This holiday season, many people may find themselves deciding whether to keep, return, or re-gift another thoughtful, but completely useless present. This is a perfect time to reflect on the true meaning of gift giving and the importance of registered charities in our communities.
A new report on the economic and social impact of registered charities from the Victoria Foundation and University of Victoria found that the charitable sector generated over $4 billion in local economic activity in 2016. That puts it up with tourism and the tech sectors as being as one of the most important to economic and social well-being in the Victoria region.
We know that civil society – the individuals and non-government organizations working for the benefit of their communities and citizens – are hugely valuable. However, there has been very little systematic research on the broad societal and economic impact of this sector.
In the first study of its kind, lead researcher Crystal Tremblay of the University of Victoria’s Department of Geography and team used Canada Revenue Agency data and survey responses from 80 registered charities to evaluate their economic and social impact. The team focused on measures including GDP income, and the number of full-time jobs supported and progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals, from gender equality, health and education, to action on climate change.
According to the analysis, the economic activity of registered charities in the capital region is just over $4 billion. They also support the equivalent of 63,000 full-time jobs and generate over $300 million in annual municipal taxes (paid by the organizations and those employed). Include indirect and downstream activities, such as those who receive revenue or support make purchases of their own, and these numbers grow to nearly $7 billion and the equivalent of 122,000 jobs.
But the impact stretches far beyond financial and economic benefits. The study highlights the significant social contributions made by local civil society organizations, particularly in the areas of supporting good health and well-being, quality education, peace and justice, gender equality, and sustainable cities (UN Sustainable Development Goals 3, 4, 16, 5 and 11 respectively).
“This research finally gives civil society organizations the credit they deserve,” said Victoria Foundation CEO Sandra Richardson, but of course much more can be done to support civil society organizations so that their impacts – both economic and social – can be even larger and more meaningful.
So this season, as many gift-givers finish their shopping, prepare their holiday food, and wrap their gifts, let’s consider how we can make positive contributions to our community, society and the planet. Let’s look for opportunities to leverage our collective impact – whether that is inviting an elderly neighbour around for a cup of tea, donating instead of gifting, or volunteering our time and skills in 2019.