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Satellite Account
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Satellite Account of Nonprofit Institutions and Volunteering

Economic activity in the non-profit sector, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), recorded solid growth during the late 1990s and early 2000s, according to data on the economic contribution of non-profit institutions and volunteering.

Between 1997 and 2001, GDP for the core non-profit sector increased at an annual average rate of 7.1%, slightly faster than the average of 6.1% for the economy as a whole. At the same time, economic activity generated by hospitals, universities and colleges grew at a slower pace of 5.4%.

The Satellite Account of Nonprofit Institutions and Volunteering is an extensive data development initiative in Statistics Canada’s System of National Accounts 1. The primary aim of the satellite account is to clearly identify the economic contribution of Canada’s nonprofit sector and allow for an increased understanding of its interaction with other sectors of the economy. The account contains a set of economic statistics describing Canada’s nonprofit sector, including a set of standard economic accounts and a nonmarket extension to put an economic value on unpaid volunteer labour. The advisory committee guided the development of the satellite account through the sharing of knowledge, expertise and context relevant to the nonprofit sector.

The results of the Satellite Account of Nonprofit Institutions and Volunteering are now available for the years 1997 to 2001 in the first report of an ongoing series of annual releases.

1. Initiation of the Canadian Satellite Account
Project funding for the development of a satellite account within the Canadian System of National Accounts (SNA) was assured in June 2000 as part of a high-profile joint initiative between the Canadian government and the Voluntary Sector, the Voluntary Sector Initiative. The objective of the initiative is to strengthen the capacity of the sector to meet the demands that society places on it and to enhance the relationship between the federal government and the sector. The Canadian nonprofit satellite account project was undertaken in direct response to an identified information gap for policy development vis-à-vis the Voluntary Sector in Canada.

The satellite account project proposal included a set of standard economic accounts, mirroring the institutional sector accounts in the core Canadian SNA. It also included a non-market extension to assign a replacement cost value to volunteer work. Permanent funding for the Canadian Satellite Account of Nonprofit Institutions and Volunteering was granted in an announcement from the Prime Minister in December 2001. The announcement coincided with the signing of an Accord between the Voluntary Sector and the Government of Canada.

Participation in the Voluntary Sector Initiative enabled the establishment of a high-profile Advisory Committee for the satellite account, composed of representatives from the sector, members from other federal departments involved in related initiatives, and Statistics Canada experts. The committee contributed to the account’s development by helping to identify the information needs of the sector and other key data users, sharing expertise on the nature of Canada’s nonprofit sector, and acting as a sounding board for conceptual and data issues. The committee also provided feedback from the Canadian perspective on proposed international guidelines in early drafts of the Handbook on Nonprofit Institutions in the System of National Accounts. Finally, the committee provided input to the satellite account publication draft and will eventually help to establish priorities for future development of the account.

VSI participation also provided avenues for input to related statistical initiatives. Through VSI consultative mechanisms, the satellite account project team provided input to content development for the Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (CSGVP). We also had the opportunity to propose content for the first-ever National Survey of Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations (NSNVO).

The results of the Satellite Account and the NSNVO were announced on September 20th, 2004.

2. Data Sources and Estimation Strategy

The System of National Accounts provides a powerful integrating framework for economic statistics on the nonprofit sector. A wide range of data sources are available on key dimensions of Canadian nonprofit institutions, and these can be combined and integrated in an SNA framework to build satellite account estimates. Confronting multiple data sources in a comprehensive and coherent accounting system strengthens data quality and allows for the full exploitation of all available sources.

The standard economic accounts for the Satellite Account of Nonprofit Institutions and Volunteering draw heavily on administrative files (tax data) to build estimates, while alternate sources are used for key segments of the nonprofit sector or for specific variables in the account. The non-market extension, to assign a replacement cost value to voluntary labour contributions, is based on two primary sources, the National Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating and wage rates derived from the Canadian Census of Population.

Standard Economic Accounts:

Compiling national accounts statistics on Canadian nonprofit institutions required the development of an extensive infrastructure to integrate multiple administrative files and other sources. In Canada, there is no single comprehensive source of administrative data on nonprofit institutions. Rather they are identifiable on a range of data-files, none of which is exhaustive and each of which, taken individually, has important limitations. These files cover registered charities (the T3010 data file), nonprofit institutions (the T1044 file), tax-exempt corporations (from T2 Corporate Income Tax returns and the Generalized Index of Financial Information) , and public sector bodies eligible for rebates under the Goods and Services Tax system (the GST Public Sector Bodies Rebate File).

Administrative files containing individual tax returns are provided in raw, unedited form by the Canadian Revenue Agency. They are processed, edited and imputed at Statistics Canada then merged and unduplicated via a unique identifier (the Business Number, assigned in the Canadian tax system). Industry codes are assigned via Statistics Canada’s Business Register and wages and salaries for each employer are obtained from the T4 Statement of Remuneration and Benefits data file. Supplemental NPIs not found on the other administrative files are identified on the T4 file via their industry code according to the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS).

With this infrastructure in place, the full universe of records is filtered to ensure that certain categories of entities that do not belong in the nonprofit sector are eliminated. Examples of entities that appear on the administrative files due to their legal or tax exempt status but are out-of-scope according to the international definition include: public elementary and secondary schools and school boards, municipalities and municipal organizations, federal and provincial government entities, first nations government entities, pension funds, government business enterprises and other for-profit entities that may have tax-exempt status.

This universe of nonprofit administrative records and its associated financial information is heavily exploited to build estimates for variables throughout the standard economic accounts. In a number of specific cases, however, either for particular variables or key segments of the nonprofit universe, alternate sources are available. The most significant cases are summarized below. As a general rule, elements of the satellite account not listed here are estimated using the nonprofit tax record universe described above.

Specific variables

Transfers (gifts) from households: the tax-receipted portion of household transfers is built from the point of view of the payer using tax returns of individuals (the T1 data file) while the non-tax receipted portion is based on non-profit tax filer information.
Transfers from governments: built from the point of view of the payer using federal and provincial public accounts information, surveys of municipalities and financial statements of municipal corporations.

Transfers from corporations: based on donations recorded on corporate tax returns.

Segments of the nonprofit sector:

Hospitals and residential care facilities: Comprehensive accounts for hospitals and public residential care facilities are compiled as part of the provincial government health subsector in the Canadian SNA. Census-type financial information on hospitals and residential care facilities is collected by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) and Statistics Canada’s Health Statistics Division and serves as the basis for these estimates.

Universities and colleges: Comprehensive accounts for universities and colleges are compiled as part of the provincial government education subsector in the Canadian SNA. Estimates are based on census-type surveys conducted by Statistics Canada’s Centre for Education Statistics.

Private elementary and secondary schools: Comprehensive financial statistics on private, nonprofit elementary and secondary schools are compiled by Statistics Canada’s Centre for Education Statistics.

Trade unions: Trade union dues (shown as membership fees) are reported on the T4 Statement of Remuneration and Benefits and this is the basis of satellite account estimates.

Political parties: Membership fees and expenditures of political parties are compiled directly from public financial statements of federal and provincial parties.

Non-market extension:

For the non-market extension of the satellite account, a replacement cost value was assigned to hours volunteered by type of organization from the Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating. The wage rate of community and social services occupations, derived from the Canadian Census of Population, is used in the valuation. Wages rates are applied by province to account for regional variations, and are grossed up for employer contributions to social insurance schemes.

In the next collection round for the CSGVP slated for the fall of this year, new information will be collected on hours volunteered by type of activity. This will enable an improved valuation, as specific volunteer activities can be matched to corresponding occupational wage rates, taking into account the range of skills and contributions offered by volunteers.

3. Future Priorities

Production, incomes and outlays of the Canadian nonprofit sector were released this year for three reference years (1997, 1998 and 1999). The nonmarket extension, to put a replacement cost value on volunteer work is available for reference years 1997 and 2000. Selected aggregates are available by type of organization according to the International Classification of Nonprofit Organizations (ICNPO). Estimates for quasi-public organizations will be published separately in identifiable sub-accounts. In the next annual release, two additional reference years will be added to the time series for the standard accounts.

Another priority is to bring lessons learned in building the satellite account into the core Canadian SNA. This will lead to improvements in nonprofit elements in many components of the system, via data revisions and an eventual redrawing of sector boundaries in our institutional sector accounts. We also aim to bring lessons learned to bear on other aspects of the Canadian statistical system. It is hoped, for example, that work to determine a universe of nonprofit institutions for the satellite account and the establishment of a sampling frame for the NSNVO can serve to improve the nonprofit designation on the Business Register, the central sampling frame for economic surveys at Statistics Canada.

Priorities for further development of the satellite account will be determined in consultation with the Advisory Committee.

4. Positive Impacts

As will hopefully be evident from what has been covered, examples of the positive impacts of the Canadian Satellite Account of Nonprofit Institutions and Volunteering are many. It demonstrates the power of SNA framework to integrate data to respond to an important information gap on the nonprofit sector. It improves the relevance of national accounts information for policy purposes and brings a new community of users to the Canadian SNA. Work to develop the satellite account will serve to improve nonprofit elements throughout the existing National Accounts programs and the representation of nonprofit institutions elsewhere in the Canadian statistical system.

Most importantly, carving out a permanent place for the nonprofit sector in Canadian economic statistics will serve to raise the profile of the sector and promote an increased understanding of its role and significance in Canadian society.


1The Satellite Account of Nonprofit Institutions and Volunteering was developed by a project team housed in Statistics Canada’s Income and Expenditure Accounts Division. Team members are Catherine Van Rompaey, Sophie Joyal, Malika Hamdad, Karen Ashman and Mingyu Yu.


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Last Updated: 2006-09-09
View the results of the "Satellite Account of Nonprofit Institutions and Volunteering"