Top 10 Charities to Donate to in Canada: Which Are Most Impactful?


Fact Checked

Registered charities are public or private charity foundations that use their resources to improve the livelihoods of people in need, for education or religious advancement, or to benefit their community.

Donations by Canadians to charity organizations have increased steadily over the years. As per Statista, charitable donations amounted to around $4.2 billion in 1997. This figure had almost tripled by 2021, when Canadian tax filers reported about $11.8 billion in donations.

So, which are the best charities in Canada? Are they transparent? And where will you get the best bang for your buck?

Key Takeaways

  • Top charities in Canada include Lifewater Canada, Canadian Foodgrains Bank, The Daily Bread Food Bank, Toronto Humane Societies, and more.
  • Charity foundations help people in Canada and worldwide to combat hunger, diseases, disasters, and emergencies. They may also use donations to advance education or religion.
  • It’s essential to be vigilant about who you donate to. While several great charities operate in Canada, some have been suspended or annulled by the governing body (CRA).

Top 10 Best Charities in Canada 

Charity FoundationMission% of donations that go toward the cause
Lifewater CanadaProvide safe accessible water in developing nations95
Doctors Without BordersOffer medical aid to the needy81
Canadian Foodgrains BankEnd global hunger87
Against Malaria FoundationProtect people from malaria100
Canadian Feed the ChildrenPromote food security in developing nations71
The Daily Bread Food BankProvide food in Toronto 85
Toronto Humane SocietyOperates animal shelters and rescue operations75
Calgary Food BankCollect and distribute food in Canada95
Canada Red CrossDisaster relief and emergency aid92
The Citizens’ FoundationEducates Pakistani children from low-income families91

1. Lifewater Canada

Lifewater is a Christian charity organization founded in 1997. It mainly aims to provide safe, accessible drinking water to people in Kenya, Nigeria, Liberia, and Haiti. 

Besides safe water, they also focus on sanitation, health, hygiene, infrastructure improvements, and disaster relief. In 2022, they reportedly spent about $3.1 million on 2093 water and sanitation projects, which helped about a million people.

Lifewater estimates that for each dollar donated in the past year, there was a $11 economic return. Also, for every dollar you donate, 95 cents goes to the cause, and only 5 cents goes to overhead costs. This is within the reasonable range of 65% to 95% of the total spending.

2. Doctors Without Borders

For more than five decades, this organization has been working to reduce suffering and offer medical aid to those who need it most. Its main office is in Geneva, Switzerland, but it has 24 national offices worldwide, including one in Toronto. 

Canada formally joined the foundation in 1991 and has been instrumental in offering Canadian expertise and medical know-how and pursuing innovations to improve patient care. Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Canada has also provided crucial donations over the years.

For instance, in 2022, MSF Canada donated $83.6 million to international programs. Overall, this foundation has helped millions in Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and more.

For every dollar you donate, about 19 cents go to overhead costs, while 81% goes straight to charity — a reasonable range for such an impactful charity organization.

3. Canadian Foodgrains Bank

Since 1985, 15 Canadian churches and church-based agencies have been working to end global hunger. This group of churches forms the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, which works in developing nations to address food shortages and find long-term solutions to hunger.

The foundation spends about 77% on emergency food assistance and 19% on long-term response. For instance, in F2023, it has helped more than a million people through 126 projects in 36 countries.

Most of these projects (88) were in Africa. The rest were in Asia(19), the Middle East (12), the Americas(5), and two in Europe. The organization has also trained farmers in these areas, and they report that farmers have seen increased yields with conservative agriculture (CA).

For every dollar, 87 cents go to charity and 13% to total overhead spending.

4. Against Malaria Foundation

According to this foundation, Malaria is the number one killer of pregnant women. It also leads to more than 625,000 preventable deaths every year.

So, the Against Malaria Foundation aims to protect people from Malaria mainly by providing nets. One long-lasting insecticidal net (LLIN) costs around $2, and they say 100% of your donations go to buy these LLINs.

The UK-based organization works with partners to distribute these nets and ensure use. On their page, you can see all the donations received, information on distribution, and its impact.

5. Canadian Feed the Children

Like the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, this foundation focuses mainly on food security. It was founded in 1986 and works in Canada, Uganda, Ghana, Ethiopia, and Bolivia.

In 2021, 70% of its spending supported Canadian programs. They work with 31 indigenous tribes to facilitate access to nutritious food and create food security. 

On the other hand, 30% was used internationally for CFTC’s child sponsorship models — you can sponsor a child for a month in the mentioned countries for around $33. The foundation also educates parents to increase their yield, market their produce, and earn through small businesses. It has seen immense results in Ghana, for instance.

For every dollar donated, 71% goes to the cause and 29 cents to overhead spending — a reasonable range.

6. The Daily Bread Food Bank

For four decades, The Daily Bread Food Bank, or simply Daily Bread, has been fighting hunger and poverty at our doorstep. It has been providing access to food through food banks in the Toronto Area and advocating for social change. 

According to Daily Bread, the number of people visiting food banks has increased exponentially since 2022. They estimate that 12,000 new clients visit food banks every month because of rising rents and inflation. 

On average, after paying rent and other utilities, their clients have only $8 left to cover all other costs, including food and healthcare, among other necessities.

In F2021, Daily Bread says their clients got about 2.7 days of food for every visit. For every dollar you donate, 85% goes to support food banks in Toronto and 15% for overhead costs.

7. Toronto Humane Society

Founded in 1886, this is one of the oldest charitable organizations in Canada. The Toronto Humane Society operates animal shelters and rescue operations in Toronto.

According to the charity, more than 400,000 animals enter animal shelters as strays or after being surrendered by owners who can’t afford them anymore. They also report that the average upkeep cost per animal is $54.55 daily. 

In F2022, they spent 75% of program spending on shelter, 18% on public veterinary services, and 7% on education and communication. They also facilitated the adoption of 1,913 animals. 

About 25% of donations go to overhead spending, while 75% goes to the cause.

8. Calgary Food Bank

Like the Daily Bread, Calgary Food Bank yearns to create a hunger-free Canadian community. This organization is an emergency food bank that collects and distributes food to individuals, families, and single-parent households in need. 

They also participate in ways to address the root causes of poverty and food insecurity. For example, in F2022, the foundation reported that its food hampers helped almost 70,000 individuals, collectively saving them about $30.6 million that they used on other necessities and amenities.

For every dollar you donate, 95 cents goes to the cause and 5% on overhead costs.

9. Canada Red Cross

The Canadian Red Cross Society is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. This foundation aims to help individuals and communities in Canada and the world at large. 

They mainly provide disaster relief and emergency assistance across the country. Every year, they respond to more than 3,000 emergencies and disasters, providing aid to those affected.

10. The Citizens’ Foundation Canada

TCF Canada was founded in 1995 to provide educational opportunities for needy children in Pakistan. 

Today, it’s one of Pakistan’s leading foundations for formal education. They report that by 2019-2020, they had built 1,662 “purpose-built” school units in Pakistan, which had enrolled about 266,000 students. It strives to have females as 50% of its school population.

Besides providing education, around 18,000 jobs have been created. Also, most of the staff is female, comprising about 13,000 members.

How To Screen a Charity Before Donating

Canadians have several ways to assess a charity before donating. First, you can contact the foundation directly if you have any questions about their donations or how to track your impact.

Secondly, in Canada, charities are registered under the Income Tax Act. The Charities Directorate of the Canada Revenue Agency ensures registered charities comply with set regulations and laws. So, you can search for any CRA-registered charity in the list of charities to see if it’s registered, penalized, annulled, or suspended.

Another way is to get an informal information request form and request the required information from the CRA’s charities directorate. Keep in mind informal requests offer the same info as formal requests, are free, and are generally answered sooner than formal ones (at least six business days to process your request).

Lastly, you can make a formal information request. Formal requests are paid, generally offer the same information as informal ones, and take longer than informal requests. However, you get the right of complaint to the offices of information. 

How To Choose the Best Charity to Donate to in Canada

After screening potential charities, you can decide whether to donate to a local, national, or international charity. 

Always choose a charity that reflects your values and reasons that inspired you to donate to a Canadian charity. For instance, do you want one focusing on education, hunger, medical aid, or agriculture? Does it have to be Christian or secular? 

Also, when donating, ask yourself if you have any country or continent in mind. And lastly, is there a way to track your donations and its impact on individuals or families?

What Are the Worst Charities to Donate to in Canada? 

Some charities have been mired in controversy, and it would be best to avoid them. Some have closed their operations in Canada, but you may still be duped into donating to them.

In 2020, WE Charity was caught in a political scandal. They were awarded a federal contract to administer the Canada Student Service Grant (CGSS) program. However, it was found that they had paid Justin Trudeau’s close family members to appear at its events.

Later, in 2021, reports from CBC’s The Fifth Estate showed that WE Charity had misled wealthy donors about building schools in Kenya for years.

Other charities, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), have also been caught in some technical issues in the past.

Ideally, you want to donate to a charity that spends 75% or more on the cause. However, 65% and above is still a reasonable range.


What is the largest charity in Canada? 

According to Statista, — as of 2022 — the University of Toronto received the most donations, leading with about 394 million CAD. It was followed by the University of Calgary and World Vision Canada.

What are the 3 types of charities in Canada?

CRA registers Canadian charities under the Income Tax Act as public foundations, private foundations, and charitable organizations. However, there are no significant differences between these three types.

Is Salvation Army Canada a good charity? 

Yes, the Salvation Army Canada is a solid charitable organization working in Canada since 1882. In F2022, the charity reported that it helped over 7,700 individuals in 44 community programs in Canada. Its thrift stores have also been instrumental in distributing clothing, textiles, household items, electronics, and more.

How many charities are there in Canada? 

There are over 86,000 CRA-registered charities in the country. The CRA is responsible for ensuring these charities toe the line.


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Enoch Omololu, MSc (Econ)

Enoch Omololu, personal finance expert, author, and founder of Savvy New Canadians, has written about money matters for over 10 years. Enoch has an MSc (Econ) degree in Finance and Investment Management from the University of Aberdeen Business School and has completed the Canadian Securities Course. His expertise has been highlighted in major publications like Forbes, Globe and Mail, Business Insider, CBC News, Toronto Star, Financial Post, CTV News, TD Direct Investing, Canadian Securities Exchange, and many others. Enoch is passionate about helping others win with their finances and recently created a practical investing course for beginners. You can read his full author bio.

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