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The latest edition of the Canada Survey on Giving, Volunteering and Participating released in early June dispels the myth of the apathetic teen forever. The new survey indicates that Canadian teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 are more likely than those in any other age group to volunteer (65%). Teens also support different causes than other volunteers and have different motivations for becoming involved.

This is only one of the good news stories contained in the Survey's results. The Survey indicates that volunteering is alive and well in Canada, with almost 12 million Canadians volunteering their time to charities or organizations and contributing close to two billion volunteer hours. "It's very evident that Canadians care deeply about their communities and about making a contribution," says Marlene Deboisbriand, President of Volunteer Canada. "Individuals are giving 168 hours of their time every year to causes they believe in. That's the equivalent of four and-a-half work weeks, a tremendous investment of time and energy."

However, the Survey also sheds some light on exactly who is volunteering-and who isn't. It turns out that the vast majority of volunteer hours are contributed by a very small group of Canadians. In terms of the whole population, only 11% of Canadians contributed 77% of all volunteer hours. These figures indicate that Canada's 161,000 voluntary and non-profit organizations rely on a thin base of support. "These organizations provide a wealth of services to our communities," says Deboisbriand. "Their volunteers are indispensable to the health, social service and education sectors, the arts community, areas in sport and recreation, our faith communities and the political election system. We need to recognize our over reliance on a select few and work to foster and grow volunteerism in this country."

According to the Survey, it appears that giving, volunteering and participating behaviours are very highly linked. People who volunteer are also more likely to donate, help others directly and participate by belonging to groups, associations and organizations. A full 69% of volunteers engaged in all four activities, and 25% in three forms. A large majority (92%) of volunteers made financial donations (compared to 85% of Canadians), while 91% helped others directly (compared to 83% of Canadians) and 83% participated (compared to 66% of Canadians).These findings send a strong message to organizations, businesses and governments that investment in programs that support volunteers and volunteerism are well worth the time and expenditure. By strengthening volunteerism, it's clear that there that there is a pay-off in terms of increased donations, direct helping activity and participation in associations and organizations.

This Survey also touches on some interesting regional variations. The Yukon and Northwest Territories have the second and third highest rates of volunteering for an organization inall of Canada. Residents of Nunavut have the highest rates of helping each other directly through unpaid babysitting, provision of medical or personal care, and help with taxes or shopping.

The Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating is an on-going research initiative jointly conducted by Statistics Canada and Imagine Canada. Volunteer Canada plays a planning and development role by actively participating in the Steering Committee. The Survey compiled data from over 20,000 respondents to yield a rich collection of information on how Canadians get involved in community life. The information is of value to both the voluntary sector and various levels of government to better understand and further encourage giving, volunteering and participating among Canadians.

The Survey is available online at www.givingandvolunteering.ca

In response to the release of CSGVP results, and with a focus on the "volunteering" aspects of the Survey, Volunteer Canada has developed a comprehensive Powerpoint training session as a tool to initiate discussion within organizations and among voluntary sector agents in Canadian communities. The training session explores key results of the Survey, as well as some important trends and their impact on volunteerism. It is designed to encourage discussion on the implications for programming, both strategically and operationally.

This article first appeared on www.volunteer.ca


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