Mega-Charities: the 100 Largest Charities in Canada

I am working on a major paper currently entitled, Mega-Charities and All the Rest: Money, Power, Folk Lore, and Transformation. It will include research and data about the revenue sources of charities in Canada and, drawing upon CRA data will provide a comprehensive look at all the ways charities fund raise.

The paper will include revenue information from all levels of government (as displayed in this posting), from foundations across Canada, as well as revenues generated from many other sources including from United Ways from across Canada to the human services sector. There will also be research and commentary on administration and fundraising costs and how the benchmarks used by funders of the sector for “allowable” costs are one of the major challenges facing charities. The paper will also provide more commentary on duplication (I have written about this before but my research was limited to Alberta – click here), and culminate with commentary about transformation ideas and directions that I suggest require our attention.

It will be published within a couple of weeks, most likely and offered free as a PDF.  Meanwhile here is some of the data and trends that will be in the paper.

Note: Some of the charts and tables may be difficult to read. They are clickable for larger versions.

I came across the list of the 100 largest charities in Canada on the Globe and Mail’s investor website. I saw a link simply titled “Canada’s top 100 non-profit organizations (registered charities).” That link provided an overview of these charities based on recent data (2013) produced by CharityCan.[1] The data shows these registered charities by category (subsector), province, revenues, total assets, and number of staff. Before providing a segmented view of the data here are the totals.

Take a look at the table below. There are 86,000 charities in Canada (not including non-profits without charitable status) [2] and in total they generate approximately $223 billion in revenues[3] on an annual basis. For contrast, the 100 Top Charities, which represent .00162% of all charities generate $101.6 billion in revenues, more than 45% of the total revenues of all charities in 2013. They also hold nearly 20% of the total assets of the entire sector.

table-100 largest

The average income of the Top 100 is approximately 720 times of the average income of the remaining 85,900 charities.

The 100 largest Canadian charities employ 28% of all employees of charities in Canada. The average number of employees for the 100 charities is 5,511 people. For the remaining 85,900 charities, the average number of employees is just under 17. I know averages can be misleading as I am sure the numbers of staff decrease proportionately as revenues decrease, but the contrast is significant nonetheless.

Educational and Health institutions predominant the list of the 100 largest charities. There are 49 organizations in the Health sector (32 hospitals and 17 Health organizations) and 48 in the Education sector. The other three are from the Welfare and Outreach sector and I suggest one of these would be more aptly placed in the Health category.


The left axis indicates revenues in millions, while the right axis indicates number of organizations. Combining Hospitals and Health organizations, we see that the overall Health sector makes up 49% of the 100 charities and has 57% of the revenue. Note that Welfare and Outreach organizations are underrepresented in the top 100. This sector would include organizations focused on addressing social service issues like housing, poverty mitigation, basic needs provision, and so forth. Also notice that the absence of organizations representing the Social Services, Arts and Culture, Sports and Recreation, Housing, and Development, Environment, and other subsectors.


Although Hospitals and Health combined have 57% of the Top 100’s revenue, they have fewer staff than Educational representation in the Top 100, with 44.3% of staffing. Education employs 55% of total employs in the list of 100. Again, Welfare and Outreach organizations are dramatically underrepresented.

I also took a look at the location of the 100 largest charities and sorted them by Province and again showed revenue and staffing numbers.


The bar graph above shows the number of organizations and their total revenues by province. Forty-three per cent (43%) of the Top 100 are located in Ontario. British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec have 44% of the Top 100.

One of the things that stood out was the high incidence of charities on the list that are commonly viewed as government departments. For example, the largest of the 100 is Alberta Health Services[4]. While Alberta only had seven charities in the top 100, Alberta Health Services (AHS) showed revenue of $12.5 billion, more than four times that of the second largest charity, Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, which had revenues of $3.1 billion.

While the revenue share of the Top 100 is rather staggering, take a look at the The Top Ten organizations in the Top 100. They account for $35 billion in revenues — 35% of total revenues for the 100. They also account for 27.5% and 26.3% of total assets and total staffing, respectively.

In terms of all charities, the Top 10, which represent .012% of all charities,  generate 15.7% of all revenues to charities. Seven are either hospitals or health authorities; the other three are educational institutions — two universities and one school board.  All of them are either organizations responsible to governments or receive the majority of their funding from governments.

One has to wonder why Alberta Health Services or organizations like the Toronto School Board should also require charitable status. I realize they have it so they can fundraise, but seeing such institutions, especially those with government mandates, competing with smaller, community-based agencies for financial support seems…well, somewhat inappropriate.


Governments are not only the primary funder of the Top 10 and the Top 100 for that matter, they are, by far, the largest funder of the entire charitable sector. That doesn’t mean all 86,000 charities receive government support, but nevertheless the sector would be reduced to small organizations on bare bones budgets if government funding disappeared, especially with respect to provincial funding, as indicated in the chart below.


Provincial governments make up the lion’s share of revenues to charities. In 2000 provinces provided 85.71% of government funding. The percentage dropped to 81.8% the following year, but grew each year after that to 88.3% in 2009. While federal and municipal revenues grew over the ten year period, each represented a smaller percentage of overall funding in 2009 than in 2000.

Over the ten years, provincial funding of charities grew by 163%, from $44.4 billion to $117 billion. Federal funding grew from $2.8 billion to $6.5 billion, an increase of 132%, and municipal funding grew by 96%, from $4.6 billion to $9.0 billion.

As the line graph below indicates, the sector’s dependence on government funding was far less pronounced in 2000, 2001, and 2003 when the percentages of government funding and non-government revenue sources were much closer that they ended up being in 2009. Government funding increased each year from 2003 through 2009, while non-government revenues fell in 2003 and 2004 then rose in 2005 and have, at best, grown in small increments since.

The number of large charities as well as the fact that they represent in effect only two of the 13 subsectors of the overall charitable sector is data that, for example, must be considered when contemplating the issue of duplication of services. Truth is that most of the money charities have is in the hands of a relatively few charities.

For example, Imagine Canada reports that 1% of all charities have 60% of all sector revenues. That translates to 860 charities having combined revenues of $134 billion out of total sector revenues of $223 billion. In Alberta, as I have demonstrated elsewhere, 1.4% of all non-profits/charities in Alberta have 77% of total sector revenue. Add to this that at the other end of the spectrum we have thousands of very small charities spread across 13 subsectors and across our provinces and territories that subsist on very little revenue and one has to wonder where to direct criticisms about duplicate services. But more about that in the paper to come.

I might post again before the release of the paper. If I do, most likely it will be about Foundations in Canada and the funding they provide to the charitable sector.


[1] See

[2] Source: Mark Blumberg, Canadian Charity Law, 2013. Retrieved from “” April 6, 2015

[3] Source: Blumbergs’ Snapshot of the Canadian Charity Sector 2012 by Mark Blumberg (2014), retrieved from April 7, 2015

[4] It should be noted, however, that AHS appears to include all Alberta hospitals in its basket of services, whereas other health authorities do not. Alberta Health Services employs just over 43,000 people, far more than any of the other 100 largest charities, about eight per cent of the overall workforce of the 100.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s