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

Detailed information for 2012 (Cycle 27 Pilot Survey)




Every 5 years

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.

Data release - Pilot data are not released.


This survey is the result of a partnership of federal government departments and voluntary sector organizations that includes Imagine Canada, Canadian Heritage, Health Canada, Human Resources and Social Development Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Statistics 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 threefold:

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;
3) to provide reliable and timely data to the System of National Accounts.

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. Respondents were contacted and interviewed by telephone. Thus persons in households without telephones could not be interviewed. However, persons living in such households represent less than 2% of the target population.

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.

A sample of 9800 households equally distributed in all of the provinces is used for this test. This sample is representative of all households in Canada.

In order to carry out sampling, the ten provinces of the target population are divided into strata, i.e. geographic areas.

Many of the Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) are each considered separate strata. This is the case for St. John's, Halifax, Saint John, Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. CMAs not on this list are located in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. Three more strata are formed by grouping together the remaining CMAs in each of these three provinces. Finally, the non-CMA areas of each of the ten provinces form ten more strata. This results in 27 strata in all.

This survey uses Statistics Canada's new telephone sampling frame. The frame contains landline and cellular telephone numbers from the Census and various administrative sources provided to Statistics Canada. A sub-sample of unlisted telephone numbers as well as addresses and names from Statistics Canada's new dwelling frame are also included. This sampling frame is used to obtain a better coverage of households with a telephone number.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 2012-11-05 to 2013-01-19

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, is sent in advance to respondents for which an address is available.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects that 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.


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