If the global nonprofit sector were a single industry, it would be the world’s fifth largest, employing 4.5% of the world’s population. This and many other dramatic insights were unveiled by Kim Klein in a recent presentation on Canada’s nonprofit sector at the Laidlaw Foundation.

The data, compiled from Imagine Canada, the National Survey of Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations, Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Civil Society Studies and the Association of Fundraising Professionals, map the nonprofit sector’s size, composition, and finance structure, and offer international and inter-provincial comparisons.

One highlight: of the 39 countries studied, Canada’s nonprofit sector is the second largest relative to population size (behind Holland), and boasts the first largest workforce (12% of Canadians). There are 161,000 non-profits in Canada, accounting for 7% of GDP. The top 1%, 1,600 or so organizations, bring in yearly revenues of $10 million or more—59% of the total. In contrast, the bottom 42%, some 67,500 organizations, have budgets under $30,000 and raise just 1% of total revenue.

The study also unearthed some surprising facts about Canadians’ giving habits. 78% of Canadians give money to nonprofits—totaling $8 billion in 2003—religious organizations receiving between 35% and 49%. Maritimers (Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador) tend to give more, while Quebecers give the least. The socio-economic profile of Canadian givers also yielded some surprising results. While givers come from all walks of life and income brackets, the study refutes the commonplace belief that wealthy people give more. Rather, it supports the theory that societies have an absolute “giving standard,” meaning that lower-income people actually give a higher proportion of their income. (More information here)

Chris Evans

Chris joined MaRS from McMaster University for the summer. He worked in the social entrepreneurship program. See more…