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					 DRAFT
REPORT




      Focus groups on attitudes toward
      donating to environmental groups




      Prepared for:
      The Strathmere Group



      July 7, 2008




      pn 6313




      33 Bloor St East
      Suite 900
      Toronto, ON M4W 3H1
TABLE OF CONTENTS


Introduction ....................................................................................................................................... 1
Executive Summary ......................................................................................................................... 2
Section 1: Issues of greatest concern .......................................................................................... 4
       Top issues of general concern ................................................................................................... 4
       Initiation of environmental concerns ....................................................................................... 4
       Top environmental concerns….. .............................................................................................. 5
Section 2: Environment vs. lifestyle ............................................................................................ 6
       Actions taken................................................................................................................................ 6
       Impact on lifestyle ....................................................................................................................... 6
Section 3: Attitudes toward donating ......................................................................................... 8
       Reasons to donate ....................................................................................................................... 8
       Concerns about donating ........................................................................................................... 9
Section 4: The role of ENGOs .................................................................................................... 10
       What do ENGOs do? ............................................................................................................... 12
       Have ENGOs made a difference ............................................................................................ 13
       Trust in ENGOs........................................................................................................................ 11
Section 5: Donating to ENGOs ................................................................................................. 12
       Where do ENGOs get their money? ...................................................................................... 12
       Why people are not giving ....................................................................................................... 12
       Connecting to potential donors ............................................................................................... 14
Section 6: Conclusions .................................................................................................................. 16
       STRATHMERE GROUP: FOCUS           GROUP REPORT ON ATTITUDES TOWARD

                       DONATING TO ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS



INTRODUCTION

Environics Research Group is pleased to present this report on the findings from a series of
four focus groups conducted on behalf of the Strathmere Group – a consortium of eleven
Canadian Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations (ENGOs). Two groups were
conducted in English in Calgary on March 20, 2008, and two groups were conducted in
French in Montreal on May 27, 2008. The groups were divided by age, with one in each city
composed of participants between the ages of 20 to 44 and one with participants aged 45 to
69. The participants in the focus groups were screened to be either very or extremely
concerned about the environment and to have made a charitable donation of some sort in
the preceding year.

The primary goals of this research were as follows:

      Understand the nature of Canadians current environmental concerns.
      Understand attitudes towards donation in general.
      Measure overall attitudes towards the role of ENGOs in Canada.
      Establish hypotheses as to why donations to ENGOs have not risen in a time when
       more and more Canadians are concerned about environmental issues.
      Assess strategies ENGOs can employ to capitalize on the increase in environmental
       concerns among Canadians.




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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

     This research consisted of a series of four focus groups conduced in Calgary and
      Montreal among people recruited based on their expressed concern for the
      environment, who have also made any kind of charitable donation in the past year.

     The top areas of concern for participants were environmental and economic issues
      and, to a lesser extent, health care, gas prices, children in need, international conflicts
      and natural disasters

     Although no one environmental issue predominated, ones that were mentioned
      included water pollution, lack of water, air pollution/smog, global warming, natural
      disasters, biofuels and their impact on food prices and loss of habitat/species at risk.

     There was some evidence that environmental concerns are shifting away from locally
      based issues and more towards global issues which may be seen to be more
      intractable.

     Most could not say how they first became concerned about environmental issues.
      The few reasons specifically mentioned included learning about it in school, media
      reports on disasters, being raised in as environmentally conscious family, personal
      experience of climate change and air pollution and the arrival of blue bins for
      recycling.

     In terms of personal action taken to address environmental concerns, the “little
      things” were mentioned most. These included recycling, purchasing “green”
      products volunteering time and taking action locally.

     Making donations to ENGOs was never spontaneously mentioned as a way to take
      personal action on the environment. In fact, some participants felt that paying extra
      for environmentally-friendly products was tantamount to donating to an ENGO.

     Participants had positive attitudes toward donating to causes in general and they
      explained that accountability and feeling some personal connection were important
      factors in deciding who to give to.




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   It was not seen as natural to donate to an advocacy group pushing a public policy
    agenda. Donation is more associated with addressing social needs and health issues.

   ENGOs were sometimes seen as playing a role in increasing public awareness and
    taking a different perspective from government; but many could not clearly identify
    their roles.

   Although many participants could not name any ENGOs, most agreed that they
    have increased public awareness of environmental issues – even if they could rarely
    identify any specific cases where ENGOs have made a positive difference.

   There are mixed levels of trust in ENGOs. Many are under the impression that they
    have their own agenda and are “a lot of talk” with very little action. There was
    acknowledgment that they are altruistic in a way government and industries are not.

   There was only a vague notion as to where ENGOs get their funding, although most
    assumed individual donations would make up the bulk.

   Theories why people are not giving to ENGOs despite their growing environmental
    concerns included: a feeling that people are already doing enough in their day-to-day
    lives (i.e. recycling), a lack of awareness of ENGOs and how they are still relevant,
    suspicions about how the money is used, a shift towards more global environmental
    concerns where people see less of a positive impact by ENGOs.

   Suggestions to connect to potential donors included setting up kiosks at events,
    showing more examples of concrete action, and getting more media coverage.

   Donations can also be increased by demonstrating how ENGOs are indispensable,
    using documentaries, You Tube and DVDs that explain what individual
    organizations do, promotion of the ENGO sector as a whole and also greater focus
    on how ENGOs can make a difference at the local level.




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SECTION 1: ENVIRONMENT AND OTHER ISSUES OF CONCERN

Each focus group session began with a lead-off general discussion of participants’ main areas
of concern were for Canada as a whole as well as for the world, followed by their specific
environmental or conservation-related concerns.

Top issues of general concern

Before discussing it as a group, participants were asked to write down their issues of greatest
concern. When discussing what they felt were the top problems facing the country or the
world, participants were most likely to mention environmental issues as well as war and
international conflict. Participants in Montreal were somewhat more likely to express
concern about environmental issues. In Calgary there was more discussion of economic and
social concerns, particularly in view of rising prices and the shortage of housing in that city.

The specific environmental issues that were noted as people’s top-of-mind general areas of
concern were global warming, water (pollution/depletion), oil sands/spills and weather
patterns/natural disasters. It was mentioned in Montreal that non-renewable energy needs to
be a top overall concern since we need to be concerned for future generations, something
voiced in both Montreal groups. However, the most frequent response to this question was
simply “the environment.” Although everyone seemed generally concerned about
environmental issues, the younger participants appeared a bit more concerned than the older
ones. There was little differentiation between men and woman in this regard.

In Calgary, participants (especially the younger ones) expressed more concern for various
social issues such as poverty and homelessness and the lack of affordable housing. It was
evident that issues around rapid growth and its consequences were more likely to be
mentioned top of mind.

Other concerns mentioned in both cities were health care, gas prices and poverty/children in
need. Concerns for animal welfare were mentioned by a few women and the younger group
in Calgary was more inclined to mention concern about diseases such as AIDS and cancer.




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Initiation of environmental concern

Although all participants were screened to be people with a high level of concern for the
environment, most could not say when they first became concerned about this issue or why.
A handful of participants across the four groups were able to recall a few key moments when
their concern was sparked, including the arrival of blue bins for recycling or a particular
media story about a natural disaster, and how that concern has been escalating over time.
Other ways participants recall becoming aware and concerned about the environment
included learning about it at school, news stories about the Kyoto Accord, being raised in an
environmentally conscious family and by their own personal experience of air pollution and
of a changing climate – seeing it or breathing it in their cities, particularly in the summer.
Younger participants in particular mentioned having been educated about the environment
in school.

Many participants displayed a tendency to displace their environmental concerns. Some
implied they were not able to address this issue since the real problem is in China or is with
the Alberta oil sands, which are either too far away or out of one’s control. This sentiment
fuels a feeling of cynicism and powerlessness when it comes to increasingly global
environmental concerns.

Top environmental concerns

With the environment being noted as one of the top general issues of concern, participants
were asked to expand upon what they saw as the primary specific environmental issues that
concerned them. Many participants were fairly slow to expand upon their concern about the
environment in general and they tended to see the environment as being all one big inter-
related issue. However, some of the specific concerns mentioned included water supply and
pollution, global warming and climate change, biofuels and food prices, and loss of habitat
and species at risk.

Overpopulation and urban sprawl were also brought up a number of times in Calgary, tying
into the concern about loss of habitat as we build homes further from the cores of the cities
and into other species’ habitats. In Montreal, there was more of a particular on food related
issues such as GMOs, leeching of toxins into containers and also issues relating to water
quality and safety – including recent concerns about blue algae.




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There was also some discussion of how environmental concerns had changed over time and
how new issues had emerged. Some participants – particularly in Montreal – mentioned how
“over-consumerism” was a new frame around environmental issues In Montreal, this
tendency to create excessive waste was noted. Cars, plastic diapers, and things that we use on
day-to-day basis and which create excessive waste were mentioned as big environmental
concerns, with on older participant saying that “humans make things and then they always
have to fix the errors.”

In Calgary, there was more of a focus on newly emerging environmental concerns around the
oil sands and ponds and also about the connection between the activities of the oil and industry
and climate change.



SECTION 2: TAKING ACTION AND ATTITUDES TOWARD DONATION
Following the initial discussion about environmental and other concerns, there was probing
about what participants actually do in terms of taking action on the issues that most
concerned them.

Actions taken

To the extant that participants could identify steps that they personally take to address issues
that concern them, the focus was very much on consumer choices as well as relatively small
scale lifestyle changes, such as recycling. There was also considerable focus on taking very
direct action at a very personal level. For example, several people in Calgary mentioned that
in order to take action to deal with social problems, they would sometimes give money
directly to people they knew who were in need.

On a similar note, the actions taken by participants to address environmental concerns are
seen as the “little things” and the best way to contribute to global problems at hand. It’s the
actions such as putting out your blue bin every week and turning off the tap when you brush
your teeth that make the difference. Making wiser purchases, such as organic vegetables and
eco-friendly cleaners, are also seen as a significant contribution to addressing environmental
concerns. Anything beyond that generated a lower level of concern, possibly because it was
seen as out of their control.




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Participants largely agreed on putting their focus at a local level where the results of their
work could be seen. Many agreed on volunteering their time for a local group with which
they had a personal connection or sponsoring a race that a friend may be running in as the
best way to contribute to organizations. There was a general agreement that global problems
seem overwhelming and results from personal actions to try and address global issues are
not very tangible.

Making donations to ENGOs as a possible way to personally address environmental
concerns was never spontaneously mentioned by any of the participants. It was clear that the
notion that a person can take an active role in addressing environmental issues or other
public policy issues by donating money to any sort of an advocacy group – is simply not on
the radar screen. It doesn’t occur to people that this is an important way of showing concern
and taking action.

Reasons to donate

Participants were asked to write down a few words that came to mind when they thought
about the whole topic of making donations.

Although it was not the first response when asked what they can do to address the issues
they are most concerned about, all participants agreed, when prompted, that it was
important to give money to causes and especially charities that they believe in. Many agreed
it was good to do this for ethical and moral reasons – for the personal benefit of feeling
good about oneself and knowing that you have given to and are helping others (particularly
voiced among those in Montreal). Donating money or time was often described as
something that “humanizes” you.

It was mentioned frequently that the big motivator to donate was from having been
personally touched by a particular issue or cause through someone else in ones life. Many
agreed that they would be more likely to give to a charity if it was to sponsor a friend in a
race or a climb, or that they would be much more likely to give to, for example, the
Canadian Cancer Society if someone in their family was suffering from or had passed away
from the disease. A couple of individuals in both cities mentioned that they make their
contributions through their churches, as it is through something they believe in.




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The need for organizations to inspire or touch individuals personally seemed to be very
important in getting people to donate. It was also noted that giving to an individual in need
or paying extra for environmentally friendly products was tantamount to donating.

Very few participants mentioned ever making donations to any advocacy groups, including
ENGOs, although a few of the younger participants mentioned giving to Greenpeace (the
one ENGO most had heard of) or to smaller, more locally-based groups such as Trout
Unlimited or Equiterre. For most participants in both cities, the focus of their contributions
was more toward health- and social-related charities to help the poor and underprivileged.

When discussing who participants donate to, there was a general lack of knowledge about
what ENGOs are and what they do; on top of that, it was not seen as “natural” to
contribute to a group pushing a public agenda. In fact, in all four focus groups, it was
notable that none of the participants even understood what exactly an “advocacy group”
even was.

Concerns about donating

Another factor that was frequently mentioned was the whole issue of accountability of
groups that solicit for donations. There were suspicions raised in each session about where
the money could be going – if it is actually going to the cause or “to a bunch of people
sitting around a table.” Many participants mentioned that they need to understand what a
particular group does before they are willing to give any money. They need to know the
donations are being used to help the cause directly, with a limited percentage going to
administration or other things that are regarded as wasteful. That is possibly one reason why
many participants were more attracted to the idea of donating time and money to smaller
and more locally based groups.

In Calgary in particular, participants had been exposed to news stories about various
charities embezzling money or spending too much of it on administration. In Montreal,
there was less awareness of these sorts of incidents and instead, participants – particularly
the older ones – simply had not been exposed to any news about accountability of charitable
groups at all. The whole issue had seen far less media coverage.




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SECTION 3: ATTITUDES TOWARDS ENGOS
In this segment, we explored how participants view the role of environmental non-
governmental organizations (ENGOs)

The Role of ENGOs

When participants were first asked what they saw as the role of ENGOs, many could not
answer top-of-mind. This was particularly the case among older participants in Montreal
who tended to have had relatively little exposure to the work of ENGOs and were not clear
as to how their role differed from that of other stakeholders. However, for the most part the
consensus was that the key role of an ENGO was to increase public awareness and to raise
consciousness on environmental issues. There were also some comments to the effect that
ENGOs had a role to play in offering a unique perspective that was different from industry
and government. In some cases they could also “make a point” by using some “extreme”
tactics and help to educate the public about an issue that might not otherwise get any
attention. Some participants also felt that ENGOs had a role to play in terms of offering a
different perspective that can be balanced against the perspectives coming from business and
government. However, there was definitely a sentiment that ENGOs reflect a certain “pole”
in the debate on environmental issues and that they do not necessarily represent the public
interest.

Participants offered a wide variety of perspectives on the work of ENGOs and in many
cases the images and stereotypes that people had were quite contradictory. On the one hand,
many agreed that their job is to raise awareness; however, at the same time, many saw the
work that they do as either being too “extremist”. Examples of this would include spiking
trees, ramming sealing ships etc…Male participants, especially in Calgary, were more inclined
than women to hold the opinion that ENGOs were extremist. At the same time, there was
also contradictory criticism of ENGOs for being “all talk and no action” and for not doing
enough to actually make a difference.

ENGOs making a difference

To the extent that people could even name any ENGOs, they would typically name
Greenpeace and then one or two people would name various other groups such as the
World Wildlife Fund, Ducks Unlimited, Friends of the Earth etc…In general, the




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participants in Calgary were more able to name a variety of ENGOs than was the case in
Montreal. The older participants in Montreal tended not to be able to name any
environmental groups at all, while younger Montrealers could name Greenpeace and
occasionally some local groups such as Equiterre. It was notable that in each of the sessions,
particularly in the older groups, there was a widely held sentiment that environmental groups
that ENGOs had much more of a profile in the past and that they haven’t been seen as
much in recent years.

Some of the younger participants voiced more negative perceptions of ENGOs, as they
were less aware of any work that has been done and only aware of the few more extreme
stories that may make it into the media, with a few individuals calling them “too aggressive,”
“too militant” and “fanatics.” Although the more extreme stories (that seem to result in the
universal labelling of all ENGOs being extremists) are often effective in bringing the issue to
the surface, many agreed that in the end it just creates a negative stereotype of the
environmental movement.

In general participants agreed that ENGOs have made a difference in increasing public
awareness on issues of importance, although few people could name any specific examples
of ENGOs making a difference. To the extent that they can think of examples, it is often in
such areas as endangered species or intervening on local issues involving conserving
parkland.

A few specific areas in which participants feel ENGOs have made a difference were
mentioned – particularly increasing public awareness and working with the government in a
capacity that individuals alone would be unable to do. However, given that few participants
could name more than a couple of organizations, it was not surprising that only a few could
identify specific examples of cases in which an ENGO had made a difference. One woman in
Calgary mentioned work in the wake of the oil spills in Fort McMurray and one other
brought up the preservation of Kananaskis.

There was also some mention of promotion of recycling and also pressure for the labelling
of food products as being examples where environmental groups may have made a
difference. The latter example of ENGOs playing a major role in the labelling of food
products was especially evident in Montreal. In many cases participants seemed to be making
educated guesses as opposed to be able to point to concrete examples of groups making a
real difference.



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Trust in ENGOs

Participants were hesitant to say if they “trusted” ENGOs or not. There were mixed
opinions in this area. Some participants said they would offer them their trust because of the
work they do and because they are perceived as not being there to make a profit. One man
in Calgary mentioned that he trusts people who have nothing to gain financially. But the
majority had a more cynical attitude when it come to trusting anyone and there was a definite
sentiment that environmental groups have a certain perspective that needs to be taken into
consideration, but which definitely represents a certain bias. The accountability of ENGOs
came up quite often, especially in Calgary. This was tied to media reports about various
charities not being accountable for their money. When awareness of a group is low many
people are sceptical and there is a natural tendency to question the group’s accountability.

Some participants, however, pointed out that ENGOs are “altruistic” in a way that
businesses or government are not. They are seen as being staffed by people who have
nothing to personally gain from the work they do – even they do sometimes represent one
side of the issue. However, several other participants noted that it was hard to trust or have
confidence in organizations they see as using extremist tactics such as tree-spiking, ramming
ships and various PETA animal rights protests. Participants in Calgary had a greater
tendency to view ENGOs as engaging in this sort of “extremist” behaviour than did
participants in Montreal


Sources of money for ENGOs

When asked where participants think ENGOs get their money, the initial reaction was one
of uncertainty. Most eventually agreed, especially in Calgary, that it was likely individuals who
make up the bulk of the contributions, although industries, grants, government and
merchandising were also mentioned. Several people were also under the impression that
ENGOs were often financed by a few large philanthropic donors or by companies who
want to get some good publicity from being seen to be donating to an environmental group.
Participants in Montreal were more likely to think that ENGOs get their money from
government and were more hesitant to think that individuals make up most of the financial
base. Montrealers also seemed generally more unaware about ENGO financial sources than
did participants in Calgary.




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Very few participants in either city had ever donated to an ENGO and even fewer of those
had done so in the recent past. All donations that participants had given were more for local
organizations, churches or groups that had some immediate impact on their life (i.e., a cancer
organization because a family member has cancer). Most could not identify a specific reason
to donate money to an ENGO. Although the participants had been screened to be very or
extremely concerned about the environment, environmental concerns, as one participant
noted, are still seen as a far off issue and people have more pressing, immediate concerns to
think about. This is particularly the case in an era where environmental issues are
increasingly seen to be global as opposed to local and where political leaders and business
leaders are also trying to at least be seen to be taking on environmental issues. One
participant in Montreal noted that twenty years ago, donating to environmental groups
seemed important because no one else was addressing environmental issues. Now, there is a
Ministry of the Environment in Quebec that seems to be “on the case”.



SECTION 4: DONATING TO ENGOS
At this stage in the focus group sessions the discussion turned to the specific issues of how
ENGOs get funded, and how to motivate people with high levels of environmental concern
to donate money to ENGOs. Participants were divided into pairs to discuss this issue. They
then reported back to the group on the reasons why they felt Canadians were not
contributing more to environmental groups, despite the fact that levels of environmental
awareness and concern are at an all time high and despite the fact that in the past when
environmental concerns rose in Canada, so did donations to environmental groups.

Why people are not giving

Many explanations were given in response to the question of individuals are not giving more
to ENGOs in the wake of the heightened environmental concerns we currently see in
Canada. The three responses that came up in all the groups were a lack of awareness and
visibility of ENGOs, suspicions about the accountability of environmental groups and most
interestingly a feeling among many participants that they are already doing enough for the
environment in their day-to-day lives and so there is no need to donate to ENGOs as a
demonstration of environmental concern.




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Another theory that was voiced was that environmental issues that are dominating the
headlines these days are much more global (i.e. climate change, ozone depletion, issues
relating to the entire eco-system etc…), many participants questioned any environmental
group’s ability to address these broad issues. Instead, they have bought into the idea that
there has to be personal action on the part of Canadians. It is now seen to more every
individual Canadian’s responsibility, and not an environmental group’s, to address these
problems. The actions taken by Canadians to recycle, compost, save water and buy
organic/green products are seen by many as important steps in addressing environmental
problems. In many cases these personal gestures are seen to be substitutes for making
donations to environmental groups. One older participant in Calgary commented that we are
already sacrificing enough, so why should we give money, especially when we don’t even
know what the individuals in the organizations are doing in their day-to-day lives (i.e., all talk,
no action).

One other participant commented, however, that it is the push on the individual to make
personal changes that is making people feel burdened with addressing these issues. There
also needs to be an emphasis on communal action and what we have to do together to
address a global concern. Ideally, this can be done by organizations rallying people together,
not just on what individuals can do in their day-to-day lives. The problem is that in recent
years, there has been so much emphasis on what people are supposed to do in their day to
day lives that the role of advocacy by environmental groups has been superseded.

Participants in both cities noted that people only seem to react when they have to; some say
this is out of selfishness, but many would argue that it is purely human nature - why change
something if you don’t have to. People will take steps that are relatively easy and compulsory
“Put recycling bins in front of us and tell us we have to recycle and we will” and then they will feel like
they have done their part. As several participants noted, the big problem in the eyes of many
Canadians right now is rising gas prices. In a similar vein, one woman in Calgary noted that
many citizens are also reaching retirement age, so their immediate focus is on their “nest
egg” and not a global problem such as climate change. People are more concerned about
their retirement; their debts and their general areas of concern that have an immediate
impact or repercussion on their lifestyle. Of course when there were previous waves of
environmental concern, people also had many other competing concerns, but in those days,
the environmental issues were often more locally based and had more of a health implication
and hence were seen as having a greater level of immediate urgency.




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As noted, the participants in these sessions were all people who saw themselves as very or
extremely concerned about the environment. However, this is not translating into donations
of time or money to ENGOs. There is no strong message right now telling them that they
need to take any action beyond some relatively minor lifestyle changes – particularly in the
area of recycling. As participants noted, the most effective way to act on any concerns are
the small changes to personal lifestyles. As said in Montreal, “$50 won’t do it…it’s better to do it
alone.” Many participants in both cities hypothesized that people now feel that they can do
their part for the environment through personal gestures such as turning off the tap when
they brush their teeth and saving water. Many years ago, people weren’t being told that they
had a role to play on a personal behavioural level and so people saw making donations to
ENGOs as the only way they could do take any action on their environmental concerns.

Over the years, there have been many theories and hypotheses that in Quebec, donations of
any kind tend to be much lower than in the rest of Canada, because of a tendency to want to
have faith in governmental and religious institutions to deal with problems. This sentiment
came up a couple of times in Montreal where some participants seemed to feel that there
was no need to support ENGOs because the government was taking care of the problems
through the Ministry of the Environment. This sentiment was never voiced in Calgary.

Also in Montreal, several participants from both groups referenced the environmental
concerns of the 1980s when there was “real fear” in response to the PCB spill at St. Basile-
le-grand and various other highly publicized controversies around toxins in the water supply.
Now the focus is on more global longterm issues that are harder to influence. There was also
some expression of cynicism over how nothing ever seems to improve when it comes to the
environment. No matter what the concern or what the outcome, “there are still 3-car
garages.”

In Calgary, there was also some discussion of how the media sometimes turns people away
from ENGOs by playing on negative stereotypes of extremist behaviour, questioning the
accountability of the groups and by profiling celebrities fighting for certain environmental
issues - something that sometimes only serves to trivialize an issue (i.e. Brigitte Bardot or
Paul McCartney and the opposition to the seal hunt).

In both cities there was also some discussion of how the message from environmental
groups and also in the mass media always paints a worsening and apocalyptic image of the
global environment. On the one hand this can make people see environmental issues as



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urgent and as being in need of action, but at the same time, there was also a concern that
despite years and years of making donations and doing more and more in their personal lives
– there never seems to be any message from the ENGOs that shows that the donations of
time and money have actually led to any positive outcomes. In the past, people were willing
to make donations to environmental groups because they were seen to be raising the profile
of these issues for the first time. Now, just raising the profile of an issue is no longer seen to
be enough, people want to feel good about making donations. They need to see how the
money they have donated has been used to make concrete progress.

Connecting to potential donors

When asked about techniques for ENGOs to reach potential donors, participants agreed
that there are preferable ways to reach potential donors and to inspire them to give. Part of
this would involve re-framing the actual message from the ENGOs that gets sent out to
potential donors and the other part involves new techniques and methods for reaching them
in the first place. Several participants mentioned that they would be more likely to donate
money to groups if they saw organizations taking action as opposed to just talking about
issues. Although many environmental groups that do “act” are also sometimes viewed as too
extremist, there is obviously a fine line that needs to be identified where ENGOs can
promote themselves as taking concrete action but without coming across as too extreme and
thereby turning potential donors away.

One suggestion that came up in both Montreal and in Calgary was for ENGOs to become
more visible at local community events. This could include setting up kiosks at fairs or
public events, selling merchandise or advertising on local products, or putting a section in a
community or local newspaper about their activities. These would all be ways in which
different ENGOs could “tell their story”.

People in each of the sessions noted that ENGOs need to reach as many people as possible
to show how the issues they are involved in have an immediate impact and to prove that
they are indispensable in addressing them. Suggested ways to reach people and to get
contributions were to create documentaries about their activities, place broadcasts on
YouTube, make DVDs that can explain the issues that each ENGO is involved in and their
history, creating games for kids that would also promote environmental issues and the
ENGOs that have created the materials – in this way the children could in turn talk to their
parents. Most participants tended to have a more negative view of being solicited for



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                       DONATING TO ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS



donations over the phone or in person, even though the people who had actually made
donations often did so in response to these same techniques. Nonetheless there seemed to
be a broad sentiment that people are suffering from some “donor fatigue” in response to
being solicited so frequently.


SECTION 5: CONCLUSIONS
Top-of-mind, environmental issues were consistently one of the most frequently mentioned
concerns among participants. However, these environmental concerns were often quite
vague and general and more focused on very large-scale global issues. Environmental issues
are something that seemed “out of my control” to many, and possibly not fully understood.
Many people try to take some action or show their concerns in their day to day lives through
some minor symbolic lifestyle changes.

The notion that donating money to advocacy groups may be one of the best ways to take
action on issues of concern was still regarded as somewhat of a novelty. In the past
environmental issues may have been more strongly linked to immediate human health
concerns and local controversies. At that time it was easier for people to see the connection
between making donations to high profile environmental groups and getting results.

Participants agreed it is important to donate to good causes; however, although the
environment was often voiced as a top concern, ENGOs aren’t high on the radar as a “good
cause.” Most give to smaller, local organizations with which they can see the immediate
impact of their contribution, who they know they can trust or with which they have a
personal connection. Participants emphasized needing to know the organization and being
able to trust them (accountability) before they would be comfortable giving them their
money.

With the environment increasingly being regarded as an intractable global issue many feel
there is very little they, or ENGOs, can do to make a difference – and the few things they
have been told can be done are seen as more of an individual’s responsibility. For many
Canadians with high levels of concern about the environment, the new way to express those
concerns is not by donating money to an environmental group, it is by making
environmentally-friendly choices in the marketplace and by performing some gestures in day
to day life such as conserving water and recycling. Some participants seemed to make little
distinction between paying more for an organic product and donating money to a group.



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                        DONATING TO ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS



A clear challenge for environmental groups in Canada will be to communicate why they
remain indispensable to the resolution of environmental issues. Currently, between various
political parties talking about the environment and major corporations try to demonstrate
“corporate social responsibility”, the ENGO movement has to struggle to demonstrate that
there are aspects of environmental issues that only they can address.

Many of the participants appeared to be more interested in being engaged in and
contributing to local issues. Organizing small groups working at a local level and taking what
is currently a global problem and identifying how it can be addressed at a local level and as a
local issue may be something to consider.

Regarding ENGOs, there was a low level of awareness of what they do and where they get
their money. When probed, most participants assumed that donations come from individuals
and that an ENGO’s primary job is to increase public awareness. However, many, especially
in Montreal, thought that donations came more from government, corporations and grants.

Much of the exposure participants have had to ENGOs are the few events that make the
media, which many described as “extreme.” In fact, feedback seemed to be at one end of the
spectrum or the other: ENGOs either are not there at all or, for ones who are visible, they
are seen as too extreme. Effective messaging may involve working to create a comfortable
medium that people will hear but also relate to, a medium with a positive message that aims
to inspire people to take action, as they currently feel any message they do receive is laden
with guilt and fear. As a result, they turn it off or tune it out.

Participants’ tendency to focus on what they see as more immediate pressing issues is also a
barrier. Perhaps to resonate with more people, as some participants suggested, there needs to
be more emphasis on the accomplishments made to date by each ENGO and what results
people are seeing from those. As one woman commented, “I don’t care about the whales in
B.C….I care about my brother in the hospital.” Discussing broad issues like climate change
that no one can see or talking about future generations may not be having the desired impact
in terms of motivating people to donate their time or money.

In conclusion, the overarching issues seems to be a lack of awareness of the environmental
issues people claim to be concerned about, as well as a lack of understanding as to why
ENGOs are still indispensable to the environmental cause. It was clear that there needs to
be some sort of a sectoral promotion campaign explaining to Canadians that the resolution



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                       DONATING TO ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS



of environmental issues is not just about each individual recycling or conserving water –
there are public policy issues that need to be addressed and there needs to be some advocacy
to make this happen.

The challenge is for ENGOs to become more visible and to show their progress with a
message that inspires people to become engaged – and to show them why they want to be
engaged. The majority agreed that more extreme tactics and end-of-the-world stand-points
turn them off, likely because there is an underlying possibility that negative messaging is
often heard in an accusatory tone.

Finally, it was clear that Canadians would like to see ENGO promote themselves in novel
ways that involve more visibility in the community and more use of the latest media.




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