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Guide to Charitable Giving

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Guide to Charitable Giving

Want to support a cause, but don’t know where to start? We’ve rounded up some tips to help you get started and donate with confidence. 

There are more than 170,000 nonprofits and charities in Canada

They enrich the lives of thousands of individuals in our communities every day. Without the dedication of nonprofit staff and volunteers, there would be no homeless shelters, literacy programs, mental health support, or arts & culture programs. 

Donating to a charity is a great way to support your community. This Guide to Giving presents tips and information to help you make more meaningful contributions to the causes you care about most

9 in 10 Canadians consider the charitable sector to be important to the Canadian way of life today

- Ignite Lab public opinion poll, 2021

Half of Canadians say charitable giving positively impacts their ability to feel hopeful and optimistic this holiday season.

-Mental Health Research Canada, 2021

Many charities receive about 40% of their annual donations in the last six to eight weeks of the year, making the holiday season a critical time for charitable giving
2.4 million people are employed by the charitable and nonprofit sector – that’s more than 1 in 10 Canadian workers
Our work is supported by an army of 13 million volunteers who give close to two billion hours each year.
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1. Give to a cause 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. What causes are you passionate about? That’s the first question to ask yourself when considering donating to a charity.


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.

person writing in notebook

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 to confirm if an organization is a registered charity.

girl using pretend goggles

4. Where to find and research charities

Most people 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.

Man looking at computer

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.

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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. For additional information and tips about donating to a charity, read our Perfect Donor blog post.

Looking for a charity to support?

If you’re looking for an organization or a cause to support, one way to get started is by looking for the Imagine Canada Standards Program Trustmark – a symbol of excellence and leadership in the charitable sector.

Through the Standards accreditation Program, the Trustmark is given to charities and nonprofits that have taken action to bolster excellence by identifying and reducing organizational risk, improving board governance practises, being transparent and accountable with finances and fundraising, and fostering a strong workforce.

Right now, more than 250 organizations from all causes, sizes and regions have been accredited, and every year more are joining. There are many charities and nonprofits that do amazing work in Canada, but if you are looking for somewhere to start, take a look at our list of accredited organizations.

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