Sometimes I like to venture across borders to understand an issue, getting an alternative perspective on things. Last month I began seeing notices about a large Canadian study regarding volunteerism. A concentrated effort was being made to acknowledge some problems, understand the volunteer sector and identify the effects of a changing culture.
Canada is purported to have a very large proportionate volunteer base second only to the Netherlands. They want to keep it that way. Its volunteer sector is thought to be “a major contributor to our nation’s world-renowned ability to build quality communities.”
Kudos for recognizing it—characteristics of volunteers are changing. A study commissioned by Volunteer Canada—an organization committed to inspiring civic participation—unfortunately found that nearly two-thirds of volunteers reported at least one negative experience when trying to volunteer.
We’ve all been there, I think, especially if we’ve been active and versatile volunteers for decades.
The report “Bridging the Gap—Enriching the Volunteer Experience to Build a Better Future for our Communities” was completed. The study was done in the summer of 2010 culminating with a panel discussion in December. The demographic groups that were studied included youth, families, “baby boomers”, and employer-supported volunteers. It pursued the questions of what volunteers really want in their volunteer experiences, what are the issues that arise hampering the experiences, how one goes about finding satisfying roles and what organizations can do to improve their volunteer base.
For the study more than 200 documents were reviewed, a phone survey was conducted of more than 1,000, an online survey was performed of more than 200 non-profit organizations, 550 volunteers were also surveyed and 18 focus groups were held in rural and urban areas.
My next Garden Club Salon post will review what problematic themes the study identified and later we’ll view resulting recommendations.
Volunteers are valuable. Let’s see what we can find out about them.
Nancy R. Peck