A generous bunch: N.L. leads Canada in charitable donors

More people in Newfoundland and Labrador give money to charity than in any other province, according to new data from Statistics Canada.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have a reputation for generosity, but there are also statistics to prove it. More people in this province give money to charity than anywhere else in the country, according to data from Statistics Canada.

In 2013, the latest year for which data are available, 87 per cent of people in Newfoundland and Labrador donated to a charitable organization or nonprofit, making it the only province to significantly exceed the 82 per cent national average.

But while many people reach into their pockets, those pockets aren't particularly deep. On average, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians gave $350 to charity in 2013, while the average Canadian gave $531.

Albertans gave the most money to charity, at an average donation of $863.

Penny Rowe, CEO of Community Sector Council N.L., said she's more concerned with the number of people making charitable donations than the average donation amount. (Submitted by Penny Rowe)

Penny Rowe, chief executive officer of Community Sector Council, said the province's smaller average donation is likely due more to people's financial situation than their altruism.

"What amazes me is the extraordinarily high percentage of people that are willing to give," said Rowe.

"That's really more important when you're thinking about social capital and goodwill and people's participation, rather than the actual dollar amount that people give."

Highest donor rate for past decade

This top place ranking is nothing new for the province: it's had the highest charitable donor rate in Canada since 2004, when 93 per cent of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians made donations.

That number has been dropping over the past decade, however, and between 2010 and 2013 the number of donors in Newfoundland and Labrador fell by five per cent. 

Statistics Canada has noted a similar decline in other provinces across Canada.

Geoff Eaton, executive director of Young Cancer Canada, says he thinks the province's "island mentality" plays a role in its high number of donors. (Submitted by Geoff Eaton)

Geoff Eaton, who runs the national charity Young Adult Cancer Canada, said that in the past year he's certainly seen a drop in donations.

"As much as we might not like to think about it, charities are often the first place to feel any kind of a downturn in the economy," he said.

"I would suggest Young Cancer Canada is not alone, I would suggest that there are hundreds of charities in Newfoundland and Labrador dealing with this reality."

'Island experience' encourages charitable mindset

However, Eaton said he's not surprised at all by Newfoundland and Labrador's high donor rate.

He told CBC News he sees this kind the province's generosity in action every day.

"The island experience probably reinforces looking out for each other a little more," he said.

"We are here on our own on this island, and while we aren't totally isolated and disconnected there is this idea about looking out for your people and looking out for your community."

Donations increase with age

Across Canada, the amount people give increases with age, with people over 55 donating the most money, according to the data.

The province with the lowest number of donors is British Columbia, where 78 per cent of people gave to charity in 2013.

Rowe said it's important to remember that this data only accounts for donations made to organizations; it doesn't account for things like GoFundMe pages or giving cash to a friend in need.

"If somebody does an act of kindness for a neighbour, it doesn't necessarily show up in these statistics," she said.

46 per cent of people volunteer

The recently released report from Statistics Canada also shows volunteer rates across the country.

Overall, far fewer people choose to volunteer their time than make financial donations.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, 46 per cent of people volunteer, at an average of 151 hours a year.

Like charitable donors, the number of people volunteering has also declined since 2010.

"If it's a trend, then we need to be concerned as to why there may be some drop-off," Rowe said.

She said the decline might be because of an aging demographic of volunteers, or because young people are not responding as much to surveys collecting this kind of data.

The province with the most volunteers is Saskatchewan, where 56 per cent of people give their time. Volunteerism is lowest in Quebec, with 32 per cent.

The national average is 44 per cent.

About the Author

Laura Howells

CBC News

Laura Howells is a journalist from St. John's who's now working in Toronto.


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