Every year Canadians give $12.8 billion to charities.  This tidal wave of generosity is essential to thousands of charities and the communities they serve.

Charities build and support our Canada

Charities provide communities with vital services, and contribute to quality of life by supporting children’s activities, health, education, sport, animal welfare, environmental protection, religious practice, arts and culture, international development and more. Donors are essential to ensuring that charities can continue to offer these crucial services.


If you have questions about giving to charity, this Guide to Giving presents tips and information to help you make more meaningful contributions to the causes most important to you.



82% of Canadians believe charities are important and 70% made a donation in the past year.

- Ignite Lab public opinion poll, 2016


1.  Give to something you are passionate about

Consider your donation a contribution toward the world you want to build. Ally yourself with organizations that reflect your ideals and invest in the future you want to see.

2.  Impact vs. overhead

It’s easy to focus on a charity’s fundraising and administrative costs, understanding impact is not. Evaluating or ranking a charity solely on how much it spends on overhead is misleading. The bottom line is that the measure of an organization’s effectiveness is the impact it makes on the community, not what it spends. Charities need the right tools to get the job done and, like businesses, have hard cost ‘checks and balances’ to ensure it is accountable, transparent and effective.



76% of Canadians think charities have a positive impact.

- Ignite Lab public opinion poll, 2016


3.  Registered charities & tax receipts

Charities and nonprofits are not exactly the same and there are different rules governing these two categories of organizations. One simple distinction is that only registered charities are able to issue tax receipts for donations. If a tax receipt is important to you, visit the Canada Revenue Agency website to confirm if an organization is a registered charity.

4.  Where to find and research charities

Most Canadians are familiar with the charities they donate to on a regular basis but what if you wanted to learn about other organizations? Obviously, a good Google search can be useful but time consuming. We suggest starting with ‘giving portal’ sites such as CanadaHelps. Not only do they feature all of Canada’s registered charities, but charities can also add additional information about their impact.



86% of Canadians rank transparency and sound management as their top considerations when deciding whether to support a charity.

- Ignite Lab public opinion poll, 2016


5.  Your rights as a donor

Giving to your favourite cause should give you joy and personal satisfaction. If someone asking for a donation makes you feel uncomfortable, pressures you or does not have the information you need to make a decision, do not feel obligated to give right away or at all. Ask for a brochure or website address and tell them you’ll make up your mind once you have more information.

6.  Leadership matters

The most successful charities are the ones that are well managed. Strong leadership and good governance are the qualities you want to look for when considering donating to a charity. You can explore this information on your own by visiting a charity’s website or reviewing their annual reports and financial information, or you can look for third-party accreditation. 


Real impact requires real investment.


Imagine Canada’s Standards Program is a rigorous, peer-reviewed accreditation program that closely examines 73 criteria in areas of board governance, financial accountability and transparency, fundraising, staff management and volunteer involvement. Right now, more than 200 organizations from all causes, sizes and regions have been accredited, and every year more are joining. 

There are many well-managed charities and nonprofits that do amazing work in Canada, but if you are looking for somewhere to start, here is a list of organizations that have earned accreditation by demonstrating their excellence, transparency and accountability.

Animal Protection & Welfare



2 million people are employed by the charitable and nonprofit sector representing 11.1% of the economically active population.


About the Standards Program

standards-trustmark-4c-whiteback.pngThe goal of the Standards Program is to strengthen public confidence in charities and nonprofits by awarding accreditation to organizations that exemplify strong management practices. Accredited organizations demonstrate compliance in five key operational areas: board governance; financial accountability and transparency; fundraising; staff management; and volunteer involvement.

Imagine Canada is a national charitable organization whose cause is Canada’s charities and nonprofits.

We strengthen the sector’s collective voice, create opportunities to connect and learn from each other, and build the sector’s capacity to succeed.

Our National Partners

  • great west life
  • Lawson Foundation
  • Muttart Foundation
  • RBC Foundation
  • Suncor
  • TD Bank
  • investors group

Learn more about our National Partners and other supporters.

Charitable Registration Number: 119218790 RR0001