(October 30, 2020) The charity sector is unique and notoriously difficult to measure. There are approximately 86,000 charities in Canada, one for every 430 people in the country. Organizations falling under the charity umbrella include large post-secondary institutions and hospitals, as well as a neighbourhood groups with $5000 in the bank. If every charity issued an annual report, there would be 86,000 different ways of reporting their activities.
Yet, there is one document all charities must complete if they are to retain their charitable status, a document required by the Canada Revenue Agency, an income tax form called a T3010.
And in 2010, Mark Blumberg, a Toronto-based lawyer specializing in charities, sought to better understand the charity sector with the now digitally available data in the T3010.
Blumberg is the editor of www.canadiancharitylaw.ca, a charity law website, and www.globalphilanthropy.ca™, a website dedicated to supplying news about the charitable sector as well as information on legal and ethical issues for Canadian charities operating in Canada or abroad. He offers charity law “boot camps.”
In a sector not used to empirical attention, Blumberg has been working to increase transparency for years. One of his platforms is Blumberg’s Snapshot of the Canadian Charity Sector, which he’s been producing on an annual basis since 2010. On October 18, 2020, Blumberg released the 2018 Snapshot.
The Charity Report has compiled the data from the Blumberg Snapshot of the Canadian Charity Sector from 2010 to 2018 into a report Measuring the Canadian Charity Sector, 2010 - 2018.
“Every person—it doesn’t matter if you work in five charities, one hundred charities or three hundred charities—your perception of the sector is that of the charities you’ve worked with,” Blumberg told author Gail Picco in her 2017 book Cap in Hand. The idea of the snapshot was to draw a picture of the entire sector, he said.
Among the findings from Measuring the Canadian Charity Sector, 2010 – 2018 include the following. Where dollar figures are used, the amount is in 2020 dollars.
- The number of charities in Canada hovered between 83,000 and 84,300 from 2010 – 2018.
- The percentage of charities who have a public face through a website has increased from 29.33% in 2010 to 39.72% in 2018, from less than 1 in 3 in 2010 to just over 1 in 3.
- Net assets of charities grew 175% between 2010 and 2018, from 134.90 billion in 2010 to 236.03 billion in 2018.
- Overall government revenue increased by 16.15% from 167.28 billion in 2010 to 194.29 in 2018.
- Value of receipts issued by charities increased 15.96% from 15.85 billion in 2010 to 18.38 billion in 2018.
- Gross revenue increased by 19.92%, from 242.82 billion in 2010 to 291.18 billion in 2018.
Blumberg’s transparency work has played a significant role in defining his professional life, but also has a deeply personal angle. The Snapshots are a part of the Sean Blumberg Transparency Project, named after Mark’s brother, Sean, who had been an integral part of gathering the statistical information necessary for the work.
Sean, however, suffered from various types of mental illness for 20 years and, although he had access to the best doctors and support from his family, things became increasingly difficult for him to bear. When Sean took his own life eight years ago, Mark decided to name the transparency project after him, continuing to put out material that would be free and accessible.
“Mark Blumberg’s contribution in pulling together the Blumberg Snapshot of the Canadian Charity Sector every year is enormous,” says Gail Picco, now the editor in chief of The Charity Report. “He is one of the only sources in Canada of this kind of sector wide analysis which, while not limitless in the conclusions we can draw from it, is one of the few consistent measurements we have of the sector.
“His commitment to sector transparency is singular and it can be overstated how much more we know about the sector because of his work.”
Blumberg’s law firm Blumberg Segal LLP also runs charitydata.ca, which provides information on registered charities as disclosed in their T3010 annual return.