Statistics Canada Releases Survey on Board Diversity
February 2021 Charity & NFP Law Update
Published on February 25, 2021

By Esther S.J. Oh


Statistics Canada released Diversity of charity and non-profit boards of directors: Overview of the Canadian non-profit sector on February 11, 2021, a report setting out the results of a crowdsourcing survey conducted from December 4, 2020, to January 18, 2021 (the “Survey”). The Survey had the objective of collecting information on the activities of charities and non-profit organizations (“NPOs”) (although it is unclear whether this includes only s. 149(1)(l) NPOs under the ITA, or a broader range of not-for-profits), the individuals they serve and the diversity of those who serve on their boards of directors. The study surveyed 8,835 individuals, 6,170 of whom were directors of charities and NPOs.

The Survey found that over three quarters of participants were involved in charities and NPOs operating at the local or regional level. In contrast, only 3% of participants indicated that their organizations operated internationally. The main activities of organizations pertained to social services (22%), arts and culture (17%), sports and recreation (13%), education and research (12%), or health (9%). The main activities of the organizations varied somewhat based on their geographic level. With regard to population groups served, a majority (72%) reported that their organizations served at least two of the following groups, and 64% served at least three of those groups: youth; persons in poverty or with low income; newcomers or visible minorities; persons with disabilities; Indigenous persons; LGBTQ2+ individuals; and seniors.

In response to questions on board diversity, the survey found women formed the largest share of board members across most organizations, regardless of the populations they serve and their main activities. However, boards reflected lower representation of board members in diversity groups. For example, only 14% of participants were immigrants to Canada; 11% belonged to a visible minority group; 8% identified as LGBTQ2+ individuals; 6% were persons with a disability; and 3% were Indigenous. The representation of board members in diversity groups increased slightly for organizations mainly engaged in international activities (25%), religious activities (19%), and “law, advocacy and political” activities (18%). As well, organizations with a written policy promoting board diversity were found to be more likely to report slightly higher representation of board members in diversity groups.

The results of the Survey will no doubt be of interest to the sector as a whole, as the Survey suggests the need for greater diversity on boards of directors for charities and NPOs. An important qualification to note about the Survey is that the results were derived from a crowdsourcing initiative rather than a sector-wide survey, and therefore might not necessarily be representative of the sector as a whole.


Read the February 2021 Charity & NFP Law Update