The giving season is upon us

If your house mailbox, email inbox and voice mail are like mine, they are full of requests from organization after organization asking for your financial support.  Street soliciting for charities is also on the rise at this time of year. Last week, Giving Tuesday lit up all across North America.

As the festive season and the end of the tax year approach, it can feel as though everyone is hitting us up for money.

Canadians are generous

According to a 2012 report on charitable giving by Statistics Canada, 84% of adult Canadians make financial donations to charities; totalling, in 2010, $10.6 billion. If donations of clothes, toys, other goods and food is included, more than 90% of Canadians pitch in.

It is interesting to look at who gives, what we give and what we support with what we give.

Who gives?

Slightly more women (86%) than men (82%) give to charities, although men tend to give more money than women. This stands to reason, given the gendered wage gap that still exists in Canada.

Once people are 35 years old and, presumably, have had time to become financially established, there is no significant age difference in how much we give.

Widows and widowers are somewhat more likely to donate than single, married or divorced people.  The StatsCan report notes that those who earn more give more, although this is not supported by all research.

People in Newfoundland and Labrador as well as those in P.E.I. are more likely to donate money, but those in Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan give more money.

Those who volunteer their time with charities are more likely to also donate money to them.

What do we give and how?

Eight-four percent of people who donate give money. Seventy-nine percent donate “stuff:” clothing, household items, toys. Sixty-two percent contribute food.

Those canvassers, whether on the street or in the shopping mall, may be annoying, but the approach works: 32% of people who donate do so through them. Sponsoring someone – to skip rope, run a race, walk, stay awake, play tiddlywinks – attracts 30% of us, while 23% of us respond to mail solicitations and charity events. Twenty-two percent of those who give do so at work. The most money is donated at places of worship.

Who do we give it to?

Religious organizations are the greatest beneficiary of charitable giving, receiving 40% of all such donations in 2010; an amount that was six percent lower than it was in 2007. The health sector, exclusive of hospitals, received 15% and social services received 11% (up by 21% from 2007).

According to a news story I heard recently on the radio, we are more likely to give money when we feel happy. While we may respond emotionally to photos of homeless puppies and kittens or sad-looking children, pulling out our cheque books does not necessarily follow.

It also appears that people like to donate to organizations where they can see the impact of their contribution directly: contributing to jackets for a sports club, for instance, or new furniture for a shelter, is more appealing than donating to the general services of a women’s legal clinic or sexual assault centre, where the benefit of the donation is less visible.

What should I do this year?

The policies of Ontario’s present government, many of which I have written about here over the past several months, are placing a greater demand than ever on charities in this province. Cuts to social assistance and the termination of the basic income pilot project mean more people will be turning to food banks and other charities, especially in upcoming weeks. Moves away from energy conservation and environmental protection place organizations working on those issues at jeopardy. The non-implementation of the province’s gender-based violence action plan means some violence against women organizations are facing very uncertain futures.

We need to support food banks, shelters, conservation organizations and others in our own communities, but we also need to look more broadly at social justice issues when we decide where to spend our charitable dollars this year.

No doubt, most of you have charities to which you already contribute regularly. For those who don’t, here are a few suggestions:

Luke’s Place Support and Resource Centre for Women and Children: This small but mighty organization, with which I work, supports women leaving abusive relationships who are involved with family court. Luke’s Place has managed to develop and maintain innovative service models that keep women and their kids safer and to conduct provincial and national research and training, without benefit of core funding, for more than 10 years. Located in Durham Region, it will feel the impact this year of the closing of the GM auto plant.

Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic:  This downtown Toronto women’s legal clinic provides women dealing with abuse with legal, counselling and language interpretation services. For the past three years, it has had provincial funding to provide free independent legal advice to women who have been sexually assaulted. The future of this funding is uncertain because the government has not implemented the GBV action plan.

Dying with Dignity: On the national level, this organization continues to lobby the federal government to implement medical assistance in dying legislation that will work for the most vulnerable while also developing resources and supports for those wishing to take control of their end of life planning. Dying with Dignity does not have charitable status because of decisions made under the previous federal government, so you won’t get a tax receipt for your donation, but it will be all the more appreciated for this very reason.

Progressive International: NDP MP Niki Ashton, from Churchill-Keewatinook-Aski in northern Manitoba, is a stalwart activist, who consistently speaks out on unpopular issues. Her newest initiative, on which she is working with Bernie Sanders, Yanis Veroufakis, Ada Colau and others, is a global movement to end inequality, exploitation, discrimination and environmental degradation. It – and Nikki – are worthy of our support.

Happy giving!

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