Categories: Volunteers

Volunteer community still growing

Volunteers are a sizeable community of people already and a recent report from Statistics Canada indicates that their numbers are growing still.

Details from the 2010 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating were released last week and it indicates that more than half of the population of Alberta is engaged in some level of volunteerism or another throughout the year.

Among the other key findings from the survey is that the volunteer rate in the province has grown almost seven per cent in six years, moving from 48 per cent in 2004 to 54.7 per cent in 2010.

“This is a good news story in that it shows that Albertans are volunteering at higher rates than the national average,” stated Karen Lynch, executive director of Volunteer Alberta. “Albertans have always been generous with their time and that hasn’t changed.”

Glynis Thomas, the executive director of St. Albert’s Community Information and Volunteer Centre, agrees with Lynch’s assessment, calling it “exciting news.” She says that there is still a sense of stability with how much time is actually being given, but she is especially pleased with the broader base of people giving their time.

“The way in which a volunteer centre would look at that is that we have a pool of individuals in this community who are participating formally as volunteers, and that number is increasing. As long as that number is increasing, we are very optimistic that that is good news for the future.”

While this figure pleases many in the volunteer community, it comes with a notable downside. According to the study, the number of hours volunteered per person dropped from an average of 172 hours in 2007 to only 140 hours in 2010. This is now below the national average of 156 hours per person.

“There are some warning signs for our sector. Volunteerism isn’t disappearing, but volunteers are changing. The people who are volunteering today aren’t the same as the people who were volunteering five years ago,” Lynch added.

She elaborated that volunteers’ motivations have changed and that they want to be engaged in different ways.

“There used to be the sense around volunteerism that it was the charity model. In other words you volunteered because somebody needed something in terms of social services. Volunteerism is much broader than this now. The number of areas that volunteers have open to them has certainly increased but the motivation is also that people are looking for something that also provides them with some benefit.”

Highlights from the study

Some of the other notable findings in the report include the following:

• People aged 35 to 44 are the most likely to volunteer at 63.4 per cent.

• Senior volunteers aged 65 and over give the most of their time with an average of 206 hours.

• Women are more likely to volunteer at 58.0 per cent, and they also give slightly more time than men at 142 hours.

• People with a university degree represent the education level with the highest volunteerism rate at 64.7 per cent.

• Households that bring in $100,000 or more per year are most likely to volunteer at 63.2 per cent.

• Out of all households with children of various ages, adults with school-aged children are most likely to volunteer at 65.5 per cent.

• Of the people who attend religious institutions, those who attend on a weekly basis are most likely to volunteer at 74.3 per cent.

Scott Hayes: Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.