Fewer Canadians giving more to charity: report

Who gives to Canadian charities, how much they give and why is the focus of a new report. (CBC)

Fewer Canadians giving more to charity: report


“We’re delighted to say that Canada is an incredibly generous nation,” says Bruce MacDonald president and CEO of Imagine Canada, a non-profit that works to strengthen Canadian charities. “Annually, over $14 billion is given by individual citizens to charities so that they can support these important services across the country.”

Bruce MacDonald says giving to charity is part of who we are as Canadians. (David A. Gilmour/Imagine Canada)


A new report exploring how Canadians give to charity was compiled by Imagine Canada with the support of the Rideau Hall Foundation, a charity linked to the office of Canada’s governor-general.

Boomer generation is more giving

The report says that giving habits have changed over the last three decades. The baby boomers, that large number of children born after World War II, have been the most important part of the donor pool accounting for more than 40 per cent donations since 2000. MacDonald says that makes sense given that boomers have hit the peak earning part of their careers and have more discretionary income.

Among younger Canadians, donations rates and average donations are low and increasing very slowly. However, they are less likely than older people to express negative views about charities.

A bigger proportion of the donations to charity now comes from the wealthy.

The rich give more

Among the other findings in the report, Canadian charities have become more dependent than ever on affluent people. In 1984, the top earners accounted for only 16 per cent of total donations. In 2014, they accounted for 31 per cent of them.

Residents of the provinces of Ontario and the western Prairie provinces are most likely to report charitable donations on their income tax forms. The largest average donations have come from Alberta and British Columbia and the lowest average donations were from Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.

Religious charities get most

While giving to religious organizations is decreasing, it still accounts for the largest portion of donations. Next, are donations to health and social service organizations. Giving to international organizations is increasing.

New Canadians are more likely to donate to religious organization and they give a higher proportion of their donations to religious organizations.

People who volunteer are more likely to make charitable donations later on.

Compassion is the main motivator

The main reasons people give are compassion towards those in need, personal belief in the cause and the desire to make a contribution to the community.  Giving was found to be a learned behavior. Canadians who give or volunteer when they are young or see their parents do so are more likely to donate as adults.

MacDonald says a good way to attract future donors is to emphasize to people how their own families and friends have benefited from charities and to invite them to participate as volunteers and later, as donors.

‘What makes us Canadian’

He hopes this report will help charities decide how best to attract donors and continue what he sees as a fine, Canadian tradition of giving.“It’s part of who we are as a society,” he says. “The need and the ability to step up and help our neighbours is part of what makes us Canadian.”

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