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Imagine Canada

Strong Charities. Strong Communities.

Organization Classification Description

Respondents were asked to provide information on the organizations for which they volunteered and to which they made donations. Respondents were first asked to provide the name of the organization. A look-up table including the most common organizations reported in the 2000 and 2004 surveys was used. If the organization cited by the respondent was not on this pick-list, the respondent was then asked to provide information about the purpose of the organization in order to place it in a broad category.

To classify these organizations, the International Classification of Nonprofit Organizations (ICNPO)1  was used. Although they are classified according to their primary area of activity, some organizations operate in multiple areas. An advantage of the ICNPOsystem is that it is widely used by other countries, allowing for international comparisons. It has also been devised specifically to reflect the range and nature of activities typically undertaken in the nonprofit and voluntary sector. The ICNPO system developed by the Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project, and modified for use in Canada, groups organizations into 15 major activity categories:

  1. Arts and Culture: This category includes organizations and activities in general and specialized fields of arts and culture, including media and communications; visual arts, architecture, ceramic art; performing arts; historical, literary and humanistic societies; museums; and zoos and aquariums.
  2. Sports and Recreation: This category includes organizations and activities related to amateur sports (including fitness and wellness centers) and recreation and social clubs (including service clubs).
  3. Education and research: This category includes organizations and activities administering, providing, promoting, conducting, supporting and servicing education and research. This includes: (1) primary and secondary education organizations; (2) organizations involved in other education (that is, adult/continuing education and vocational/technical schools); and (3) organizations involved in research (that is, medical research, science and technology, and social sciences).
  4. Universities and Colleges: This category includes organizations and activities related to higher learning. This includes universities, business management schools, law schools and medical schools.
  5. Health: This category includes organizations that engage primarily in out-patient health-related activities and health support services. This includes: mental health treatment and crisis intervention and other health services (that is, public health and wellness education, out-patient health treatment, rehabilitative medical services, and emergency medical services).
  6. Hospitals: This category includes hospitals, nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals and activities related to rehabilitation such as inpatient health care and rehabilitative therapy.
  7. Social services: This category includes organizations and institutions providing human and social services to a community or target population. Three subgroups are included: (1) social services (including organizations providing services for children, youth, families, the handicapped and the elderly, and self-help and other personal social services); (2) emergency and relief; and (3) income support and maintenance.
  8. Environment: This category includes organizations promoting and providing services in environmental conservation, pollution control and prevention, environmental education and health, and animal protection. Two subgroups are included: environment and animal protection.
  9. Development and housing: This category includes organizations promoting programs and providing services to help improve communities and promote the economic and social well-being of society. Three subgroups are included: (1) economic, social and community development (including com-munity and neighbourhood organizations); (2) housing; and (3) employment and training.
  10. Law, advocacy and politics: This category includes organizations and groups that work to protect and promote civil and other rights, advocate the social and political interests of general or special constituencies, offer legal services, and promote public safety.Three subgroups are included: (1) civic and advocacy organizations; (2) law and legal services; and (3) political organizations.
  11. Grant-making, fundraising and voluntarism promotion: This category includes philanthropic organizations and organizations promoting charity and charitable activities including grant-making foundations, organizations promoting and supporting voluntarism, and fundraising organizations.
  12. International: This category includes organiza-tions promoting cultural understanding between peoples of various countries and historical backgrounds, as well as those providing emergency relief and promoting development and welfare abroad.
  13. Religion: This category includes organizations promoting religious beliefs and administering religious services and rituals (for example, churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, shrines, seminaries, monasteries and similar religious institutions), in addition to related organizations and auxiliaries of such organizations.
  14. Business and professional associations, unions: This category includes organizations promoting, regulating and safeguarding business, professional and labour interests.
  15. Groups not elsewhere classified.


  1. The classification is based on L.M. Salamon and H.K. Anheier, 1997. Defining the Nonprofit Sector: A Cross-national Analysis.Manchester, N.Y.: Manchester University Press. 

Text from Caring Canadians, Involved Canadians: Highlights from the 2007 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating

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