Every year, over 12 million Canadians volunteer their time and skills to organizations solving pressing social problems, contributing time that's equal to more than 1 million full time jobs every year. Besides helping organizations advance their mission, research has shown that volunteering strengthens the intangibles in our communities, like social trust and feelings of belonging.
While it's easy to find a charity that needs volunteers, we think there's a smart way of volunteering, one that maximizes the benefit for the charity and the fulfilment for you. This is is our guide to do just that.
Before you jump to specific organizations, take a step back and start with the actual problems that you want to help tackle. Is it homelessness in your community? Mentoring at-risk youth? Environmental sustainability and climate change? If you're not sure, take a look through our funds for inspiration on areas where you can make an impact.
Look for effective charities working in the problem area with a proven track record of accountability and results. This means that you should be able to easily find information on how they spend money, how the programs are run, and how those programs made an impact in the problem you identified in step 1. The charities in our funds are great examples of the charities you should be looking for.
Charities might need help in ways beyond what a volunteer position posting might say - don't hesitate to reach out and ask what their needs are to see how you can best help. Some opportunities might naturally align with your skills (like graphic design or social media), and some might take you out of your comfort zone (like unpacking food or mentoring youth). Any given charity needs help across a variety of functions, so it's best if you can align a charity's needs with your interest and skills.
Most volunteer roles will require some minimum amount of time you need to commit, and there's a good reason for that. Just because volunteer work is unpaid, it doesn't mean that you can come and go as you please. Training takes time and resources, and once you're ramped up as a member of the team, people (both in and outside the charity) will be depending on you. Be honest with yourself and the charity with the time you have to offer, otherwise you might end up wasting resources or inhibiting the work of other people.
We hope that this guide helps you find meaningful volunteer opportunities that make a real impact! Here are some more resources to help you find the right opportunity: