Faithfully yours - Canadian generosity is shifting, not declining


Neil Strohschein
The Neepawa Banner

When it comes to measuring the impact of government policy on individuals and families, the research teams of the Fraser Institute are hard to beat. They gather data, crunch numbers, draw conclusions and publish them. Sometimes their conclusions make sense; sometimes they don’t.

Case in point—their 2016 study on Generosity in Canada and the United States. For purposes of this study, generosity is measured using two criteria—the percentage of Canadian tax filers who give monetary donations to charity, for which they receive a tax receipt; and the percentage of aggregate personal income (gross income from all sources) they donate. Their data is drawn from statistical reports released by the Canada Revenue Agency for the year 2014.
The data shows a steady decline in both criteria. In 2014, 21.3 percent of tax filers donated to charity and on average, they donated a mere 0.56 percent of their aggregate income. Both figures are down from previous years and in both criteria, we trail our southern neighbors.
These findings will come as no surprise to those charities (local churches, missionary societies, etc.) that rely almost exclusively on monetary donations for their revenue. The painful truth is that after taxes and living expenses are paid, most families have little, if any, money left. They would love to give something to their church or a charity; but they have nothing left to give.
Yet these people are some of the most generous people I have ever met. What they can’t give in money, they give in time—coaching minor sports, helping maintain community parks and playgrounds, organizing fund raisers for neighbours whose home was destroyed by fire, helping stage local fairs and music festivals—all on their own time and often at their own expense.
Their reward is the smiles and expressions of thanks they receive from grateful neighbours and the satisfaction that comes from knowing that, by their efforts, they have helped to make their communities better places in which to live. These are rewards that no amount of money can buy.
Then we must never overlook donations made for which no tax receipt is given—donations to a local food or clothing bank, good used furniture given to new families moving into the area or spare change placed in a collection box found at a local business. These donations stay in the community and go directly to those who need them. And thanks to the generosity of those who live in our communities, these agencies always have an abundance of resources to share.
Sadly, these forms of generosity won’t likely show up in a Fraser Institute study. But God takes note of them and he considers them to be of great value. We demonstrate our love for God by the way in which we love and care for the world he has created and the people he has placed in our lives. There is no greater act of love than for one person to give up what he or she may want so that a neighbor can have what he or she needs to survive a crisis or disaster.
Canadian generosity is not declining. It is simply taking on a new form. Those who cannot make the monetary donations on which national charities rely are choosing instead to look out for and care for their families, their neighbours and their community. I believe that this type of generosity will become even more prevalent in the years ahead; and that our families and communities will be better off as a result.