What is donor’s remorse and how to avoid it

August 25, 2020
5 min read

Caroline Dobuzinskis

Sr. Manager, Digital Marketing Content

Illustration with colour

Donor’s remorse can happen to the best of us. We explore how to avoid it and what the feeling has in common with buyer’s remorse. 

At Charitable Impact, we want to empower donors to feel better about their giving. This is based on our three core beliefs: 1) We all want something in the world to change. 2) We all have something to give. 3) When we give, we get something in return. 

While each of us can make a difference, it’s important to know that sometimes you might not see the results you were hoping for. You may have supported a charity but didn’t feel satisfied by the impact they were making. Or you just weren’t sure if your giving aligned with your charitable goals. 

Too many options, not enough intention

One theory about donor remorse’s cousin, buyer’s remorse, is that the more choices available, the more likely you are to question your decision. With more than 86,000 registered charities operating in Canada, this leads to the possibility that you might feel overwhelmed and uncertain about your giving.

Donor uncertainty combined with a lack of thoughtful planning can lead to impulse decisions. We’ve heard it from donors, when they tell us about past experiences with giving that didn’t feel very joyful. 

Donor’s remorse can happen when: 

  • A donor is asked to give to charity and can’t say no, but they don’t feel invested in the cause.
  • They receive unwelcome communication and correspondence following a donation.
  • There is no clear sense of the impact of their donation.

Developing donor resilience

Our CEO and Founder John Bromley started Charitable Impact to inspire more generosity in Canadians. As Canada’s most accessible donor-advised fund, donors can add money to their Impact Account. Then, they can take the time and space to make thoughtful giving decisions.

We strongly believe that when you align your giving with your passions, you are more likely to stick to it. This stick-to-itiveness (yes, that’s a word in the dictionary) will help you weather the ups and downs of being charitable.  

You can start by writing down a list of values or intentions for your giving. Consider creating a manifesto or purpose statement to guide your future philanthropy. 

It’s very helpful to set a giving strategy. Because while giving feels good, it’s not always easy. Especially if you are looking to change something for the long-term, there can be delays and stumbling blocks. 

Here’s a hypothetical example: you might support a charity making progress towards reducing food insecurity in your community. But, this year, they weren’t able to serve as many people due to a move or a change in facilities.

Would you keep giving to the organization in the hopes that, once they have found a new space that meets their needs, they can again meet demands for their services?

How to avoid donor’s remorse

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve recently seen firsthand the effects of major fluctuations on charities’ resources and day-to-day operations. It may be easier now to understand how longer-term funding can help charities thrive and sustain, even through their own highs and lows.

When you are considering your impact as a donor, it can be valuable to think beyond a charity’s direct services and impact on the community. Have they also been able to develop a robust infrastructure, instil innovative changes, and try new directions? Is the charity able to be nimble and shift for success towards its cause?

Another great way to avoid donor’s remorse is to take your time, while planning for a generous future. You can do that through your Impact Account. Consider setting up a monthly deposit so that you will have money set aside for when you feel inspired to give. Then take your time to get to know charities in your community or within your networks. 

Monthly deposits have benefits for charities—and for donors. By setting aside money every month, you can incorporate your giving into your regular expenses, plan for a longer-term giving strategy, and feel good about being an intentional, engaged, and informed donor.

When you give a little each month, you can make a big impact. Because we all have something to give. Through Charitable Impact, you can quickly set up a monthly deposit to your Impact Account. It takes just a few minutes to start a lifelong generosity habit. And giving monthly means it is easily factored into your regular expenses. Add a monthly deposit today!