Money & Career

How much do you give to charity? Canadians are lagging U.S.

A few years ago I made a major life change - I quit my secure, full-time job to become a freelance writer. It was a risky move but I had managed to scrape together enough to pay my bills for the first few months. I was excited about the future and terrified at the same time. What if no one hired me? What if I couldn’t pay my bills?

A few years ago I made a major life change – I quit my secure, full-time job to become a freelance writer. It was a risky move but I had managed to scrape together enough to pay my bills for the first few months. I was excited about the future and terrified at the same time. What if no one hired me? What if I couldn’t pay my bills?  

When I did my grocery shop one night during my first (not very busy) week of being self-employed I impulsively filled two big paper bags with soup, baby formula, and canned tuna to put in the food bank donation bin at the front of the store. I spent more on the donation than on my own groceries. I felt like a million bucks and, for that moment, I stopped worrying about my own situation.  

In Canada, a huge portion of our population relies on charitable organizations to meet their basic needs. Which is why this report is distressing to me – Canadians give a lot less than Americans to charity every year according to data from 2008. That year we gave a measly 0.73 percent of our income while Americans gave 1.38 percent (almost double!!). 

If we’d managed to give as much as Americans, Canadian charities would have had an extra $8 billion that year.  

Now, Manitoba gets a special shout-out – it’s the most generous province and gave 0.94 percent – but it’s still way behind figures south of the border. Nothing against our American friends, but Canada, we can do better, can’t we?    

Some experts say you should aim to give at least 3 percent of your after-tax income to charity – but that number could also be a lot higher depending on your circumstances and monthly expenses. After all, you even get a tax credit when you donate – it makes good financial planning sense.  

I, for one, always give to our local food bank – according to Food Banks Canada, nearly 870,000 Canadians a month turn to their food bank agencies for help every month. Without them, they’d go hungry. It’s easy to give to the food bank – offices, churches, and grocery stores often help out with food drives by providing drop off points.  

There are so many great organizations out there helping Canadians with their day-to-day needs. Let’s all take time to recognize that and give a little (or a lot!) to the charity of your choice before 2010 is over. 

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