Illustration by 'The Works' Illustration by 'The Works'

Business owners often struggle with the popular perception that they take a lot more from society than they give. Whenever a rogue trader on Wall Street absconds with investor funds or a billionaire CEO closes a local plant and sends jobs overseas, everyone in the business community gets tarred with the same brush.

That caricature couldn't be further from the truth for the vast majority of business owners, especially those of the small-business variety. In fact, small- and mid-size business owners are, more often than not, the backbone of their community, serving on local boards and donating their time, resources and money to charitable causes. The results of PROFIT's Entrepreneurial Nation survey back up that claim.

We asked entrepreneurs across Canada about their philanthropic activities, and the results were both surprising and expected. When presented with the statement, "My company has a moral obligation to 'give back' by participating in philanthropic endeavours," almost one-third (29%) said they "strongly agree" and almost half (47%) said they agree somewhat, whereas 16% somewhat disagreed and 7% strongly disagreed.

PROFIT also asked how much their firms donated, in cash or in kind (including staff time), to philanthropic causes over the past 12 months. The number is huge: 9.3% of their annual revenue, on average.

It's impossible to pinpoint the total philanthropic activity of SMEs based on this survey, because not all respondents disclosed their exact revenue figures. However, $22,800 is the average estimated contribution among those who declared annual revenue of less than $500,000. If you assume gross donations rise as companies grow, and multiply that average by the number of small- and mid-size businesses in Canada (about 1.1 million), then Canada's SME sector donates no less than $25 billion annually.

Read more from the State of the Entrepreneur Nation survey

Loading comments, please wait.