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Generosity Index Highlights Giving in U.S., Canada

WASHINGTON (AFP eWire - Jan. 3, 2003) - About the same percentage of tax-filers in the United States and Canada donate to charities, according to the 2002 Generosity Index: Comparing Charitable Giving in Canada and the US, recently released by The Fraser Institute. In 2000, 27.8 percent of Americans who filed itemized tax returns and 25.2 percent of Canadian tax-filers gave to charity.

While the percentage of tax-filers remains virtually the same, there is a substantial difference between the two countries in the percentage of income donated. In aggregate, Americans donated 1.63 percent of income, while Canadians gave 0.65 percent of income to registered charities.

"This is over two times more than Canadian giving and illustrates a dramatic difference in the level of charitable giving between the two countries," says Jason Clemens, director of nonprofit studies at The Fraser Institute, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. "If Canadians donated 1.63 percent of their income to charities - the same percentage that is donated in the United States - $8.14 billion in additional revenue would be provided to Canadian charities."

Average donation levels

There is also a considerable gap between the value of average total donations between Canada and the United States. The average total charitable donation in the States was US$3,658 nearly six times the average Canadian donation of US$619 (C$919).

In terms of the average value of charitable donations, all 10 Canadian provinces trail the American states by a striking margin.

"In Wyoming, the average gift to charity is US$9,084. This amounts to C$7,890, almost eight times more than Canada's top-ranked province of British Columbia - even before currency differences are calculated," notes Clemens.

The value of the average donation (US$2,373) in Rhode Island, the lowest-ranked state, is still nearly double British Columbia's average donation of C$1,194.

"There are a variety of reasons which explain the disparity in charitable giving between the two countries, including differences in income levels, regulation and tax treatment of charities, services provided by government, and religious activity," concludes Clemens. "However, a great deal more research needs to be undertaken to explain charitable giving and support for the nonprofit sector in general."

Canadian charity

The western provinces and Ontario follow Manitoba at the top of the Canadian rankings. Ontario ranks second in both the percentage of tax-filers donating to charities (28.2 percent) and the percentage of total income donated (0.78 percent).

The Atlantic provinces and Quebec are at the bottom of the Canadian list. Quebec ranks ninth out of 10 provinces in terms of tax-filers donating to charity (22.7 percent), and last in terms of both the percentage of income donated to charity (0.31 percent) and in average charitable donations (C$463).

The results from the Generosity Index support findings from Statistics Canada, which show that fewer people are giving to charity while the total amount donated continues to increase. "This is a worrisome trend going forward - both for the charitable sector and Canadian society - because of the nature and importance of the services provided by charities," adds Clemens.

The western provinces, along with Ontario, dominated the top of the list of average donations. British Columbia and Alberta topped the rankings with average donations of C$1,194 and C$1,188 respectively. Ontario was third with average donations of C$1,186. Quebec ranked last with an average donation of C$463.

"A wide range of charitable organizations are dependent on individual donations for much of their funding. These organizations, along with thousands of others, constitute an important, and growing, sector of Canadian society. Our annual Generosity Index provides a barometer of how many Canadians are giving to charities and how much they give," Clemens explains.

The Generosity Index is published in the December 2002 issue of Fraser Forum, The Fraser Institute's monthly magazine. For more information, visit www.fraserinstitute.ca.

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