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International disasters and subsequent relief campaigns are at the forefront of Canadian attention now more than ever, thanks to social media and the 24-hour news cycle.

But while this country has looked on in horror at world events, how has that translated to charitable giving to international causes?

Among the top 100 Canadian charities that deal with international aid and disaster response, such as World Vision or Plan International Canada, giving increased 17 per cent, to $938-million from $799-million between 2011 and 2015, according to figures provided by Charity Intelligence. That represents 6 per cent of all Canadian giving.

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More recent international developments have had a telling impact on Canadian donations. Islamic Relief Canada, which performs relief and disaster recovery work in Syria, has seen an increase of 156 per cent in its donations over that five-year period, while FINCA Canada, which delivers financial services in developing countries, has seen a 1,071-per-cent increase.

While there are no recorded figures noting how much high-net-worth individuals are donating to international charities and causes, as opposed to domestic ones, some organizations have looked at patterns of giving.

Imagine Canada, an advocacy group that works to strengthen the charitable sector, released its Personal Philanthropy Project report last month.

The organization found that those earning between $100,000 and $1-million are donating less percentage-wise than other groups.

"The group between $100,000 and $1-million is generally giving less than 1 per cent of their hourly income to charity," says Bruce MacDonald, president and chief executive officer of Imagine Canada. "Whereas if you look at low and middle-income Canadians, compared with the exceedingly wealthy, they're giving more than 1 per cent."

Whatever the demographic, those polled felt that their donations were "generous and above average," without having anything with which to compare themselves.

Mr. MacDonald is also concerned about the effect of the shrinking middle-income class, saying that a polarized society would shift the onus more squarely onto high-net-worth individuals.

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"When the poor get poorer they actually come to our organizations for services, so it's going to be critically important that Canadians that have the means and capacity to give have a culture of philanthropy and contribute to their community," he says.

Julia Sanchez, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, says that the percentage of high-net-worth individuals giving to overseas initiatives is "pretty steady" at around 4 to 5 per cent.

While she would like to see that improved, she says that as Canada continues to become more diverse, wealthy immigrants might be inclined to give back to causes in their homelands.

"We're such a globally connected society, there are so many Canadians who weren't born in Canada or who are doing well," she says. "It would seem to be something that could happen."

Financial advisors see patterns in high-net-worth giving.

Two of the biggest targets of their donations are religious and community organizations, says Mike Skrypnek, a director and portfolio manager with Richardson GMP in Calgary. After clients move past that, they often consider their global reach.

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"I don't think any wealth category definitely defines whether you're more philanthropic globally or not, but I think your realization of the impact you can have is much greater," he says. "They can make a huge impact on big challenges."

Mark Halpern, chief executive officer of WEALTHinsurance.com based in Markham, Ont., says that in his experience, the amount donated abroad is relatively small, around 2 per cent of total donations.

He says that apart from humanitarian crises that spring up, unless a client is particularly connected to a former homeland or they've adopted a country, they are unlikely to donate overly large amounts.

Among his client base, which he describes as "diverse," he says the ones who donate to overseas charities are generally multicultural and people who came to these shores with little to nothing.

However, he adds that he doesn't expect overseas contributions from high-net-worth Canadians to fall precipitously in either the short or long term.

"There will always be a market for Canadians to give," he says. "As long as we have the ability to have some tax relief from those donations, then that's who we are, we're a giving nation."

Tony Maiorino, VP of RBC Wealth Management Services, says a transition plan, business plan and a financial plan are important areas for entrepreneurs to focus on in order to have a good succession plan.
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