This paper is an edited excerpt of the Cardus policy paper, A Canadian Culture of Generosity: Renewing Canadaâ€™s Social Architecture by Investing in the Civic Core and the â€œThird Sectorâ€ released on October 1, 2009 at the Rideau Club (Ottawa). It is available at: http://go.cardus.ca/GenerousCulture/
The global recession abruptly exposed the vulnerability of strong economies and strong governments. It has also revealed with new clarity how much governments and citizens depend on a strong and healthy civic sectorâ€”and its array of charitable and nonprofit organizations. The Canadian civic sector benefits every Canadian every day. Also known as the â€œThird Sectorâ€â€”distinct from both the public and private sectorsâ€”this sector accounts for 8.5% of Canadaâ€™s gross domestic product (GDP).Â Its slice of the GDP exceeds the combined GDP of Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Saskatchewanâ€”and is larger than Canadaâ€™s retail, automotive, or manufacturing sectors.Â Â Â It includes 750,000 unincorporated community and faith-based organizations, 81,000 nonprofit corporations, and 80,000 registered charities. Place any neighbourhood under a microscope, or merely walk down the street or look at the window, and one will encounter the dense fabric of institutions and organizationsâ€”cultural, religious, social, artistic, athletic, and more that make up the Canadian civic tapestry. Without the dedication and critical investment by citizens and communities through these organizations, Canadaâ€™s social landscape would simply not be the same.
Concern for the common good motivates the civic and charitable organizations of the Third Sector and spurs them to be initiators and transmitters of social change. Social change does not happen overnightâ€”and it never happens in isolation.Â Â It is catalytic. And where social change happens, you will often find the institutions of civil society, â€œthe little platoonsâ€ of Canadaâ€™s civic sectorâ€”at the leading edge.
But the Canadian civic sector is not only an important and powerful engine of change. It also makes possible the quality of life that Canadians have come to depend on as citizens in a peaceful and prosperous country.Â The quality of life we know and enjoy depends on the often unseen, often heroic work of the civic sector. An improved standard of living is made possible because Canadians of all ages and from many different backgrounds participate, volunteer, and give generously in every corner and sector of the country.Â Every Canadian can take prideâ€”and take partâ€”in the civic sector in his or her own community.Â
WHY CARE? WHY NOW?
Today, however, the health and vitality of the Canadian civic sector can no longer be taken for granted. While the sector on the whole appears relatively strong, there are reasons for concern. First, the effects of the recession are now becoming magnified within the charitable sector. When the going gets tough, people are inclined to stop giving. When bank accounts are low and markets plummet, charitable giving constricts.Â The most vulnerable in society are often first to absorb the blow.Â Many organizations are now experiencing a sharp decline in giving.Â Â Declining levels of donations mean decreased resources.Â Unfortunately, this reduction in resources comes at the very time when demands for social services are increasing and existing resources are stretched thin.Â The capacity of the charitable sector is diminished exactly when its help is most acutely needed.
While comparable data is not yet available for Canada, the impact of the recession on the nonprofit sector in the U.S. is disturbingly clear. According to data released in July by Giving USA, personal charitable giving in the U.S. declined by 6.3% in 2008. Corporate giving declined by 8%.Â Gifts to foundations dropped 22.2%.Â Donations to human services declined by nearly 15.9%.Â Defying most other trends, gifts
in the U.S. to religious organizations increased by 1.6%.Â
Second, and perhaps more troubling given the long-term consequences, there is now a growing body of research that indicates that Canadaâ€™s â€œcivic coreâ€ is under-resourced and shrinking.Â The vast majority of all charitable giving, volunteering and civic participation in Canada is done by a very small (and in some cases declining) percentage of citizens.Â Researchers argue that if this trend is not reversed, there will be serious consequences in the future.Â Without increased citizen engagement and new investment in the nonprofit sector, many services Canadians depend upon will disappear. The way of life Canadians have long enjoyed will significantly deteriorate. The ability of civil society institutions to inoculate neighborhoods and communities against social ills and harm will be reduced. Unless the tide turns, the contributions of these valuable partners for the common good will be missing when Canadians need their assistance in the future.
Third, government partnerships with the charitable sector require more than just an influx of new moneyâ€”a new perspective is needed. The potential of Canadaâ€™s charitable sector is often underestimated.Â Its impact and benefits are easily seen and felt, yet also easily taken for granted and overlooked. Government can do more to welcome the participation of charitable organizations as equal partners in the public square. Government and the charitable sector share similar goals, and their mutual efforts require careful coordination. Canadaâ€™s nonprofit sector and civil society are valuable natural resources.Â Just as public policy shows special regard to care for Canadaâ€™s environment and incomparable natural beauty, government has an equally important duty to show special concern for the nationâ€™s civic and charitable sectors and the social environment they inhabit and help create. By developing policies attuned to the needs and potential contributions of the civic sector, government can better leverage its resources to promote human flourishing and the common good.
The time has come to conduct a national check-up on the health of civil society across Canada. The stage is set to begin a new national conversationâ€”to investigate, discuss, deliberate together, and determine how to respond, before troubling trends become more serious.Â Trajectories of decline can be reversed by strategic action, shared commitment, and the cultivation of a new culture of giving and generosity.Â
There exists a growing â€œcivic deficitâ€ in Canada that should concern leaders and citizens equally as much as any short-term or long-term fiscal deficit.Â Section one of this discussion paper reviews recent research into patterns of volunteering, charitable giving, and political participation in Canada to discern where and why this civic deficit exists. Section two invites dialogue participants to explore the wide-angle question:Â â€œHow can we foster a new culture of volunteering, giving and civic engagement in Canada?â€ Section three posits an additional critical question to discuss:Â â€œWho is responsible to do what?â€ Section four focuses in on proposed public policy responses to Canadaâ€™s shrinking civic core and suggests some initial steps forward, recommending a multi-part plan to invest in Canadaâ€™s civic and charitable sectors to the benefit of the common good.
CANADA'S CIVIC DEFICIT
In the past 15 years extensive research has been conducted into the size and health of civil society in Canada.Â Â Using social scientific surveys, researchers have measured and tracked trends in charitable giving, volunteering and civic engagement.Â One important finding has been that Canadians take part in these â€œcontributory behavioursâ€ less frequently than has generally been assumed. To be more precise, researchers have discovered the existence of a small â€œcivic coreâ€ in Canadaâ€”a dedicated minority of citizens who are responsible for the overwhelming majority of all charitable giving, volunteering and civic engagement.
Researchers have analyzed data from the Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (CSGVP) to define the demographics and analyze the patterns of who takes part in charitable, civic and voluntary activities. Their findings are surprising.Â In 2000, researchers found that 18% of adults in Canada were responsible for 80% of all money donated to charities.Â Six percent of adults were responsible for one out of every three dollars donated. 80% of all volunteer hours given were given by 9% of the population. One out of five adults accounted for nearly two-thirds of all civic participation.Â
A small core of citizens are highly active while a sizeable majority remain largely disengaged. The number of these active donors, volunteers, and civic participants is surprisingly small relative to the general populationâ€”and to the groupâ€™s cumulative contribution to civic well-being.Â Researchers estimate that there exists a primary civic core made up of approximately six percent of the population. Citizens who make up the primary core take part actively in all three contributory behaviours, regularly volunteering, giving, and participating as members in civic organizations. Studies have found that an additional 20% of the population make up a slightly less engaged â€œsecondary coreâ€, who provide valuable support in their communities and take part primarily in one or two civic behaviours.Â Researchers conclude that just over one quarter of the population accounts for nearly three-quarters of all civic engagement in Canada.
The citizens who form the civic core are Canadaâ€™s caring, contributing agents of change. They share certain â€œhabits of the heartâ€ that incline them to pursue action to further the common good.Â Â They donate, volunteer, serve and engage in concerted action to promote goals that benefit local communities, the social commons, and the greater good beyond immediate, individual self-interest.Â Â Members of the civic core are marked by â€œan otherness syndromeâ€â€”and the most committed among them are likely to be found engaging regularly in all three activities acting out of deep convictions.Â They share a set of beliefs and a worldview that stresses responsibility, connectedness and cultural renewal. They are committed to improving their communities and culture through exercising and promoting personal and corporate responsibility.Â These citizens are often (but not always) older, religious, and well educated. The significance of this subgroup of citizens to the well being of Canadian society can hardly be emphasized enough. The charitable sector depends on the generosity and civic-mindedness of these citizens for its vitality and for needed resources to serve the most vulnerable in Canadian society.
When one contrasts the combined contributions of citizens from the primary and secondary cores with the civic and charitable contributions of less-engaged citizens outside the core, the uneven distribution of civic participation in Canada comes into clear focus.Â Â The activity of 29% of Canadians who comprise the full core account for 85% of total volunteer hours, 78% of total charitable donations, and 71% of all civic participation.Â The remaining 71% of the population contribute 15% of total volunteer hours, 22% of dollars donated, and 29% of all civic participation.Â Â
The â€œbig pictureâ€ evaluation suggests that support for civil society and the charitable sector is neither wide nor deep in Canada.Â Instead of civic responsibility being shared more or less evenly, the numbers analyzed over time indicate that a small minority are involved and giving very much, some are engaged and giving a little, and the vast majority are not very involved and are contributing very little by comparison.Â In terms of the civic core, researchers estimate that the primary core is shouldering five times its share of the civic load, the secondary core is shouldering twice its share, and those outside the core are bearing less than 1/3 their share of charitable giving, volunteering and participating.
It has not been quantified in dollar terms or volunteer hours the impact of high levels of disengagement on the civic and charitable sectors.Â However, some consequences are clear.Â The absence of significant contributions from substantial percentages of the population yields a sizeable civic deficit in the form of missing volunteers, charitable donations not received, and organizations in need of members and leadership. Voluntary and charitable sectors remain under-resourced in part because many citizens are not contributing in proportion to their ability to do so.Â Research into the civic core suggests that a sizeable percentage of the population can do much more to invest in their communities and help build the capacity of civic and charitable organizations.
From the perspective of those concerned about the health of the civil society, the goal is not some unrealistic expectation that every citizen will contribute in exactly equal shares to the common good.Â Some disproportionality in the broad population is to be expected. Some people have more time, money and other resources to give than others.Â Also, oneâ€™s level of resources may change in various seasons of life due to multiple factors such as age, education, employment, and child-raising responsibilities. However, each person has valuable resources of time, money and skills that can benefit others.Â In a prosperous country like Canada, the findings of civic core research suggests that citizens are not engaging in these contributory behaviours at a high level or magnitude proportionate to the resources at their disposal.Â Posing the question personally, do we and our neighbours really give in generous proportion to our respective means and abilities to contribute to the common good?Â This is often not a matter of public discussion.Â However, the health of the civic and charitable sectors in Canada depends on a generous citizenry that is willing to use its resources to serve others and not only their private interests.
This pattern of disproportional engagement in Canada has remained constant in recent years and is not likely to improve without major cultural changes. According to some projections, the civic deficit that this generates may deepen with time and reduce the ability of civic and charitable organizations to maintain the level of assistance they provide to Canadians. The effects of the recession pose an immediate challenge. Taking a longer perspective in view, a diminished level of investment in the civic sector over time endangers the health of the civil society and the quality of life and essential services the civic sector provides for Canadians.Â Â Â
THE VOLUNTEER DEFICIT
Popular perception regards volunteers as generous people pursuing altruistic pastimes.Â The real work of volunteers in Canadian society is more complex and looks much different. Their impact reaches much further than the stereotype suggests.
Volunteering appears to be the least common form of civic engagement in Canada. Between 1987-2000 the rate of volunteering fluctuated between 27 and 31% of the population and has declined since then. By comparison, nearly half of the population in those years was engaged civically by attending meetings or participating as members of organizations. Just under 80% reported making at least one contribution to charity.Â Â
However, a general volunteer participation rate of 27% conceals the fact that the majority of individuals who volunteer contribute only a handful of hours over the span of a year. According to the most recent data on volunteering, half of all volunteers in Canada contributed 56 hours or less over the course of 2007.Â Furthermore, since 2000, the rate of volunteering has been dropping to around 25% and may decline even further .Â What concerns researchers like Paul Reed at Carleton University is that in recent years the number of hours contributed by the main core of Canadaâ€™s volunteers has been dropping noticeably. Civic and charitable organizations cannot operate without reliable sources of dedicated volunteers.Â
To raise public awareness about these trends, CBC Radio broadcaster Judy Maddren moderated an extended dialogue in 2007 on the state of volunteering in Canada with experts such as Reed and Linda Graff.Â Â â€œAt present,â€ Reed explains, â€œ67% of all volunteering is done by only 5% of Canadian adults.Â A huge amount of work rests on the shoulders of a very few.Â Those very few are typically aged and nearing their end of active volunteer involvement.Â Itâ€™s a precarious and fragile workforce responsible for the community life we both enjoy and expect.â€
The problem is not simply the burnout of an overworked minority of citizens, nor the apparent inequity of some citizens doing much and many doing little to contribute to community well being. Rather, the danger is that as the active citizens who make up a large part of the civic core grow older and are no longer able to volunteer, they may not be replaced by the generation following them.Â Analyzing current trends, Graff and Reed argue that volunteering could decline by as much as 1-2% each year during the next decade.Â The cumulative impact on the civic sector over several years would be significant.Â
â€œMany nonprofit organizationsâ€”â€ they forecast, â€œarts, social, health, and faith charities for exampleâ€”will lose their leaders and sustainers.Â The people who have been sustaining the local chapters, organizing the fundraisers, and leading organizations will be gone.â€ When the volunteers of the post-World War II generation are no longer able to volunteer, the decline in the supply of helping hands for many service and charitable organizations will be felt acutely.Â â€œHistorically, people have started to move away from volunteering at about age 55, and the drop in participation rate increases sharply as people reach their mid-to-late 60s. If baby boomers, who have been volunteering so much over the last three decades, follow those patterns, the loss of volunteers in this country will be great, and so will be the consequences.â€
These scenarios are not fearful speculation. The decline in the volunteer supply is already apparent. For example, Meals on Wheels administrators in large Canadian cities report that they are struggling with a volunteer deficit of 15â€“20 percent.Â They are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain new volunteers. While the level of need for their services continues to rise, they simply cannot find enough volunteers to deliver meals to the elderly and sick who are requesting their help. The greatest declines in volunteering have occurred in large urban centres where the greatest numbers of Canadians live.
Graff and Reed cite other examples:Â â€œOrganizations in small and rural communities where populations are disproportionately older report trouble finding enough volunteers to keep their doors open.Â Many service clubs and civic organizations are in significant decline.Â Â Some have already closed their doors.Â Boards across the country are having more trouble recruiting new members, particularly new younger members.Â Like canaries in mines, we believe these are harbingers of a seriously damaging pattern beginning to sweep over this country . . . Each of us might occasionally notice when a volunteerâ€™s effort touches us directly, but we donâ€™t add it all up to see the enormity of what volunteering provides to our way of lifeâ€”or the impact of what we will lose when volunteering declines over the next few years. There is a fundamental shift on our horizon.Â None of us will escape its impact.â€
THE GIVING DEFICIT
Charitable giving, much like volunteering, is practiced routinely by small percentage of citizens. Studies of charitable giving in Canada reveal comparatively low levels of giving to the nonprofit sector.Â Â Many citizens may donate to charitable organizations in the course of a year but they often donate incidentally, and not part of a regular, planned series of contributions.Â
The most recent data available on charitable giving in Canada points to a significant gap between those who give and those who donâ€™t.Â Also, many who have the means to give do not appear to give much. In June 2009 Statistics Canada reported results from the 2007 Canada Survey on Giving, Volunteering and Participating. On the positive side, total charitable donations were up slightly in 2007 to nearly ten billion dollars, from 8.9 billion dollars in 2004.Â The study confirms, however, that while many Canadians are very generous, the great majority of citizens donated very little or nothing throughout the year. Most citizens do not give regularly. Only a small fraction of those giving, ten percent of givers, account for the lionâ€™s shareâ€”nearly two-thirdsâ€”of all charitable donations.Â Within the group of those who chose to make one or more charitable donations during 2007, half of the donors contributed less than $120 in annual giving. Perhaps even more striking, for individuals with incomes over $100,000, the median amount donated over twelve months was only $210.
Many who reported that they gave a donation or volunteered also stated that they preferred to contribute outside formal channels of local community or charitable organizations.Â They gave money directly to people in need and provided help to neighboursâ€”driving them to grocery stores or appointments, offering household help or other practical support like mowing lawns or shoveling snow.Â Â This pattern is consistent with a long-term trend of household giving to others outside the home but by means of informal channels.
A Statistics Canada study of charitable giving from 1969-1997 suggests that evidence indicates there are at least two stable trends in giving by Canadians: â€œThere is clear evidence of two long-term diverging trendsâ€”Rising generosity to individuals and a declining willingness to contribute to a collective good of some kind as represented by charitable, especially religious, organizations.Â The recent 2007 Canada Survey found evidence of this same trend and noted that support to nonprofit organizations is concentrated among a small minority of Canadians who are also likely to be active volunteers. Most of the money donated and time volunteered to organizations in the civic sector come from a thin base of the population. The study found that the top quarter of charitable donors (those giving $364 or more and volunteering at least one hour during 2007) contributed 59% of total donations and 40% of total volunteer hours, and make up only 14%â€”less than one-seventh of the population.
The existence of the civic core also helps explain the findings of comparative studies of charitable giving in Canada and the United States. Multiple studies of philanthropic activity in Canada and the United States conducted over the past decade confirm lower rates of charitable giving in Canada.Â On average, the rate of giving by citizens to the Canadian nonprofit sector is half the rate of giving to the U.S. chartable sector. In 2006, for example, Americans gave 1.66% of their aggregate personal income to charity, with donations totaling US$182 billion. Canadians donated 0.76% of their aggregate personal income to the charitable sector, totaling CA$8.4 billion. If Canadians had given the same percentage of their income to charities as Americans, Canadian charitable organizations would have received an influx of an additional CA$9.8 billion in donated revenue.
In one multi-country study of charitable giving from 2006, Canada fares better, ranking ahead of many European countries including France and Germany, but behind the U.S. and slightly behind the U.K. in measures of national charitable giving figured as a percentage of country GDP.
The study found that several fiscal, cultural, and social factors can impact national charitable giving. These include: governmental tax take (higher levels of personal taxation and social insurance payments), the tax treatment of charitable donations, religiosity, unofficial familial and social giving, and relative national wealth.Â Researchers concluded, for example, that if social insurance payments were to rise in the future because of the growing needs of aging populations, this could adversely impact personal income and charitable giving in each of the countries surveyed.
Reviewing research findings from Statistics Canada on the state of Canadaâ€™s civic sector, Rudyard Griffiths, founder of the Dominion Institute observed:Â Â â€œJoin the dots of these statistics, and the picture that emerges runs completely counter to our own self-image as â€˜caring Canadians.â€™Â The majority of us are civic slackers who participate either marginally, or not at all, in the kinds of formal activities that sustain a vibrant and effective volunteer sector, a participatory political culture, and an enriched community life.Â Put another way, a significant portion of the population is doing little in terms of day-to-day behaviour to renew the social capital upon which much of the prosperity and social harmony in Canada depends today and in the future.â€
The current economic decline has the potential to significantly reduce the already inadequate supply of resources that the Canadian charitable sector depends upon to carry out its critical work as the power cells and paramedics of civil society.Â If charitable giving and volunteering trends remain unchanged, researchers argue that the long-term consequences are a serious depletion of civic resources and a diminished capacity for public institutions to support social well-being. Research into the state of the Canadian civic sector is beginning to alert citizens and governments alike to an increasingly endangered social landscape that could be home to a more a robust charitable sector if trends were reversed.
These figures and studies raise a number of questions.Â What accounts for the lower rates of charitable giving in Canada? Why is the civic core not larger? Why might people outside the civic core not share a similar set of concerns for the health of civil society that those inside do? Studies of civic disengagement suggest that significant factors include a personâ€™s worldview, beliefs about responsibility for others, religious practice, and education.Â Citizens who choose not to participate and give may simply assume that others will take care of the needs around them without their help.Â Disengaged citizens tend to be less educated, less religious, and believe that people should primarily look out for their own interests. Also, compared to the United States, Canada has a larger government-funded social safety net. Many citizens may have come to believe the myth that because they pay taxes they do not need to do anything else to contribute to the common good.Â Community concerns and the work of charitable organizations seem abstract and distant to many citizens until they or their families are in urgent need of assistance.
Canadaâ€™s civic deficit raises warning flags.Â The problem is clear. Canadaâ€™s core of active citizens is not increasing in size, but is stagnant and may be declining. The civic core needs help.Â An overwhelming majority of citizens are not giving in proportion to their ability to help strengthen Canadaâ€™s social fabric.Â In the process, both they and their communities lose out, leaving a deficit that future generations will inherit.
The challenges, then, are both long-term and short-term. Long-term, the civic core needs to grow.Â The circle of engaged citizens in the civic core needs to widen and expand. Leaders inside and outside the nonprofit sector need to raise awareness of these challenges and find new ways to engage more citizens to take part in donating, volunteering and serving to advance the public good. Most citizens take the health of civil society for granted. Therefore citizens and leaders have to redirect public attention to real-world examples of this growing civic deficit and its impact on communities. Together they can begin to build a case that cultural change is needed.
In the short-term, citizens who make up the civic core need additional resources to do more of what they do well.Â It may take a longer time to change patterns at a cultural levelâ€”to grow the population within the civic coreâ€”so how can we empower contributors to do more? One challenge is to find a way to do this by building their capacity, not simply by asking those already committed (or overcommitted) to do more.Â Instead of asking the civic core to make more bricks out of straw, they need to be equipped with bricks and mortar to continue and expand the work they are doing to repair the city walls.
Policy Recommendations: Increase the Charitable Tax Credit to Promote Increased Giving
As an immediate response to the challenges facing the charitable sector, we recommend increasing the federal tax credit for donations to charitable organizations.Â An enhanced tax credit would provide critical resources to the charitable sector.Â It would also send a strong signal to all citizens to give more generously and invest in their communities. Increasing the credit for charitable donations encourages citizens to engage in counter-cyclical giving to offset the adverse impact of the economic downturn on Canadaâ€™s civil society and social safety net.Â
We recommend increasing the charitable tax credit for cash donations over $200, fromÂ its current rate of 29% to 42%.Â For donations of publicly listed securities eligible for the capital gains exemption, we recommend a charitable tax credit of 42% on the adjusted cost base, and retaining the existing charitable tax credit of 29% on the capital gain. We recommend enacting an enhanced credit for a trial period of five years.
The charitable sector currently depends heavily on the donations of a small segment of the population to support their work. An enhanced credit provides additional incentive for existing givers to increase their charitable donations. It also provides a stronger incentive to encourage those who do not donate regularly to give to charitable organizations of their choice.Â Since Alberta and British Columbia increased their provincial tax credits for charitable organizations, donations to charities have increased in each province by more than five percent.Â
Increased donations will compensate for recent losses and help build the capacity of Canadaâ€™s charitable organizations. The enhanced tax credit also promotes greater generosity by employing Canadaâ€™s social pluralism in the service of the common good. The existing tax credit structure permits each citizen to direct donations to community organizations of their choice that share and advance their values and beliefs. The charity tax credit is one of the few direct policy means the federal government has to promote increased charitable giving and generosity in the Canadian public. Furthermore, another benefit of this particular version of an enhanced credit is that, if enacted, it would level the playing field between wealthy taxpayersâ€”who are more likely to donate securitiesâ€”and middle-class Canadians who are more likely to make cash donations, as cash donations will receive comparable benefits to securities donations. It reforms the current credit structure that compensates securities donations at a higher rate.
There is wide support inside and beyond the charitable sector for increasing the tax credit for charitable donations to provide additional incentive to give at a time when many people stop giving. During recent debates over how best to stimulate the economy in a time of recession, a wide variety of organizations, including the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, BMO Capital Markets, and Imagine Canada recommended some version of modifying existing charitable tax credits and policies.Â Increasing the existing tax credit would increase the ability of the nonprofit sector to raise money, provide more resources for charitable organizations, enable civic core to do more. It would create new incentive for some non-giversâ€”those outside Canadaâ€™s civic coreâ€”to develop the practice of giving when their charitable contributions are greatly needed.
CONCLUSION, CANADA 2035
As Canada enters a new decade, its civic and charitable sectors remain relatively strong, however warning signs have begun to appear on the horizon.Â Current trends provide enough reasons for concern.Â Low and sharply disproportionate levels of volunteering, giving and participation by citizens indicates the civic sector in Canada remains under-resourced and shows some marks of entering an early period of decline. Canadian society today thrives in large part because of the culture of giving and civic investment that is practiced routinely by a small minority of the population who comprise Canadaâ€™s civic core.Â If trends toward disengagement deepen and become entrenched, it will be much more difficult to reverse these patterns in the future.Â Strategic action is required now.
We have argued here for an increase in the federal tax credit as a first step in the right direction. But these policy recommendations are obviously not an exhaustive solution. Every member of the Canadian social and cultural landscape must be enlisted. Government must not only provide a tax incentives, but work to cultivate a culture of giving through speeches, programs, pioneering new models for incorporation and social enterprise and removing bureaucratic barriers for collaboration with many differently minded â€“ including religious â€“ charitable organizations. Non-profits and charities themselves must sustain a culture of creative volunteer recruitment and pursue public policy innovation. Business and unions must practice social responsibility and partner with non-profits to instill the value of volunteerism and giving at the highest levels. Foundations, families, media, faith communities and schools and universities all have a critical role to play in the cultural formation necessary to grow our civic core.
What kind of culture and civil society will Canadians create by 2035?Â Visionary political leadership beginning nowâ€”coupled with the dedicated contributions of stakeholders across Canada to promote increased giving, volunteering and civic participation would begin to generate a new culture of generosity and giving in Canada in the next decade. Citizens could begin to gain a new sense of their own influence to invest in their communities and corporately strengthen Canadaâ€™s social fabric. We commend the beginning of this new conversation in Canada with the genuine hope of promoting a stronger, more generous culture in a land that has so very much to offer.Â We are wise to remember, however, that we cannot think ourselves into new behaviours. It will take time, action, and community to begin to see the first signs of change.Â Canadian citizens committed to building a new culture of giving in their own sphere of influence would be well served to act now and also adopt a long-term perspective and a comprehensive strategy. The bigger the change we hope to see, the longer we must be willing to invest, work, and wait for it.