Chet Greason email@example.com
According to a report compiled by the United Way’s Social Research and Planning Council, in 2006 (the most recent year for which figures are available) the not-for-profit sector added more to Canada’s GDP than the entire accommodation and food services industries combined, or more than double that of agriculture, and six times as much as the entire automotive industry.
Volunteer numbers have been increasing across Canada. In Perth County, volunteers contributed an estimated five million volunteer hours- or the equivalent of 2,500 full-time jobs.
The report, entitled The Heart of the Community: A Report on Volunteerism in Perth and Huron Counties, was officially released at a press conference held at the Local Community Food Centre on Thursday, which coincided with an information session offered by Volunteers in Perth, an organization that acts as a resource for volunteers and volunteer administrators.
“Topping the list of organizations clocking the highest volunteer hours is the sports and recreation sector,” states the report. “Next in line is the faith sector. Social services comes third.”
More than half of Canadian volunteers in 2010 were aged 15 to 24, although the report notes they contributed fewer hours overall than older volunteers. Citing a StatsCan report, the Council estimates that mandatory volunteer hours in Ontario school districts likely contributes to the high number of young volunteers.
Seniors, meanwhile, had a lower participation rate of 35 per cent, although those that do volunteer gave almost double the hours of younger Canadians.
“StatsCan also reported that, although rates of volunteering differ from province to province, they are consistently higher in rural regions- like right here in Perth and
Huron counties,” read the report.
“There’s a lot of things to work on,” said United Way Perth-Huron executive director Ryan Erb while presenting the report’s findings. “But there’s also a lot to celebrate.”
The report cites seven issues that face the local volunteer industry. These are:
• Too few volunteers to meet demand
• A lack of volunteer coordinators and Codes of Best Practices
• An aging volunteer pool, plus a small minority doing half the work
• No one-stop shop to promote or find volunteer opportunities either online or on the street
• The vast geographic regions covered by both counties, and the transportation issues inherent to the area
• The busy and demanding realities of modern life that leave little free time
• And mounting paperwork and screening requirements
Burn-out is an issue amongst consummate volunteers, who take on more tasks due to a lack of available bodies. Those bodies are often not forthcoming because they’re too busy trying to supplement a living.
“The middle class is being squeezed more and more for time and money” the report quotes Bruce Shaw, president of the Rotary Club of Grand Bend. “Generally speaking, younger volunteers are trying to look after their kids and their careers and they simply don’t have a lot of time left over.”
To combat these issues, the report recommends establishing a working group that would review existing websites that post volunteer positions in an effort to make a more cohesive system that ensures people are aware of the needs that are out there. The group would also develop a volunteer recruitment strategy; assess the need for a centralized volunteer centre, either online or in a physical building; and explore the feasibility of a volunteer network for Huron County similar to Volunteers in Perth.
For more information regarding volunteer opportunities in Perth County, email Volunteers in Perth at firstname.lastname@example.org.