Christmas charity: How much to give, and to whom?: Your comments

From the ubiquitous Salvation Army red kettles to pleas to buy a chicken for a farmer in Africa, how do you decide how much to give and to whom?

'My wife and I no longer buy Christmas gifts for one another, we each donate $300 each'

Islanders are the second-most generous Canadians, according to the 2016 Fraser Institute Generosity Index. (iStock)

Hundreds of charities are vying for your dollars and many choose Christmastime to step up their campaigns. From the ubiquitous Salvation Army red kettles to pleas to buy a chicken to aid a farmer in Africa, how do you decide how much to give and to whom?

I reached out on Facebook and Twitter to ask the question, which received an avalanche of responses. 

'Help people here first'

"Some of us do it quietly behind the scenes as we don't need a pat on the back, pictures posted in the papers etc. We know in our hearts what we do and not only at Christmas. There are people that struggle year round," responded Rosemary Hill of Charlottetown. 

'I hate to turn some away when they call but I can't give to everyone who asks,' says Louise Vessey of Charlottetown, who supports many charities. (Shutterstock)

"I pick a senior from Murphy's pharmacy Christmas tree and I am doing an charity advent calendar I found online," said Kim Cameron, who shared the link from the blog maketodayhappy.

Annette Callaghan urged people to give locally first. "There is just too many people having it so hard right around us, it should be given here," she wrote. 

'A huge impact'

"I like to give to local charities or share with individuals in need that I know or can see; and, it isn't always financial," shared Karen Murchison of Charlottetown.

"I like to know that my giving is having a direct impact and serves to strengthen, somehow, my own community."

Islanders give 3.2% more of their incomes to charity than they did a decade ago. (istock)

"For the past 15 years my friends and I pool resources to directly and anonymously support a different local woman who is struggling financially," Kirstin Lund responded.

Most years they give cash so the woman can buy her children gifts and pay bills, and this year they created stockings for three women who are survivors of violence and struggling financially. 

"We got together last night to put the stockings together over some wine and snacks and it was a wonderful gift to ourselves," Lund wrote.

"Over the years we've heard feedback our cash gifts had a huge impact, gave the women hope and a sense they were cared for and part of a community, though the gifts were anonymous. One year we heard the cash made it possible for the woman to stop contemplating going back to a highly abusive relationship."

Glenda Landry of Charlottetown shared a similar story — "I just received a lovely letter from the sister of the family we sponsored last Christmas," she wrote. 

"She said her sister and children never returned to her abusive relationship because of our gift. Our whole family bought Christmas for her whole family! No gifts for the past 10 years at our house. We have Christmas dinner together, that is enough!"

'Spread holiday cheer'

"Each year we decide to do something different to spread holiday cheer all over the world," Marian Curran of Stratford, P.E.I., responded. "One year it was buying a goat for a family in Africa and another year it was Palliative Care."

Sharing at Christmas 'isn't always financial' says Karen Murchison of Charlottetown. (iStock)

According to the website CanadaHelps, which helps link charities with donors, 36 per cent of annual charitable donations are made in December. So it's an important time for charities, but can get overwhelming when the asking is everywhere.

"I hate to turn some away when they call but I can't give to everyone who asks," wrote Louise Vessey of Charlottetown, adding she gives throughout the year, not only at Christmas. 

So who's legitimate? 

The Better Business Bureau offers a list of accredited national charities, but has not rated local charities in most Canadian provinces including P.E.I. The BBB's list of basic giving tips includes: 

  • Get the charity's exact name.
  • Resist pressure to give on the spot.
  • Be wary of heart-wrenching appeals.
  • Press for specifics on where and how the charity helps.
  • Check a charity's website for its mission, program and finances.
  • Don't assume it is tax deductible. 

Islanders second-most charitable in Canada: Fraser Institute

P.E.I. residents do love to give — according to the just-released 2016 Generosity Index by the Fraser Institute, Islanders are the second-most charitable Canadians after Manitobans, with 23.9 per cent of Islanders claiming charitable donations on their 2014 tax returns. Additionally, Islanders give 0.64 per cent of their income to charity, a number that ranks in the middle of the generosity scale.

While Canadians give about $9 billion annually to charities, the Fraser Institute report also noted charitable giving is at a 10-year low. However, Islanders and those from Nunavut were the two exceptions, with Islanders giving 3.2 per cent more of their incomes to charity than a decade ago. 

"My wife and I no longer buy Christmas gifts for one another, we each donate $300 each to the Mustard Seed in Calgary," wrote Tony Hamilton-Irving. The Mustard Seed is a faith-based street ministry from the homeless. 


Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a bachelor of journalism (honours) degree. She's worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email


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