Manitobans are a generous bunch. A report released Tuesday by the Fraser Institute shows more than a quarter of Manitobans donated to charity in 2012, a higher percentage than in any other province.

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Manitobans are a generous bunch. A report released Tuesday by the Fraser Institute shows more than a quarter of Manitobans donated to charity in 2012, a higher percentage than in any other province.

Manitobans also donated the highest percentage of their overall income, at 0.81 per cent.

That isn't a surprise to Debbie Clarke.

"Manitobans are just such incredible people," said Clarke, who co-ordinates the Salvation Army's Winnipeg Christmas kettle drive.

For the Salvation Army, that generosity is always on display around the holidays. The kettle drive brings in around half of the charity's total annual income, making the weeks around Christmas a very important time, Clarke said.

"I think Manitobans just have a heart for the people. If they see a need, they just seem to be there to support. I can't explain why," she said.

Ron Bailey has an answer. The former president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals is now a fundraising consultant in Winnipeg. He said strong religious communities, such as the province's large Mennonite population, are often the most generous with their giving.

"There's a culture of generosity here, and the religions are part of the base of that. From there, a lot of things happen," Bailey said.

In many cases, religious communities are supported by Manitoba's high immigrant population, including Filipinos and older, more established groups such as Ukrainians and other eastern Europeans, Bailey said.

Those groups often have strong cultures of supporting charity, but Bailey said the province is seeing a demographic shift that is helping to drive philanthropy.

"We're seeing baby boomers who are getting a bit older. Their kids are maybe taken care of now, their finances are taken care of. Maybe they've got a cottage or something, and they're comfortable, so they start thinking about making some strategic investments in areas that they care about," he said.

Winnipeg charities are doing well this holiday season. Clarke said the Salvation Army is roughly on par compared to years past, similiar to what Judy Richichi of Siloam Mission reports.

"We seem to be trending towards what we received last year. This is our biggest giving month, for sure. December, in many ways, makes or breaks your year. I would say it's about on par as far as we can tell," said Richichi, Siloam's director of major gifts and donations.

She echoed Bailey's thoughts about what makes Manitobans so willing to support charities.

"I think we have the most generous and supportive people here. Our climate is just so extreme, it encourages us to look out for each other," Richichi said.

jesse.winter@freepress.mb.ca