Experts expect Canadians to donate billions of dollars to charity during the Christmas season. Photo by Catherine Lane, iStockphoto.com

’Tis the season for charitable giving

By 
  • December 11, 2015

TORONTO - Canadian charities count on the arrival of the Christmas spirit as the final six weeks of the year account for almost half of their annual donations.

Imagine Canada, one of the country’s leading research organizations that specifically focuses on Canada’s charitable sector, notes that more than 40 per cent of government-recognized donations are made during this period.

“We have determined that a lot of money is going to change hands during the last weeks of the year,” said Stephen Faul, vice president of strategic communications and business development for Imagine Canada.

That works out to about $5 billion making it’s way to charity at this time of year.

“That is huge,” said Faul, adding that in 2007 the last six weeks of the year accounted for 46 per cent of the donations. “The numbers are just staggering.”

Imagine Canada relied primarily on information taken from Statistics Canada. Using that data Faul was also able to determine that donations to religious charities make up about 40 per cent of all donations made, meaning many gifts are truly made in the spirit of the season.

For many, said Faul, it’s the continuation of a tradition handed down from previous generations.

“When we ask people why they give a lot of people say they started the tradition when they were young as a result of witnessing their parents or grandparents giving at a place of worship,” said Faul. “Religious organizations are a big part of some people’s lives.”

Evidence of this can be found by looking at the yearly donation logs of the Archdiocese of Toronto.

“If you look at our office here Christmas time is an incredibly busy season simply because it is wired into people to respond generously at certain times of the year,” said Quentin Schesnuik, manager of planned giving and personal gifts for the archdiocese. “We receive 40 to 50 per cent of our securities donations for the year right now. It is so busy here right now that we can barely see out of our eyeballs.”

Imagine Canada data released in late November shows 89 per cent of people who donate to charity say that compassion for those in need drives their donations, 85 per cent say they personally believe in the cause which they contribute towards and 79 per cent feel pride in contributing to their own community.

More than half, 61 per cent, say they donate because they personally benefit from charity programs or have in the past.

And with so many turning to charity for a helping hand, Imagine Canada’s CEO Bruce MacDonald called the Christmas season “crucial” to Canada’s charities and the society they support.

“Holiday giving is crucial to strengthening our social fabric,” he said.

Schesnuik said while “religious conviction has an important influence on philanthropy,” there is another major factor driving Christmas donations — the Dec. 31 tax credit deadline for the year.

“In January and February donations decline dramatically,” said Schesnuik. “That’s because a lot of people are paying off their Christmas bills. So Christmas really allows charities to start their next year off on a strong footing.”

ShareLife, the charitable fundraising arm of the Archdiocese of Toronto, doesn’t see the same sort of trend at Christmas, but that’s due to the nature of its campaign.

“When ShareLife was started back in 1976 the whole idea was to tie it to Lent and the message of almsgiving,” said Arthur Peters, executive director of ShareLife. “So we are in our own time period. (And) during the Lenten period we are reflecting on what sacrifices we can make.”

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