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Talking About Charities 2004: Canadians’ Opinions on Charities and Issues Affecting Charities

October 18, 200518 October 2005

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This report from the Muttart Foundation is based on the results of a telephone survey that asked 3,863 adult Canadians about their opinions concerning charities. With this large sample size, the report is able to examine provincial differences in views on charities. Overall, the report indicates that “Canadians value the work of charities and feel they have an important and trusted role in society. At the same time, the public has a healthy degree of skepticism when it comes to how charities function.”

Most respondents (70%) believe that charities do not have sufficient funds to meet their objectives. A smaller majority (57%) believes that “it is appropriate that a reasonable amount of money they donate go toward the operating costs of the charity.” A similar percentage of Canadians (60%) feels that it is unacceptable for charities to pay fundraisers on the basis of a percentage of the donations that they raise. Many Canadians (69%) believe that “there are too many charities trying to get donations for the same cause.”

When asked how much trust they have in charities, 79% of survey respondents indicated “a lot” or “some”. However, only 61% of Canadians reported having a lot or some trust in charities that focus on the arts. This relatively low level of trust is only ahead of charities focused on international development (56%). Hospitals have the highest trust level, with 88% indicating a lot or some trust, followed by charities that focus on children (86%) and those focused on health prevention and research (86%).

Provincially, residents of PEI, BC and Nova Scotia have the most trust in arts charities, with over 65% of respondents in these three provinces indicating that they have a lot or some trust in arts charities. Residents of Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec have the least trust in arts charities, with under 60% of respondents in these three provinces professing a lot or some trust in arts-focused charities.

Although no arts-specific data is available on other topics, the report also highlights other views of Canadians. Almost all respondents indicated that they believe it is important for charities to provide information about how they use donations, about the programs and services they deliver, about fundraising costs, and about the impact of their work on Canadians. Almost all survey respondents also indicated that more attention should be paid to the way that charities spend their money. An overwhelming majority (88%) think that running a business is a good way for charities to raise money. Regarding advocacy, a large majority of respondents (78%) agreed that charities should be permitted to advocate more freely for their causes. A similar percentage (83%) feel that charities should be obligated to provide information about both sides of an advocacy issue.

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