Social Research and Planning Council Releases New Report on Volunteerism



Social Research and Planning Council Releases New Report on Volunteerism

Report finds lack of time affecting volunteerism rates.

Volunteers play a critical role in our communities and without them many non-profit and service sector organizations would be forced to close their doors.  They sit on boards, raise money, share talents, provide transportation, deliver meals and offer companionship to the sick and dying.  Their value often overlooked, it is estimated that the economic value of volunteering in Canada is somewhere in the range of $50 billion a year.

Although current volunteer participation rates in Perth and Huron County are higher than national statistical averages, 84% of local not-for-profits agencies surveyed still reported that they never have enough volunteers.  In their newly released research report entitled `The Heart of Community: A report on Volunteerism in Perth and Huron Counties`, The Social Research and Planning Council (SRPC) identified several key obstacles that are keeping Perth and Huron County from reaching their full community volunteerism potential.

Most people surveyed who volunteer do so because they feel it is important to make a contribution to their community, and they enjoy doing so.  For those that don’t volunteer, not surprisingly, a lack of time was stated as the main reason why.

Of our local volunteers, it is our seniors that have truly been making a volunteering difference in our community and although their volunteerism participation rate was just over 35%, they gave almost double the hours of younger Canadians (225 hours vs. 130 hours).  With day-to-day life getting busier for most and half of our local organizations surveyed reporting that they rely on volunteers of an average age of 55 or older, this could create a future decline of available help.

The reality of this is that younger volunteers are increasingly busy looking after children and careers and they just don’t have a lot of time left over to give.  Unfortunately, those who are not in the practice of volunteering when they are young are also less likely to begin when they are older.  A lack of time however is not the only reason people do not volunteer, for many surveyed, they responded that they have simply not been asked to volunteer and they are unaware of what is available.  This is clearly something of significance to organizations that are in desperate need of them.

In addition to a shortage of volunteers, there is also a lack of volunteer co-coordinators and best practices in place to properly support the work being done by volunteers.  Over 90% of local organizations surveyed did not have a full-time or part-time volunteer co-ordinator, and more than half of not-for-profit organizations do not follow a Volunteer code of Best Practices.

Add to these shortages a change in societal expectations and it becomes increasingly difficult for organizations to keep up with what volunteers truly want from the experience. “Many organizations focus on what they need but many volunteers come with their own goals to be met,” says Volunteer Canada.

“In general, people seem to have less time than they did 10 or 15 years ago and they’re more particular about the volunteer work they take on.  They want richer experiences and shorter time commitments, plus there are more organizations competing for their time. It’s a real challenge for us.”  commented Paul Lloyd Williams, the Fundraising Volunteer Co-ordinator for St. Marys Minor Hockey Association.

So while the challenge of finding volunteers continues to be a reality for local organizations, there are also many people in our community willing to help that just need to find the right connections.

The SRPC`s Volunteerism report gives solid recommendations on how volunteerism in Perth and Huron County can be strengthened and supported in our communities.  Some of these include improving current websites for volunteer opportunities in Perth-Huron, developing volunteer recruitment strategies, and putting together a working group to assess the need for a Volunteer Centre.  All of which will be positive steps toward improving the experiences of those the SRPC is calling the heart of our community: volunteers.

For a link to the report, click here: Volunteerism report

For more information on the Social Research and Planning Council, please visit www.socialresearchandplanning.ca or call 519 271-7730 or 1-877-818-8867

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