The philanthropic sector is an important part of the economy in Canada. The sector also has a huge impact on the lives of Canadian people, especially those who rely on charities to support them with basic needs.

In this article, we explore the size of the charity sector in Canada, together with how giving has changed in Canada and who is the most likely to donate among other key statistics on philanthropy in Canada. We also take a look at how the recent COVID-19 pandemic has affected the Canadian charity and non-profit sector.

Philanthropy Statistics for Canadians

  • Canada has around 86,000 registered charitable organisations.
  • Canadians aged 65 and older are the most likely age group to donate to charities and non-profit organisations.
  • In 2021, residents of Ontario donated over $5 billion to charities.
  • People in Manitoba are the most likely to give to charity with almost a quarter of the residents reporting charitable donations on their tax returns.
  • The number of Canadians filing charitable donations on tax returns fell by over 2% between 2016 and 2020.
  • While the number of donors decreased, the amount of donations increased by around 19% in 2020 compared to 2016.
  • 40% of Canadian charities have experienced more demand for their services since the pandemic.
  • Donations from individuals decreased by 44.5% following the pandemic.

What is Philanthropy?

The term philanthropy refers to a person or an organisation that uses its generosity to try to improve the well-being of others. Being philanthropic does not only mean donating money so anyone can be philanthropic as long as their goal is to help those in need.

In addition to donating money, stocks, or other assets to charities, there are many ways a person or an organisation can be philanthropic. You can be philanthropic by starting a fundraiser for a cause, raising awareness, taking part in charitable events such as walks, runs, and cake sales, and volunteering in your community or at a non-profit organisation.

Philanthropy in Canada

There are around 86,000 registered charity organisations in Canada. In addition, there are between 80,000 and 100,000 unregistered non-profits. The charity statistics below relate mainly to the registered organisations since there is very little information available on the unregistered non-profits.

According to Canadian Charity Law, in 2020, the total revenue for Canadian charities was $304 billion and their expenditures were $281 billion. 91% of the revenues were spent on charitable activities, while 9% was spent on admin and fundraising. About 10% of Canada’s workforce was employed by charities in 2019.

The government’s share of the revenue was $204.8 billion which included $10.7 from the federal government, $ 182.4 billion from provincial governments, and $11.6 billion from municipal and regional governments. The government revenue was about 67% of the whole charity and non-profit sector.

During the financial year of 2020, 29,811 charities gave gifts to other charities. Over $4 billion was spent on charitable causes outside of Canada, while $2.9 billion was received through foreign donations. 1,131 charities had employees and 2,230 had volunteers conducting activities abroad.

Older Canadians Donate More to Charities

In Canada, 18.4% of residents gave to charities in 2022 based on the information on their filed tax returns. This shows a decrease from 20.5% in 2016. However, it is likely that far more people made donations to charitable organisations but didn’t record them on their tax returns.

The median age of the average donor in Canada increased from 41.0 to 41.9 between 2016 and 2021 as older Canadians were more likely to donate based on tax reports. In 2020, 32% of Canadians who were 65 or older gave to charitable organisations. In comparison, only 11% of Canadians aged 25 to 34 included charitable donations on their tax returns.

In 2020, 40% of Canada’s population was 25 to 54 years old and this age group made up 43% of people who donated according to their tax reports. People aged 55-64 made up 14% of the population and represented 21% of donors. Canadians 65 and older, made up 19% of the population and represented 32% of Canadians who registered charitable donations on their tax reports.

Not only are older Canadians more likely to donate, but they also make bigger donations than the younger age groups. According to Statista, in 2021, Canadians aged 65 and over donated on average $3,310, by far the largest average donation out of all age groups. The list below shows the average donations for all the other age groups in Canada.

  • 0-24 year olds – $450
  • 25-34 year olds – $1,040
  • 35-44 year olds – $1,850
  • 45-54-year-olds – $2,230
  • 55-64 year olds – $2,360

However, all the above percentages and average donations are based on information given in tax returns, and not all Canadians report charitable donations on their tax returns. Furthermore, the results do not necessarily mean that younger Canadians are less likely to care about charitable causes. It could simply be reflective of the amount of disposable income each age group has.

While Ontario Donated the Most, Residents of Manitoba Are the Most Charitable

The total amount of reported donations to charities in Canada was approximately $11.800 billion in 2021. Almost half of this came from Ontario, with the province contributing $5.331 billion of the total charitable donations. British Columbia contributed $2.222 billion and Alberta $1.679 billion. Data from Statista shows that the total amounts donated by each province or territory reflect the size of its population.

While most of the money comes from the most populated provinces, the most generous people come from Manitoba. Based on the data from tax returns between 2009 and 2019, 24.48% of residents of Manitoba are donors.

It is followed by Prince Edward Island, where 22.99% of residents included charitable donations on their tax returns, and Saskatchewan with 22.55%. Ontario and Alberta complete the top five with 22.33% and 21.76%, respectively. The territories had the lowest number of tax filing donors with Nunavut at the bottom with 8.05% of its residents including charity donations on their tax returns between 2009 and 2019.

However, Nunavut had the highest median donations at $540 in 2018 and $630 in 2019. Alberta and British Columbia had the next highest median donations in 2019 at $500 and $480, respectively. The median donations among all Canadians who included donations to charities in tax returns were $310 in 2018, $340 in 2019, and $360 in 2020.

Smaller Towns Have More Donors

In 2020, the smaller Canadian towns had higher portions of residents whose filed taxes included charitable donations. The top ten towns and cities that all had a larger portion of donors than the 18.4% across the country had an average population of just 26,604.

At 26.8%, Winkler, Manitoba, with a population of 13,745 had the largest portion of people claiming charitable donations in their tax return. It was followed by Steinbach, also in Manitoba with 26% and a population of 17,806. Next on the list were Stratford, Ontario with 25.5% and a population of 33,232, Portage la Prairies, Manitoba with 24.1% and 14,378, and Baie-Comeau, Quebec with 23.8% and 20,687.

The Number of Donors in Canada Has Decreased Since 2016

The lower numbers of donors can be seen both across Canada and locally. While in Canada, the number of tax-filing donors has reduced from 20.5% to 18.4% since 2016, the same trend is noticeable among the most charitable towns in Canada. For example, in Winkler, the percentage was over 28% in 2016 compared to 26.8% in 2020. In Steinbach, the second most charitable town, the decline has been even faster from close to 30% in 2016 to 26% in 2020.

Men Are More Likely to Claim Charitable Donations in Canada

In Canada, men claim more charitable donations in their taxes compared to women. In 2020, the total donated by men was $6.7 billion, while women gave $3.9 billion. While the portion of donors has decreased in Canada, the total of charitable donations has increased. From 2016 to 2020, the total amount increased by almost 19%. While donations from men increased by 20%, donations by women increased by 17%.

However, looking at changes in donations over a longer period, women’s charitable donations tripled between 1985 and 2014. In 1985, Canadian women donated $1.1 billion, and in 2014, $3.5 billion. During the same time, men’s donations doubled from $2.9 billion in 1984 to $6.2 billion in 2014.

Leading Charities in Canada

The leading charities in Canada, based on donations, receive millions of dollars per year. In 2022, the University of Toronto was the biggest receiver of charitable donations with $394 million.

Four other universities were also among the top five: the University of Calgary with $269 million, the University of British Columbia with $183 million, and McGill University with $156 million. The only non-university on the list was World Vision Canada, a charity that supports children living in poverty worldwide. It came third with $226 million in donations.

How Did the Pandemic Affect Charities in Canada?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, 40.3% of Canadian charities have experienced more demand for their services and 57.3% have not been able to meet the demand. The pandemic also affected the funds raised by charitable organisations in Canada, with 31.5% saying they raised fewer funds in 2022.

The pandemic has also affected the number of people volunteering. In 2022, 55.1% of charities in Canada said they had fewer volunteers than before the pandemic. 22.4% of the charities said they had significantly fewer volunteers and 32.7% said they had seen a moderate decrease in the number of volunteers. As a result, over half (50.8%) of charities are concerned about staff burnout as they try to meet the increased demands.

Following the pandemic, charities in Canada received 44.5% fewer gifts from individuals and 28.3% fewer gifts from corporations. In addition, gifts from the government decreased by 12.7% and from other charities by 18.4%. Smaller charities in Canada have been affected more by the pandemic. 78% of Canada’s charities are considered as small with less than $500,000 in annual revenue. 90% of charities have ten or fewer members of staff.

These charities are less likely to have regular donors or run fundraising events to raise money. 49.3% of small charities have no monthly donor programmes, 45.6% run no events, and 27.2% have not applied for any grants to support their activities.

Conclusion

Charities in Canada are important to an increasing number of residents, especially since the pandemic as over 20% of Canadians rely on charities for help with their basic needs. The charity sector is also important for the country’s economy with their annual revenues as well as employing 10% of the workforce in 2019.

However, the percentage of Canadians making donations has declined over the years. While this has not affected the total amount of donations yet, there is concern over younger generations donating less than the older generations. This could pose a bigger problem for charities in the future as the demand for their services continues to grow.

Frequently Asked Questions

There are over 86,000 registered charities in Canada. In addition, there are between 80,000 and 100,000 unregistered non-profits.

In 2021, Canadians donated $11.8 billion to charities. The average yearly donations vary from $450 among the 0-24 year olds to $3,310 among those aged 65 and over.

The pandemic has increased the demand for services provided by charities. At the same time, the number of donations has decreased as has the number of volunteers.

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