By Shelley Luedtke
If it's true that money makes the world go 'round, Canadians should be having quite an impact on the globe. In the second quarter of 2018 personal disposable income in our nation reached an all-time high. Not in your house? Mine neither.
Although there are indicators that tell us how a national economy is doing, the way we deal with our money is an individual thing and we often have different ideas regarding its use.
A friend of mine liked to recount stories of her father who had, in her estimation, some odd ideas about money. For several summers her family would drive to a large amusement park and spend the day enjoying the rides, shows and food. It amused her that although he would pay for admission, and high priced meals and snacks, he refused to pay $7 for parking. He would make the family walk from quite a distance so he could park for free. Some might argue that it was because he refused to spend money when he didn't need to that he had the resources for things like a day at the park. Whatever the case he, like you and I, get to decide where our dollars go.
When the Charities Aid Foundation releases its World Giving Index each year it's interesting to note how different countries rank. Last year Canada sat 7th overall. In the latest report we dropped to 15th. Fourteen nations were deemed more generous than us.
More than 140 countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe were surveyed and some interesting information emerged. Per capita, Indonesia is the most generous country. The most improved included Kenya and Sierra Leone, while the biggest jump by one country was the Democratic Republic of the Congo which despite a difficult 2017 due to delayed elections, violence and unrest, saw a 12% increase in giving over their five year average. Singapore and Haiti landed in the top 20 for the first time, and our nation fell out of the top 10. Canada is one of eight countries in the developed world the CFA says is seeing downward momentum in giving.
Apparently Canadian tax returns are telling the same story. Fewer Canadians are giving, and those who give are donating a smaller share of their income. Of course this is a concern to the organizations whose budgets are driven by what people give. A further hindrance is the suspicion that grows each time a charity scam is revealed. For every legitimate charity that built a good reputation we can only imagine the frustration in having to work at damage control each time another fake is exposed and people grow more cynical. The charities that work locally, nationally or internationally depend on our support to carry out their mandate. So what do we do to counteract a downward trend, particularly when household budgets grow increasingly tight? We give. We give because we can. Yes, a lot of people will have much more than we do, but a lot more people will have a lot less. If we give what we have we will be blessed.
But there's another kind of giving that isn't reflected on tax returns and is a bit harder to quantify but is happening all the time in the smallest of villages and the largest of centers. It's in the cartons and tins that get donated to food banks. It's in the toys that are given to toy drives. It's in the coins placed in donation buckets. It is in every quilt that is raffled, and every burger, bowl of chili and glass of lemonade that is purchased at a fundraiser. And, it's in the hours of time spent in helping out wherever a need arises. Churches. Neighbourhoods. Communities. Every hour spent in service to others increases our sense of fulfillment, gives us a greater sense of connectedness, and impacts the lives of the people who in turn impact us.
It's vitally important that organizations we wish to see thrive get the support they need. As we consider our place amidst global trends on the giving index just imagine what could be done if our nation came together and made it our goal to get to the top of the world. It's a summit we could ascend together and one that would definitely be worth the climb. That's my outlook.
By Shelley Luedtke