Charitable donations declining in Alberta: study

Wrapped gifts at 630 CHED Santas Anonymous depot.
Wrapped gifts at 630 CHED Santas Anonymous depot. 630 CHED Santas Anonymous

Albertans are giving a smaller portion of their income to charity, according to a study by the Fraser Institute.

That trend mirrors a national slide in charitable giving, according to the findings, released Wednesday. The study notes a declining percentage of tax filers across the country are making charitable donations and they are donating less as a percentage of income.

The study found that 21.6 per cent of Alberta taxpayers donated to charity in 2015, down from 25.3 per cent in 2005. That represents a drop of 14.6 per cent. While some might be tempted to think the decline can be attributed to economic troubles, such as the recession of 2008-09, the study’s authors say that’s not necessarily the case.

“What’s really interesting and important to note is the decline continued thereafter, so there was no temporary effect from the recession,” said Charles Lammam, the Fraser Institute’s director of fiscal studies. “We are seeing the overall general trend fall, going back to 2005.”

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The percentage of Albertans’ aggragate income donated to charity in 2015 was 0.66 per cent, representing a 22.5 per cent decline from a decade earlier. That rate of giving was the third-highest among Canadian provinces, behind Manitoba and British Columbia. On the other hand, Alberta led the country with the highest yearly average dollar value of charitable donations at $2,581.

“But that has more to do with Alberta being a very high-income province, less so with the level of charitable giving,” Lammam said.

Edmonton charities such as 630 CHED Santas Anonymous are noticing a decline in giving. Executive director Lana Nordlund said financial donations are down 36 per cent this year, while toy contributions have dropped 20 per cent.

“There are some people that have totally dropped off and not been able to donate at all, but then there are others who normally donate and continue to but they have had to decrease the amount. So whether that’s the monetary amount or instead of buying 10 toys, they are only able to afford to do three toys this year. So there’s a little bit of a mix of everything,” Nordlund said.

The study gave Alberta a “generosity index” rating of three out of 10, tied for third in Canada but only 49th out of 64 North American jurisdictions. Utah was considered the most generous with a score of 8.7.

– with files from Kevin Robertson