As Canadians continue to feel the pressures of inflation this holiday season, two new surveys show they are still likely to donate to charities while reducing the amount they spend on gifts.

One survey, conducted by Ipsos for CanadaHelps and released Wednesday, found more Canadians (35 per cent) would rather spend less on gifts they give their family, friends, neighbours or coworkers than cut back on how much money they donate to charity (17 per cent).

In a separate survey, conducted by the Angus Reid Institute for Plan International Canada and published Thursday, researchers identified a "noticeable shift" in the amount of money Canadians intend to spend on gifts this holiday season.


Previous Ipsos data released by CanadaHelps revealed 20 per cent of Canadians rely on charities for essential things like food, shelter or health services, while 24 per cent are expected to access charitable resources in the next six months.

"Charities in Canada are experiencing unprecedented levels of demand for services as Canadians face a high cost of living compounded by economic uncertainty," said Duke Chang, president and CEO of CanadaHelps in a release. "With two in 10 Canadians currently relying on charities to meet daily essential needs, we are very pleased to see that Canadians are putting the needs of their communities first this holiday season, even in the face of economic challenges."

More than a quarter of Canadians say they do not give financially to charities (27 per cent), while 39 per cent of Canadians say they will give the same amount of money this year as they did last year. Ipsos data also showed 15 per cent of Canadians intend to donate more to charities this year, while 19 per cent plan to give less.

Asked to rank their top charitable causes to donate to, most Ipsos survey respondents (46 per cent) said a physical health cause such as cancer, Alzheimer's or heart disease research, followed by mental health causes (23 per cent) or food insecurity charities (23 per cent). Other popular causes include animal-related charities (26 per cent), crisis relief organizations (22 per cent), education (20 per cent), climate change initiatives (17 per cent) and religious causes (14 per cent).

Donating to refugees and newcomers to Canada was among the lowest ranked causes (12 per cent), along with anti-racism or social justice causes (nine per cent), supporting Indigenous communities and reconciliation (seven per cent), donating to opioid addiction services (six per cent), giving to arts and culture causes (five per cent) and other causes (12 per cent).

Researchers also found two-thirds of Canadians said they have not volunteered their time to help charities in the last six months. Twenty-two per cent of respondents said they volunteer at a charity or non-profit, while 11 per cent volunteer through a mutual aid network and five per cent reported volunteering at a protest.

The largest amount of charity volunteers live in Alberta (27 per cent), followed by Ontario and Atlantic Canada (23 per cent), B.C. (19 per cent), Quebec (18 per cent), and Saskatchewan and Manitoba (12 per cent).

Ipsos also found most Canadian parents (71 per cent) talk to their children about the importance of giving and how to support charities.


More than half (57 per cent) of Canadians said they will spend less on gifts this year and instead will place a stronger emphasis on the sentimental value of their presents. Angus Reid attributed the change in attitude to ongoing global issues such as war, climate change and inflation.

A majority (70 per cent) of Canadians said they are less likely to ask for a material gift, while less than half (40 per cent) said they aren’t as likely to buy a material gift for their loved ones this year.

"Canadians are responding to the constant stream of news about conflicts, climate concerns and increasing living costs by prioritizing social awareness and impact over consumerism," Saadya Hamdani, Plan Canada's director of gender equality and inclusion, said in a release. "In light of this, choosing ethical, meaningful gifts holds far more significance and will be appreciated by both the giver and the recipient."

Almost half of survey respondents told the Angus Reid Institute it's more important to get a gift that they consider meaningful than to focus on material items.

Researchers also found 22 per cent of Canadians said it is important to donate to charities that "work to address the most urgent needs." More than 40 per cent said understanding local and global social issues is increasingly important and 40 per cent of people acknowledged there is heightened importance of assisting people and communities in need of help.

Asked if they could only support one cause this year, "Canadians ranked humanitarian aid in emergencies, domestic violence, hunger and homelessness among their top priorities," Plan International Canada said in a release.

Although 59 per cent of respondents said they lean toward charities that are close to their hearts, one third said they prioritize aiding emergency response charities.


Ipsos' poll was conducted between Oct. 20 to 25, 2023, on behalf of For this survey, a sample of 1,001 Canadians aged 18+ were interviewed. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe.

The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18+ been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to, coverage error, and measurement error.


Angus Reid's survey was conducted for Plan International Canada, from Nov. 9 to 13, 2023, among a representative sample of 1,508 Canadians who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. The survey was conducted online in English and French. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.