Santa Survey ImageThe Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington created an online survey for donors who participated in the 2019 Adopt-A-Family (AAF) Program. The goal of the survey was to gauge donor satisfaction and engagement in the program, as well as identify areas for improvement. While Adopt-A-Family 2020 will look very different due to the pandemic, the Donor feedback from this survey will be instrumental in shaping the program in 2021, as we are hopeful we may be able to return to our normal gift-giving program by then.


Below is a summary of the 2019 survey results. For anyone wishing to provide feedback on the Adopt-A-Family Program, please contact Karyn Kirkwood, Program Director at or Emma Rogers, CEO at or by calling 519-826-9551.


General Stats 

Donors live in: 

  • Guelph = 70%

  • Wellington County = 16%

  • Outside of Guelph-Wellington = 14%

Donors have participated in the Adopt-A-Family Program for:

  • 1st year: 27%

  • 2-5 years: 41%

  • 6-10 years: 21%

  • 11+ years: 12% 

81% of Donors who responded participated in the program by adopting a family or independent youth. It’s not surprising that the majority of the donors who responded to the survey adopted, as this option has the highest level of engagement in the program and the highest level of emotional attachment.


Why Donors choose to support kids and families through the AAF Program?

Not surprising, most responses spoke about giving back and making Christmas special for kids and their families. General themes included: 

  • Doing good / giving back / positive impact:

    • We thought it was important to give back, as well as help people in our own community. Human struggle is only a few door-steps away a lot of the time, and we wanted to create a real impact for those going through hard times.

    • I feel it’s important to support our community and bring a small amount of relief and stress from people’s daily lives while bringing joy to children. Happier communities are stronger communities

  • Christmas season is important for kids: 

    • Christmas is about sharing and family – Adopt-a-Family is a perfect representation of what Christmas is all about!

    • To help children enjoy Christmas and to give them additional self confidence going back to school telling their friends what gifts they received.

  • Personal aspect of the program, tangible way to help real people: 

    • It is a tangible way to help someone in need. Unlike donating money, adopting a family means that we know we are helping real people.

    • Because you allowed us to choose the gifts ourselves. It was more meaningful that way.

    • To help grandparents. Not many organizations do this.

  • Part of family tradition, reducing family gift-giving: 

    • My family has always participated in some form of adopt-a-family since I was 6 years old, regardless of where we have lived. I wanted to continue this tradition as an adult with my own family.

    • We did it the first time the year our daughter was born, and now it is a Christmas tradition for our family.

  • Teaching valuable lesson to their own kids about giving back: 

    • I have a young family and run a Spark unit. I want to teach the lesson of giving to those in need.

    • We wanted to share the experience of supporting another family with our own children.

  • Work initiative, team building: 

    • "Doing good" is a primary value for our company. We donate to Adopt-a-Family because it is a way for us to have a positive impact on the lives of people within our community. We love that everyone on our team can contribute in a meaningful way.

    • Rather than exchanging Xmas gifts within the administration team, we wanted to donate and felt Adopt-A-Family was a great fit/aligns with our agency's vision, values and goals.

    • The tradition has also become a teambuilding opportunity for our workplace. 

  • Paying it forward, have experienced poverty:

    • Because something similar was done for my mom and sisters when I was young and my mom had nothing for us at Christmas. I'm fortunate to be able to pay it forward.

    • I can relate to families having a tough time during the holiday season, as my family went through the same thing when I was a child. Also want to give back to those in need.

    • I have been helped by the Children's Foundation in the past and wanted to help someone else out this year. I also just love helping.

    • I work with kids on a regular basis and so I can connect with this charity. I know firsthand what it is like not to receive gifts at Christmas because of poverty

  • CFGW/AAF –great charity/program, long history with program, well-run:

    • An amazing program run by an amazing charity!

    • Organization seems to screen families well.


What do Donors like most about the AAF Program?

Many answers reflected the same responses as above, speaking about the impact they can have on a child and family. General themes included: 

  • Doing good / giving back / positive impact:

    • Apart from the obvious tangible benefits to the recipients, I like to believe it makes them feel less alone with their struggles to know that people care about them and are willing to help.

    • I like that I can bring joy to families and children at this very special time of year without the recipients knowing who I am. It brings me a tremendous sense of fun and satisfaction buying personalized gifts of what is needed and what is wanted.    Simply I enjoy the fact that I have made a family feel loved and not forgotten at Christmas time.

  • Giving to a local charity / helping local families:

    • We like that it is a local charity helping people in our own community,

    • Adopting local families who are in need of some light and love during the festive season.

  • Customized, personal program:

    • Getting a bit of a sense of who will receive donations - takes it from an abstract concept to a concrete reality when engaging kids / family.

    • I like that I was able to be specific about who I wanted to help. I really wanted to buy for teenagers as they are always the forgotten ones.  I was able to do that.  I like the lists and a bit of the story behind the family.   It really taught my grown children some lessons too and I know they will continue to give back in their life.

  • Well-organized, easy to participate, great volunteers:

    • I thought it was very organized the day of drop off. I can't imagine how much work goes into organizing all the families and their items and I thought it went really smoothly.

    • I was overwhelmed by Santa’s workshop. The dedication and the amazement of all the elves – It‘s an army of people that helps move this program forward.

    • Your volunteers are amazing! All of the volunteers are so friendly and helpful.


What do Donors suggest that could be changed/improved with the AAF Program?

Next to knowing what Donors love about the program, this question is most important as we strive to not only have a meaningful impact in the lives of kids and their families, but also to make it a meaningful and enjoyable experience for Donors. Below are the main themes of feedback received, along with some information that might help give some context for why things are the way they are, and/or what we plan to do to improve it.

  • Need more time: We hear you! There are a lot of factors that go into the timing of Adopt-A-Family, including how quickly the family referrals come in, when we can move into donated warehouse space, how slow online orders might be in arriving for Donors, and of course, the hard deadline of Christmas! In the future, we will stretch the time-frame a bit more while balancing all those factors.

  • Would like feedback/thank you note from the family: The extraordinary effort and support of Donors creates feelings of attachment so it is understandable that they would want to hear back directly from their family as opposed to simply receiving a general thank-you from us at the Children’s Foundation. We do encourage families to share feedback, as do the social workers, but they are not always able to do so. We appreciate this may be disappointing for donors, however we encourage them to try to understand why that may be the case. Read more about why families may struggle with sending a thank you card at:

    In the past few years, we have suggested families can email a thank-you since that might be easier for them to do. When we receive an emailed thank-you, we print it out to mail to the donor. One new step we will be doing in the future, is to create an online option for them to quickly and easily send a thank-you note. We know it's not as nice as an old-fashioned hand-written card, but we hope that it might meet the family where they're at and increase the number of thank-you's for Donors.

  • Expectations too high / too expensive: We often feel that way too so can understand why this is a concern for Donors. We continue to communicate to families via their social workers to keep their requests within a certain dollar amount, but that doesn't always happen as they are asked what their "wishes" are and so provide what the child is (secretly) hoping for. For teens especially, we know their needs and wishes can be quite expensive as they are for all teens. In looking ahead, in addition to giving financial parameters, we may need to reduce/limit the number of needs and wishes to make it more reasonable.

  • Disparity from year-to-year or from family-to-family: This can be an issue as Donors are very generous and often want to make it the best-Christmas-ever for their adopted family and so they go above and beyond. It's a beautiful thing, but it can create disparity between what a family might receive from one year to the next (if they are referred more than once) or between families who know each other and are recipients. We encourage Donors to be consistent with the recommended guidelines as we do not take items away that a Donor has provided for their adopted family. We will do our best to continue to communicate this to Donors and to ask that they adopt more families if they're financially able to as we struggle every year to get all the families adopted out in a reasonable time-frame.

  • Too much paperwork and/or confusion when dropping off gifts: There is definitely a lot of pieces to Adopt-A-Family for Donors with gift cards, gift receipts, tax receipts, check-lists, etc. It can be a bit nerve-wracking at the door when things get busy and when our volunteer Elves are trying to make sure nothing gets mixed up. Our goal is for Donors to feel the love and spirit of Christmas when they drop off at Santa's Warehouse and we'll definitely keep working hard to fine-tune and simplify the process so that can truly be the focus when Donors come through the front door. 


 Clearing up a few misconceptions

  • Ongoing rumours that the charity re-allocates gifts that donors have brought in for their adopted family(ies): There is still some misconceptions in the community that Adopt-A-Family takes some gift items away to spread out amongst other families and this is absolutely not true. Whatever a Donor brings in for their adopted family goes to the family. The only time something might be removed is on the rare occasion that a gift item is inappropriate. There are also some occasions where a Donor may have misunderstood something on the list, such as the sizing, in which case, we may swap it out for the correct sizing. But we never take something away that a Donor has brought in for their family to give to another family.

  • Families picking up their gifts: It is actually the social workers who refer the families who come to the warehouse to pick-up the gifts and deliver to the families. This gives them the opportunity to have a special and positive interaction with the family they are working with that helps to deepen their relationship.


You're making us blush!

96% of Donors surveyed felt valued and appreciated, which is music to our ears. Our mission is to bring hope and joy to kids and their families at the holidays, but it's also so important to us that the experience for Donors also brings them joy and meaning. Our team, including the hard-working team of volunteer Elves, appreciates all the kind words of appreciation from Donors. Here are just a few of the wonderful things said:

  • Children’s Foundation is THE best charity. All of the programs are valuable and important to our community.

  • Everyone I dealt with was amazing, took me on a tour to understand the processes.  Great program for so many families in need.

  • I really appreciated the volunteers taking the time to teach our girls about the program.  It went above and beyond!!

  • Keep up the good work in proving leadership which enables us all to participate in building a healthy and caring community!

  • Our experience has been seamless over the past 4 years.  Even though I arrived just slightly after 5 pm (closing time) and was willing to return the next day, the volunteers insisted on processing our donation in an amazing team fashion, for my convenience.  This flexibility did not go unappreciated.

  • The staff are all so wonderful. We had a few questions about our families this year and every time I phoned or emailed, I received a quick response. I don't know how you do it! Amazing program and we are proud to be part of it.

  • Your elves work very hard!!  Keep up the good work !!  Thank you for all you do.