Fraser Forum

Charitable giving down in Ontario

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Charitable giving down in Ontario

This holiday season many Ontarians will donate their time and money to charities to help those who struggle to obtain basic necessities such as food, housing and clothing. As the cost of living rises, the need for charitable donations becomes even greater.

Compared to other provinces, Ontario ranks fairly well with regards to charitable donations. Based on data from personal income tax returns, 18.2 per cent of Ontarian tax-filers (nearly one in five) donated to registered charities in 2021, the latest year of comparable data. This was higher than all other provinces except Manitoba.

Moreover, as a collective, Ontarians donated 0.63 per cent of their household income to charity in 2021—more than double the share of income donated in Quebec (0.26 per cent), which ranked lowest out of the provinces. Only British Columbia (0.73 per cent) and Manitoba (0.74 per cent) donated a higher share of aggregate income than Ontario in 2021.

However, generosity in the province has been on the wane.

From 2011 to 2021, the proportion of Ontarian tax-filers who donated to registered charities dropped from 24.2 per cent to 18.2 per cent—a record low for Ontario. During that same period, the overall number of tax-filers donating to charity also fell—from 2.26 million in 2011 to 1.95 million in 2021.

Not only are fewer Ontarians donating, but they’re donating a smaller share of their incomes than in the past. In 2011, Ontarians donated 0.67 per cent of aggregate income to registered charities compared to 0.63 per cent in 2021. If Ontarians had donated the same percentage of income as they did in 2011, charitable donations would have been $334.3 million higher in 2021.

Other provinces have also seen a decline in charitable giving. From 2011 to 2021, the proportion of tax filers who donated to charity fell in every province. During that same timeframe, the share of aggregate income donated to charity also fell in every province except British Columbia (where it rose by 5.3 per cent).

This trend is concerning given that many Ontarians are dealing with a rising cost of living, particularly for food and housing. According to a recent survey, 61 per cent of Ontarians believe that cost of living is a top issue facing the country today. And more than one-third (36 per cent) of Ontarians feel that housing affordability is a top three issue.

In Toronto alone, there were more than 2.5 million visits to food banks between April 2022 and March 2023, and one in 10 residents now rely on food banks. Additionally, Ontario’s average listed rent is currently $2,492 per month, second-highest in the country (behind only B.C.).

Finally, declining donation numbers might be less worrisome if Ontarians were choosing to donate their time instead, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. As of late-2022, 71.1 per cent of non-profit organizations reported a shortage of new volunteers.

Despite Ontario’s strong performance relative to other provinces, the province has seen a decline in charitable giving. With the cost of living on the rise, hopefully Ontarians reverse the trend this holiday season.

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