General Social Survey - Giving, Volunteering and Participating (GSS GVP)

Quinquennial (5 year)
Record number:

The two primary objectives of the General Social Survey (GSS) are: to gather data on social trends in order to monitor changes in the living conditions and well-being of Canadians over time; and to provide information on specific social policy issues of current or emerging interest.

The purpose of this survey is to collect data regarding unpaid volunteer activities, charitable giving and participation. The results will help build a better understanding of these activities which can in turn be used to help develop programs and services.

Detailed information for 2013 (Cycle 27)

Data release - scheduled for January 30, 2015


This survey is the result of a partnership of federal government departments and voluntary sector organizations that includes Canadian Heritage, Health Canada, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Canada Revenue Agency, Statistics Canada, Imagine Canada, and Volunteer Canada. This survey is an important source of information on Canadian contributory behaviour, including giving, volunteering and participating.

The objectives of the survey are twofold:

1) to collect national data to fill a void of information about individual contributory behaviours including volunteering, charitable giving and participation;
2) to inform both the public and voluntary sectors in policy and program decisions that relate to the charitable and volunteer sector.

Statistical activity

This record is part of the General Social Survey (GSS) program. The GSS originated in 1985. Each survey contains a core topic, focus or exploratory questions and a standard set of socio-demographic questions used for classification. More recent cycles have also included some qualitative questions, which explore intentions and perceptions.


  • Labour
  • Society and community
  • Unpaid work
  • Volunteering and donating

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The target population includes all persons 15 years of age and older in Canada, excluding:
1. Residents of the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut
2. Full-time residents of institutions.

Instrument design

The questionnaire was designed based on research and extensive consultations with data users. Qualitative testing, conducted by Statistics Canada's Questionnaire Design Resource Center (QDRC), was carried out, with respondents in four cities, representing three provinces, who were screened in based on representative criteria. Questions which worked well and others that needed clarification or redesign were highlighted. QDRC staff compiled a detailed report of the results along with their recommendations. All comments and feedback from qualitative testing were carefully considered and incorporated into the survey when possible.


This is a sample survey with a cross-sectional design.

Data for the GSS 27 Main on GVP will be collected by the Halifax, Sherbrooke, Sturgeon Falls, Winnipeg and Edmonton regional offices. About 47,100 households will be sampled.

The survey, like most household surveys conducted by Statistics Canada, uses a probability (random) sample to ensure that its results are unbiased and that we can estimate their reliability. It is a computer assisted telephone interview (CATI) survey.

This cycle used the Residential Telephone numbers file (RTF) as the sampling frame. However, to be more efficient, telephone numbers belonging to the same address were grouped together using the Dwelling Universe File (DUF). Both files are the result of Statistic Canada's common frame for household surveys.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 2013-09-03 to 2013-12-31

Responding to this survey is voluntary.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

Data collection is conducted by Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) methods.

An introduction letter, along with a brochure, will be sent in advance to respondents for which an address is available.

View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s) .

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects which could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.