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Data Tells A Story

Published: Jun 7, 2023 @ 2:30 PM

Last week we shared some of the data from the Connector. As we said we are looking for you to pose us questions that you may be curious about. We are employing an AI tool to help glean the answers and as we ask it more questions, the more it will learn and be able to suggest what we might want to know. So ask away . . . by just emailing us at

Here are the slides we shared with you last Thursday . . . 

Slide 1 - Volunteer Motivations

From our research "An Anti-Racist Approach to Volunteering" we found that volunteer motivations have shifted significantly. In the past those top three things have been more self-focused, building my network, build my skills and do something that makes me feel good. These new three motivators – impact, connections and belonging – are more other focused, outward focused.

Slide 2 - Volunteer Availability

We have seen an increase, year on year, to the volunteers looking to find a new opportunity. It is up and that tells us that volunteers are available. We also see that organizations calling for volunteers is down. This may be attributed to the increase demand on services and decreased funding those organizations are experiencing. Our suggestion is think about the changing motivations, demographics, preferences and actions of volunteers. Your ability to attract new people to your cause depends on it.

Slide 3 - Volunteer Demographics

We have seen a significant shift in the age demographics of volunteers. Over the years the distribution of who (from which age categories) was volunteering came in pretty steadily the same way. That all changed once the pandemic arrived and has remained. While some suggest that "Boomers" are no longer volunteering, the truth appears to be more nuanced. Most age groups just aren't volunteering as many hours as they once did. Meanwhile the growth in volunteer numbers seen above can be attributed to "Gen Z" as they leave high school and seek to engage in community.

Slide 4 - Volunteer Preferences

Maybe this one is a bit obvious but bears repeating anyway. The pre and post pandemic story of volunteering includes an increased interest in Virtual Volunteering. As you can see below, it's not that In Person Volunteering has disappeared, it's just that volunteers expect options now that also fit in with the rest of their lives. We also see these trends in work and flexible work arrangements . . . guess what, volunteering isn't different because it's still about people in both cases. Note the obvious spike in interest when pandemic hit followed by a stabilizing interest that is higher than pre pandemic.

Slide 5 - Volunteer Actions

This is where we see a strong relationship between Volunteer Demographics (age) and Volunteer Actions (mobilizing compassion). This "new" generation of volunteers are very aware of climate action and social justice. They are aware of when something new happens or changes in the world around them. They immediately begin searching for ways to "mobilize their compassion" toward those causes, whether it be:

  • for Refugees following the war in Ukraine,
  • or support for Anti-racism following Black Lives Matter marches,
  • or support for Indigenous justice following residential school gravesites,
  • or Climate action following BC wildfires

All of these examples saw a spike in interest often followed by a sustained increase in interest that we label "mobilizing compassion".

In conclusion

There is no conclusion. Your volunteer program may not be designed for the changing interests of today's volunteer. There is no one single strategy we can give you that says "hey, here is how to ensure people care about your cause and joins you in that care". What we can say is there are a LOT of your neighbours, next door and across the country, that are looking to engage their passion and compassion, looking for that sense of belonging and impact, looking to make a new connections with you.

Post your opportunities on the Connector, keep reading our blog which includes Guest Blogs providing guidance and encouragement, and consider joining any of our upcoming coaching sessions which lets us dig deeper with you!

Your VolunteerConnector Team


Download - VolunteerConnector Presentation: 20230601 Data Tells A Story (ppt slide deck)



Six Years Of Journey - Guest Blog

Published: Jun 5, 2023 @ 1:54 PM

We will call this a Guest Blog but the truth is this is a blog written by someone who has been more than a guest. Sally Mansour has been an active member of our board and volunteer for over 6 years. Thanks for all the support Sally and for sharing your parting thoughts with us!


It’s June 1st, 10:25am and our AGM just ended - yup, always done in an under an hour to ensure we respect people’s time! 

Everyone can relate to the minute after an AGM is over. I believe the phrase is: “ahhhhhhh.’ But this time feels different for me… 

I just wrapped up 6 years (over 3 terms) at VolunteerConnector as a board director, and I already miss the amazing people I got to work with: a small but mighty team of staff, and an equally small but epic team of board directors. 

The organization evolved dramatically over the last 6 years. It went provincial, then digital, then national. Why hasn’t VolunteerConnector gone global, you ask? Well, I don’t count that idea out… I’ve stopped trying to predict the imaginative minds of the staff. Sounds too challenging and complex to me, and to the staff, that probably sounds like fun. 

But back to what they did do…

Over the last 6 years I witnessed a true metamorphosis. VolunteerConnecter (the Volunteer Centre of Calgary, formerly known as Propellus) went from serving thousands of people regionally to hundreds of thousands of people nationally. That alone was reason enough for the organic change in the name. But there was more to the name change than that. The name change was about ‘putting the volunteer at the centre of everything we do’ - a phrase we heard, said and wrote at every meeting. 

Our roles on the board went from nice and slow, to buckle your seatbelts! It went from regularly meeting in person, to relying on human connection virtually. It went from keeping up with the rhythm and changes of the sector, to drumming our own beat and leading a parade. 

That timeline wasn’t by design. It was expedited by the needs of the sector, the downward funding trends, and the rise of digital services. It was then much more dramatically expedited by the pandemic - who knew this magical tool for digital volunteer centres would be needed immediately? They did - the staff knew.

Hit after hit, after hit, the org stood the legit tests of time because innovation was the response of the staff, and adaptability was the response of the board. (I don’t say that boastfully - we really had no choice!) And now myself and two others who have been on the board for 6-7 years, Nyla Fuller and Jordan Kiss, step away knowing the new board and staff will take the org to its greatest potential. And we will have fun watching because it truly is another remarkable ‘made in Alberta’ story.

I share this all because if anyone reading this is thinking about being on a volunteer board, I want to say: DO IT! I highly recommend it. The one piece of advice I offer when people ask me how to pick a board is: don’t look for a board that looks like you, talks like you, thinks like you, and works like you. Look for a board that welcomes you, values you, challenges you, supports you, and teaches you. If you find that board, ride it out - the good and the bad days. It will empower you to be unapologetically yourself in other areas of your life, it will remind you of your gifts and strengths, and it will always feel like rewarding work. 

That’s what I got out of being on the VolunteerConnector board. Despite having been in the charitable sector for a couple decades and having been on other boards, I learned so much about the charitable and volunteer sector, about making complex business and governance decisions, about strengthening my EQ in a virtual workplace, and about marketing products in the digital space. 

I also learned more than I ever hoped for as we underwent antri-racism, diversity, equity, inclusion, training… and then learned even more when we actually implemented the knowledge we gained into our operations. 

I got to know some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever worked with. I am forever grateful for the friendships, professional connections, and unique bonds I have made along the way. They truly were a pillar of my survival these past few years and through the pandemic.

So yes, if you’re looking to find a unique way to grow, connect, contribute, build, value, learn, and even laugh, find a volunteer board role that resonates with you, apply confidently knowing that you are needed, and give it a go!

To all the staff, board members, contractors, and public committee members I worked with over the last 6 years at VC, thanks for being such epic explorers and navigators with me on this journey! 

#volunteer #board #boardofdirectors #canada #alberta #calgary #antiracism #inclusion #diversity #connection


2023 AGM Complete

Published: Jun 1, 2023 @ 12:58 PM

Thanks to everyone for a successful AGM this morning! We have a few new board members, thanked those who have been with us for so many years and of course shared some of the story of data.

As a reminder, we are seeing a huge shift in volunteer motivations, demographics and the way volunteers are "mobilizing their compassion". We will share a few more slides next week and add a couple of thoughts. In the mean time, if you have a question about volunteering and the trends right now . . . ask us. Let's see if we can get the data to inform your engagement story!



World Refugee Day

Published: May 30, 2023 @ 6:00 PM

World Refugee Day falls on June 20 each year and celebrates the strength and courage of those who have had to flee their home country to escape. The theme of this year is “compassion and hopes to create a world where everyone can be more connected by being compassionate towards others.”

Our friends at CLIP have created an easy way to support this cause through messages of hope.

If you are in Calgary and have a spare couple of minutes this week then fill this out and send it to CLIP. If you are reading this from somewhere then check out The UN Refugee Agency list of events


Election Time - Prioritizing What Matters

Published: May 25, 2023 @ 12:42 PM

It's election time in Alberta. Many feelings surround this event, and not all of them are positive. For some sectors in the non-profit world, an election can mean uncertainty. A new government could mean new priorities, budgets, and funding. As a result, there is a level of fear and concern, not just for agencies that do good in many communities but also for the jobs and livelihoods they provide. It’s a shame that issues surrounding volunteerism, or even meeting basic needs, have become partisan instead of just being about helping people. Sometimes it's hard not to feel discouraged.

At times, it can feel as if we care more about the colour of the campaign billboard than the greater good. It's no longer about doing what's best; it's about being right. More than ever, we need to learn, or relearn, how to have healthy discourse. When we stop trying to understand where others are coming from, when we stop caring about opinions and perspectives different than ours, we lose our ability for empathy. Regarding politics, astrophysicist turned pop culture personality Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “Without rational discourse among ourselves and our elected representatives, we are non-interacting stovepipes on the brink of burning down the house.”

Committing to learning and understanding is vital if the goal is to better ourselves, our province, and our country. So let's get into the habit of hearing each other out. Let’s get into the practice of having compassion for each other's struggles and perspectives. Let’s make empathy commonplace in our discourse. If you're struggling with your decision to vote, I would encourage you to do two things. First, use the Vote Compass tool to see where you might lie on the political spectrum. Second, do your research. If you value community building and support for those in need, research different parties' policies surrounding those topics.

So where can you go from here? Find the needs in your community and equip yourself and those around you to meet them. How can you make a difference? Don’t wait for someone else to tell you where you should serve. VolunteerConnector exists for this very purpose, a way to connect volunteers to causes. If you are passionate about something, about helping somehow, there is more than likely a space for you to serve.

As always, I wish to encourage everyone reading to remember our privilege. Our privilege of democracy is the freedom to choose our leaders and not feel threatened or afraid to go out and vote. So honor this privilege, don’t take this freedom for granted, and go vote.



What are you willing to do?

Published: May 17, 2023 @ 6:00 PM

Every once and awhile I get on my soapbox about boards, and this is one of these times! My inbox has entered the AGM era and with that comes board recruitment times. Fun times for all! There are often two versions of the coaching conversations we have around board recruitment, the first one is around scarcity “we can’t find board members” and the second one is around diversity, “our board is not reflective of the community”. The response to both of those needs is the same question and it is the one that I will pose to the reader now; what are you willing to do? The answer might be nothing and that is ok, it is not ideal, but it is honest which is something. If you are willing to do something different this year I would invite you to think about who is not at the table and spend some energy thinking about what is preventing them from being there. Maybe it is thinking about when and how you meet? The number of steps it takes to apply for a board position? Perhaps, it is the number of words and requirements in your opportunity? It could be far more complicated and require more intensive collective work but starting and trying are real accomplishments! 

A couple resources if you are thinking about doing something different for board recruitment:

Gateway to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Hub

An Interview with Stanford Scholar Roberta Katz

The Circle 



2022 AGM - June 1

Published: May 17, 2023 @ 2:04 PM

Our 2022 AGM is coming up on June 1. Join us as it will include:

  • A brief business meeting
  • A presentation of the year in review
  • A discussion on how to use our/your data to support volunteer recruitment to your cause

See you all there: REGISTER



The Student Volunteer

Published: May 11, 2023 @ 1:30 PM

We were so lucky to host Tyler Sinke from Mohawk College for a session on the experience of the post-secondary student volunteer.

Great things happening in Hamilton, Ontario! The key takeaways for organizations looking to engage with this demographic are:

Get to know the school in your area… they can look different and have varied specialties which may or may not align with the work your organization does. There will be a student life human there who will be interested in building an authentic relationships and connection. So, reach out and see what can happen! 

Pre-emptively address barriers that students face; provide transportation, give out meals and snacks, vary the time commitments, maps, prioritize community belonging and fulfilling roles.  

Most students live by the post-secondary school calendar semesters, consider that when establishing your roles. 

During pandemic times lots of students missed out on co-op and work placements so opportunities that align to careers goals are interesting along with providing a letter of recommendation and/or references.

Check out the Mo Team on Instagram 


Connect with us!

Published: May 2, 2023 @ 12:00 PM

Sharing and learning with our fellow humans is one of our most favourite things here at VolunteerConnector. We love hearing how organizations and communities are navigating the world. It is also fun for us to share what we have been working on! We have some opportunities coming up to create spaces for building understanding and relating. Please feel free to join us for any or all and to let us know at if there is something you want to chat about! 

We know where some volunteers are! 

Festivals, Fairs, Rodeos Oh My!

Tips and Tricks for Boards 

Can I ask you a question? 


What Are The Numbers Saying?

Published: May 2, 2023 @ 8:50 AM

Earlier this year, Statistics Canada released their 2022 fourth-quarter data on volunteering. It is essential to understand the results and see what trends might be appearing. The numbers convey the narrative that volunteerism is down, but they may not be accurately telling the whole story. Nevertheless, we can use these statistics to gauge trends, and if organizations pay attention, it's possible to increase volunteerism in areas that might be experiencing a lack.

The Generation Gap

Gen Z boasts the highest rate of volunteering across Canada. Young people are passionate about helping and have developed an understanding of the personal benefits that accompany it. Volunteer recruitment needs to learn to engage every generation to volunteer at all levels. Organizations should determine the demographics of their volunteers and assess why they are attracting or lacking in specific areas. Take time to learn the motivations of different individuals. For example, many younger volunteers surveyed cited increasing job prospects or college applications as the reason for volunteering. We must understand what motivates other generations, such as the social benefits of volunteering, the valuable service to a community, or religious causes. Once an organization understands these motivations and how to apply them to recruitment, it can see growth in those demographics.

Needs of organizations run by visible minorities

Over 90% of Black and West-Asian-run organizations surveyed in Canada stated a shortage of volunteers. What does that actually mean, and how do we address that need? First, it's vital to understand that those living within a community are the best equipped to serve their respective communities. They have knowledge and experience of the struggles unique to those communities. Therefore, it's crucial to support those communities that are experiencing a lack of help by supporting those organizations that already exist within them. A big step towards decolonizing volunteerism is understanding that racialized communities don't require others to "save" them. Understanding racial barriers and how formal volunteerism may not be the right path for every community and organization is crucial. These communities have the ability to empower their own, and those organizations within the communities should be supported, not replaced.

Grassroots AND established organizations

Another trend from the data is the difference in volunteer engagement between older and younger organizations. The survey stated that only 3% of organizations under two years old were experiencing volunteer shortages, while 63% of organizations over 20 experienced the same deficits. There are two possible reasons for this trend. First, individuals might overlook long-standing institutions because, sometimes, the “crisis of the day” takes priority over long-term work. The news cycle often dominates where our time and money go. Sometimes timely and immediate support is necessary, but sustainability is crucial to meeting many community needs. Long-term organizations and volunteering can be a massive help to the stability of specific communities or advancing structural change.

The second explanation for the volunteer disparity is that individuals deem these older organizations out of touch. Grassroots initiatives are on the rise, which can lead to the decline of formal volunteering institutions. Research has shown that the pandemic exposed the gaps between traditional volunteerism and the need for grassroots organizations in some sectors. Determining what needs exist in communities and how individuals wish to meet those needs is crucial to the success of organizations that rely on volunteers.

Going forward

It is vital for organizations seeking volunteers to properly communicate the value they give to the community and the volunteer. The benefits of volunteerism can change the life of an individual as well as positively impact a community in need. The needs of communities within Canada are significant. How we attempt to serve communities and meet those needs will be dictated by those who wish to make a difference and how they wish to volunteer. If you're not listening or paying attention, that is when you will feel the decline in numbers. Not because there is no one out there to give of their time.



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