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Canadians’ Charitable Donations

Every year, millions of people make financial donations to charities and nonprofit organizations. By contributing financially to organizations and groups that support causes they care about, donors want to contribute to the well-being of their fellow citizens or promote principles and values in which they believe. Governments recognize the difference that these donations can make to the community by giving tax credits to encourage taxpayers to give or by providing a contribution equivalent to the amount given by individuals in the case of certain causes.

The sources of funding for charities and nonprofits can vary significantly by sector, with varying amounts of government grants; corporate donations; foundation donations, and so on. Despite this diversity, almost all organizations rely on individual donations to accomplish their mission and objectives. In many ways, better understanding these donors and their motivations can help organizations make informed decisions.

This article looks at different dimensions of charitable giving by Canadians in 2010. First, information on donors and donations is presented for comparison with 2007. A portrait of the types of organizations that received higher amounts is also provided, distinguishing between religious organizations and other types of organizations. People who donate to religious organizations differ, in some respects, from those who donate to non-religious organizations.

In the last section, we look at the reasons why people give and the reasons they give for not giving more. In particular, attention is paid to some of the things that have disturbed donors when they have been solicited. This information is valuable to many non-profit organizations that want to improve their operations and ensure that donors have confidence in their practices and continue to give.

All data presented in this article are from the Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (CSGVP). Respondents were asked to report the amounts they donated to charitable or non-profit organizations. Not all donations reported to the CSGVP are eligible for an official receipt, so these data are not directly comparable to data collected from tax returns. For more details on these data and definitions of various concepts used in this article, see “What you need to know about this study”.

What you need to know about this study

This study is based on data from the Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (CSGVP), which was conducted with a sample of people aged 15 years and older, totalling 15,482 respondents in 2010 and 21,827 respondents in 2007.

Classification of organisms

Respondents were asked to provide the names of the organizations to which they made donations during the year. Based on the results of previous years’ surveys, it has been possible to classify a good number of organizations according to their purpose and main activity (some of them work in several fields). For some unidentified organizations, respondents were asked to specify what the organization was doing. The organizations were classified using the International Classification of Non-Profit Organizations. This is divided into 15 major groups of activities:

Arts and culture: This category includes organizations and activities in the general and specialized fields of arts and culture. It includes: media and communications; visual arts, architecture, pottery; performing arts; historical, literary and humanist societies; museums; and zoos and aquariums.

Sports and recreation: This category includes amateur sport organizations and activities (fitness and wellness centres) and recreational clubs (includes social clubs).

Education and Research: This category includes education and research organizations and activities, whether administrative, delivery, promotion, implementation, support or services. It includes 1) organizations dedicated to primary or secondary education; 2) organizations dedicated to other forms of education (adult education, continuing education, vocational and technical training schools); and 3) organizations dedicated to research (medical research, science and technology, social sciences).

Universities and colleges: This category includes organizations and activities related to higher education. It includes universities, business, law and medical schools.

Health: This category includes organizations whose activities are related to health and which primarily provide services to outpatients. It includes outpatient mental health treatment, emergency response and other services (public health education and wellness; ambulatory care; outpatient consultation services; outpatient medical rehabilitation services; and emergency medical services).

Hospitals: This category includes hospitals, nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals, and rehabilitation activities, e. g. inpatient health care and inpatient rehabilitation therapy.

Social Services: This category includes organizations and institutions that provide social services to a community or target audience. It includes three subgroups: 1) social services (including agencies providing services to children, youth, families, people with disabilities and seniors, or personal or self-help social services); 2) emergency and relief services; and 3) income support and maintenance services.