Charity Lotteries in Canada

An examination of 30 mega lotteries

Greg Thomson and Ernie Cheng, November 2013

Buying charity lottery tickets can be fun, with the allure of grand prizes; however, it is very different from donating directly to a charity. Canadians purchased over $750 million in charity lottery tickets in 2011.  Of this total, roughly $200 million or 27% went to fund charity programs, with the remainder used to pay for prizes, advertising and operating expenses. Donors should read this report to see how much of the ticket price goes to "doing good" at their local charity lottery before buying a ticket.

Did you know...

  • Of the 30 major charity lotteries examined, on average, 27% of each dollar of ticket revenue is retained for funding charity programs.
  • In comparison, 72% of other fundraising revenues went towards charity programs.
  • Most charity lottery prizes are not donated but purchased by the charities.
  • In 2011, provincial governments licensed 16,962 charity lotteries. The 30 charities examined in this report account for roughly 50% of the total $750 million in charity lottery ticket sales.

What funders can do:

  • Recognize that the purchase of lottery tickets should be viewed primarily as entertainment, not as a donation.
  • Ask charities about the costs associated with their lotteries to make an informed choice.

Charities included in this report:

  • Alberta Cancer Foundation
  • BC Children's Hospital Foundation
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters Edmonton
  • Calgary Health Trust
  • Canadian Cancer Society
  • Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (NL)
  • Canadian Red Cross
  • Children's Wish Foundation
  • Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation
  • Fondation Maurice Tanguay
  • Grey Nuns of Edmonton Hospital Foundation
  • Health Care Foundation of St. John's
  • Health Sciences Centre Foundation
  • Heart & Stroke Foundation
  • Hospitals of Regina Foundation
  • Kinsmen Care Foundation / Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation
  • London Health Sciences Foundation
  • Ottawa Hospital Foundation
  • Peace Arch Hospital Foundation
  • Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation
  • QE II Health Sciences Centre Foundation
  • Red Deer Regional Health Foundation
  • Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation
  • SickKids Foundation
  • University Hospital Foundation
  • Variety - The Children's Charity
  • VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation
  • Volunteer Enterprises of the Health Sciences Centre
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