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Charitable donors, 2017

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Released: 2019-02-08

Donating to a recognized charity or organization which issues tax receipts serves two purposes: it allows individuals to reduce the amount of income tax they have to pay while also giving them a way to help others in need.

Fewer in number, but increasing in generosity

Total donations reported by Canadian tax filers rose to $9.6 billion in 2017, up 7.7% from 2016. This increase more than offset a 2.6% drop in donations in 2016, which was associated with slower economic growth that year for provinces rich in natural resources. Trends in total charitable donations do not always reflect trends in the overall economy, however, a similar rebound in donations was observed following the 2008 economic downturn.

British Columbia had the largest increase for charitable donations (+18.9%) which followed a strong increase the previous year (+7.1% from 2015 to 2016). Nunavut (+13.5%) followed by Alberta and Nova Scotia (both up 9.1%) also experienced notable increases. For Alberta, this was in sharp contrast to the decrease the previous year (-10.7% from 2015 to 2016).

While the dollar amount of charitable donations increased in 2017 over the previous year, the number of donating tax filers fell by 48,840 (-0.9%) to 5,348,220, continuing a trend which started in 2011. The number of donors fell in all provinces and territories, except Quebec which experienced a modest increase (+1.0%). The largest decrease in donors was in Alberta (-4.4%) followed by Newfoundland and Labrador (-4.0%). Even in British Columbia, where the increase in the dollar amount of charitable donations was largest, the numbers of tax filers making donations fell slightly (-0.2%).

Nationally, the median donation was $300 in 2017, meaning that half of those claiming a donation tax credit made donations of more than $300, while the other half donated less than $300. Nunavut had the highest median donation ($560) followed by Alberta with $480 and British Columbia with $460. The lowest median donation amount was in Quebec ($130).

Among census metropolitan areas (CMAs), donors in Abbotsford–Mission, British Columbia, had the highest median charitable donation at $840. This was the 16th consecutive year that Abbotsford–Mission led the country with the highest median donation. Donors in Lethbridge, Alberta had the second highest median charitable donation ($700) among CMAs, followed by Saskatoon ($480), Vancouver ($480) and Calgary ($470).

Seniors are the most generous donors

Tax filers age 65 and older have seen a gradual increase in their relative importance among donors. In 2007 they represented 24% of all donors, compared with 30% in 2017. This increase was accompanied by an even stronger increase in their share of the overall donations amount. In 2007 they were responsible for 30% of the total donation amount, while in 2017 they represented 42% of the total donation amount. Tax filers age 65 and older also had the highest average donation among tax filers in 2017 ($2,500).

From 2007 to 2017, the strongest decrease in the proportion of donors was for tax filers aged 45 to 54. In 2007, they represented 24% of all donors, compared with 19% in 2017.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Total charitable donations of tax filers, 1997 to 2017
Total charitable donations of tax filers, 1997 to 2017

  Note to readers

Canadians contribute in many ways to charitable organizations. These data include only amounts given to charities and approved organizations for which official tax receipts were provided and claimed on tax returns. To verify if a charity is registered under the Income Tax Act, tax filers can consult the Charity Listings available from the Canada Revenue Agency webpage. It is possible to carry donations forward for up to five years after the year in which they were made. Therefore, donations reported for the 2017 taxation year could include donations that were made in any of the five previous years. According to tax laws, tax filers are permitted to claim both their donations, and those made by their spouses to receive better tax benefits. Consequently, the number of people who made charitable donations is higher than the number who claimed tax credits.

Charitable donations promoted through crowdfunding platforms for individuals or organizations who are not linked to charities registered under the Income Tax Act are not captured in this data release. Such donation methods may be more commonly used by younger tax filers. Donations for small amounts such as donation by text message where no tax receipts are issued are also not covered.

Another source of donation data at Statistics Canada is the General Social Survey – Giving, Volunteering and Participating. This survey collects information on all monetary donations reported by individuals, regardless of whether or not the donation resulted in a tax credit.

All data in this release have been tabulated according to the 2016 Standard Geographical Classification used for the 2016 Census.

A census metropolitan area (CMA) is formed by one or more adjacent municipalities centred on a population centre (also known as the core). A CMA must have a total population of at least 100,000, of which 50,000 or more must live in the core.


Data on Charitable Donors (Catalogue number13C0014, various prices) and Canadian Taxfilers (Catalogue number17C0010, various prices) are now available for Canada, provinces and territories, economic regions, census divisions, census metropolitan areas, census agglomerations, census tracts, and postal-based geographies. These custom services are available upon request. Tables for this release are available for free on the Statistics Canada website for Canada, province and territories, census metropolitan areas and census agglomerations.

The document Technical Reference Guide for the Preliminary Estimates from the T1 Family File (T1FF) (Catalogue number11260001), presents information about the methodology, concepts and data quality for the data available in this release.

Contact information

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