Canadian charities fuel economy

The voluntary sector doesn't always get the credit it deserves. Most people think of nonprofit organizations as volunteer-based groups who feed the hungry, among other humble social activities.

Canadian charities make up the second-largest volunteer sector in the world, with over 170,000 organizations registered and in effect. According to the Toronto Star, these groups employ more than 2 million individuals and make up for more than 8 percent of Canada's GDP. That's over $145 billion for those of you counting at home.

Most hospitals and universities are registered and structured as nonprofit organizations, so they aren't industry leaders in accepting online donations. Rather, large-scale corporate fundraisers and gifts are presented with an element of pageantry. 

Regardless of the exchange, Canadians are documented as some of the most generous people in the world. According to Statistics Canada, 84 percent of citizens aged 15 and above donated to charitable organizations in 2010, with the average gift totaling $446. Overall, the nation raised $10.6 million the same year - the last time such information was made available.

Motivations behind the giving
In addition, Statistics Canada found that 47 percent of Canadians volunteer - nearly double the U.S. average. From that population, over 2.1 billion hours were volunteered annually. 

The research also found there are a multitude of reasons why Canadians give so much of their time. A few key insights include:

  • 93 percent desired to make a contribution to the community
  • 78 percent wanted to use their skills and experiences
  • 59 percent were deeply or personally affected by the organization's cause
  • 48 percent volunteered because their friends did

Other motivations such as exploring one's own strengths and networking or meeting new people were also included in the results. 

In what may not come as a surprise, the 15- to 24-year old demographic had the highest volunteer rate at 58 percent. The 35- to 44-year old age bracket was a close second at 54 percent. The most motivated to give, however, is the 55 and up age bracket, a recent BMO Harris Bank survey found. BMO's managing director of philanthropic services told the Metro that those who've achieved financial security are more likely to give to organizations that will benefit both their children and themselves in the years ahead.

The BMO survey found 60 percent of respondents donated to health- and medical-related causes in 2012. Anti-poverty projects were the second-highest category with 45 percent of respondents' donations.

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