2.1.2. Overview: The Four Charitable Classifications

(A) The relief of poverty

The “relief of poverty” classification includes organizations that assist the economically disadvantaged by directly providing goods, social services, programs or facilities. The financial and other assistance provided is intended to alleviate the effects of living in poverty.

Poverty must be considered in relation to current economic and social conditions. The provision of goods or services to relieve poverty is intended to ensure that individuals have a basic standard of living. Individuals do not have to be destitute in order to qualify for this assistance.

Food banks, soup kitchens and organizations that provide clothing, furniture and appliances are examples of these types of organizations.

See also “2.7.1. Policies: The relief of poverty”.

(B) The advancement of education

The courts have defined the “advancement of education” as:

  • significant training or instruction
  • the development of mental faculties
  • the improvement of a branch of human knowledge, which results in a public benefit.

Simply providing information does not meet this definition: significant training or instruction must also be offered.

To meet this definition, the instruction must be available to a wide section of the public and must not be restricted by any means. It is not necessary for an organization to provide instruction or training in a formal classroom setting, but its activities must improve human knowledge and provide a public benefit through instruction.

Teaching institutions and schools are examples of organizations that may fall within this charitable classification.

See also “2.7.2. Policies: The advancement of education”.

(C) The advancement of religion

The “advancement of religion” refers to:

  • the promotion of a religious group’s spiritual teachings
  • the maintenance of the doctrines and spiritual observances upon which those teachings are based.

To be eligible as a charitable organization in this classification, a group’s spiritual beliefs or faith must include an element of worship of a personal God, gods or deities. Fostering a belief in proper morals or ethics alone is not enough to qualify a group as an eligible organization in this classification.

The group’s activities must also include an element of public instruction and the promotion of spiritual teachings. Its activities must serve religious purposes for the public good. The group’s beliefs and practices cannot include anything the courts consider subversive, immoral or illegal.

Places of worship, such as churches, mosques, temples and religious congregations, are examples of these types of organizations.

See also “2.7.3. Policies: The advancement of religion”.

(D) Other charitable purposes beneficial to the community

This is the broadest classification and the most difficult to consider. An organization with a charitable purpose that does not fall under one of the first three classifications may be eligible in this classification. The organization’s activities must provide a public, not private, benefit.

The phrase “other charitable purposes beneficial to the community” has been interpreted to include activities that benefit the whole community, without discrimination, so that the purposes have a truly public character. This may include:

  • the promotion of arts and cultural activities
  • cultural, ethnic, native, historic or heritage pursuits
  • the improvement of the quality of health through medical research
  • treatment programs and preventative programs
  • youth sporting activities
  • community projects undertaken by service organizations.

See also “2.7.4. Policies: Other charitable purposes beneficial to the community”.