"The global recession abruptly exposed the vulnerability of strong economies and strong governments. It has also revealed with new clarity how much governments and citizens depend on a strong and healthy civic sector—and its array of charitable and nonprofit organizations. The Canadian civic sector benefits every Canadian every day. Also known as the “Third Sector”—distinct from both the public and private sectors—this sector accounts for 8.5% of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP). Its slice of the GDP exceeds the combined GDP of Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan—and is larger than Canada’s retail, automotive, or manufacturing sectors. It includes 750,000 unincorporated community and faith-based organizations, 81,000 nonprofit corporations, and 80,000 registered charities. Place any neighbourhood under a microscope, or merely walk down the street or look out the window, and one will encounter the dense fabric of institutions and organizations—cultural, religious, social, artistic, athletic, and more that make up the Canadian civic tapestry. Without the dedication and critical investment by citizens and communities through these organizations, Canada’s social landscape would simply not be the same."

Pennings, R. and Van Pelt, M. (2009) A Canadian Culture of Generosity: Renewing Canada’s Social Architecture by Investing in the Civic Core and the “Third Sector” (Ottawa).

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Who do I give my money to and how much do I give?

The fact that there are over 80,000 registered charities in Canada makes it very difficult for the charities to influence people to give. Nobody can give to everybody who asks them for money so choices have to be made. Canadians want to give however and according to Leave a Legacy 84 percent of Canadians made a charitable donation in 2007 and the total amount given was $10 billion. In addition to this, 46 percent of the population volunteered for a total of 2.1 billion hours. Interestingly, corporations in Canada are the least likely to give and in 2003, 3% of corporations claimed charitable donations totalling $1 billion.

Since charitable giving is a personal decision based on our own preferences and budget constraints, it leads to the conclusion that charitable giving is just like the purchase of any other good. That is, contributions depend on personal preference, how much one earns and how costly it is to give. Although some people may be altruistic when giving, economics tells us that the dominant motivation is the internal satisfaction that individuals get from the act of giving itself. The Economics of Charitable Giving

Donors... beware

Following the terrible earthquake that shattered Haiti in January 2010, the RCMP issued a warning:"In the wake of this tragedy, fraud artists are hoping to profit from people's generosity. The RCMP would like to remind Canadians to be wary of false charity scams." Every disaster stirs the scammers to action; give only to recognized, established aid agencies.

Just over a year later Japan experienced one of the most devastating earthquakes in recent history resulting in a massive Tsunami. News of the earthquake in Japan has once again prompted many Canadians to donate to aid agencies promising to help. The RCMP issued another warningreminding Canadians to be wary of false charity scams.

The first line of protection is the Canada Revenue Agency list of registered charities. If the group asking for money is not on the list be wary.

How to Get the Most from Charity Donations

There are several ways to make sure a charity donation does its work:
  • Every charity needs volunteers so donate a very valuable asset - your time;
  • Give cash to a food bank rather than food. The food bank can pool money together and buy in bulk which makes the dollar go further;
  • Donate only to door-to-door canvassers that you know and have proper credentials;
  • Give cash to a homeless street person; they will get 100 percent of the gift;
  • Sponsor a friend or relative in a charity walk or run; and
  • Always check the validity of a charity at websites such as Charity Rank or Charity Navigator.

The following video series from the Canada Revenue Agency encourages Canadians to donate to charities and to claim those donations on their personal income taxes.