Expert Advice on Donating to Charity

The Alberta Cancer Foundation breaks down how your donation dollars are used

Illustration by Jennifer Madole.



Donating money to a philanthropic organization is a valuable way to support the people and communities you care about. But, once you’ve donated, sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what happens to those funds. Sheryl Barlage is the vice president of fund development at the Alberta Cancer Foundation. Here, she explains how your donation dollars make an impact on cancer patients in Alberta.

Q: I’m interested in donating to the Alberta Cancer Foundation. How will my money be used?

We ensure donor dollars are put towards projects and programs that will have a direct impact on Albertans facing cancer. This includes the most innovative and advanced research opportunities, clinical trials, early detection initiatives, and programs that will improve patient and family care.

Q: Are there administrative fees taken from donations? If so, how much?

As all charities do, the Foundation incurs administrative costs so we can make the largest impact possible for Albertans facing cancer. Different fundraising channels require different amounts of admin costs. For instance, [admin costs for] the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer are higher and individual giving or planned giving programs are much lower. We measure the cost to raise a dollar and benchmark this against other-like charities in Alberta and always look for opportunities to be more efficient. Across revenue streams for the Foundation, the cost to raise a dollar is approximately 24 cents.

Q: Can I target my donation to a specific program or tumour group?

Donors have the opportunity to inquire about designating their gift to different research or care projects, cancer centre sites, or general tumour groups. Options are available for donors to consider where they believe their generosity will have the most impact, and we are happy to have conversations and share information to help donors make that decision. We work with donors to ensure their dollars make the biggest impact — sometimes, those investments can be more general (like clinical trials) and sometimes they are more specific (funding melanoma research, for instance).

Q: Are there programs that are more in need of assistance?

The “Area of Greatest Need” is always a priority for the Foundation [and has its own page on the website]. This fund ensures that projects and programs with the most need are financially supported. Currently, some of the areas that require the most support are the Patient Financial Assistance Program, the Patient Navigator Program and Clinical Studies. No matter what, all donor dollars provide real-life returns for Albertans and their families facing cancer. You are making life better for patients and their families by providing enhanced treatments and improving quality of life.

Q: Is there a way to see the impact my donation has made?

Absolutely. We provide a variety of communications that celebrate the impact of your generosity. Our annual report, progress and impact reports, Leap magazine, videos and stories on the website, and invitations to events are some of the ways you can see your impact first-hand. We are always happy to hear from you so we can tell you more about the impact you have made for Albertans facing cancer. Your generosity is creating more moments for patients across the province, and we are so grateful for your support.

Expanding Donor Dollars

In some cases, the Foundation can leverage your fundraising dollars to generate more money for Albertans facing cancer.

For example, for every $1 raised by donors, the Foundation can attract an additional $2 from other funders. This means three times as many patients can benefit.

Learn more about how you can support the Alberta Cancer Foundation at


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