Volunteers in Calgary: Why they volunteer, common trends and what they want

By YMCA Volunteer Rita Gore

Did you know that 6 in 10 Calgarians volunteered in 2011? So says the results of an online survey conducted for Volunteer Calgary between November 16 and November 24, 2011.

Established in 1955, Volunteer Calgary “has a long history of helping organizations enhance volunteer engagement and promoting volunteerism in the community.”

Some other facts in their report that caught my eye:

  • 25% of the volunteer work is done through non-profits
  • 60% Calgary volunteers provide 5 or less hours each month
  • Word of mouth is top method for sharing info about volunteer options
  • Volunteers are influenced by other individuals about where to volunteer
  • Fully 1/3 (33%) sourced out volunteer opportunities through a person they already knew

Why do Calgarians volunteer?

Volunteering for Calgarians seems to have a “personal” side to it:

  • 51% volunteer because a child/spouse was already involved with an organization or a particular activity
  • 51% have a friend/family member who asked them to volunteer
  • 49% wanted to develop skills in a particular area
  • 46% volunteer with an organization that provided them a service
  • 40% have close friends/family who also volunteer

Another Canadian report titled Bridging the Gap outlines seven interesting trends to be found among current Canadian volunteers.

Seven Common Trends among Volunteers Today:

1. Volunteering changes throughout our lifecycle, along with evolving priorities, circumstances and interests;

2. Today’s volunteers are more goal-oriented, autonomous, tech-savvy and mobile;

3. Volunteering is a two-way relationship that needs to meet the goals of the volunteer and the organization;

4. Volunteering is personal and stems from individual preferences and motivations;

5. Volunteering is a way to transfer and develop skills by gaining or sharing experiences;

6. Volunteering in groups’ appeals to all ages for social and business networking;

7. Finding satisfying volunteering is not easy for everyone.


  • Calgary has the most active core of volunteers in Canada.
  • Most Calgarians have volunteered at some time in their lives, and the vast majority continues to be active.

The Volunteer Calgary study also discovered that volunteerism in Calgary seems very much focused on activities that revolve around some personal and/or family connection.

Apparently a “personal connection” tends to make volunteering more relevant for Calgary volunteers, says the feedback compiled in the 2011 research report.

Teresa Saliba – Eau Claire YMCA 2011 Adult Volunteer of the Year

“Whether it’s the type of volunteer activity or organization with which Calgarians become involved, the motivations that drive volunteer activity, or the nature of key influencers, having a “personal connection” tends to make volunteering more relevant for Calgary’s volunteers.” This sounds like an important factor for agencies to take into consideration then, when trying to recruit volunteers.

In fact, the Eau Claire YMCA provides that perfect place for me to volunteer right now. I was drawn there in part, because of my own positive experience but also because of two friends, Charlene Waldal and Joanie Snodgrass who have volunteered for years at Shawnessy YM.

I am semi-retired, motivated to keep fit and looking for an opportunity to hone my writing and research skills .After completing a Volunteer application form I sat down with Program Manager Lisa Kingston to review options.

Most importantly for me she asked right off “what do you like to do?” And soon we found a fit- researching and writing for the YMCA blog and newsletter. I have been able to attend some in house training and although Lisa has offered up some helpful suggestions for topics, she’s also given me lots of control.

Instead of my needs being unique though, based on the research I have been doing for this month’s blog article, apparently I am behaving exactly like they predict a baby boomer generation volunteer will-

  • Boomer volunteers want to see results
  • Look for life-long learning opportunities
  • Expect choice and flexibility
  • Use current technology
  • Want opportunity to learn new skills, personal growth while benefitting others.

Have you ever considered volunteering? Or maybe you have been quietly volunteering for year’s .Either way, it would be great to hear about your experience, what motivated you to get involved and what keeps you coming back.

For more information on volunteering at the Eau Claire YMCA, please contact Lisa Kingston at 403-781-1683 or visit our website to fill out an on line volunteer application.



Volunteer Calgary

Awareness, Attitudes and

Usage Research

December 2011( Prepared by SAWTM Insight)

‘Bridging the Gap: Enriching the volunteer experience to build a better future for our communities-Highlights of a pan-Canadian research study’ at www.volunteer.ca


The New Face of Volunteerism, Luanne Whitmarsh, Dorothy Dooley