Measuring co-op charity donations

Giving Tuesday is a global charitable giving event that takes place every year just after American Thanksgiving. In 2017 the project collected over 1.64 million gifts and $177 million from 98 countries — a pretty impressive feat for a single day. The event is a great reminder of what people can accomplish by working together.

At this time of year, donations tend to be at their peak. We thought we’d have a look at how co-op charity donations measure up on other business’s charitable giving.

The Willband Creek Viewing Platform was funded by the Co-op Community Spaces program.

Corporate giving in Canada

For many Canadian businesses, charitable giving is a staple for corporate-social responsibility, and many of us are more inclined to support brands we consider to be good corporate citizens.

According to Imagine Canada, corporate charitable giving has been on a steady increase since the 1960s. Corporate donations increased by an astonishing 581% between 1990 and 2009, and over 75% of businesses donate to charities. The dollar figure is equally impressive. Canadian businesses contribute nearly $3 billion in donations, grants and sponsorship to the charitable sector in Canada (2008).


Where do big co-operatives fit in

Co-operatives are among the leaders in charitable giving in Canada. Of the 75 businesses that signed on to Imagine Canada’s Caring Company Program – “Caring Companies” donate a minimum of 1% of their pre-tax profits – 12 were co-operatives or credit unions.

Larger co-operatives, of course, tend to have a bigger impact.

Here are some examples:

  • The Co-operators donated over $7.5 million in 2016 (or 4.1% of pre-tax profits).
  • The Co-operative Retailing System donates $2 million annually through the Co-op Community Spaces Program.
  • Mountain Equipment Co-op donated $3.26 million in 2014 and is a leader in environmental sustainability initiatives.
  • Federated Co-operatives Limited donated $9.8 million in 2016, and actively encourages its 2100-strong staff to volunteer in community organizations through their community builders program.

The impacts of this charitable giving range from returning bison to Wanuskewin to rebuilding local play structures and youth leadership training to saving salmon habitats. And all of us are the beneficiaries in different ways.

Credit unions are all about giving

Financial institutions in the credit union sector are also leaders in giving back to the communities they serve. According to the Canadian Credit Union Association, Canada’s 275 credit unions and caisses populaires contributed $55.9 million in 2016. These donations include sponsorships, scholarships and bursaries, in-kind contributions, support through foundations, endowment funds, financial service, and cash donations.

The contributions represent an average of 5.4% of credit union’s pre-tax income. Banks, on average, donate less than 1% (CCUA, p8).

Smaller, local co-operatives give too

Most smaller co-operatives help ensure profits remain local and are returned to shareholders through patronage or invested in a way that benefits the local economy and community. But these co-operatives are also great partners for local charities and non-profits.

In Regina, Saskatchewan, the local co-operative association Sherwood Co-op has a strong relationship with the Regina and District Food Bank, and they regularly host or contribute to events that support this charity. Here’s a few examples:

  • Fuel up to feed” commits $0.10 for every litre of fuel sold in one day (usually in Oct). Since it was introduced in 2013, the campaign has raised almost $200,000 for the Food Bank.
  • Pack the Cruiser” has raised nearly 10,000 lbs of food in partnership with the Regina Policy and RCMP.
  • Through the Community Spaces program (CRS supported), they provided the Food Bank with a grant for $100,000 to build the “Co-op Community Greenhouse,” which produces food year-round for the charity.
  • They also support the “Virtual Food Drive.” The Virtual Food Drive allows individuals to donate food on the Food Bank’s website, which is delivered by the co-operative.

The impacts are beyond calculation

While we can calculate the numbers — and many are pretty impressive — the combined impacts of co-operative, small business, and corporate charitable giving to local communities and charities is probably impossible to measure. Add to that the approximately $7 billion more that individual Canadians give each year and that’s a fair amount of impact from a population of 38 million. The continued growth in charitable giving has been a key factor in building community strength and we hope to see it continue into future.

If your charity or non-profit is looking for sponsorship or support, consider approaching your local co-op. Co-ops have a strong track record of giving and supporting community building programs and projects through co-op charity donations.