(January 23, 2023) Pennies on the Dollar: Private Foundation Giving in Canada, outlines just how much Canada’s 20 largest private foundations increased their gross asset value over the 15 years from 2006 to 2019 and compares it to their giving. The 20 largest foundations make up 63% ($44.5 billion) of the entire gross asset value of 5,800 private foundations, $74.5 billion in 2019.
Studying the behaviour of the 20 largest foundations gives us a clearer picture of how most private foundation funds are spent, how much they earn compared to what they give away, how they are using the charity tax credit system, and whether the taxpayer is getting a good return on their investment.
In 2006, the top 20 Canadian private foundations held 4.0 billion dollars in assets. In 2019, that had grown by about 40 billion to 44.6 billion dollars. Yet, their giving increased just over 700 million dollars. That would be the equivalent of someone with a net income of about 450 thousand dollars a year giving way about 7 thousand dollars to charity.
People have the perfect right to give a little, a lot or no money at all to charity. But the moniker of being “charitable” could not be justified by the giving practice of someone giving away such a tiny amount of their income. Why should private foundations be considered any different?
Below is a visual representation of the top 20 largest foundations in Canada and the tiny sliver of money they gave away compared to what they kept.