Today's economy

Are Canadians as generous as they used to be?

By Kevin Press,

Comments (6)

Image of a volunteer at the Sun Life Financial United Way Day of Caring event.A couple of weeks back, I was invited to speak with Julia Gorman, vice-president of resource development at United Way Toronto. The organization’s annual fundraising campaign kicked off in September, and so it seemed a good opportunity to give the United Way a bit of a plug and at the same time learn what it’s like to raise funds for a charitable organization in today’s economy.

As I prepared for the interview, I was surprised to learn that charitable giving has largely recovered since the 2008 downturn. According to a June 2012 report, Canadians donated $10.6 billion to charities and non-profit organizations in 2010. That’s up slightly from the $10.4 billion donated in 2007, according to Statistics Canada.

That’s not much growth, of course. In percentage terms, the increase is just 1.9%. Given that the population of Canadians aged 15 and older grew by 4.5% (and our economic growth rate was even stronger) during that same period, one has to draw the conclusion that charities and non-profits have taken a hit. But it’s a smaller hit than I expected to see.

Statistics Canada reports that 84% of Canadians aged 15 and older donated in 2010, and that the average number of donations per individual was 3.8. Both those numbers match the 2007 findings. The average amount received per donor dropped from $457 in 2007 to $446 in 2010. And the average donation fell from $119 in 2007 to $114 in 2010. (These results are in 2010 dollars.)

I asked Gorman what it’s been like at the United Way, and what she’s heard from other professionals in the charitable/non-profit sector. She made three observations:

  • Public sector support is down. “Governments at all levels are cutting back,” she told me. “As a result, charities are having to refocus on private sector support. And with the economy, that’s challenging.”
  • While private sector giving has stabilized, fundraisers are worried about future growth. “2008 was a very challenging year for many – if not most – charities across the country,” Gorman said. “And 2009 continued to be very challenging. Things are slowly improving and charitable giving has stabilized. But it is not growing at the levels we saw a decade or even five years ago.” United Way Toronto saw a 2% decline in giving in 2008, relative to the previous year. It has recovered since.
  • Employment support programs are key. No big surprise there. Gorman told me there’s a real need among young adults and newcomers to Canada. “The youth unemployment rate is double that of the general population,” she said. Statistics Canada data puts the unemployment rate among landed immigrants a full percentage point above the national average.

For information on what United Way does nationally, visit

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Susanne Shaw on

Housing and heating costs in Canada are ridiculously high. There’s too much disparity between rich and poor .Neither condition –rich or poor–should ever happen. Greed should be declared a crime (or a mental illness like OCD and drug/alcohol addiction which also MUST be treated) . The poor–many of them kids and their moms, the elderly, the infirm and/or mentally ill—should be given a livable wage and MUCH counselling. The rich should be ashamed of themselves for hoarding. No one deserves $500,000 a year–except maybe a paramedic in Vancouver ro an emergency room nurse at St. Paul’s. Anything over $300,000 a year is pure greed and needs to be divided up and shared. There’s no way the BC Hydro exec should get his obscenely ridicuous salary, while the guys putting up the power lines and providing the actual services make 10 times less. Ridiculous! The chair-bound executives need to be ousted. Useless drecks. I’ll wager their secretaries cold do the job by themselves for a lot less.

    fastjalapeno on

    Susanne, while I agree with some of what you said, there are something things about your response that really rub me the wrong way. The statement “Greed should be declared a crime (or a mental illness like OCD and drug/alcohol addiction which also MUST be treated). I find this rather impertinent. Greed being declared a crime would label every single government as criminals. Then, you go on to say that it should be considered a mental illness, like OCD and drug/alcohol addiction, which must be treated. Please, share your treatment ideas for these mental illnesses. Also, counselling? What is wrong with you? By the sounds of things, you’re neither rich, nor poor, and your life is absolutely flawless.

    Mental illnesses are not something to be mocked, and greed is most definitely NOT anything to be labelled as a mental illness. 1 in 4 people suffer from mental illness. Adding greed to the list of mental illnesses would raise that statistic to 1 in 2 people. Take the time to review your response and realize how you are coming off. Start showing respect to the mentally ill. Popping pharmaceuticals is absolutely no way to treat the mentally ill, and I can guarantee that little kids will be looking through medicine cabinets and take those drugs to alter their state of being, ultimately raising the potential for more drug addicts, which are already of such concern to you.


Long Huang on

Why are there so many homeless and beggars in Montreal? Every corner of the streets. An eyesore. Sad.
In Australia there are so many charities foundations private and public sector out there to give a helping
hand. A food caravan distrubuting food during the night, donations from restaurants for the homeless, etc. Look up at the website.

thepinch on

I live in downtown Toronto. By the time I get to the subway, about 200 meters, I have been accosted as many as eight times by beggars, Amnesty International, that Girl “Charity”, etc. There is a charitable organization for every four hundred people in Canada. The unemployment rate is very high.

Friday Links on

[…] Canadians pride themselves on generosity but Brighter Life was curious to see Are Canadians as Generous as They Used to Be? […]

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