Is your charity truly deserving?

This is the time of year when many of us take a little time to think about those less fortunate. A gift to one or more of your favourite charities can provide much-needed financial support to those who are working to provide shelter and food for the poor, or to find a cure for disease, or to help the disabled, or any of a thousand worthwhile causes.

And, of course, a charitable donation also earns you a healthy tax credit when you file your return, so the federal and provincial governments are really picking up part of your cost.

There are currently about 78,000 charities registered with Canada Customs and Revenue (CCRA). However, some of them are more deserving of your support than others. And a few could actually expose you to some degree of risk if you contribute to them, including some that offer to give you a tax receipt for much more than you actually donate. So be selective with your money.

How much money gets to the cause itself?
To my mind, the most deserving charities are those that keep their fund-raising and administrative expenses to a minimum. This leaves more money available to do the work that the charity has been seup to fund.

For example, in 2000 the Canadian Cancer Society (Ontario division) received a total of $54,436,000 in donations, gifts, and government grants. Of that, just under $43 million went to charitable work that the CCS itself carried out or to qualified donees. That represented 79% of the total donations, a very good score. The War Amputations of Canada did even better, with charitable payments of just under $25 million on donations of $29.4 million. This means that 85% of the money went directly to the causes the War Amps support.

If you have any doubts about a particular charity or would like some insight into how your money is being handled, CCRA offers a lot of information. Go to and do a search for the charity of your choice from the Lists of Canadian Registered Charities. If the search is successful (and notify CCRA if it isn’t) a listing will appear. If it’s a large organization, such as the Salvation Army, there may be many entries and you’ll have to narrow down the search to the specific province or city that interests you.

To find out financial information and other details, click on ”information return” in the right-hand column.  That’s where you can see how efficient the charity is in terms of putting your money to the use you intended. Returns are currently displayed for the 2000, 2001, and 2002 tax years.