Society and community
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Close to half of Canadians aged 15 and older volunteered for charitable and non-profit organizations in 2007. Their contributions included a wide range of activities: serving on boards and committees, advocating for social causes, canvassing for funds, visiting seniors and coaching children and youth.
From 2004 to 2007, both the number of volunteers and the number of volunteer hours increased. Volunteer hours totalled 2.1 billion in 2007, a 4.2% increase from 2004. That volunteer time was the equivalent of 1.1 million full-time jobs. The total number of volunteers reached 12.5 million in 2007, a 5.7% increase from 2004. However, the average number of hours volunteered annually fell from 168 to 166.
Volunteer activity varies across the country. In 2007, the volunteer rate was highest in Saskatchewan (59%), followed by Yukon (58%), Prince Edward Island (56%) and Nova Scotia (55%). It was lowest in Quebec (37%).
Many Canadians volunteer as part of a group with family or friends. In 2007, 26% of volunteers said they volunteered as part of a group project with family members, while 43% volunteered with their friends, neighbours or colleagues.
Concentration of support
The majority of volunteer hours come from a small group of volunteers. The top 25% of volunteers—those who contributed 171 hours or more—gave 78% of all volunteer hours in 2007. These top volunteers are a key resource for charitable and non-profit organizations. As a proportion of the population, 12% of all Canadians contributed 78% of the total volunteer hours.
A number of social and economic characteristics distinguish individuals who are likely to volunteer. In 2007, people more likely to be top volunteers were those who attended religious services once a week, had a high level of education, had an annual household income of $100,000 or more and had only school-aged children in their households. The likelihood of volunteering was lowest among older Canadians, but those seniors who did volunteer contributed more hours than any other age group in Canada.
Immigrants and volunteering
In 2007, 40% of the immigrant population aged 15 and older volunteered their time, energy and skills with charitable and non-profit organizations. While immigrants were less likely to volunteer than native-born Canadians (49%), those immigrants who did volunteer contributed more hours on average (171 vs. 163).
Immigrants who have been in Canada longer tend to volunteer more hours than those who have arrived more recently. Volunteers who arrived in Canada before 1971 contributed an average of 224 hours annually, whereas volunteers who arrived in 1999 or later contributed an average of 137 hours annually.
Immigrant volunteers and Canadian-born volunteers generally volunteer for similar types of organizations. However, immigrants are less likely than native-born Canadians to volunteer for sports and recreation (7% vs. 13%) and social services organizations (8% vs. 12%). On the other hand, immigrants are slightly more likely to volunteer for religious organizations (13% vs. 10%).
Popular volunteer organizations
People are likely to volunteer for four main types of organizations: sports and recreation (11%), social services (11%), education and research (10%) and religious (10%). The percentage of volunteers for each type of organization in 2007 was virtually unchanged from 2004.
The average number of hours contributed to organizations declined from 2004 to 2007. Volunteering for law, advocacy and political organizations fell from 123 hours to 104 hours, the largest decline. Business, professional associations and unions saw volunteering decline from 106 hours to 91 hours, while volunteering with arts and culture organizations decreased from 120 hours to 107 hours. In contrast, the average hours contributed to religious organizations increased from 126 hours to 141 hours.
Most volunteers concentrate on a single organization. In 2007, 51% of volunteers volunteered for only one organization, 28% volunteered for two and 22% volunteered for three or more. In terms of total time allotted, volunteers contributed 77% of their volunteer hours to one organization.
In 2007, 93% of volunteers cited the desire to make a contribution to their community, 77% wanted to use personal skills and experiences, 59% had been personally affected by the cause, 50% wished to explore their own strengths, 48% volunteered to network or meet people and 47% joined in because their friends did.
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