Canadian Donors Hit Two-Decade Low
Canadian Donors Hit Two-Decade Low

Fewer Canadians are giving to charity than at any point in the last two decades, and those who are giving are giving less.

That’s the conclusion following a study that confirmed the percentage of Canadians donating to charity has fallen by more than one-fourth – from 25.5% to 19.1% – during the past 20 years.

Canadians also are donating less as a percentage of aggregate income than at any time in the past two decades and are giving nearly a third less than when their giving peaked at 0.72% of income in 2006. Canadian generosity has been on a downward slope ever since, falling to a 20-year low of 0.49% last year.

“Generosity in Canada: The 2022 Generosity Index” was compiled from the charitable donation data reported on Canadian tax returns and published to coincide with the holiday season.

The report’s release by the Fraser Institute, an independent nonpartisan public policy think tank in Vancouver, casts what its authors admit is a pall on the state of Canadian philanthropy at a time of year when interest in the charitable sector is traditionally highest.

“The holiday season is a time to reflect on charitable giving, and the data shows Canadians are consistently less charitable every year, which means charities face greater challenges to secure resources to help those in need,” said Jake Fuss, the institute’s associate director of fiscal studies and a co-author of the report.

Canadians aren’t just giving less than in the past but are also giving significantly less than their neighbors to the south, with the most recently available comparison data showing they gave just more than half — 0.53% — of the 1.03% that Americans gave as a percentage of income in 2019.

“If Canadians had given the same percentage of their aggregate income to charity as Americans had, there would have been $9.6 billion more Canadian donations to charity (a potential total of $20.0 billion),” wrote the authors.

This “generosity gap,” as the authors call it, also shows up when comparing Canada’s subregions.

Among individual provinces, Manitoba led for the second straight year in both the percentage of tax filers donating to charity (20.6%) and the percentage of income given (0.78%). Canada’s three northern territories trailed in both categories, with Nunavut recording the fewest donors (6%) and the lowest percentage of income given (0.14%). The Atlantic provinces and Quebec also ranked low in both categories.

Still, top-ranked Manitoba gave only about one-seventh of what top-ranked U.S. states Utah (5.20%) and second-ranked Arkansas (3.53%) gave as a percentage of income for the most recent year studied. Manitoba also trailed all other U.S. states in this category, except West Virginia.

“In comparing the depth of charitable giving, Canadian provinces and territories typically do far worse than U.S. jurisdictions,” the authors wrote.

The authors of the study, which the Fraser Institute has conducted annually in some form or another since the 1990s, offered no reason for this disparity in their report though the typically higher income levels of Americans could be one factor, Fuss surmised.

“The aim of the study is to simply provide the charitable giving data and communicate how trends have changed over the decades,” Fuss told The NonProfit Times. “The percentage of tax-filers donating and the share of income donated have largely both been on the decline over the past decade in Canada, so my colleagues and I are hopeful that these troubling trends turn around this holiday season because vulnerable Canadians rely on charitable donations for essential things.”

The institute is sharing the results through news releases, radio and TV appearances, and on social media throughout Canada so people will have a better understanding of how this generosity gap limits the ability of Canadian charities to improve the quality of life in their communities and beyond, Fuss said.

The full report can be viewed at: https://www.fraserinstitute.org/studies/generosity-in-canada-the-2022-generosity-index.