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Trends in Individual Donations: 1984 to 2010

May 29, 201329 May 2013

Volunteers and donors

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Based on data from Canadians’ tax returns, this report from Imagine Canada (a charitable organization that works to support and strengthen other charities and not-for-profit organizations) examines recent and longer-term trends in charitable giving by individuals. As noted in the report, “Canadian taxfilers claimed charitable donations totaling just under $8.3 billion in 2010”. This amount is 4.6% higher than in 2009. (All change figures have been adjusted for inflation).

Over the longer term, data in the report show that total donations more than doubled (135% increase) between 1984 and 2010. This level of increase exceeds the growth in the Gross Domestic Product and far exceeds the relative lack of growth in median incomes in Canada. As noted in the report, “there seems to be little connection between donations claimed and the income of typical Canadians”. The report expresses concern that the donor base “may be narrowing”.

The report highlights three distinct periods in individual donations. Between 1984 and 1990, there was “steady growth in total donations”, with average growth of 5.0% per year. From 1991 to 1994, there was “a period of stagnation in the growth of total donations”, with average growth of only 0.7% per year. Between 1995 and 2007, there was growth in donations averaging 6.7% per year. More recently, the report notes that the global economic downturn had an impact on donations: the increase in total donations in 2010 was the first such increase since 2007.

In 2010, 23.4% of taxfilers claimed a charitable donation. While this represents a small increase from 22.7% in 2009, the longer-term trend has been downward. The percentage of taxfilers claiming a charitable donation was 25.7% in 1984. This percentage initially increased, peaking at 29.5% in 1990, but has decreased quite consistently since then.

The average donation per person was $1,437 in 2010, which represents a 2.3% increase from 2009 and a 63% increase from 1984. The average donation level decreased between 1984 and 1991 but has increased consistently since that time.

In 2010, “Manitoba taxfilers were most likely to claim charitable donations (26.3% did so), while Nunavut taxfilers were least likely to claim donations (9.5%)”. Other provinces with above-average donation rates are Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, and Alberta. In terms of the average donation, Alberta residents were the most generous in 2010 ($2,251), while Quebeckers contributed the lowest average amount ($620). Other jurisdictions with above-average donation levels include British Columbia ($1,798), Manitoba ($1,658), Nunavut ($1,622), Ontario ($1,611), and Saskatchewan ($1,515).

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