Canadians a charitable lot despite economic woes

Canadians continue to open up their wallets and volunteer their time for a good cause despite a rocky economic outlook, according to Statistics Canada.
Volunteer Olga Shelast prepares a Ukrainian Easter bread on April 5, 2011, at St. Basil's Cultural Hall, in Edmonton. Canadians continue to volunteer their time, and open their wallets, despite the rocky economic outlook, according to Statistics Canada survey released Wednesday. (John Ulan/Canadian Press)

Canadians continue to donate their money and time for a good cause despite global economic woes, according to Statistics Canada.

Nearly 24 million people opened up their wallets for charity in 2010, giving a total of $10.6 billion, according to the latest Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participation.

That represents 84 per cent of the total population, data released Wednesday shows.

The pattern of donations was similar to 2007, when the economic outlook for Canada was much rosier.

In 2010, the average annual donation was $446 per Canadian donor, up slightly from 2007 when the average amount was $437, according to Statistics Canada.


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Sue Larkin, UNICEF Canada’s director of community engagement, said the agency has seen donations and the number of volunteers grow since 2007, in part due to high-profile world catastrophes such as the Haiti earthquake in January 2010, she said.

"Even though Canadians have their own economic and financial concerns, they know that children and women in the world are dealing with issues in a crisis," Larkin said.

United Way Toronto saw its donations go from $108.1 million in 2007 down to $107.5 million a year later as the Canadian economy stumbled.

However, as economic conditions stabilized, donations were back up to $109 million by 2009, and reached $115 million in 2011, said Julia Gorman, vice-president of resource development at United Way Toronto.

"The economic certainty is a huge factor in individual giving," Gorman said.

Westerners biggest donors

Canadians in the West donated the highest amounts of money, with donors from Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia giving an average of $550 in 2010. Donations were lowest in Quebec, with donors giving $208 on average.

But it was in the Atlantic provinces where the largest proportion of the population gave a financial donation in 2010. Donor rates were the highest in Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island, at 92 and 91 per cent, respectively.

This was higher than the national donor rate of 84 per cent. Rates were lowest in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, at 59.5 per cent.

Nova Scotia volunteers offered most hours

Canadians also continued to volunteer, with more than 13.3 million people (or 47 per cent of the population) helping out through a group or organization in 2010.

These volunteers logged nearly 2.1 billion hours that year, relatively the same amount as in 2007, according to the survey. Volunteer hours at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics alone made up about 0.7 per cent of the overall amount.

On average, Canadians who volunteered offered 156 hours of their time in 2010, also similar to 2007. Nova Scotians offered the most time, with 207 hours on average. Quebecers devoted the least amount of time, at 128 hours.

Most generous donors older, more religious

The province with the highest proportion of volunteerism was Saskatchewan, where 58.2 per cent of the population donated their time. Prince Edward Island and Alberta were second and third, respectively.

People in Northwest Territories and Quebec devoted the lowest number of hours, on average.

The survey also painted a picture of the typical donor and volunteer.

Canadians who offered the most money were likely to be older, have a higher household income and a formal education. They were also likely to attend religious meetings and services regularly.

The highest rates of volunteering were found among Canadians who were younger, or had young children at home.

Gorman said United Way Toronto's GenNext program targets volunteers in their 20s and 30s. Through that involvement, the number of young GenNext donors to United Way as gone from 24,000 in 2007 to 28,000 in 2011.

"That's a time, in fact, when our actual donor base is shrinking a little bit," she said.

Statistics Canada said those who volunteered the most hours tended to be older, widowed and no longer in the workforce. These volunteers were also less likely to have kids in the home and attend weekly religious meetings or services.