Volunteers: Benefits and Challenges

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According to Statistics Canada, 47% of the Canadian population volunteered in 2010, contributing over two billion hours to various organizations across the country. Each volunteer contributed, on average, 156 hours. These hours were completed by:

  • Advocating for social causes
  • Fundraising for charities
  • Visiting seniors
  • Coaching teams
  • Volunteer driving
  • Preparing and delivering food
  • Counseling and mentoring people in need
  • Sitting on boards and committees1


The inset image shows the top five reasons why Canadians volunteer. Whatever their reason for volunteering, studies show that volunteers provide distinct benefits to the organizations they serve. More than 90% of the nearly 1800 non-profit organizations The Urban Institute surveyed in 2003 believe that volunteers:

  • Allow them to increase the number and quality of services they provide
  • Allow them to pay more detailed attention to clientele
  • Improve community relations or increase public support for their programs
  • Save money for the organization2


Despite these benefits, volunteer programs face tough challenges. Many of the organizations surveyed also reported problems with:

  • Funding to support an administrator to manage their volunteer program
  • Lack staff to properly train volunteers
  • High absenteeism or turnover amongst volunteers3


Still, the survey results suggest that the benefits outweigh the costs, with all organizations, on average, reporting net benefits. The smallest organizations (less than $100,000 in annual expenditures) reported enjoying the most net benefits from using volunteers.4


In order to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with its volunteers, an organization needs to first understand why its volunteers have chosen to donate time to their organization. This will help the organization refine its volunteer program, thereby boosting volunteer engagement and retention.


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