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Religiously active donors made average donations of $1,004. People who are more religiously active, that is, those who attend religious meetings or services at least once a week, are more likely to make donations and give more on average. In 2010, 93% of them had donated money to one or more charities or non-profit organizations, with an average annual donation of $1,004. In comparison, 83% of donors who were less frequent or not at all had made a donation, with an average annual donation of $313.

Studies have shown that people with strong religious beliefs also often have more entrenched prosocial and altruistic values, which encourage them to give more of their time and money to others. In addition, because they are integrated into networks of practitioners, they would be more often solicited and would feel more social pressure to give and respect the group’s norms. That said, there are many reasons for the gap between those who are active and those who are less active in religion and their impact may vary according to religious affiliation.

Donations tend to increase with age

In 2010, as in previous years, people aged 15 to 24 (73%) and 25 to 34 (80%) were slightly less likely to donate than the average age group. Among age groups over 35 years of age, donor rates varied little, fluctuating around 88% (Table 2).

The average and median amounts of annual donations tended to increase with age. For example, people aged 75 and over had made average annual donations of $725, compared to $431 for those aged 35 to 44 and $143 for those aged 15 to 24. The respective median amounts for these three age groups were $231 for those aged 75 and over, $127 for those aged 35 to 44 and $30 for those aged 15 to 24.

Older people give more, they are also more likely to be religiously active. In 2010, 32% of people aged 75 and over and 27% of those aged 65 to 74 were religiously active, compared to 13% of people aged 35 to 44.

Moreover, when only religiously active people are considered, there are no significant differences by age in the average amounts given. For example, people aged 75 and over who are religiously active gave an average of $1,178 in 2010, an amount very similar to those in all other age groups (except for those aged 15 to 24, where it was lower). The fact that baby boomers are less religious than their parents could have a negative impact on the amount of donations made by seniors in the medium term.

Some research findings suggest that seniors give more because they may become more sensitive to the needs of people outside their family environment as their own children’s financial situation stabilizes.15 Although the financial situation of some seniors is precarious, particularly for some women living alone,16 many other seniors are mortgage-free and without dependents, which may allow them to make larger donations.

People who volunteer give more

We know that there are strong associations between giving, volunteering and helping others: people who participate in one of these activities are also more likely to participate in another. In addition to having stronger pro-social values, people who volunteer are more likely to be solicited as part of their activities and to experience some social pressure (especially if it is from people they know well).17 For example, in 2010, among those who volunteered 60 hours or more in the previous year, 91% made a donation and their average donation was $784 (Table 2). In comparison, 79% of those who did not volunteer during the year made a donation, averaging $288.

Donors from Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan are giving more.

In 2010, residents of Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island were among the most likely to have made a donation or donations to charitable or non-profit organizations (92% and 91% respectively) (Table 4). In contrast, residents of the Northwest Territories (60%) and Nunavut (59%) were the least likely to make donations.

In 2010, the average amounts of donations were highest in these three provinces: Alberta ($562), Saskatchewan ($544) and British Columbia ($543) (Chart 2). The proportion of the population that was part of the top donor group also reached a peak in these provinces (Table 4). In contrast, the lowest average amounts were recorded in Quebec ($208) and Newfoundland and Labrador ($331).

Residents of Quebec make lower average donations than those in other regions. This observation has already been made in other studies and is also evident when examining other data sources. Giving to charities is part of a socialization process and is influenced by the social and cultural context in which people live. For example, a European study showed that social norms encouraging charitable giving were stronger in Protestant countries and regions and that Catholics living in environments where Catholics were in a strong majority were less likely to make charitable donations.

Across the country, the proportions of Francophones and Anglophones who had made donations were similar21. However, Anglophones gave significantly more than their Francophone counterparts, with average donations of $523 and $184 respectively.

Major donors contributed 83% of total donations

Donors can be divided by category of the amount they donated during the year. The top donors are considered to be those in the top quarter of donors, i.e. the top 25% of those who donated the most in a given year. In 2010, the top donors were those who had donated at least $358.

Although major donors represent only one-quarter of all donors, the cumulative amount of their donations represented 83% of the total amount raised by charities and nonprofits. The decile (10%) of the largest donors alone contributed 63% of all donations (Chart 3). This importance of major donors remained virtually unchanged from 2007.

Those who were more likely to be in the top donor category had much the same characteristics as those who tended to make larger donations. These were people aged 75 and over (32% of them were major donors in 2010), widowers (32%), university graduates (33%) and people with household incomes of $120,000 and over (33%) (Table 3). In addition, the largest donors were proportionally more numerous in the provinces with the highest average donations.

Religious organizations receive 40% of the total value of annual donations.

As is the case in the United States and some European countries22, religious organizations receive the largest share of the total value of donations. Of the 10.6 billion Canadians donated in 2010, 4.26 billion were donated to religious organizations. This represented 40% of the total value of donations, down from 46% in 2007.

Among donations to non-religious organizations, the most common are those to health sector organizations (excluding hospitals). In 2010, these organizations raised $1.59 billion or 15% of all donations. Canadians also donated $615 million to hospitals (6% of total donations).

The third largest cumulative type of organization that collected the most money was organizations and institutions providing social services to a community or target audience (children, people with disabilities, low-income households, etc.). In 2010, 11% of the total amount donated by Canadians 15 years of age and older, or $1.16 billion, went to social service organizations. This was an increase of 21% over the amount raised in 2007.

For the first time in 2010, CSGVP participants were asked if they had donated to relief efforts for victims of natural disasters, for example in Haiti or Chile. In 2010, 20% of people aged 15 and over had donated money to help victims of a natural disaster. The total amount raised was $571 million (an amount not included in the total amount of donations in order to preserve historical comparability of data).