Canadians are generous people! At Compassion Canada, we see that firsthand, especially in December. When the snow starts falling, we also see a flurry of year-end giving. With these gifts, we can help more children to be released from poverty in Jesus’ name and change the communities in which they live.
This year, we’ve all been looking for ways to help our money go a little bit further. It is more important than ever for us to know that when we give, it really makes a difference.
Because of this, we decided to sit down with long-time Compassion supporter and friend Kate Rock-Thompson, from Rock Thompson Financial Planning in London, Ontario to chat about how to make the most of year-end giving.
In our conversation, we cover charitable tax receipts, how to get the whole family involved in giving and how to live a more generous life in the year ahead. Whether this is your first time considering giving a gift to a charity (way to go!) or you’ve been giving for years (thank you!), we hope you find this to be a helpful and encouraging conversation.
CC: Welcome, Kate. Thank you so much for spending some time with Compassion Canada to talk about year-end giving! You live in London, Ontario, with your family, the same city where Compassion Canada has its head office. What do you love about your city? Any favourite places to go or things to do?
Kate: Thank you for having me! Yes, London is a place I fell in love with. I came to go to school and then never left. It’s a city that I love because it’s in the middle—it’s small and not small at the same time. It has all these unique communities. We live in the Wortley village area, and I’m still discovering beautiful trails and places to explore.
CC: Kate, can you tell us about your job? How does your faith play a part in what you do?
Kate: I’m a certified financial planner, which is a very broad role. I work with individuals, families and non-profit organizations, helping them qualify what their priorities in life are. Then I help them make sure their finances align with their priorities, for instance when making choices about year-end giving.
I didn’t start out in this field. There was a point in my life when I was a young adult when I came to realize I needed to learn a lot about managing money, and it was super overwhelming. I had people along the way who really helped me understand stewardship principles and the practical nature of managing money day to day. I realized that this is a scary topic for lots of people, and I became passionate about helping others to overcome that fear. My job grew out of that passion!
On an ordinary day, I meet with people one-on-one or online. I might act as a third party in a conversation with a couple or as a sounding board for someone who is looking to understand financial options. Over the years, I’ve learned someone in my role has a special opportunity to get people thinking about the big picture. It’s important to help people align their desires for their life and the world with their finances.
I recognize that it takes faith to really trust God with our money, to walk that middle path between being fearful we don’t have enough on one side and greedy on the other. My faith helps me to stay steady and trust in God, letting go of the things that I don’t have any control over. Any way I can help others do the same to me feels like a huge win.
CC: That is a huge win! Most people want their whole lives to tell the truth about who they are, especially young people. When our money doesn’t reflect what really matters to us, that’s an area we might need help with. So thank you for what you do!
I know you sponsor children with Compassion. Can you tell us what that experience has been like and how families can pass generosity to their children?
Kate: Compassion is an organization that we as a family have supported for a long time, and we’ve been so fortunate to have kids graduate and then sponsor new kids. For our family—we have a blended family of four kids—we started with one Compassion child and then took the leap, and each kid selected a child to sponsor. It was a way to say, “This is important to us as a family”. It was gratifying to receive letters and watch them grow up and graduate. It’s a beautiful opportunity to bless people. When our kids were little, we made part of their Christmas gift the opportunity to choose something from the Gifts of Compassion catalogue to give. Some years it was school supplies or chickens. It was a way we could teach our kids about giving.
I hope the next generations will be more transparent with talking about finances, so the kids don’t just have to go figure it out on their own. Adults can share with their kids why they give where they do, the things they feel excited and passionate about and the ways they are still learning about finances… even talking about ways they have made mistakes. That kind of communication is important for helping the next generation manage money.
CC: Many people want to be a part of positive change in this world but have no idea where to start or think they need to be wealthy to make a difference. What advice do you have for someone who wants to give toward a worthwhile goal?
Kate: That question makes me think back to the Bible story of people going into the temple and giving huge generous gifts and then the woman who could only give a penny. That’s it. It seems so insignificant, and yet Jesus said she was the one who had really given. I think it doesn’t matter if it’s a lot or a little, it’s a generous heart that’s important. If it’s on your heart to give, then just do it. That’s what it really comes down to. It doesn’t matter if it is $25 or $25,000, God will do good work with our gift. Don’t be afraid your gift isn’t enough, but also don’t be afraid to be generous and challenge yourself. I’ve seen it firsthand in my own life as well as in other people’s lives that when we give, we experience blessing and joy.
CC: How can someone find out if a charity is trustworthy or not?
Kate: Most of us find charities because of our circle of friends—someone recommends it or we see the good work they are doing. Very practically speaking, make sure it is a registered charity and check them out. You can do that through the CRA. Find out who they are and what their values are, and make sure it aligns with yours.
CC: In December, our mailboxes and inboxes notify us of plenty of opportunities to buy things but also opportunities for year-end giving. Why is charity such a big thing this time of year?
Kate: I think there are two reasons here—first, it’s just a charitable time of year! I watched A Christmas Carol last night, the Alister Sims 1951 version. I don’t know how many times they said throughout the movie, “It’s a charitable time of year!” At Christmas, we are encouraged to think about others. But from a practical perspective, lots of us are evaluating our year, asking, “How have we done this year?”, [especially] if you are self-employed. Charities will remind people to give so they will get a charitable tax receipt for the year. It has sort of become a habit to give to charities at Christmastime and not throughout the year. But if you ask me, the Christmas spirit—the giving spirit—should really be with us all year.
CC: Let’s say someone hasn’t begun to give to charities regularly. What is a charitable tax receipt, and what is it for?
Kate: Well, here are the basics. When you give money, or any form of currency, to a registered charity, you receive a receipt. Both the federal and provincial governments encourage this kind of donation by giving a tax credit. Depending on where you are in Canada, the tax credit is slightly different. If you are in an income bracket where you are paying taxes at the end of the year, a gift to charity could reduce the amount of tax you owe. It’s an opportunity for you to have a little more say in what you’d like to support. Essentially, you can pay fewer taxes to CRA and direct that money to a charity instead. It’s important to note that these tax credits can be carried over to future years if you can’t use all your credits each year. So, people like that—it gives them a choice.
CC: Tax receipts are sent out the next year before tax season for any charity you’ve given to. For someone who is planning, what tools can a person use to calculate the difference their charitable gifts will make at tax time?
Kate: There are calculators that can help you figure out the impact your gift will have from a tax perspective. You’ll need to know your taxable income and how much you have given or want to give. Canada Helps has a regularly updated calculator on their website.
CC: What advice might a financial planner give to people who want to make the most of their year-end donations? Whether someone wants to give money or securities, how can their dollar go the furthest?
Kate: Everyone wants to make their money go further. Many charities have campaigns with a matching gift opportunity where your gift could be doubled by another donor. Another consideration would be to give stocks or non-registered investments. The nice thing about this is that if you have an investment that has grown—you’ve made money on your investment—when you sell it, you pay the taxes on the gain. Giving a portion (or all these funds) to a charity allows you to take the full value of the account and transfer it directly. You, in turn, receive a receipt for the value and do not have to pay taxes on the gain. You can find a good calculator for this on Canada Helps, too, here.
CC: Let’s say someone wants to live a more generous life and impact their world for good in the year ahead. What could they start doing today to make that happen?
Kate: That’s a great question. First, I would say pray about it! Prayer is first, then we deal with the practical. The practical is to make sure you have a budget or cash flow plan that aligns with the good you want to see happen. If you want something to improve in the world, you either must do it or use your resources to support someone who can. From my perspective, that doesn’t mean you can’t have things or can’t enjoy life. It’s an opportunity to take a step back and evaluate, “This is how I’m spending my money!” Then, if it’s not in alignment, make changes. I wouldn’t suggest someone willingly go into debt or not be able to meet their basic needs—not without a good short-term plan—but I would say consider challenging yourself to give consistently and be generous.
Some people decide to give monthly, and some give all at once at the end of the year. There is no right or wrong here, but usually, regular giving has a better success rate (from a goal perspective). We’re more likely to follow through when we make something a regular habit.
Giving doesn’t really happen without a plan. And it’s not just about money. It’s also where you give your time and your abilities with whatever platform (influence) you have. All these things become part of living a generous life. All that we have is a gift from God. Charitable giving is a way of expressing gratitude for what we have been blessed with.
CC: Thank you, Kate, for taking some time to answer our questions today!
If you are considering giving a gift to help children and families experiencing poverty, you can find out more about the work of Compassion Canada on our website and information on our impact and finances here.
We encourage you to explore what regular giving might look like through child sponsorship. If you are interested in a year-end gift, consider exploring Gifts of Compassion for a one-time gift that makes a big impact!