Exploring the intersection of sense of place, charitable giving and mobile work in Newfoundland and Labrador

Par Brady Reid , Coordonnateur Hub Atlantique
Par Kelly Vodden , Chercheure
03 mars 2020

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have a long history of extended mobility for work, such as in the Labrador cod fishery of the 1800s and offshore fisheries that continue today, travelling to work the lake boats in Ontario’s Great Lakes, or the famous image of Newfoundland ironworkers building New York’s skyline. This long tradition continues and has expanded in recent decades, with rising numbers of interprovincial employees (IPEs) leaving their province of permanent residence in search of employment opportunities (Long, 2016).

sense of place charitable giving and mobile work

Figure 1 – “Men of Iron” Picture depicting NL ironworkers in NYC (Retrieved from: http://www.ironworkers40.org/)

Coupled with a heightened sense of place, or an increased attachment that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have to their home province, Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) offers a unique opportunity to examine trends and relationships between sense of place, charitable giving and worker mobility. This article first explores each of these concepts (sense of place, charitable giving, and mobile work), with a focus on Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) and in particular the island of Newfoundland. Statistics illustrate that incomes increase when workers turn to interprovincial employment (Messacar, n.d.). Despite documented assumptions that higher incomes translate into higher rates of charitable giving, we highlight recent research that describes a less straight-forward relationship between income levels and charitable giving when sense of place and mobile work are considered in the particular context of Newfoundland.

Sense of Place in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL)

“Sense of place” describes the attachment, or bond, that an individual feels towards a particular place, such as the community where they live or grew up. Long and Perkins (2007) consider place-attachment to be a “spatially-oriented cognitive construct” (p. 567). Essentially, the connection that a person creates to a place over time develops through experience in one or more locations. To develop place-attachment, Shamai (1991) argues that “long and deep experience of a place, and preferably involvement in the place” (p. 348) is necessary. The locations where individuals live, work and spend their recreational time affect these involvements in and experiences with place.

Related to sense of place, as of 2013, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were the most likely in Canada to feel a strong sense of belonging to their province and to their communities; 65% felt a very strong sense of belonging to their province (followed by Quebecers at 52%) and 47% felt a very strong sense of belonging to their local community (followed by PEI and NB at 37%) (Statistics Canada, 2015). NL therefore offers a unique opportunity for researchers to understand, measure and harness sense of place to facilitate community and regional development (Beckley, Stedman, Wallance, and Ambard, 2007; Gregory, 2006; and Norman and Power, 2015). With much of the population of NL residing in rural areas, it is significant to consider the particular dynamics of rural communities when describing sense of place. Jackson, Tirone, Donovan and Hood (2007) present certain characteristics of rural communities in NL that can contribute to a heightened sense of place. For example, Jackson et al. (2007) state that feeling emotionally comfortable with neighbours was seen as a positive, healthy aspect of the community. As one older youth commented, people in the community ‘aren’t afraid to know each other’… they saw their community as a supportive place” (p. 81). The authors in this case highlight the feelings of community that exist in rural regions, and the connectedness that people often feel when they are supported by other members in their community. Across Canada, rural residents have also been found to be more likely to volunteer and to participate in community meetings than their urban counterparts (Turcotte, 2005; Rothwell & Turcotte, 2006).

While sense of place may be heightened by characteristics specific to rural communities, research demonstrates a strong sense of place in both rural and urban areas of NL. Porter (2015) examines a self-organized recycling project in St. John’s, for example, and highlights the role of place as a motivator in organizing and mobilizing a population. The author reinforces the social aspect of sense of place, which was identified as an asset behind the implementation and mobilization of a recycling program in the area. Porter (2015) underlines that “community interaction paired with the customers’ identified value attachment of community inclusion, are the value attachments which, in the St. John’s place context, have the most potential to positively impact public recycling policies and programs in the future” (p. 155).

Charitable Giving and Mobile Work in NL

The philanthropic landscape in Atlantic Canada is sparsely populated (with a limited number of charitable foundations, for example) and exists in the periphery of Canadian philanthropic policy and practice (Barrett and Gibson, 2014). After establishing the unique and strong sense of place that Newfoundlanders feel to their island home, statistics suggest that this heightened place attachment may influence charitable giving within the philanthropic sector. While there has been little literature to document how mobility impacts a person’s charitable giving, it has been suggested that with increased income, there is a greater propensity for people to donate (Clerkin, Paarlberg, Christensen, Nesbit, Tschirhart, 2013; Forbes and Zampelli, 2013; Turcotte, 2015).

Figures 2, 3 and 4 based on Statistics Canada 2013 data illustrate donor rates in NL in comparison to the Canadian average and to other Atlantic Canada provinces. Figure 2 outlines the average donor rate for all age groups by province in the Atlantic Canadian region compared to the Canadian average in 2013. At a rate of 88%, this data shows that people in NL are more likely to participate in charitable giving in comparison to other provinces in the region and nationally. Interestingly, statistics and research suggest that as income increases, generally, people are more likely to participate in charitable giving (Turcotte, 2015; Barrett, 2019). This is consistent with previous research suggesting that a strong sense of community tends to increase civic engagement, including philanthropic gifts of time and resources (Clerkin et al., 2013). The data displayed in figures 3 and 4 seem to tell a more complicated story, however.

sense of place charitable giving and mobile work

Figure 2 – Average Donor Rate National vs. Atlantic Canada (Statistics Canada, 2013a)

For residents with a household income of less than $40,000, there is an even larger gap between the rate of people who donate in NL compared to other provinces in the region and nationally, with NL having the highest rate of donors within this income range. Indeed, over 12% more residents of NL with a lower income make charitable donations than the national average (figure 3).

Donor Rate by Household Income $40,000

Figure 3 – Donor Rate by Household Income < $40,000 (Statistics Canada, 2013b)

When considering higher incomes, the average donor rate does increase, however, the gap between the average % of donors in NL vs. the other provinces decreases, and NL no longer holds the highest rate of donors. At a household income of over $100,000, only slightly (1.7%) more residents of NL make charitable donations compared to the national average and PEI boasts the highest rate (figure 4). With many mobile, and particularly interprovincial workers in the oil and gas sector, having incomes in this range (Messacar, n.d.) and questions in the literature about how mobile work may be affecting sense of place, this raises further questions about the giving behaviour of the mobile workforce within NL.

Donor Rate by Household Income

Figure 4 – Donor Rate by Household Income > $100,000 (Statistics Canada, 2013b)

Mobile Work and Charitable Giving in Two Rural NL Communities

Employment-related geographical mobility (E-RGM), also referred to as mobile work, includes a spectrum of employment situations that may include commutes or duties that span municipal, provincial, or national borders, transient worksites, or occupations that require mobility such as trucking or fishing, among others (Temple Newhook, Neis, Jackson, Roseman, Romanow, and Vincent, 2011). E-RGM arrangements are classified by considerations such as distance between source and work communities, work schedules, and modes of mobility (Vodden and Hall, 2016). Here we examine two types of long-distance E-RGM arrangements, intra-provincial drive in-drive out commuters and inter-provincial employees (IPEs) engaged in fly in-fly out mobile work, in Long Harbour and Parker’s Cove NL, and how these work arrangements may be impacting sense of place and charitable giving in these rural communities. Both communities were included in the On The Move Partnership research initiative, an SSHRC funded partnership that explored a shifting mobile workforce in Canada.


Drive in-drive out commuters and charitable giving in Long Harbour, NL

Long Harbour, NL

Figure 5 – Long Harbour, NL – retrieved from http://longharbour.net/

In Long Harbour, NL, a nickel processing facility was built and created 475 jobs in a community of 185 located 113 km from the metropolitan centre of St. John’s (Barrett, 2019). This resulted in LDCs driving to work at the facility from varying distances, often over one hour each way. Barrett (2019) used this facility as a case study to understand how labour mobility impacts aspects of community development in source communities (where the employees reside). One aspect that Barrett examined was charitable giving in the employees’ source communities. He found that despite participants stating that their income increased since starting work at the new facility, there was little change in their giving habits. For employees at the nickel processing facility, volunteering habits in their source community did, however, shift depending on the length of their commute. Barrett (2019) notes that “the reason cited most often by those who have spent less time volunteering … was their lack of available time in the evenings due to a combination of their work schedule and length of commute” (p. 14). Thus, the level of engagement within the philanthropic sector through volunteering in their source communities did appear to be negatively impacted by more time spent commuting.

Fly in-fly out employment and charitable giving in Parkers Cove, NL

sense of place charitable giving and mobile work

Figure 6 – Parker’s Cove, NL – Taken by Heather Hall

Another On the Move study was conducted in Parker’s Cove, NL, a community of 248 people, located on the Burin Peninsula (Vodden, Hall, Lionais, May, 2020). In this study, 49% of all survey respondent households identified as having one or more mobile workers, with over half of these mobile workers being employed outside of the province. Additionally, only 68% of mobile worker households reported giving charitable donations compared to 83% of local worker households. Many (47%) mobile workers in Parker’s Cove earn over $100,000. Yet they tend to give less than local workers. For example, 50% of local worker households give $300 or more per year vs. 42% of mobile worker households. Therefore, it appears that while mobile work tends to result in higher incomes, this does not necessarily translate into higher donations or a higher likelihood of giving. Nevertheless, in an attempt to capture some of these resident earnings, community groups have made changes such as turning to social media to advertise and sell event tickets and taking donations through e-transfers, allowing for donations from any location, not just within the community. Further research into the effectiveness of these methods for facilitating mobile worker donations may further reveal trends in giving to efforts in their source communities.


Hall (2014) suggests that “an intangible connection to the province might influence whether people choose to relocate or commute” in NL (p. 10). Research conducted over 30 years ago supports the intangible connection Hall (2014) observes. House (1989) notes that the “comparatively low level of gross outmigration from Newfoundland and the high level of return migration confirm that most Newfoundlanders have a strong preference for living there despite high levels of unemployment and low income compared to national averages” (p. 12). In addition to this evidence of strong place attachment, statistics demonstrate a high rate of charitable giving in NL.

However, when individuals engage with long-distance E-RGM as a means of remaining in their communities, demonstrating their commitment to place, experiences in two rural NL communities suggest that overall they seem to donate less to charitable organizations and have less time to engage in volunteer work in their local communities. These patterns are not clear or consistent across communities or types of work-related mobility, however. Thus, the impact of E-RGM on sense of place, charitable giving and community sustainability remains uncertain. Further research on the implications of both sense of place and mobile work in NL for the philanthropic sector could help improve our understanding of these dynamics, and outline novel approaches to grow the sector and to facilitate community development throughout the province.


The research discussed above is part of the multi-year On the Move: Employment-Related Geographical Mobility project and benefitted from the financial contributions of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, InnovateNL (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador), the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), and Memorial University of Newfoundland. We want to thank the Harris Centre, through the Applied Research Fund (ARF), for their generous funding of the Parker’s Cove study, as well as the town of Parker’s Cove, their mayor and town council for their participation and support. We also acknowledge and thank all of the researchers involved, including Heather Hall, Doug Lionais, Doug May, and Kelly Vodden (co-investigators), and Leanna Butters, Julia Lawler, Rumbidzai Kanyangarara, Mayra Sanchez, and Samantha Burns (research assistants).

Interested in the connections between sense of place and philanthropy? Check out our special edition on the subject: Philanthropy and Sense of Place



Barrett, J. (2017). Commuters and communities: the social and economic impacts of labour mobility on source communities. [Masters Thesis]. Memorial University of Newfoundland, Retrieved from: https://research.library.mun.ca/12674/

Barrett, J. (2019). There and Back Again: How Labour Mobility Impacts Community

Development in Source Communities. Transatlantic Journal of Rural Research, 1(1), p.1-32.

Barrett, J., & Gibson, R. (2014). Examination of community foundations in Atlantic Canada. Available online at http://philanthropy.ruralresilience.ca/wpcontent/uploads/2014/03/Working-Paper-3-3.pdf

Beckley, T., Stedman, R.C., Wallace, S.M., and Ambard, M. (2007). Snapshots of What Matters Most: Using resident-employed photography to articulate attachment to place. Society & Natural Resources, 20(10), p. 913-929. https://doi.org/10.1080/08941920701537007

Clerkin, R. M., Paarlberg, L. E., Christensen, R. K., Nesbit, R. A., and Tschirhart, M. (2013). Place, time, and philanthropy: Exploring geographic mobility and    philanthropic engagement. Public Administration Review, January/Febuary, 97-106.

Forbes, K. and Zampelli, E. (2013). The impacts of religion, political ideology, and social capital on religious and secular giving: evidence from the 2006 Social Capital Community Survey. Applied Economics, 45(17), p. 2481-2490.

Gregory, E.D. (2006). Vernacular Song, Cultural Identity, and Nationalism in Newfoundland, 1920-1955. Canadian Folk Music, 40(2). Retrieved from: http://www.canfolkmusic.ca/index.php/cfmb/article/view/113

Hall, H. (2014). Regional Development, Nickel Processing & Labour Mobility: A Comparison of Sudbury ON and Long Harbour NL. Retrieved from http://www.onthemovepartnership.ca/wpcontent/uploads/2014/12/HMHALL_ReportFinal.pdf

House, J.D. (1989). Going Away and Coming Back: Economic Life and Migration in Small Canadian Communities. ISER.

Jackson, L., Tirone, S., Donovan, C., and Hood, R. (2007). Community restructuring and the emotional and social health of youth: a study of a small coastal community in Newfoundland, Canada. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 26(2), p. 71-89.

Long, J. (2016). Interprovincial Employees in Atlantic Canada: A Descriptive Analysis.

Long, A., and Perkins, D.D. (2007) Community social and place predictors of Sense of Community: A multilevel and longitudinal analysis. Journal of Community Psychology, 35(5), p. 563-581. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.20165.

St. John’s, NL: Atlantic Canada Energy Office.

Messacar, D. (n.d.). Inter-Provincial Employees (IPEs) for Atlantic Canada. Prepared for Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) https://www.canada.ca/en/atlantic-canada-opportunities.html

Norman, M.E., and Power, N.G. (2015). Stuck between ‘the rock’ and a hard place: rural crisis and re-imagining rural Newfoundland feminine subjectivities. Gender, Place & Culture, 22(1), p. 55-66. https://doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2013.855707

Porter, M.E. (2015). Marginal recycling: place and informal recycling in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Local Environment, 20(2), p. 149-164. https://doi.org/10.1080/13549839.2013.836162

Rothwell, N., & Turcotte, M. 2006. The influence of education on civic engagement: Differences across Canada’s rural-urban spectrum. Rural and Small Town Canada Analysis Bulletin, 7(1).

Shamai, S. (1991). Sense of Place: an Empirical Measurement. Geoforum, 22(3), p. 347-358.

Statistics Canada. (2015). Sense of belonging to Canada, the province of residence and the local community. Catalogue no. 89-652-X. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/pub/89-652-x/89-652-x2015004-eng.pdf?st=bmUFgdEx

Statistics Canada. (2013a). Table 45-10-0004-01. Donor rate and average annual donations, by age group. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25318/4510000401-eng.

Statistics Canada. (2013b) Table 45-10-0009-01. Donor rate and average annual donations, by household income. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25318/4510000901-eng.

Temple Newhook, J., Neis, B., Jackson, L., Roseman, S., Romanow, P., and Vincent, C. (2011).

Employment-Related Mobility and the Health of Workers, Families, and Communities: The Canadian Context. Labour, 67, p. 121-156.

Turcotte, M. 2005. Social engagement and civic participation: Are rural and small town populations really at an advantage? Rural and Small Town Canada Analysis Bulletin, 6(4).

Turcotte, M. (2015). Spotlight on Canadians: Results from the General Social

Survey. Volunteering and charitable giving in Canada. Statistics Canada, Catalogue no. 89- 652-X2015001

Vodden, K., and Hall, H. (2016). Long distance commuting in the mining and oil and gas sectors:

Implications for rural regions. The Extractive Industries and Society, 3, p.577-583.

Vodden, K., Hall, H., Lionais, D., May, D. (2020). Source Communities and Inter-Provincial

Employment in Newfoundland and Labrador: Examining Economic Dependencies of

Employment-Related Geographical Mobility (E-RGM). [Draft report].