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Canada is In Desperate Need of Volunteers, and Employers Have a Role to Play

Maddy Porter and Alexandra Valcour

Person with folded arms wearing a white 'VOLUNTEER' t-shirt.

A version of this article originally appeared in Talent Canada  

Canada’s volunteer ecosystem is in crisis. Over the past few years, the country has continued to see a dramatic decline in volunteers. The latest stats from Volunteer Canada, well, they’re not great. More than 65 per cent of volunteer-supported organizations are waving a red flag as they desperately run short on help. This worrisome trend extends across diverse sectors, from food banks contending with increased demand to environmental groups striving to address urgent challenges. The pressing need to rehabilitate volunteerism has become increasingly evident. 

Corporate Engagement: Beyond Monetary Contributions 

While organizations are implementing innovative strategies to recruit and retain volunteers, the crucial support they need extends beyond their internal efforts. Businesses across Canada can play a pivotal role, going beyond traditional corporate donations to embrace a powerful solution—Employer Supported Volunteerism (ESV). 

ESV calls on companies to encourage their staff to dedicate time to community causes. Companies, like Proof Strategies, who offer paid time off to volunteer are signaling to employees their support for this time away from work, which promotes guilt free volunteerism. Studies continue to show ESV not only benefits the organizations and communities in need but also brings about significant advantages for the sponsoring companies and their employees, often an overlooked aspect of the corporate world. 

The Case for Employer Supported Volunteerism  

  1. Fostering trust both internally and externally: ESV serves as a catalyst in the cultivation of trust—an invaluable commodity within the community, among employees, and towards the corporate entity. Our 2023 CanTrust Index found that 61 per cent of Canadians are more likely to trust brands that invest in their local community. 
  1. Employee morale and growth: Volunteering offers employees the opportunity to enhance soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and leadership, which are invaluable in a professional setting. The diverse nature of volunteer projects also allows employees to explore new areas of expertise, fostering continuous learning and development.  
  1. Cultivating networks: ESV isn’t just about volunteering; it’s about building connections. New bonds with community members are forged, while existing ones are reinforced through shared experiences.  
  1. Positive brand ambassadors: As employees actively engage in volunteer activities, they embody the organization’s core values and commitment to societal betterment. This association can resonate with stakeholders, enhancing the company’s reputation and potentially attracting conscientious consumers.  
  1. Opportunity to be authentic: Employees often feel pressure to conform at work. Research suggests that more than half of employees feel they need to be someone else at work, which leaves them disengaged and emotionally exhausted. Employers who actively encourage volunteerism create an environment for employees to discuss their personal passions and be their whole, true, best selves at work.  

Communities, and the organizations that support them, are cornerstones of our societies. Being able to volunteer, not only without guilt, but openly with the support and encouragement of your employer creates more trust and builds stronger communities for us all. If more companies consider ESV as a cornerstone of their operations, perhaps we can enhance the volunteer ecosystem and be leaders in creating positive impact throughout our communities. 

Why We Volunteer 

We asked Proofers why they volunteer and how their volunteerism has led to personal and professional growth. 

“I volunteer at Marygrove because it’s my version of the most wonderful place on earth! What we do at Marygrove shifts my perspective and fills me with gratitude all year. I get to play, craft, swim, dance, sing and laugh with girls whose summers are highlighted by camp. Creating this joy for hundreds of girls in need, is an honour and privilege.” 

“I enjoy mentoring and providing advice to young women who are beginning their professional careers. I’ve learned as much from my mentees, and it’s rewarding to hear how much Empower’em has helped so many women.” 

  • Tara Beauport, Senior Consultant (Volunteers at Empower’em as a mentor) 

“I was inspired to become a hospice volunteer after experiencing the impact a volunteer had on my life during the loss of a loved one. Volunteering has allowed me to help others who are also going through a difficult time, all while learning new skills, broadening my perspective, and gaining a greater sense of purpose in my life.”

“I’m lucky that my work with Proof Strategies gives me the opportunity to make a difference in our community. I also set aside time to volunteer so I can support other causes that are important to me, like organizations that help safeguard the environment. My recent volunteer day with the Nature Conservancy of Canada allowed me to get my hands dirty (literally!) and take steps to build a new habitat for local wildlife.”  

“My volunteer work with Nature Conservancy of Canada supports important protection of biodiverse habitat for future generations. It’s also enabled me to see many spectacular natural places and make friendships across Canada.” 

“One of my dear friends helps to run the Christie Ossington Neighborhood Center, an umbrella organization that includes LOFT Kitchen which is a youth-centered social enterprise providing café and catering services while developing the employability of 2SLGBTQIA+ youth. I’ve helped LOFT Kitchen with social media strategies, content creation, signage suggestions, design suggestions. Sharing my industry knowledge with others and helping their businesses grow makes me feel good and fulfilled and helps me develop my skills further.” 

“I volunteered with the Nature Conservatory of Canada because environmental initiatives are a passion point of mine outside of work, and volunteering in this field provides opportunities that are very different from the day-to-day work I do. Personally, it’s been very fulfilling to know I’m contributing to the ecological health of rivers in my area through my volunteer work.”

“I volunteer because it is a great way to build connections and make a difference outside of regular work. By volunteering I’ve been exposed to new ways of doing things and expanded my network to people I wouldn’t have met through my job.”  

  • Cam Penner, Consultant (Volunteered during the Kanata-Carleton by-election)