decided not to contribute. He volunteers his time at a local non-profit and preferred to donate money to that organization instead. However, for the past several weeks his manager has continued to pressure him into donating. He was even shamed in a group meeting for being 1 of 5 people who didn’t contribute.

This CBS News article captured the predicament accurately:

The pressure can be pretty intense if you don’t want to participate, especially at the higher levels. Saying no is not a good move, professionally. Not because someone would ever say, “Bob, we’re not promoting you because you didn’t donate part of your salary to United Way,” but because in the back of everyone’s mind, Bob is not a team player, plus he’s selfish and doesn’t care at all about [insert horrible thing happening to other people, plants or animals]. Bob’s claim that he gives generously to other charities are assumed to be fake.

I never realized how difficult this situation could be.

My dinnertime discussion got me thinking about the pressure healthcare employees must feel to donate their time and $$$ to their organization’s foundations or to the foundations of organizations that are their company’s biggest customers. Dr Rajiv Singal wrote an excellent #hcldr blog on this topic back that is worth a read.

This week on #hcldr I thought we would explore the nature of charitable giving and discuss how each of us approach it at this time of year. Join us Tuesday December 15th at 8:30pm ET (for your local time click here) for our conversation about:

  • T1 What factors do you/should you consider when choosing a charity to donate to?
  • T2 How do you feel about employees being pressured to volunteer or donate to charities?
  • T3 Do you feel that those of us in Healthcare have an obligation to donate to health-related charities?
  • T4 Give a #hcldr shout-out to your favorite charity/worthy cause or to a unique way to donate


“Canada prime minister welcomes wave of Syrian refugees”, BBC News, December 11 2015,, accessed December 11 2015

“Germany raises estimate on refugee arrivals to 800,000 this year”, The Guardian, August 20 2015,, accessed December 11 2015

“2016 Charity 100: Grades”, Mark Brown, MoneySense, November 11 2015,, accessed December 11 2015

“Can Your Boss Force You to Donate to Charity”, Suzanne Lucas, CBS Moneywatch, September 12 2011,, accessed December 11 2015

“Charitable giving: How emotion, peer pressure influence donations”, Andre Mayer, CBC News, December 16 2013,, accessed December 11 2015

“How to handle pressure to donate money at work”, Alison Green,, June 21 2013,, accessed December 11 2015

“Donating money? How to choose the right charity”, Ryan Chatterjee and Sean O’Shea, Global News, June 9 2014,, accessed December 11 2015

“Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits”,,, accessed December 11 2015

“5 Reasons Why You Should Volunteer”, Dawn C Carr, Psychology Today, March 12 2014,, accessed December 11 2015

“Why forcing kids to volunteer is a great idea”, Macleans, September 4 2012,, accessed December 11 2015

Image Credit – Salvation Army Playing Euphonium (J_Lai)


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