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More than a third of Canadians will give less to charities this holiday season due to COVID-19: survey

More than a third of Canadians will give less to charities this holiday season due to COVID-19: survey

Press release

Seven-in-ten of those donating less over the holidays cite pandemic-related financial difficulties as the reason 


Toronto, December 14, 2020 – Canadians recognize COVID-19 has sharply increased demand for charitable services yet donations are falling, according to two new studies from 
Imagine Canada, which represents charities.

The first study – Imagine Canada’s Sector Monitor Survey – was conducted in November and December to examine the impact of COVID-19 on charities nine months after the onset of the pandemic. 

A second survey conducted in conjunction with CanadaHelps and designed to explore the pandemic’s influence on the giving intentions of Canadians this holiday season was also fielded in early December. Findings from these studies paint a stark picture of declining revenues and rising demand for charitable services due to the health crisis.

Imagine Canada’s Sector Monitor Study shows that 68 per cent of charities have seen a decline in donations since the onset of the pandemic. With demand for services trending upward – 46 per cent of charities are reporting an increase in demand versus a 35 per cent surge early in the pandemic. As a result, Charities are being stretched to do more even though their service capacities have either declined or remained about the same. 

Seventy percent of charities also report a decline in the number of volunteers since the onset of the pandemic, and 74% have seen a decline in the number of volunteer hours they receive. 

More than eight-in-ten Canadians (81 per cent) believe the need for charitable services has risen during the pandemic. Yet only 51 per cent of Canadians say they plan to donate to charities this holiday season. A 2014 Imagine Canada holiday giving survey found that, at that time, 62 per cent of Canadians said they planned to donate to charities over the holidays.

Among Canadians surveyed in 2020 who are planning to give a holiday gift to charities, 36 per cent say they plan to give less. Seventy-one per cent of those planning to donate a smaller amount say financial difficulties related to COVID is the reason.

All of this is grim news for the social good sector. Many charities typically receive about 40 per cent of their donations in the last six-to-eight weeks of the year.

“With demand rising and revenues falling, charities face a perfect storm this holiday season,” says Bruce MacDonald, President and CEO, Imagine Canada. “We are asking Canadians to stand together and strike back at the pandemic by digging a bit deeper to help charities assist those in need.” 

Key Findings  

  • 36 per cent say COVID-19 will cause them to give less in 2020
  • On average, respondents say they will give approximately $317 in 2020, including their planned holiday giving. If this holds true, it would be roughly 40% less than previous giving levels, as indicated by Statistics Canada surveys.
  • 62 per cent of Canadians believe charitable giving is down because of COVID-19

Increased demand is adding pressure on the social good sector, which is showing signs of fatigue. Fifty-one per cent of charities report their ability to maintain an appropriate work/life balance for staff and avoid burnout is decreasing.  

The holiday giving intention survey also reveals the pandemic has caused a fundamental shift in how Canadians donate to charities. Half of those surveyed (49 per cent) showed a strong preference for charities that accept online donations.

The survey also found that half of Canadians believe the federal government needs to step up and provide more support for charities hit hard by the pandemic. 

The Sector Monitor Survey shows that charities continue to work hard to adapt with new approaches to fundraising and service delivery. Seventy-nine percent of organizations have increased innovative practices or experimentation to reach more people and carry out their mission. And 22 per cent of charities report their efforts to advance online fundraising have resulted in increased donations.
“The big question facing charities this holiday season is whether they will have capacity to meet spiking demand caused by the pandemic,” says MacDonald. “This will largely depend on support from individual Canadians over the holidays and in the coming months. Much also depends on continuing government support. It is vital to the well-being of Canadians that social good organizations have the ability to continue to provide these essential services.”


The Holiday Giving in Canada survey was conducted online by Ignite-Lab from December 1 to December 5, 2020. 1,252 Canadian residents aged 18 years and over were interviewed.  A sample of this size has a confidence interval of ± 2.7 per cent.

Imagine Canada’s Sector Monitor survey was conducted online by Imagine Canada between November 3rd and December 4th. It surveyed 1,089 leaders of charities with annual revenues over $30,000 that are not religious congregations. Responses are weighted by organization size, activity area, region, principal source of revenue and the presence of paid staff to produce estimates that are more representative of charities as a whole. The charities surveyed are a mixture of organizations belonging to various umbrella organizations and randomly selected charities. A simple random sample of this size would typically have a confidence interval of ± 2.9 percent. 

Imagine Canada

Imagine Canada is a national, bilingual charitable organization whose cause is Canada’s charities. Through our advocacy efforts, research and social enterprises, we help strengthen charities, nonprofits and social entrepreneurs so they can better fulfill their missions. Our vision is of a strong Canada where charities work together alongside business and government to build resilient and vibrant communities. | Twitter: @ImagineCanada | Facebook:    


CanadaHelps is a charitable foundation working to increase giving in Canada through technology., provides a safe and trusted one stop destination for making donations, fundraising, or learning about any charity in Canada. The organization also develops affordable fundraising technology and provides free training and education for charities so that, regardless of size, all charities have the capacity to increase their impact and succeed in the digital age.  More than 2.7 million Canadians have donated over $1.5 billion to charities using CanadaHelps since its founding in 2000. For additional information, visit or connect with CanadaHelps on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

For further information: 
Leslie Booth
xposure PR
(416) 427-1588