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Canadian Giving Increases, but Depends on Small Group of Donors

June 18, 2006

(June 19, 2006) While many Canadian give their money and time to charity, a relatively small percentage of the population provides most of the support, according to a recent survey by Statistics Canada.

The Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating, released on June 5, surveyed more than 22,000 Canadians aged 15 or older about their giving and volunteering activities in 2004.

More than 22 million Canadians (about 85 percent of the population aged 15 or older) contributed an estimated $8.9 billion in 2004. The survey found that the top one-quarter of Canadian donors (21 percent)—those who gave $325 or more—accounted for 82 percent of the value of all donations.

Charitable and other nonprofit organizations also depend heavily on a relatively small group of volunteers for unpaid help. In 2004, the top one-quarter of volunteers (11 percent of Canadians) who contributed 180 hours or more accounted for 77 percent of total volunteer hours. Overall, nearly 12 million Canadians volunteered almost 2 billion hours to charitable organizations during the year.

Donations and volunteer rates are higher than those found in previous surveys (1997 and 2000). However, Statistics Canada noted that the earlier surveys used different questionnaires and a different design, so comparisons are not possible.

Giving to What and Where

Which organizations received most charitable donations? Religious organizations, which received nearly $4.0 billion, or 45 percent of annual giving. In addition, donors to religious organizations were more likely to make larger contributions, an average of $395 per gift.

The second-most-popular choice was health organizations, which received more than $1.2 billion, or 14 percent of the total.

While religious organizations received the most money, other types of charities had a wider base of support. While just 38 percent of Canadians supported religious organizations, 43 percent gave to social service groups and nearly 60 percent contributed to health charities.

The most generous provinces, in terms of donation rates, were Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. In both cases, 93 percent of the population aged 15 or older made contributions. Three other provinces exceeded the national average: Nova Scotia (90 percent), Ontario (90 percent) and New Brunswick (88 percent). The lowest participation rate was found in Nunavut at 63 percent.

The largest average donation, however, was found in Alberta ($500), while Quebec featured the smallest ($176).


Saskatchewan had the highest volunteer rate (54 percent), followed by the Northwest Territories (53 percent) and the Yukon (52 percent). The lowest rate was found in Quebec (34 percent).

However, volunteers in British Columbia were the most active with the highest average hours per year volunteered (199 hours per year). Right behind were the Yukon (196) and Nova Scotia (195).

The fewest volunteers were reported in Nunavut (132) and Quebec (146).

For More Information

The publication Caring Canadians, Involved Canadians: Highlights from the Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating, 2004 is now available for free online at the Statistics Canada website. A paper version of the publication ($20) is also available.

Statistics Canada is legislated to serve as the country’s central statistical agency for the whole of Canada and each of the provinces. It produces statistics that help Canadians better understand their country—its population, resources, economy, society and culture.

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