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2023 AGM - June 12, 2024

Published: Apr 9, 2024 @ 9:07 AM

Our 2023 AGM is coming up on June 12, 2024. 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


Never Enough- Five Years of Meals on Wheels Volunteer Shortages

Published: Mar 27, 2024 @ 6:00 AM

Volunteer Toronto has launched their much-anticipated Research Report: Never Enough, Five Years of Meals on Wheels Volunteer Shortages. Huge congratulations to Kasandra and the whole team at Volunteer Toronto for putting this together such enormous energy and effort to produce!

You should read the whole report, we wanted to highlight some things we thought were interesting. 

This report is such a cool discussion on intersectionality. The first layer being the humans requiring the services of Meals on Wheels and the various identities that they hold in our community. The labour that we put on these humans to access the supports they need to have quality of life is wild and undoubtedly exhausting. The other layer of intersectionality we found interesting was the weaving of the broad issue of food security, the world event of the Covid-19 pandemic and how those two issues collide with grassroots organizing, mutual aid and formal existing non-profits. There is such a layered story there and it is cool to examine how it has looked in a particular place at a particular time. 

Another aspect of the report that stuck out to us was using demographic data to potentially identify the “Ideal” Meals on Wheels volunteer and concluding that does not exist at the quantity needed to fill the need in community. It is cool to think about organizations applying this process when thinking about their own volunteer engagement and formulating opportunities. Furthermore, using that lens when deciding how reasonable it is to continue struggling in their volunteer recruitment. It seems like another strategy to tackle the shift in volunteerism. 

Finally, very helpful to return to a story five years later. We often see data come and go, highlights or trending topics pop up. Volunteer Toronto initially studied Meals on Wheels volunteer recruitment struggles in 2018, tried some interventions and supports and now in 2024 are revisiting. Certainly, gives weight to the recommendations that Volunteer Toronto has laid out. 

Thanks again for all your awesome work in the land of volunteerism Volunteer Toronto! 


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)



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 Volunteer Perspective - Part 3

Published: Apr 14, 2023 @ 12:03 PM

The Volunteer Perspective (Pt3) – dig deeper with me!

We have a special advantage at the VolunteerConnector. We get a birds-eye view of what people are seeking out as interests and what people are choosing to give their time to after all that exploring. It’s through this that we can identify volunteer trends and more. Here’s a taste . . .

If the choices volunteers are making with their searches, views and applications are to be believed then here’s a list of do’s and don’ts when recruiting your neighbours:

  • Do create opportunities that are connected to Diversity/Anti-Racism and Environment/Advocacy.
  • Don’t create opportunities that are connected to Fundraising and Information Technology.
  • Do ask people to interact directly with your clients such as Patient Care and Tutoring.
  • Don’t ask people to do your Contract Writing and vague Board Positions.


Kudos to a couple organizations that volunteers found exciting:

Top Tip: work hard to find the balance between being too vague and too verbose in your postings, neither of those work.

People always want to be connected to fun and excitement . . . stay tuned next week as we look at the Toronto Blue Jays recent renovation of the Rogers Centre and what lessons can be applied to community engagement!

Happy to connect to dig deeper with anyone interested in telling the story of the volunteer!



The Volunteer Perspective - Part 2

Published: Apr 13, 2023 @ 2:49 PM

The Volunteer Perspective – dig deeper with me!

I have a huge spreadsheet for crunching numbers and tracking our org’s story. It’s one that causes my colleagues and board to release a dramatic sigh when I open and say “I just have to show you something” … most often accompanied with heavy eyerolls. So follow along with my best Dwight Schrute impression …

We cannot support the narrative that “Canada has seen a dramatic decline in volunteers” because the data provided by volunteers year over year does not say/show/exhibit that behaviour.

Fact: Volunteers applying to volunteer increased 18.114% from 2021 to 2022.

We can support the narrative that organizations are struggling with demand and volunteer engagement is feeling that.

Fact: Organizations seeking volunteers decreased 22.852% from 2021 to 2022.

What is our best guess as to why there are capacity struggles on the organization side? Probably a familiar nonprofit story of “do more with less”. We actually see a lot of information out there answering that question right now. Most of our friends point to the need for increased funding to the sector.

We just think, with the data from volunteers in mind, that it’s not helpful to the volunteer movement and all Canadians to suggest our neighbours aren’t ready and willing to show up for one another. (see previous post for volunteer trends)

You may wonder why we have a different story to tell?

  • That’s because we have centered the volunteer in the VolunteerConnector
  • That’s because we intentionally built a digital platform from the ground up to have access to volunteer data as well as the organizational perspective
  • That’s because in sector starved for data, we have millions of data points telling a different story!

Happy to connect to dig deeper with anyone interested in telling the story of the volunteer!

#nonprofit #engagement #canada #impact #connections #belonging #volunteering



The Volunteer Perspective - Part 1

Published: Apr 12, 2023 @ 12:15 PM

The Volunteer Perspective - dig deeper with me!

In response to the narrative that volunteers aren’t around and ready to support community - we see a deeper story in the reams of data we have. It still speaks to stress of nonprofits that need to adapt … but we see plenty of volunteers!

Three key trends inform volunteerism right now:

  1. Formal volunteer programs that rely on an aging volunteer base that is stepping back are struggling to adapt.
    • This was happening prior to the pandemic and, anecdotally, we heard stories of baby boomers stepping back due to volunteer burnout as soon as pandemic began. This means this volunteer base is not returning the same way.
  2. A highly engaged new generation of volunteer in Gen Z that is careful about how they spend their time.
    • Important to this demographic is that their volunteer efforts be connected to social justice and/or climate action. If an organization can’t clearly demonstrate their connection to these two causes then these volunteers are willing to look elsewhere for their opportunity to engage in their community.
  3. Grassroots initiatives have been growing, possibly at the expense of formal volunteering in organizations that uphold the barriers to community engagement.
    • There are many barriers that still exist related to volunteer engagement. Because of that, and the expectation that volunteers want to connect to their preferred cause (not organization), grassroots initiatives have been on the rise. (Barriers are covered in our report An Anti Racist Approach to Volunteering).

It is definitely challenging for organizations to adapt to these changing trends, especially as increase demand for services further stresses out staff. There are probably no end of organizations that could provide the perspective that volunteering is down.

But from the volunteer perspective #impact #connections and #belonging have never been more important!

Finally ... 

Our data, based on volunteer behaviour all over the nation is something we have been able to track throughout the pandemic. Briefly the pandemic story has been:

  1. A hastening of the above trends
  2. A surge of volunteer interest at the beginning of the pandemic which we attribute to neighbours wanting to care for neighbours
  3. Tiny blips of volunteer interest that coincided with the various levels of government putting out conflicting messages of “stay home and distance” and “get back to normal . . . maybe”. But even then they were tiny blips that lasted only a week or two.

Happy to connect to dig deeper with anyone interested in telling the story for the volunteer!



What Is Going On With Volunteerism?

Published: Jul 26, 2022 @ 9:27 AM

As a team we have been seeing the stories in the news- ‘volunteer numbers down!’ ‘Festival desperate for volunteers!’ ‘Organization closing due to lack of volunteers!’ so we thought we would take a moment and share some things we are observing. 

We are not seeing a decline or an unusual spike in volunteer postings in any of our regions served. Instead, what we are seeing is a fast shift in volunteer interest - opportunities that are rooted in social justice or environment fill nearly instantly. Most opportunities take 2 weeks to fill but there is far more demand for social justice/environmental than there are opportunities out there. 

We can attribute these changes to a couple things:

  • Demographic shift- >30 years old is our largest user group, and we have seen a reduction in the over 65 folks. This has been an ongoing shift since 2019.
  • Increase in grassroots postings. The growth in volunteer postings from these types of organizations is up 30%. 

Our musings are that boomers are potentially relying on existing community connections for their volunteerism. Volunteers seem to have also shifted towards choosing roles that align with their interest and values rather than skills. Ultimately belonging is what volunteers are craving and the opportunities/organizations that are meeting that need that look different today than they did in 2019. 



Volunteering Is Belonging

Published: Feb 8, 2022 @ 2:52 PM

Volunteering has often been understood as "giving back" or "networking" or "skill development" but consider the word - BELONGING - and what that might mean to you.

From the report, An Anti-Racist Approach to Volunteering:

Volunteering and having your effort recognized gives participants a sense of belonging. When people feel valued, that value is reflected in the way they make meaning of their lives. This is important for personal growth and self-worth. Many participants indicate that volunteering is important for their mental health, and we need to consider the effects of removing these opportunities. When these opportunities are not available because of barriers, we are denying people the personal benefits that come from volunteering.