Global Giving: A Comparison of Giving Rates between Countries

With the release of the Fraser Institute’s latest report showing that Canadians donated 0.64% of their combined income to charities in 2011 compared to 1.33% in the US, many Canadians are wondering why there is such a disparity.  Are Americans simply twice as generous as Canadians?  And how do Canadians compare with other countries?

Johns Hopkins University conducted a study comparing giving across nations from 1995-2002. In this study, it was found that Americans gave the most of all 36 countries examined at 1.85% of total GDP, followed by Israel at 1.34% and Canada third at 1.17%.  Further research on this data found that charitable giving is negatively correlated to tax rates – countries with higher levels of social safety nets have lower levels of giving.  As Canada’s total tax rate as a percent of GDP is higher than in the US, this is one potential explanation for the disparity in giving.

A 2006 study by the UK-based Charities Aid Foundation that looked at donation levels for 13 countries around the world also found that the US showed the highest levels of giving at 1.67% of GDP with the UK in second at 0.73% and Canada third at 0.72%.  It went on to discuss possible reasons for the differences in the levels of giving, noting tax rates and social security contributions, the tax treatment of donations, the level of religious giving, and unofficial giving as potential factors affecting the levels.

Overall, Canada appears to have one of the highest rates of giving globally. In fact, Canada has been “on the podium” in 2 cross-country comparisons in the past decade.  However, for many political, societal, and cultural reasons, US donors give significantly more than Canadians.  This is another reason for being informed, giving intelligently, and thus, having impact with our giving.


Charitable Giving as a share of GDP by Country (1995-2002)

Country Giving (% of GDP)
1 United States 1.85
2 Israel 1.34
3 Canada 1.17
4 Argentina 1.09
5 Spain 0.87
6 Ireland 0.85
7 U.K. 0.84
8 Uganda 0.65
9 Hungary 0.63
10 Tanzania 0.61

SOURCE: Johns hopkins Centre for Civil Society Studies, 2004

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