November 1st, 2018: Four ways non-profits can improve corporate volunteering discussions

October 18th, 2018: Companies, non-profits dialogue in Calgary about working together

September 20th, 2018: In Honour of National Coaches Week 2018: The Importance of Volunteer Training

July 30th, 2018: Volunteer-Run Events 101

June 26th, 2018: The streamlined Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement

May 29th, 2018: Valuing Volunteering - An Economist's Perspective

April 21st, 2018: Volunteering: A Way of Acting, a Way of Doing - A Way of Being

April 20th, 2018: Coordinating confidence, competence, connections and community

April 19th, 2018: Volunteer Canada is Celebrating the Value of Volunteer Centres in building confidence, competence, connections, and community

April 18th, 2018: Pursuing your passions and finding your purpose

April 17th, 2018: The History of National Volunteer Week

April 16th, 2018: Are single day, employer supported volunteering opportunities beneficial to community partners?

April 15th, 2018: The Values and the Value of Volunteering…. we have a lot to celebrate

April 10th, 2018: Happy National Volunteer Week from Volunteer Canada CEO and President Paula Speevak

March 15th, 2018: Celebrating the value of volunteering during National Volunteer Week 2018 

February 14th, 2018: Beat the winter blues: Volunteer

November 1, 2018

Four ways non-profits can improve corporate volunteering discussions

Calgary Corporate-Community Forum – Part 2

Changing the conversation: The second of a 3-part blog, based on a Calgary meeting of non-profits and companies to discuss corporate volunteering 

Written by: Elizabeth Dove

Volunteer Canada held the semi-annual Corporate Council on Volunteering (CCOV) Gathering in Calgary, May 28 and 29.  The Council invited non-profits to join them on the first day in a Forum so that, together, they could discuss best ways to work together to engage employee volunteers. In this 3-part blog we share some of the key learnings.banner

To a community organization, every company is a potential donor.

This has been the nature of their relationships since there have been non-profits and companies.  As organizations that work with small margins and short-term funding, writer Rahim Kanani reminds us that non-profits are “dependent on charitable contributions...They rarely have enough money for programs, much less operations, so success, if not survival, turns on fundraising.”

As a result, when a company representative – whether the head of CSR or, more often, a regular rank and file employee who is organizing an event for a team – comes to a non-profit asking for a volunteering opportunity for employees, the fundraising mindset often gets activated in that non-profit.  As explored in the May Corporate-Community Forum in Calgary, hosted by the Volunteer Canada’s Corporate Council on Volunteering, non-profits examine the request through the lens of how the corporate relationship can advance the non-profit mission.  This often includes both how can the volunteer activity impact mission and how the relationship, if cultivated, might bring dollars beyond covering the costs of the volunteer activity.

With this fundraising mindset, the accompanying dynamics of the power imbalance can also be activated.  In the perceived power disadvantage, non-profits often feel they cannot assert agency to shape the nature of the relationship in the way that would be most advantageous, such as suggesting a different volunteering activity than what the company has requested or turning down a request entirely.

As discussed at the Corporate-Community Forum, company representatives need to be trained to be sensitive to power dynamics, how to frame a reasonable request, and how to manage their side of the volunteering activity. NFPs need to develop skills and competencies to ensure volunteering advances their mission:

  1. Value their own assets and opportunities.  A volunteering experience is very valuable to a company.  It is widely understood that community engagement increases employee recruitment, retention and engagement. It helps build teams.  It builds employee skills. It can build a brand.  Opportunities are formally supported by most large and many small and medium companies and integrated into their community and/or HR strategies. Employees are generally inexperienced – they don’t know how to help a cause and want to do it with a community partner.  Non-profits need to recognize that they have more power in the potential relationship than in a fundraising relationship.  They have the ability to shape volunteering projects into what serves their mission best, either by negotiating with a company who has come to them or, as several organizations at the Forum have done, pro-actively seeking out corporate relationships for employee skills sets and vision alignment.
  2. Audit organizational needs that can be filled by different sizes of volunteering groups and length of commitments.  Many non-profits at the Forum found that creating a list of potential group volunteering activities helped create internal alignment and readiness for requests from companies.  Often these lists are updated seasonally.
  3. Reach internal consensus on when and how to work with companies.  Stories were shared of friction between volunteer management staff and other staff on how to work with a new corporate request or the request of a current donor to volunteer.  For example, requests that really didn’t advance the community organization’s mission were accommodated if it was a perceived this would lead to a donation.  In a climate of increasing requests from companies, policies and approaches need to be formalized in non-profits.
  4. Assert their prerogative to decline offers of support from companies.  Whether it is a volunteer, financial, or some other kind of support, the non-profit’s values and mission should be used to signal when it is time to decline an offer.  Ideally, this is done with an explanation to the company representative about how the offer doesn’t align with values, mission, current capacity, or whatever the reason, and what might be changed – if anything – to create that alignment.

When the match of volunteers-to-needs works between non-profits and companies, both have a responsibility to ensure costs are recognized and reconciled.  This topic will be explored in the third and final installment in this series on the May Calgary Corporate-Community Forum which will be published on November 22nd, 2018.



October 18, 2018

Companies, non-profits dialogue in Calgary about working together

Calgary Corporate-Community Forum – Part 1

Changing the conversation: The first of a 3-part blog, based on a Calgary meeting of non-profits and companies to discuss corporate volunteering.

Written by: Eric Shirley

Volunteer Canada held the semi-annual Corporate Council on Volunteering (CCOV) Gathering in Calgary, May 28 and 29.  The Council invited non-profits to join them on the first day in a Forum so that, together, they could discuss best ways to work together to engage employee volunteers. In this 3-part blog we share some of the key learnings.


As keynote speaker Jocelyne Daw of JS Daw & Associates noted, corporate volunteering is quite new, having only enjoyed popularity in the last 10-15 years. When discussing the pros and cons of employer-supported volunteering, the conversation focused on the most common aspect of corporate volunteering: single day group volunteering projects for employees.  Corporate representatives enquired, “are done-in-a-day opportunities useful to the charity?” The short answer is, it depends on several factors: the organization; time of year; how many volunteers; and the activity.  The volume of donations going in and out of the Calgary Foodbank, for example, means they really benefit from a large group who can help them out for a day.  Alternatively, painting a wall at a charity – a task readily available as a response to a group offering to volunteer – may not be as valuable a contribution and too often a default for non-profits who don’t want to decline an offer of help. For some non-profits, regular commitments from a company are easier to manage than “one-offs”.  Before contacting a charity, companies should start with the question, why do we want to volunteer? Then ask non-profits what they have to offer and find the most impactful way to help at the organization, rather than trying to force a project. 

In the session, “Beyond another coat of paint”, longer term commitments between companies and non-profits on working together with employee volunteers were discussed.  Most of these projects involve multi-day involvement of employees, use of employee skills, and a monitoring and evaluation process between the charity and the company.  One example is the “In the Lead” program, co-created by Cenovus with Calgary Youth Justice Society.  Now in its 7th year, this program pairs Cenovus Energy employees with youth as volunteer coaches.  At the end of the program there is a graduation ceremony and plenty of encouragement for the youth.

The longer the volunteer opportunity, the more likely employee contributions can be measured, tracking outcomes and impact, rather than just the outputs such as numbers of volunteer hours or the nebulous ‘lives impacted’ measure.  With planning, non-profits and companies can identify measures and indicators, quantitative and qualitative, that can prove impact and give information to improve impact.

A theme throughout the day was the question of refusal.  Can a charity say no to a company’s request and what is the potential fall out (the most prevalent being a concern about being denied future funding)?  In most but not all cases, a request to volunteer comes from an employee who volunteered or was assigned to plan the opportunity, not CSR department staff. Several companies attending confirmed that there is no tie between denying – or accepting – a volunteer request and a donation from their companies, apart from funds to support the costs associated with the volunteering project.

Amongst the reasons for non-profits to reject a corporate group seeking to volunteer, the most common discussed was timeline.  It takes time to plan, execute the project and onboard volunteers.  Reaching out just a few weeks before causes stress for the non-profit.

In the relatively new space of corporate volunteering both non-profits and companies benefit from sharing information and learning from each other.  Enter the discussion truthfully (be honest that it’s an activity for a company team building day or your capacity as a charity) and seek to understand what the other party gets out of the opportunity.  Companies, start enquiring about a project early (with at least 6 weeks lead time) to not rush the process and allow for an honest discussion.  And, as many of the inquiries for volunteering come from employees throughout the company, companies need to create guidelines and even training for these employees so that they enter conversations with non-profits sensitively and realistically.

In our next blog, we look more deeply at the ways to “change the conversation between company and non-profits” as discussed by the Forum participants.




September 20, 2018

In Honour of National Coaches Week 2018: The Importance of Volunteer Training

National Coaches Week focuses on celebrating the efforts of the 5.3 million volunteers from Canada's sports and recreation sector including coaches, National Coaches week infographic #ThanksCoach Sept 22-30 2018referees, administrators and helpers. We encourage you to say #ThanksCoach and share why you’re thankful for your coach during National Coaches Week from September 22nd to 30th.

Volunteer Training is essential not only for coaches but all volunteers. It's vital to ensure that volunteers gain the knowledge they need to succeed. In fact, volunteer orientation and training is one of the ten standards outlined in the Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement (CCVI)!

But, knowing the best way to provide orientation and training for new volunteers can be a difficult task. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Plan the orientation and training process in advance
  • Make sure new volunteers feel comfortable in the environment and in their role
  • Try to inspire and empower your volunteers
  • Provide tangible links between the volunteer’s work and your mission
  • Use methods of training that are motivating and engaging
  • Plan to recognize your volunteers' efforts

Volunteer Recognition is a part of making sure new volunteers feel welcome, it may also be beneficial to review Recognizing Volunteering in 2017 to learn how you can recognize your volunteers at every stage. For some help in planning volunteer onboarding and training, take a look at this New Volunteer Checklist. You can also refer to the Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement - Putting the Code into Action resource.

The Coaching Association of Canada understands the importance of Volunteer Training and has created a tool to help new coaches and those interested in coaching to learn more about it. Get Coaching! is an online resource that combines a video tutorial with interactive learning and downloadable documents. In an increasingly busy world, it’s beneficial to volunteers when organizations allow for flexibility in their volunteer opportunities. Coaching is a big time commitment, and this tool makes it easier for busy people to learn more about what it means to be a coach, with no experience required.

Get Coaching! offers tips on how to adequately prepare for, plan, deliver, and conclude fun and effective practices. With downloadable resources such as a practice plan, safety checklist, emergency action plan and more, this tool provides coaches with necessary resources to get started. The easier it is for potential volunteers to feel confident and prepared for any volunteer role, the easier it is for them to jump on board. This tool is a great way to make coaching more accessible by allowing those who are interested in coaching to learn on their own time and without the need for a formal class.

We want to say #ThanksCoach, to the 1.8 million Canadians who have, or currently volunteer to coach amateur sport. Without you, millions of Canadian children wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn and play through sport. Considering becoming a coach? New to coaching and need some guidance? Get Coaching! is a great place to get started.




July 30, 2018


Volunteer-Run Events 101

Volunteer-Run Events 101

Regardless of the nature of the event you are planning, there are always procedures, permits and risks an organizer must consider. If you’re not a professional event planner, nor a member of a formal organization, it’s not always clear as a volunteer what responsibilities you hold when hosting a public event.

Have you considered what you would do and the implications if you had to cancel your event or someone injured themselves?

But, you’re doing this out of the goodness of your heart. What are the odds of something happening? And even if something does happen, you’re a volunteer! Surely, you’re not responsible… Right?
In fact, as the person or group responsible for organizing the event it is your responsibility; it’s your job to make sure that you have minimized any risk and that you have adequate coverage in case something does happen.

How do you know what risks to plan for?

That’s where we come in! We made an event planning checklist that provides the main elements volunteers need to know when planning a public event of any kind. This list isn’t exhaustive but, it’s a good starting point for you and your planning committee.


  • Contact any groups, companies, agencies or governmental bodies that have any direct or indirect involvement in the event so you are aware of any regulations or requirements they have and so you can communicate your needs to them.


  • Parking: Determine any cost associated with parking, the parking location and any capacity limitations.
  • Signage: Ensure you have clear and adequate signage so your guests know where to go.
  • Registration Area: If your event requires on-site registration, establish where this takes place and what the process will be.
  • Admission: Is the admission regulated in any way, or is the event open for all to come and go as they please?
  • Tickets & Price: Determine the cost to attend. Will there be a ticket system?
  • Theme & Décor: The event’s look and feel.


  • Floorplan: Will you have tables? Assigned seating? Do you have enough chairs for your guests? Where will they be and is there enough room for all the attendees? If you do not plan on having chairs, consider what kind of accommodations you will offer to attendees who may have mobility limitations.
  • Music (SOCAN Fees): Will you be playing music? What are the applicable SOCAN fees for your event, if any? Are these fees already included in your venue cost?
  • Audio-Visual Requirements: Know your technical needs regarding a sound system, lights, projection, microphones, etc. If you don’t have this expertise, seek it out.
  • Extension Cords: In our experience, you will likely need at least one extension cord during your event. As the Boy Scouts famously say: Be Prepared!
  • Linens: Table cloths, napkins or chair covers.
  • Master of Ceremony: A designated person responsible to guide your audience through the event is helpful to keep your guests engaged, informed and at ease.
  • Entertainment: What are you offering your guests as entertainment?
  • Activities Schedule: This can be as flexible or precise as you need it to be. Having an established timeline and order of activities ensures guests, volunteers and organizers are aware of what is happening and when.

Volunteer Management: Even as a volunteer yourself, effective volunteer management is crucial to ensure your fellow volunteers are set up for success.

  • Position Description: Map out the requirements and expectations for each volunteer role you will need to fill. This allows any volunteer supervisors, coordinators and volunteers to understand their tasks and contribution to the event. It also allows you to foresee any gaps or redundancies in responsibilities.
  • Screening: Will you serve vulnerable peoples with your event? Do your volunteers require police checks? Do your volunteers have skills or interests that are best suited for certain tasks? You can learn more about screening in the Screening Handbook.
  • Orientation: Where, when and how will you provide your volunteers with relevant event information and guidelines ahead of the event?
  • Schedule: Establish a schedule so your volunteers know where to be and when.
  • Meals: Is your event taking place during meal time, or will shifts last more than 4 hours? Consider how volunteers will eat, if you are providing their food, if they are bringing their own or if they will purchase their food on-site.
  • Recognition: What kinds of recognition will you offer your volunteers before, during and after the event? Learn more about effective volunteer recognition here.

Required Permits:

  • The following permits/contracts/certificates may be required for your event:
    • Rental Contract; Park Permit; Road Closure Permit; Liquor License; Fire or Fireworks Permits; Inspections (Electrical, Fire Safety, Food, etc.)
    • A Vendor Permit may be required if you plan on selling goods or services as part of your event. Contact your municipality or appropriate governmental body for details.
  • Note that some of these permits can take up to several weeks to process. Be sure to apply with enough time to receive your permit several days/weeks before your event.

Risk Management:

  • Ramps / Stairs / Handrails: What are the risks of a fall? Is your event accessible to people with limited mobility? What accommodations are available to them?
  • Adequate Time: Plan for enough time between activities, especially if your guests will be travelling from one area to another to avoid causing a traffic jam of people.
  • Space between tables: Make sure servers holding trays and people with mobility aids (ex: crutches, walker, wheelchair, etc.) have adequate room to circulate between tables and around the room.
  • Fireworks & Bonfires: Follow local burn guidelines on the day of the event, monitor the weather conditions and wind and, ensure only adequately trained volunteers or contractors are operating fireworks or managing the bonfire.
  • Serving Liquor: Ensure all volunteers / servers serving alcoholised beverages are appropriately licensed (if required by law). Understand your mandated responsibilities and the applicable laws as a host selling alcohol.
  • Emergency Plan: Does your venue have an emergency plan? What happens in case of extreme weather? What procedures should your volunteers follow and what guidelines will be communicated to guests?

Insurance Needs: Things to consider from an insurance coverage perspective. It’s important to have insurance in place ahead of time, however you can also purchase it right up until the day of the event.

  • Venue Required Liability Limit: Most venues will require you to have event insurance in place, including a specific limit of liability. This may differ if your event is at a private venue or a public event. Typically, a venue will require a liability limit of $2,000,000.
  • Venue Named Under your Policy: Does the venue need to be provided with a certificate of insurance naming them as an additional insured under your policy in the event of a loss?
  • Cancellation Insurance: This will protect you in case of unforeseen situations such as inclement weather, if a venue is deemed unusable, or if something else requires you to cancel an event. This coverage can help you recover many of the costs and deposits already paid.
  • Waiver of Subrogation: This prevents your insurance company from recovering any funds from the venue if the claim was due to their negligence (an additional premium may apply).
  • Liquor Liability Insurance: This is sometimes necessary, especially if your event is taking place in a venue in which the bartenders are not covered. Liquor liability covers arising from causing or contributing to the intoxication of a person; the accidental furnishing of alcoholic beverages to a person under the legal drinking age or under the influence of alcohol, or any statute, ordinance, or regulation relating to the sale, gift, distribution, or use of alcoholic beverages.

Each event is different. Not everything on this checklist will apply to every event, and this checklist does not include every consideration needed for each event. What this checklist does provide, is a framework to start thinking about your event planning process in greater depth and with more awareness of the kinds of risks you need to manage. Happy Planning!

Volunteer Canada members have exclusive access to leading event insurance through BMS and the Under Our Wing Insurance Program. Contact a Broker today to discuss coverage options best suited for your event. You will need to provide them with the specific details, such as the number of attendees, time and date. The policy covers the organization that takes out the policy and all parties involved in the event (venue, caterer, event planner, etc.). Event insurance also provides general liability coverage for specific events. Additional coverage can also be purchased for such things as event cancellation and liquor liability.

If you have any questions, or to apply for cover – contact BMS on 1-844-294-2715 or email [email protected]

You can also find out more information at



June 26, 2018


The streamlined Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement

Canadian Code for Volunteer InvolvementThe Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement is a guide for involving volunteers in all levels of an organization. It is adaptable to organizations of all sizes, and can help you design, implement, evaluate and enhance your volunteer program.

With the aim of improving volunteer involvement across Canada, the Code promotes meaningful engagement that meets the needs of both an organization and its volunteers. It highlights the rights and responsibilities of volunteers, helping foster a mutually beneficial relationship.

Initially developed in 2001, Volunteer Canada regularly updates the Code to reflect changes to legislation, demographics and volunteer engagement. Last year, Volunteer Canada streamlined the standards of practice for volunteer involvement, bringing them down from 14 to 10.

The 10 standards of practice in the latest version of the Code are:

  1. Link volunteer roles to your organization’s mission
  2. Integrate volunteers in human resources
  3. Put in place resources and infrastructure that support volunteer involvement
  4. Evaluate your volunteer strategy
  5. Identify the skills needed for each role and recruit from diverse sources
  6. Assess and mitigate potential risks
  7. Use a consistent and transparent screening process
  8. Organize orientation and training
  9. Provide feedback, support and supervision
  10. Recognize the contributions of your volunteers

To help you implement the standards of practice, Volunteer Canada developed a series of checklists with detailed steps for each of the 10 standards.

Members of Volunteer Canada also have access to an online audit tool to assess their volunteer program against the Code. It suggests next steps, tools and resources to increase the impact of your volunteer program. The tool has also been updated, making it easier to use, allowing you to save your progress and letting you refer to previously completed audits.

Is your organization adopting the Code? Email us at [email protected] to add your organization to our page of Code Adoptees.



May 29, 2018

Valuing Volunteering - An Economist's Perspective

Written by: Pedro Antunes, The Conference Board of Canada

Valuing Volunteering - An Economist's Perspective

The Conference Board of Canada is in the business of forecasting the economy. We produce detailed forecasts of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employment, income, consumption and more of Canada and its regions. These forecasts are used by businesses and governments for planning or comparison to their own forecasts. So as an economist, my work tends to be all about measurable economic activity—all in dollars and cents, or rather, in millions and billions of dollars.

This focus on output, income and other measures sometimes gives economists a bad rap—we get criticized for excluding from our analysis what is not measured in dollars. Critiques about our failure to capture broader social impacts are not uncommon, so, when Volunteer Canada approached the Conference Board of Canada about estimating the value of volunteering, we were delighted. This meant measuring the very real value of the services provided in our economy that are not captured in our GDP and National Accounts. An opportunity to redeem ourselves; we aren’t just about the money!

Simply put, when measuring GDP, Statistics Canada does not consider the value of non-monetary transactions. However, volunteering provides tangible benefits and services to many Canadians and so, it is our opinion that it is quite appropriate to measure and compare the value of these services.

We estimate that in 2017, 13.3 million Canadians volunteered (44% of the population ages 15 and over), each contributing an average of nearly 156 hours. These assumptions are based on earlier survey results produced by Statistics Canada. This is equivalent to 1.1 million people working full time, or if using a mix of full and part time jobs, 1.2 million people employed. That is roughly 6.5 per cent of employment—for comparison, about the equivalent of everyone employed in education.

Considering this, volunteering effectively provides a huge lift to the value of services provided in Canada. If we add the volunteer work effort with employment in the non-profit sector driven by donations we end up with 1.8 million jobs—larger than Canada’s manufacturing employment.

Let’s go back to our dollars and cents; I am an economist after all. We calculated the value of those volunteer hours in dollars at the average wage in the volunteer sector which is $27 (much lower than the $35.5 per hour economy wide). By doing so, we came up with a conservative estimate that volunteering adds essentially $56 billion to economic activity in Canada.  

Let’s again consider the part of the non-profit sector driven by voluntary contributions (donations), which is measured in GDP because it involves monetary transactions. On their own, donation-driven non-profits contribute another $30.6 billion to the Canadian GDP. When combined with volunteering, that’s a total value of $86.6 billion!

But volunteering has many other benefits.

Canadians volunteer (and donate) because they want to make a positive contribution to the community. And there are, as I mentioned, huge measurable benefits (in terms of value of services) that we can estimate from those contributions. But there are also benefits to the individuals that volunteer and to organizations that encourage their employees to contribute time.

Research has shown that volunteering often pushes people outside of their “comfort zone”, helps them develop new business relevant skills and lifts their earning capacity. Corporations are increasingly promoting volunteering as a professional development tool for employees.

We can’t limit our thinking. It’s not just that corporations push employees to volunteer only to improve their skills, this is also about employers looking for ways to contribute to their communities and to foster engagement in their employees. More and more employers are encouraging volunteering outside the workplace because it’s an effective way to contribute to a stronger society that we all benefit from.

Studies also show that volunteering can contribute to better health and well-being. It is a great way for seniors to stay active, and to encourage life-long community engagement in youth. The programs that volunteers facilitate strengthen community cohesion, improve education and health outcome in their communities and provide valuable life experiences for participants and volunteers alike.

In summary, about 44% of Canadians volunteer and in doing so, they contribute a massive unmeasured work effort to our economy and provide essential programs and services in our communities. But if measured, the value of those services would be worth roughly $56 billion today. And in my opinion, that value is worth celebrating.


Read the full Conference Board of Canada report on The Value of Volunteering in Canada.

Pedro Antunes, Conference Board of Canada


About the author

Pedro Antunes - Deputy Chief Economist, The Conference Board of Canada

Pedro Antunes leads a team of economists responsible for the production of the Conference Board’s suite of economic forecast products, as well as other reports and economic indicators that relate to Canada and its regions. Mr. Antunes is a spokesperson for the Conference Board and has provided expert testimony before parliamentary committees. He makes numerous presentations on economic topics and dialogues with Canadian leaders, the public and media about issues important to Canada.



April 21st, 2018

Volunteering: A Way of Acting, a Way of Doing - A Way of Being

Written by: Marian PinskyBlog: Volunteering: A Way of Acting, a Way of Doing - A Way of Being; Written by Marian Pinsky

There’s nothing I enjoy more than a challenge.

So when the Montreal Children’s Hospital contacted me with an urgent need to recruit a team of volunteers for their two-day Spartan Race fundraiser, taking place at 6:00 a.m. during a weekend and a two hours drive away, I unhesitantly assured them they would get their fifty volunteers.

Wait – fifty??

That’s when it hit me – where on earth would I find fifty volunteers on short notice, who were willing to forgo their weekend plans (and sleep!) to join us at the crack of dawn to assist with on-site logistics and grunge work at an extreme obstacle course? 

Ah, but I had a trick up my sleeve…

See, I coordinate activities for a group of young professionals, with a focus on hikes, cooking classes, and theatre outings. Given such an enthusiastic response to past events, I contemplated whether this could possibly double as a recruitment tool for promoting volunteering among young adults. 

It was worth a shot!

But was this an unfair litmus test, I wondered? Was I setting myself up to a dismal, frustrating failure? I mean, the situation was far from ideal – it would involve muddy, physical work, a full day’s commitment, and would accompany the rising of the sun. 

Maybe I should aim lower and start with a call-out to staple forms or sort cans at a local food bank…

To my amazement, I received an outpouring of support from people who had heard of my active volunteering record, and who had always wanted to get involved – they just didn’t know how.

Not only did we recruit enough volunteers for grueling day number one- but we were able to send another fully packed bus the second day!  

From this emerged a solid core of volunteers, willing to step in and join my sister (co-conspirator and right-hand gal) and I on many subsequent adventures. And adventures there have been!

See Opportunities; SEIZE Opportunities!

I’ve always liked the expression of carpe diem or ‘seize the day’. I truly believe there are opportunities out there you just have to be attuned to, to find your fit of where you can most meaningfully contribute. As any seasoned volunteer can attest, the benefits are both numerous and multi-faceted. 

Challenge yourself! You never know what you might find once you step outside your comfort zone. It may be a newfound love of marathons, finding ‘the’ organization that speaks to you, your soulmate…. (don’t knock it; we’ve matched two sets of couples pretty successfully so far!).

So don’t wait for something to come to you- get out there and seize it! It will give you the structure, the renewed sense of confidence, self-worth, perspective, and energy you just might be looking for. 

Make It Social

In speaking with our (now-veteran) volunteer friends, they’ve identified that what differentiates our volunteering activities from others is that we actively assess people’s interests, strengths, and abilities, and match them accordingly with tasks we know will be engaging and fulfilling. 

Our volunteering activities have gained a reputation for being fun, hands-on, challenging, and well-organized – and that’s what makes them keep coming back. It’s not enough to have a compelling cause with well-intentioned individuals. It brings me never-ending frustration to hear of poorly orchestrated events in which volunteers stand around, uncertain of their role, feeling like they are duplicating menial tasks by coordinators who don’t take the time to visualize and effectively delegate roles.  It takes skill and foresight to properly make use of willing help – and is a responsibility I don’t take lightly. 

Do Ordinary Things in an Extraordinary Way

Each event is coordinated with community building in mind, creating friends out of strangers, often bonded over a break at a picnic lunch after a long day of volunteering. And people are often astonished to find out that we are a group of friends – not students clocking in volunteer hours, nor employees seeking to bond over volunteering.

Volunteering can get you involved in some truly crazy projects – like winterizing a summer camp for newly arrived families! Raking the equivalent of two football fields to clear community hiking trails at a nature reserve! And my proudest accomplishment thus far – delivering over 450 cookies and 35 hand-crafted cards to a women’s shelter in honour of International Women’s Day.

But it’s not just the organization or focus that makes things special and meaningful – it’s also the attitude behind it. Volunteering is more than just giving of your time; it’s giving of your caring. It’s value added to an existing event. It’s contributing your effort and skill to right a wrong, raise funds for an under-supported cause, and demonstrating through your work- and presence!-that people care. 

And in a world of increasing fragmentation, apathy and tension, community cohesion building has never been more needed. 

Have a Sense of Adventure

Through our experiences, we have discovered that the crazier the challenge, the more the appeal! Need a crew to set up a dragon boat fundraiser in unpredictable weather accompanied by the rising of the sun? No problem! Collecting urgently needed socks for a homeless shelter during the coldest months of the year? We’re on it, with our popular Games and Underwear nights. Struggling to triage donations for the back to school rush? Our efficient human chain will be there to support school retention and work reintegration programs. 

In coordinating events like this, we’ve made some amazing friends who have demonstrated time and again their commitment to us and our objective to create a more connected, empathetic, and people-driven community. 

Be Unstoppable!

As our friends at the Spartan Race for the Children’s put it, be unstoppable! Volunteering has exposed us to the most incredible crew of friends, brought us blog-worthy adventures, and has connected us to community in the most meaningful and authentic way. 

While some of these activities are independently coordinated, others have been in affiliation with established organizations who know they can count on a solid team of efficient volunteers, and have us on speed-dial for their upcoming events. 

What unites us all is our shared love of that sense of fulfillment, the satisfaction of getting your hands dirty, of contributing your time, energy and skillsets for a cause whose impact in building and empowering communities would be multiplied exponentially. 

So no licking envelopes or handing out flyers for this bunch! We've got bigger and better things in mind. 



April 20th, 2018

Coordinating confidence, competence, connections and community

Written by: Samantha Dignam 

Have you ever wondered how volunteers get connected to the places they are needed the most? Who makes sure all the gaps are filled, that events get coordinated and that volunteers are being given opportunities to meaningfully contribute? In many cases, the answer is that a coordinator or manager of volunteers is behind the scenes! These volunteer resources management professionals are an important part of the volunteer sector and today during National Volunteer Week we want to put the spotlight on the value they add! 

We spoke to Lola Dubé-Quibell, a Coordinator of Volunteer Resources at Ottawa Public Health with more than 15 years of experience in the field of volunteer management and a lifetime of experience as a volunteer herself, about her role and how she has seen the wide reaching effects and positive impact of Canadian volunteering. 

So what exactly is her role? Simply put, her role involves fulfilling an expressed need by engaging volunteers. In the context of public health, an example of that could be mothers who are struggling to breastfeed. A healthcare professional such as a nurse would assess the mother’s needs and then contact Lola to find a trained volunteer to assist the mother.

When asked what her most valuable volunteering experience has been within her role as a coordinator, Lola came back with a whole list of stories and benefits.  Some of these included: 

  • a Syrian refugee who received a long overdue root canal from a volunteer dentist and who has had a huge boost in self-confidence 
  • a senior who reported back that the doctor was astonished at his progress after a heart attack, thanks to walking and exercising with volunteers
  • a volunteer who helped several mothers struggling with breastfeeding and said she did not know volunteering could be so much fun
  • a volunteer who needed a reference for entering medical school and was accepted
  • a volunteer who sent a thank you note because they got a job based on their volunteering experiences

As a coordinator who helped make these connections, Lola gets to see the results and celebrate the value that volunteering creates each day, not just through her own volunteering efforts but also through the many people she has helped to find volunteer opportunities. When asked what she has gained, Lola says “from my experience as a coordinator of volunteers I feel more connected to my community and more aware of what volunteering can bring to its members.”

Specifically, from a public health point of view, Lola believes volunteering can help address some of the inequities of the determinants of health. Determinants of health are social, economic and environmental factors -- including things such as education level, support networks, health care access and income level -- that determine people’s ability to live a fully healthy life. 

Volunteering can contribute to improving these factors. For example, a library volunteer may suddenly have access to resources and knowledge they were unaware of previously. A volunteer at a community theatre is exposed to art, culture and new community networks. These are just two examples of how volunteering can enrich the life of a volunteer and increase their access to things that improve their quality of life, health and happiness. On the flip side, it is evident that volunteers also contribute to the health of the clients they serve through their volunteering jobs.

Lola refers to this as knowledge transfer and knowledge mobility. The volunteers acquire new knowledge, access, skills, and networks and build confidence through their community contributions:  knowledge provided by professionals, trainers, coordinators and other volunteers. They then are able to put this new knowledge into action at their volunteer placement and pass it on, sharing it with those they serve.  Furthermore, every volunteer has their own sphere of influence; the things they learn while volunteering do not stay at their volunteering placement but are instead taken and shared with the people they know in other areas of life. The value of volunteering has a ripple effect that spreads widely and continuously gains momentum.

Managers and coordinators of volunteers are one piece of the volunteering mosaic that help get the ball rolling. They excel at capitalizing on the value of volunteers, especially connections, making sure volunteers are placed where they are most needed. Thank you to Lola for giving us an insight into her role and from all of us at Volunteer Canada, thanks to all professionals in volunteer resources management. We celebrate the value you add to volunteering!



April 19th, 2018

Volunteer Canada is Celebrating the Value of Volunteer Centres in building confidence, competence, connections, and community

Written by: Paula Speevak

Volunteer Centres provide leadership and expertise of volunteering in local communities in every region of Canada.  The 220 local volunteer centres go by different names, sizes, and reflect the nature and priorities of the communities and share four common objectives: (1) to promote volunteering; (2) to connect people with volunteer opportunities; (3) to build the capacity of organizations to engage volunteers; and (4) to provide leaders on issues related to volunteering.  Many centres have also taken on an expanded role as conveners of the non-profit sector and facilitators or organizational development. 

Volunteer Centres build the confidence of individuals by helping them discover the talents and skills they have to offer and an organization that will bring out the best in them.

Volunteer Centres build the competence of local non-profit organizations to more effectively engage volunteers, offering tools and resources, workshops, webinars, and support on a range of topics such as youth engagement, screening, skills-based volunteering, and volunteer recognition.  

Volunteer centres help create connections among volunteers and employees of non-profit organizations through special events, training, and networking opportunities.  These connections facilitate the sharing of practices, promote collaboration, and help identify common issues that call for collective action.

Volunteer centres build communities by bringing together non-profit organizations, businesses, educational institutions, and local government to map assets, identify issues, and address challenges through a collective impact approach.   

If you are looking to volunteer or need help with your volunteer program, contact your local volunteer centre.

From all of us at Volunteer Canada, congratulations to volunteer centres in Canada for all you do to build confidence, competence, connections, and communities.




April 18th, 2018

Pursuing your passions and finding your purpose

Written by: Rosie Krause

My name is Rosie Krause, I am a Masters of Arts Candidate in Legal Studies at Carleton University. My undergraduate degree was also from Carleton, an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Child Studies with a Minor in Psychology. In my third year of my undergraduate degree, I decided I wanted to go to graduate school and was told point blank by a student success worker that I couldn't do it with my current grades and involvement. So I set out to prove this person wrong - and I did. I reached out and got support from student services, got to know my professors, and started getting involved with non-profit organizations in youth oriented areas. 

In two years I had gathered approximately 4000 hours of relevant work experience in the field; volunteering was 95% of this experience. The rest of the experience hours were paid, as I managed to secure a position at the organization I volunteered for. I worked at this organization for 3 and a half years, only leaving when starting the thesis year of my MA. Through these experiences I have learned what I’m passionate about, and what I am skilled at. Volunteering is an opportunity to build confidence in your abilities in a tangible way that puts them into action. 

Since 2015, I have been speaking on how to get involved and the importance of volunteering, mostly in Dr. John Weekes' Addictions course at Carleton. I have mentored many students,and helped them secure volunteer positions in various organizations. While it cannot be understated that volunteering is crucial to the functioning of most non-profit organizations, it is also vital that volunteers gain useful experience for themselves in the process. I always say in my presentations that there is no shame in being straight forward with agencies about what you can give, and what you need to get from your volunteer positions. Volunteering is an opportunity for you to contribute your skills, knowledge and passion to an organization, and for you to learn and develop yourself. Having the motivation to grow and learn as a volunteer is not only acceptable, but encouraged.

Another thing I often stress is, post-secondary school is a rare opportunity to have access to experts in fields that interest you. Professors are often willing to discuss their research interests with students, and support their growth in and out of the classroom. It truly is a privilege that many people do not have access to. These connections can be key to developing a stronger sense of purpose, and building a solid network in the community. 

Whenever I speak about volunteering I emphasize the value of volunteering, and the role it can play in teaching you about yourself. You learn what roles you can genuinely fulfill within the fields that interest you. Personally, through volunteering, I was able to quickly determine that I belong in a different area of children’s health care than I originally thought, and since the day I figured this out I have been in constant pursuit of opportunities to try new things and engage with passionate people.

Overall, I genuinely love to support people in their endeavors, and to encourage others to learn about themselves in relation to the world around them. Volunteering has provided me with endless opportunities for growth, and I am truly appreciative to be sharing my experiences with others.



April 17th, 2018

The History of National Volunteer Week

Written by: Samantha Dignam 


Volunteer Canada may be 41 years old but the history of National Volunteer Week stretches back much further than that. In fact, the first ever National Volunteer Week in Canada was celebrated 75 years ago, in 1943! Clearly, Canadians have seen the value volunteers bring to our country for a long time. 

The way we celebrate has changed a little through the years. That first National Volunteer took place in September, rather than April, from the 12thto the 20thin 1943. And it had a very specific purpose: to enlist women for wartime voluntary service. Designated by the Canadian War Services department and organized by the Women’s Voluntary Services (W.V.S.), major cities across the country such as Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg hosted recruitments and special events to raise awareness about the vital contributions women were making to the war effort. 

Fast forward nearly 20 years and volunteer centres across Canada had the idea of having an annual week honouring all Canadian volunteers in all sectors of service. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Volunteer Week grew. In 1987, the Canada Post Corporation even issued a commemorative volunteer stamp to recognize the week! Finally, in 1990, Volunteer Canada proclaimed National Volunteer Week to be in April, in all communities across the country. 

Since then, National Volunteer Week has become a time for all Canadians to intentionally recognize the contributions volunteers make to their communities, to raise awareness of the value this adds and to thank volunteers for all of their time, energy, commitment and care. Volunteers are an invaluable resource in Canada and without them, many organizations would not be able to serve their communities the way they do. And on top of that, volunteers create a culture in Canada where people care about their neighbours and want to set aside time to build community. This is something so important and worthy of celebrating!

Now that National Volunteer Week is an established event, volunteer centres, non-profit organizations, informal service groups, employers who support volunteering, school groups and more, recognize NVW by having events to thank their volunteers. Each year Volunteer Canada releases a theme and resources to help people plan their celebrations. And celebrate people do! From photo contests and big volunteer galas, to simple thank you cards and appreciation barbeques, everyone celebrates the week a little bit differently – the important thing is that volunteers are honoured and thanked! 

For the last 16 years, Investors Group has collaborated with Volunteer Canada, as lead sponsor of National Volunteer Week. Their collaboration and leadership has expanded beyond the campaign and has included research on how volunteers want to be recognised and the development of strategies for year-round volunteer recognition. As part of their corporate social responsibility strategy, Investors Group has led the charge in recognizing how important it is for Canadians to volunteer. 

Over the years, we have recognized the passion, actionand impact of Canadian volunteers. We’ve seen the ripple effect their efforts bring to our communities, the volumes they speak through their service, the beautiful shadows they create by being present where they are needed the most, their steadfastness as the roots of neighbourhoods across the country and now we celebrate the value that volunteers bring through their building of confidence, competence, connections and community. National Volunteer Week is a time to recognize everything volunteers bring to Canada and most importantly, to say thank you. We are so excited that a 75-year-old tradition has continued to flourish in 2018 and we are hopeful it will continue to long into the future. 





April 16th, 2018


Are single day, employer supported volunteering opportunities beneficial to community partners?

Written by: Eric Shirley

Employer-Supported Volunteering (ESV) is any activity undertaken by an employer to encourage and support the volunteering of their employees in the community. 

There are a multitude of options and strategies for employers to engage their employees.  Employers may enact company-wide days of service, flex time, rewards programs or even microvolunteering.  It is in the employer’s best interest to offer some support as 68% of Canadians would choose a job with a company that has a strong volunteering culture over one that does not.

Most common amongst ESV is an opportunity where a group of employees visit a community partner for a full day or half day to complete a ‘hands on task’.  The task depends on the community partner, but common examples are outdoor clean up projects, serving a meal, or packing items for distribution.

For community partners, the benefit of offering single day opportunities is sometimes disputed.  Some use them effectively to advance their mission, either through fulfilling day to day needs or a new project not possible without the company injection of volunteers and financing for the project.  Conversely, some community organizations feel that planning and managing employee groups are a drain on finite staff resources, that projects are not impactful, and the usually hoped-for prospect of a longer-term corporate partnership or community investment never materializes. In fact, Volunteer Canada research shows that agreeing to – or rejecting – a request to engage employees volunteering almost never figures into company donations or sponsorship decisions.

For some community partners, due to space constraints or the nature of their mission, it may not be in their best interest to offer single day volunteering.  For others, we propose a realignment.  Rather than viewing the opportunity solely as an interaction with a corporate entity, view prospective volunteers as members of the community.  With the rise of Individual Social Responsibility, employers are increasingly allowing their employees to lead volunteer days, rather than a top down model.  Most likely the lead volunteer requesting the opportunity is passionate about supporting your organization’s focus. 

The composition of volunteers will likely be diverse, some having never volunteered before or at least not since high school and with different motivations - some may have signed up just to be sociable.  According to Statistic Canada, only 44% of Canadians volunteered in 2012.  Your single day volunteering experience encourages these employees to learn about their community, develop prosocial behaviour, experience the joy of altruism and potentially put them on a path to find something they are passionate about in order to continue volunteering.  For some employees, it may be the beginning of a longer volunteer commitment with your organization. 

At a minimum, employer-supported volunteers may learn about the community partner and who they support.  Chris Jarvis, co-founder of Realized Worth, divides group volunteering experiences into two categories - transactional and transformational.  What elevates an experience into a transformational one is to effectively communicate why the task accomplished by volunteers matters and bring to life who it benefits. 

In all of these ways, employer-supported volunteerism has the potential to embody each of the elements we are recognizing in this year’s National Volunteer Week theme “Celebrate the Value of Volunteering - building confidence, competence, connections and community”.  By opting for a model that focuses on the quality of experience for volunteers versus a stepping stone in a relationship with the company – community organizations can best approach the volunteering request through how the activity benefits their mission and how it builds engaged citizens.



April 15th, 2018


The Values and the Value of Volunteering…. we have a lot to celebrate

Written by: Paula Speevak

Volunteering reflects our values – what we care about, our vision for our community, our notion of justice, and our sense of responsibility for the planet and all those with whom we share it.  Volunteering also generates value for organizations, neighbourhoods, businesses, society, and for those volunteering.  It is the interplay between what we value and the value that we create through our actions that is behind the Value of Volunteering Wheel.

How do we begin to demonstrate the complex value of volunteering?  It has become common place to use a wage replacement formula, multiplying the number of volunteer hours by an hourly wage (using minimum wage or industry pay rate scales) and to come up with a dollar value for the volunteer time.  Others have tried to calculate the fair market value for the service provided (a tutoring session, a meal delivered, a strategic planning session facilitated). While talking about the thousands, millions, or billions of dollars worth of time or service given captures peoples’ attention, it still falls short of capturing the full story. 

The Board of Directors of Volunteer Canada adopted the following policy statement in 2010:

Volunteer Canada recognizes the need to demonstrate a clear measurement of the value of volunteer time and volunteer programs and that in doing so, valuing volunteerism will take many forms. Determining the impact of the contribution of volunteerism is complex and multifaceted and Volunteer Canada believes that any measurement on the value of volunteer involvement must be framed with a social return on investment that integrates both qualitative and quantitative measurements. Both aspects of measurement must be considered equally valid and compelling and each measurement presented in isolation of the other presents an incomplete picture of the true value of the contribution of volunteers. 

Value to Organizations:

Volunteers provide value to organizations through their leadership and governance, setting strategic direction, raising needed funds, forging alliances, and executing fiscal oversight. Board members can raise the profile of the organization, open doors, and bring pertinent perspectives from members and stakeholders. The value of a board’s role goes well beyond the number of hours spent preparing for and attending meetings. Volunteers also bring cultural competencies to an organization that expands its capacity to serve diverse populations and creates a bridge with new communities.  The value of this is well beyond the volunteers’ time. And of course, many volunteers provide direct services that increases the impact of their programs.

Value to Neighbourhoods:

Neighbourhood associations, both formal and informal, provide a platform for people to shape the places and spaces where they live, work, and play.  Areas with high levels of community engagement tend to be safer and more resilient.  Whether we look at value through the lens of concepts such as social capital (the value of people forming bonds with one another and bridging to the community at large) or from a community asset-mapping perspective (space, resources, peoples’ commitments and talents…), volunteering has high value and it is well beyond the hours neighbours spend cleaning the park, flipping burgers at the BBQ, or taking a shift in the homework club. 

Value to Businesses:

One third of the 12.7 million Canadian volunteers indicate that they received support from their employers (paid time to volunteer, group volunteering activities, donations made to organizations where they volunteer, etc.….).  Employee volunteering programs, in addition to contributing to the community, help businesses recruit top talent, enhance employee engagement, improve work place morale, and augment their profile and credibility.  The value to businesses goes beyond the cost of the hours that employees volunteer.  

Value to Society:

Volunteers lead important public policy campaigns that have had significant impact on our society in areas including impaired driving, end-of-life support, and the use of pesticide in public spaces.  The impact of these legislative changes impacts peoples’ health, wellbeing, and saves lives.  The value of volunteers goes well beyond the hours they spend meeting with politicians, organizing rallies, and writing to policy makers. 

Value to Volunteers:

While volunteers give their time to contribute to the community, many report on benefits such as learning new skills, gaining experience, feeling connected to their community, and improved self-esteem.  Many volunteers attribute their success in their education and careers to the experience and connections they have made while volunteering.  Studies have shown that volunteering improves brain health and prevents social isolation in older adults. These benefits go beyond the hours volunteers give to communities.  

The Value of Volunteering Wheel is designed to illustrate the many values and to help you explore the many studies, tools, and resources on the value of volunteering.



April 10th, 2018


Happy National Volunteer Week from Volunteer Canada CEO and President Paula Speevak

National Volunteer Week shines a light on the 12.7 million Canadians who volunteer their time. We are Celebrating the Value of Volunteering in building confidence, competence, connections and community. 

Au nom de Bénévoles Canada, Groupe Investors, et la reseax des 220 centres d'action beenvoles, nous vous souhaitons un bonne semain de l'action bénévole. Nous célébrons la valeur du bénévolat - en renforcons la confiance, la competence, les liens et la collectivité.

Aux 12.7 millions bénévoles au Canada, MERCI!!!!

On behalf of Volunteer Canada, Investors Group, and the 220 volunteer centres, thanks to Canadians who volunteer in every region and around the globe! 

Thank you! Merci!



March 15th, 2018

Celebrating the value of volunteering during National Volunteer Week 2018 

National Volunteer Week is a time to celebrate volunteers. Join Volunteer Canada and Investors Group from April 15 to 21 to recognize the efforts of Canada’s 12.7 million volunteers in building confidence, competence, connections and community. This year’s theme focuses on the value of volunteering.

The magic of volunteering is that it creates value for all, from individuals and families to organizations and communities.

Volunteers themselves benefit from giving their time, by developing new skills, building connections, advocating for causes they care about and learning from others. Many volunteers will tell you that they get more than they give – and they give a lot.

In 2013, Canadian volunteers gave nearly two billion hours to their communities, fundraising, organizing events, sitting on committees and boards, teaching, coaching, counselling and more. Their efforts are the equivalent of nearly 1 million full-time jobs.

Volunteer involvement is vital for strong and connected communities. The effects of volunteering are diverse, reaching both near and far.

This year, we’re asking Canadians to reflect on the impact volunteers have on their quality of life. Celebrate National Volunteer Week by thanking a volunteer who has made a difference to you and your community.

Volunteer Canada has released an online campaign kit to help you start planning your volunteer appreciation events.  The kit includes templates and tips for social media, government and media relations, event planning and various graphics, including a poster, thank you card and recognition certificate. You can also visit the National Volunteer Week online gift store to purchase posters, thank you cards and other recognition items.



February 14, 2018


Beat the winter blues: Volunteer


Beat the winter blues: Volunteer!

Winters in Canada can be long and cold. It can be tempting to hibernate as much as possible outside of work or school obligations. One way to survive the winter in an enjoyable way – and help combat seasonal affective disorder at the same time – is to give back to the community.

Not only does volunteering make your community a better place, it improves your mental health. According to the Doing Good is Good for You: 2013 Health and Volunteering Study, volunteering can lower your stress levels, make you feel physically healthier and increase your overall satisfaction with life. 

Volunteering also connects you to your community and introduces you to new people. Being around other people can improve your mood and help combat social isolation. Through volunteering, you meet like-minded people who are passionate about the same causes you care about.

Finally, volunteering can help you develop new skills or hone existing ones, turning the winter into a productive season. Skills-based volunteering highlights the mutually beneficial relationship of volunteering, benefiting both the volunteer and the organization.

And if it’s just too cold to leave the house, many organizations offer virtual volunteering opportunities that can be done from the comfort of the warm indoors. With technology, there are many ways you can contribute to an organization without being physically present.

To find a winter volunteer opportunity that’s right for you, reach out to your local volunteer centre. Youth between the ages of 15 and 30 can also access our online volunteer matching tool.





Archived Blog posts are coming soon!





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