Satellite Account of Non-profit Institutions and Volunteering
    1997 to 2007

    Background and context

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    The non-profit sector has been at the centre of a growing effort to document and study its role in recent years, both in Canada and internationally. Often referred to interchangeably as "civil society", the "voluntary", "third" or "independent" sector, this group of organizations plays a critical role in society, separate from that of governments or corporations, and is central to community engagement and the building of social capital. The non-profit sector has now gained prominence in many countries' official economic statistics.

    Statistics Canada is among the first statistical agencies in the world to have created a new sector for non-profit institutions through the development of the Satellite Account of Non-profit Institutions. In doing so, the satellite account recognizes the non-profit sector as making an important contribution to the Canadian economy along with the private and public sectors.

    The concepts and methods1 used in the satellite account draw heavily on international standards described in the Handbook on Non-Profit Institutions in the System of National Accounts. Published by the United Nations in 2003, the Handbook is now available as a guide for statistical agencies around the world and Canada is one of the first countries to proceed with its implementation.

    The Handbook recommends compiling economic statistics for a broad non-profit sector, the boundaries of which are defined by structural and operational criteria. Conceptually, all non-profit institutions operating throughout the Canadian economy have similar structural and operational characteristics. They are institutionalized to some extent with a specific purpose or mandate. They do not generate profits for the purpose of distributing profits among specific persons, owners or directors. They are self-governing and able to control their activities, and, finally, membership and contributions of time and money are not required by law or as a condition of citizenship.

    This is achieved by identifying non-profit activity throughout the economic sectors in which non-profit institutions currently reside. Gaining a clear, quantifiable overview of entities in this broadly-defined non-profit sector is portrayed as crucial for a variety of reasons: they have been found to be a significant and growing economic force in countries throughout the world; they have a range of distinct features that justify their separate treatment for analytical purposes; and they are increasingly a focus of public policy concern. Since comprehensive statistics have not been compiled separately for non-profit institutions, there is also a need for improved coverage and a more precise specification of these units in national statistical systems.2

    The first publication of the satellite account in 2004 was a milestone in knowledge development on Canada's non-profit sector. Providing estimates of the economic contribution of the non-profit sector in Canada, it revealed the size, scope and nature of a key sector that performs a myriad of activities in local communities and engages millions of Canadians who join it as members and donate their time and money in support of its activities. This ground-breaking achievement was the culmination of extensive research, along with a data integration project undertaken by the Income and Expenditure Accounts Division, to build comprehensive statistics on the sector within the Canadian System of National Accounts (SNA).

    The development of the Satellite Account was initially funded through the Voluntary Sector Initiative to ensure that information on the size, scope and nature of the sector is now a permanent feature of Canada's official economic statistics. It includes a set of standard economic accounts covering the production, incomes and outlays of the non-profit sector, mirroring information already available for other sectors in the Canadian economy. The satellite account now receives ongoing funding as an annual program at Statistics Canada.

    It is important to note that the non-profit sector's economic contribution is but one dimension of its much larger impact in society, and complementary statistical initiatives were also funded to address other aspects of the question. The first of these initiatives was a triennial repeat of the Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (CSGVP), a household survey of charitable giving, volunteering and participatory behaviour. Subsequent to this was the National Survey of Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations (NSNVO), a first-ever survey of organizations that collected information on the areas in which they work, the populations they serve, the extent to which they provide public benefits, and the financial and human resources they engage.

    With this sixth edition of the Satellite Account of Non-profit Institutions and Volunteering, two additional reference years for the standard accounts are added, 2006 and 2007, while existing estimates are revised back to 1997. These revisions either stem from data source updates or refinements to our estimation methodology.

    Throughout this publication, all references to the core non-profit sector combine non-profit institutions serving households (NPISH) and non-profit institutions classified to the corporate sector. All references to the overall or broad sector include the core non-profit sector combined with non-profit institutions classified to the government sector.

    In this publication, there is an article focussing specifically on NPISH. This replaces the section on volunteer work and extended measures, which will be updated at a later date.

    This report presents analysis for the period 1997 to 2007, with a focus on 2006 and 2007. Wherever possible, analysis is presented for the non-profit sector as a whole, and for the core segment. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and total income are shown by primary area of activity according to the International Classification of Non-profit Organizations (ICNPO). For the time being, all estimates are presented in nominal terms, that is not adjusted for inflation.


    1. For a more detailed description of concepts, data sources and estimation methods implemented in the Canadian Satellite Account of Non-profit Institutions and Volunteering, refer to Sections 9 and 10 of this report.
    2. See Handbook on Non-Profit Institutions in the System of National Accounts, United Nations (2003).
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