‘Toronto’s multicultural communities are a wellspring of generosity,’ write advocates
It’s no coincidence that economists believe the health of Canada’s economy is dependent on robust immigration. The country’s aging population and falling birth rate make this conclusion a certainty. Equally certain is the essential relationship between large numbers of newcomers and the continuance of charitable services Torontonians rely upon.
A new study, titled Multicultural and Newcomer Charitable Giving, is telling us Toronto’s multicultural communities are a wellspring of generosity. The populations surveyed — South Asian, Chinese, Filipino, Black (Afro-Caribbean/African), Arab and Iranian — were all shown to share a strong willingness to embrace community service.
The study is among the first to explore the influence of ethnicity on charitable giving. And the findings show generosity is thriving in Toronto’s multicultural communities. The data indicates newcomers and those of the subsequent generation born in Canada are driven to give out of a sense of duty to their communities and society generally. Primary motivators are strong family and religious values.
Multicultural Canadians residing in Toronto, on average, give $779 per year in donations. Three quarters say they support charities because “it’s the right thing to do.” A strong majority also teach their children about charitable giving and over half would like to do more by volunteering more of their time. Nearly four in ten would support more charities if they were asked.
The importance of these findings to those who rely on services provided by Toronto’s charitable and non-profit sector cannot be overstated. Powerful demographic and economic shifts, coupled with the disruption of routine fundraising campaigns created by COVID-19, are making it exceedingly difficult for the sector to effectively respond to community needs.
This research offers reason for optimism in the challenging giving landscape of 2020. The study suggests coronavirus has heightened empathy to the needs of others. Two communities — South Asian and Chinese — were surveyed to determine how COVID-19 had influenced their giving intentions. Nearly a third said they intend to give more in response to the pandemic.
The study concludes immigrants have a compassionate perspective on the value of taking care of others. Charities are on the front line of providing services when people arrive in Toronto, so their first experiences reflect a caring society. The bottom line: these groups are keenly aware of the goodness created when people help each other.
The study reveals enormous potential to bolster the city’s social safety net. Nearly six in ten members of Toronto’s multicultural communities believe they can give more and only a third are happy with the amount they give.
The study’s national findings related to the willingness and ability to give, coupled with census data, indicate multicultural Canadians have the capacity to provide Canada’s social purpose organizations with nearly $1.7 billion in new funding annually.
This study challenges charitable and non-profit sector leaders to reach out to multicultural communities. Job one must be to undertake a comprehensive effort to better understand diverse perspectives and deepen the self-identification of newcomers as philanthropists. This work is crucial to the well-being of our great city.
These eye-opening findings remind us all of the values that unite us. Diversity is a rich resource supporting Toronto’s long-term health and prosperity. But our communities and the good that they do cannot reach their true potential without a total commitment to inclusion, equality of opportunity and the elimination of racism.
Bruce MacDonald (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president and CEO of Imagine Canada, a charity whose purpose is to strengthen Canadian charities and non-profits. Bobby Sahni is partner and co-founder of Toronto-based Ethnicity Matters (email@example.com), one of Canada’s leading multicultural marketing agencies.