What Are The Numbers Saying?
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.
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.