The personal philanthropy project: Inspiring Canada’s affluent to give more (Part two)

publication date: Jul 4, 2017

After gaining a better understanding of donor behaviour among affluent Canadians from its 2014 research study (see Part one), Imagine Canada decided to take a closer look into what is known about charitable giving with this cohort of Canadians. Is there a potential to reawaken - or perhaps even awaken – philanthropy among Canadians? While Imagine Canada has been successful at cultivating corporate philanthropy through its Caring Company Program which benchmarks corporate giving at 1% of pre-tax profits, could it be possible to achieve similar results with individuals?

Tax Filer Data In collaboration with TD Bank, Imagine Canada acquired and analyzed Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) tax filer data from 2012 for annual incomes of more than $4 million. The main objective was to review current giving patterns and connect the data to what we already know. Total reported giving by all Canadians was $9.4 billion. As was also seen in the initial proprietary research, giving amounts rose gradually with increased income: fifty-five percent of those who earned more than $100,000 annually reported charitable donations, while 80 percent of top-bracket earners of more than $4 million reported charitable giving. In considering the Caring Company model, the 1% threshold of giving was reached when annual incomes reached $300,000.

Canadian Donors In looking at giving as a percentage of donor income only – and taking non-donors out of the equation – donations still generally rose with income levels and represent fairly healthy levels of giving at all earning grades. Important to note is that individuals who earn $50,000 or less per year give more to charity as a percentage of their income than those with an annual income between $100,000 and $900,000. Canadians, who give to charities and earn $50,000 or less, donate on average 2.29% of their income. However, those earning $100,000 per year who also donate to charities, give 1.63% as a percentage of their income, and that slowly increases to 2.02% at an annual income of $800,000. Earners at $900,000 give 2.55% of their income to charity, and donations continue to rise from that level of income.

Untapped Potential The data shows us that if all Canadians earning more than $100,000 per year were to give at least one percent to charity, and current donors already giving more than one percent maintained their giving levels, annual giving would rise by $1.6 billion. And, if every Canadian were to give at least one percent, while all current donors already giving more than one percent maintained their giving levels, giving would rise by $10.2 billion.

What this means is that Canadians do have the power to give! And the size of the prize is potentially billions of additional dollars in giving. It seems reasonable to say that Canadians can be doing more.

Reaching Further

With the ultimate goal of inspiring increased personal financial giving among higher-earning Canadians – and seeing a real potential – additional research was conducted in 2016. From all of the knowledge and information available, Imagine Canada and the Project’s steering committee believed that it was imperative to investigate possible interventions that could encourage increased charitable giving.

Stay tuned as Michèle Benoit shares the next phase of research for the Personal Philanthropy Project in Part 3 of this 3 part series.

Michèle Benoit is Manager of the Personal Philanthropy Project at Imagine Canada and brings her leadership experience in project management from the corporate, public, and private sectors to carry out this important national initiative. For more Project information, visit and


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