The pandemic has posed tremendous challenges to volunteer organizations, given the repeated lockdowns and re-openings during the various waves of infection. Particularly challenging is that seniors—Canada’s most dedicated volunteers in terms of hours committed—were also among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.
We will be conducting the National Survey of Non-profit and Voluntary Organizations later this year to better understand the full effects of the pandemic on volunteering. We also asked Canadians about their formal and informal volunteering activities prior to the pandemic in 2018.
Here is a snapshot of what volunteering looked like in Canada before the pandemic.
Four in five Canadians aged 15 and older reported that they volunteered prior to the pandemic, either as part of an organization (formal volunteering) or on their own without the involvement of a group (informal volunteering). Altogether, 24 million Canadians volunteered 2.5 million hours of their time to improve the health, well-being, education and safety of our communities in 2018.
On average, Canadians aged 15 and older dedicated 206 hours of their time in 2018. Canadians were most likely to dedicate their formal volunteer hours to hospitals and religious organizations, sports and recreation, and arts and culture (over 100 hours per year, on average).
Women (44%) were more likely than men (38%) to volunteer on behalf of a group or an organization.
Gen Zs most likely to volunteer, but Canada’s oldest generation contributed the most hours, on average
Just over half (52%) of Gen Zs—those born in 1996 or later—volunteered in 2018, by far the highest rate of formal volunteerism among all age groups.
Topping the list of reasons for volunteering given by Gen Zs was the desire to improve job prospects, identified by 38% of the youngest volunteers in this group. Gen Zs were also most likely to state that their contributions were tied to co-op, graduation or employment requirements, with about 10% of their volunteer hours representing mandatory unpaid work.
Canada’s oldest citizens (those born before 1945) were least likely to engage in formal volunteering (32%), but they logged almost three times the average number of hours per year (222) of Gen Zs (82 hours).
Event organizing and fundraising are the most common type of formal volunteering activity
About 1 in 6 Canadians aged 15 and older helped organize, supervise or coordinate activities or events, or helped raise money in 2018; 1 in 10 sat on a committee or board, taught or mentored, helped provide food to those in need, or lent an ear and offered advice.
Almost three in four Canadians make a difference in their community by helping others directly through informal volunteering
While millions of Canadians formally volunteer their time to an organization, many also do so informally, such as helping out family, friends, neighbors or the community. In 2018, almost 3 in 4 Canadians aged 15 and older (22.7 million people) devoted the equivalent of 1.8 million full-time, year-round jobs to informal volunteering.
Canadians dedicated most of their informal volunteering hours to helping others directly (137 hours) in 2018, also contributing an average of 45 hours to improving their community through activities like maintaining a park or public space. Almost half of Canadians volunteered their time to help someone with their housework, outdoor work or home maintenance.
Other informal volunteer activities included driving someone to appointments (39%) and providing someone with health-related or personal care (39%).
More volunteering data are on the way
Results from the National Survey on Non-profit and Voluntary Organizations will be published in 2023.
For more information, contact the Statistical Information Service (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; firstname.lastname@example.org) or Media Relations (email@example.com).