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

Detailed information for 2018 (Cycle 33 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.

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 Canadian Heritage, Health Canada, Employment and Social 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 behavior, 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 behaviors including volunteering, charitable giving and civic participation;

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

3) 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.

Reference period: Past 12 months preceding interview date

Collection period: Every 5 years


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

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The target population for the GSS Giving, volunteering and participating includes all persons 15 years of age and older living in Nova Scotia, Québec, and Ontario. It excludes full-time (residing for more than six months) 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 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.

This survey uses a frame that combines landline and cellular telephone numbers from the Census and various administrative sources with Statistics Canada's dwelling frame. Records on the frame are groups of one or several telephone numbers associated with the same address (or single telephone number in the case a link between a telephone number and an address could not be established). This sampling frame is used to obtain a better coverage of households with a telephone number.

The sample is based on a stratified design employing probability sampling. The stratification is done at the province/census metropolitan area (CMA) level. Information is collected from one randomly selected household member aged 15 or older, and proxy responses are not permitted.

Due to the potential difficulties in reaching volunteers as a result of their prevalence in the population, an approach called 'rejective sampling' was chosen as part of the sample design. After a respondent is classified as a volunteer or not, sub-sampling is carried out for selected respondents who are not volunteers. All respondents who are volunteers do a long interview. Those who are NOT volunteers are randomly divided into two groups. One group does a long interview, while the other group does a short interview.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 2018-02-19 to 2018-03-30

Responding to this survey is voluntary.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents either through an electronic questionnaire or through CATI (computer assisted telephone interviewing). No proxy reporting is allowed. The respondents has the choice between French and English. The average time to complete the survey is estimated at 44 minutes.

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

Error detection

Not applicable at this survey stage


Not applicable at this survey stage


Not applicable at this survey stage

Quality evaluation

Not applicable at this survey stage

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.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

This methodology type does not apply to this survey.

Data accuracy

Not applicable at this survey stage


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