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UN Report Paints New Picture of Volunteerism

“It is essential to understand and appreciate volunteerism in terms of the focus which it places on people centred approaches, on partnerships, on motivations beyond money, and on openness to the exchange of ideas and information.  Above all, volunteerism is about the relationships it can create and sustain among citizens of a country. It generates a sense of social cohesion and helps to create resilience [which] are often the mainstay of a decent life for which all people strive. Volunteerism is an act of human solidarity, of empowerment and of active citizenship.”

This is one of the closing remarks of the 2011 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report, an informative and enthusiastic testament to the value of volunteering in all corners of the world. The report is the United Nation’s first on volunteering and marks the 10th anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers.

While the focus of the report is on how volunteerism contributes to peace and development globally, the insights it shares are certainly applicable right here in Alberta. The report defines ‘development’ as much more than economic growth, instead it sees development as “expanding the choices available to people so that they may lead lives that they value”. This definition challenges us to think about volunteering differently, to see it as even more powerful than many of us in the voluntary sector believe.

The Volunteerism Report dismisses the idea that volunteerism is a one-way street where the volunteer gives and someone else benefits. Instead advocating an understanding of volunteering as a reciprocal relationship where volunteering works to benefit the volunteer and their community simultaneously.

With this in mind, the report provides a wide range of examples of how those engaging volunteers around the world are changing their techniques to achieve their goals.  Rather than only sending volunteers from developed countries to developing countries, international volunteering programs are involving people from developing countries as volunteers themselves. Volunteers living in poverty remind us that while a lack of income may restrict their opportunities, they also have knowledge, skills, labour, and networks. Through volunteering, they are able to improve their own lives while sharing these assets with their communities. These are lessons that we can apply here in our own province.

A quick glance at the 2010 Canadian Survey of Giving, Volunteering, and Participating (CSGVP) statistics, released last month, shows the pronounced effect volunteering has on our communities. For volunteers, the benefits of getting involved are numerous; volunteering offers people an opportunity to change the society they live in, for example, through political lobbying and activism. Volunteering provides individuals with skills and values they can bring with them into the workforce, or to continue to use a lifetime of knowledge. There is a correlation between volunteering and improved mood, life satisfaction, self-respect, and increased physical health. Alberta is great because of our volunteers, but volunteers may just be the biggest winners of all.

Join us in celebrating volunteerism in Canada and all the good that it represents during National Volunteer Week, April 15th–21st.

If you’d like to find out more about world-wide volunteerism, you can read the 2011 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report here.

Sam Kriviak
Program Coordinator

Contributions of the Nonprofit Sector

Very interesting report on the nonprofit sector in Ontario:

Contributions of the NonProfit Sector

The nonprofit sector is an often-overlooked contributor to the Canadian economy. In 2007, the value-added or gross domestic product (GDP) of the nonprofit sector was $35.6 billion, accounting for 2.5 per cent of the total Canadian economy. This share increases to 7.0 per cent when hospitals, universities and colleges are included, reaching $100.7 billion in 2007.14 Excluding hospitals, colleges and universities, the nonprofit sector employs 600,000 people and has over five million volunteers, supporting a wide variety of sectors including health, education, environment and social services in Ontario. These same nonprofit organizations in the province have annual revenues of $29 billion, 45 per cent coming from earned income, 29 per cent from federal and provincial government grants and service contracts, and 26 per cent from gifts, donations and other sources.15

Most nonprofit organizations (53 per cent) in Ontario are completely volunteer-run, having no paid staff.16 We must not underestimate the contributions of volunteers to care for our elderly, retrain the unemployed, educate our children and care for our environment. Steps should be taken to ensure that these organizations continue to get funding. However, there is room for improvement in terms of streamlining administration and ensuring that accountability frameworks focus on outcome metrics. In addition, multi-year agreements can help create predictable budget cycles for nonprofit organizations.

Recommendation 8-17: Reform funding practices in the nonprofit sector to increase flexibility and reduce administrative costs by focusing on measuring outcomes rather than inputs.

There is also room for improving the responsiveness of the government to the nonprofit sector. The Commission notes the precedent set by the Open for Business initiative that creates a single window through which business can engage all government ministries. We believe a similar model would be helpful to the nonprofit sector, which is just as varied and diverse as the private sector.

Recommendation 8-18: Provide a single point of access within government for the nonprofit sector to improve and broaden relationships across ministries that enter into contracts with the nonprofit sector, using a model such as the Open for Business initiative.

Read the full report here: http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/reformcommission/index.html

Got A Question? RCVO to the Rescue

Yesterday my co-worker wondered aloud what the difference is between incorporating an organization under the Societies Act and incorporating under the Alberta Companies Act.  With access to resources and links I set out to find an answer and a short time later I found myself frustrated that I couldn’t find a solution in the usual places. Then it dawned on me, the answer was right under my nose: the Learning Resource Guides available online at www.rcvo.org.

Feeling like a fool for overlooking one of Volunteer Alberta’s most reliable information resources, I immediately headed to the RCVO@Volunteer Alberta website. Not only did I quickly find the answer to my query, I also solved a few other related questions I had been working on. Every day I refer people and organizations to the Learning Resource Guides on www.rcvo.org, but it turns out they are a great resource for VA too. While there is no shortage of expertise among the staff at Volunteer Alberta, sometimes the simplest solution is the best one.

Every Learning Resource Guide is clear and concise while also being very informative and helpful. If you need information on any issue relating to the nonprofit/voluntary sector, the Learning Resource Guides are the perfect starting point. Today there are over 40 Learning Resource Guides at your disposal on www.rcvo.org and more will be added in the coming months to meet the growing demand.

Learning Resource Guides are certainly not the only way Volunteer Alberta provides indispensable information for the nonprofit/voluntary sector, but they are excellent quick reference guides for any person or organization with a question; even if that organization happens to be Volunteer Alberta.

–          Tim Henderson

Number of Canadians Concerned about Charity Fraud Up Considerably

CanadaHelps and Capital One Canada launch the second annual charity fraud awareness quiz with $20,000 grand prize

Toronto, ON (February 24, 2011) – Canadians are generous donors, but two-thirds (65%) of them are worried about fraudulent charities, which is up considerably from a survey done in November 2009 (51%). These beliefs, coupled with the difficulty in recovering their lost donation, ultimately results in more than half of Canadians (53%) stating they are less likely to give to charities because of concerns about fraud.

A large proportion, (41%) say they do not take simple steps to check if a charity is registered, ask the solicitor for ID, or visit the charity’s website before making a donation and instead rely on the reputation of the charity, and/or, past personal experience with the charity. The survey also found that just over half of Canadians (52%) say they are not confident they would know where to turn to in the event their donation did not go to a legitimate cause.

“What concerns us most is the growing number of Canadians who are worried about these crimes,” said Owen Charters, CEO of CanadaHelps. “In educating Canadians to understand the warning signs of these scams, we hope that the well-earned trust in legitimate charities will remain high and Canadians’ eagerness to donate will continue to grow.”

Today’s survey also found that up to 22% of Canadians say they prefer to donate online – an 8 point climb from a similar study conducted in November 2009. In contrast the number of Canadians who say they prefer to donate by cheque is down 7 points over the same time period (from 32% to 25%). Younger Canadians appear to be a driving force behind this change – nearly a third of Canadians aged 18-34 (31%) say online donations are their preferred method.

“With more and more Canadians preferring to donate online, it is increasingly important for credit card users to understand what to look for to ensure they are donating through a legitimate and secure website,” said Laurel Ostfield, spokesperson, Capital One Canada. “We know that awareness is key in helping Canadians protect themselves from fraud. By partnering with CanadaHelps on this campaign, we hope to educate as many Canadians as possible so they are empowered to make safe, charitable donations.”

To educate the public about charity fraud, Capital One Canada and CanadaHelps are teaming up during Fraud Prevention Month for the second annual Charity Fraud Awareness Quiz. This quiz will help participants identify the signs of charity fraud to hopefully avoid these malicious schemes.

The online Charity Fraud Awareness Quiz is designed to inform Canadians about the risk of charity fraud and how to prevent it. Accessible at www.canadahelps.org, every participant who completes the quiz will be eligible to enter into a draw to win a $20,000 grand prize donation, or one of $1,000 weekly donations from Capital One, to be made to the winner’s charity of choice. The Charity Fraud Awareness Quiz runs from March 1-31, 2011.

Capital One and CanadaHelps offer the following charity fraud prevention tips:

  • Make sure the charity is registered with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and provides you with their charitable registration number. CanadaHelps.org only lists charities registered with the CRA.
  • Ask to see a charity’s financial statements. These should be readily available to anyone who asks and give you a sense of how the charity spends their money.
  • Understand the impact the charity has and what difference they make in the community. Charities should be able to give you clear outcomes of the programs or services they provide.
  • Research the causes you want to support and how much of your budget you want to donate to charity. You will feel less pressured to give when solicited if you have already planned your giving.
  • Avoid any charity that pressures you into making a donation or isn’t open to sharing more information about their organization.

Additional Survey Results

  • 77% of Canadians made a charitable donation in the past 12 months with women being more charitable (81%) than men (72%)
  • Over one-quarter (28%) of people report they are solicited for charitable donations at least weekly, with 45% saying they get solicited more often in the event of a natural disaster
  • In the wake of a natural disaster, the majority of Canadians (61%) report an increased concern over the possibility of charity fraud
  • While only 5% of Canadians overall prefer to donate via door-to-door solicitation, a surprising 22% of Atlantic Canadians prefer this method of solicitation
  • In terms of deciding who to trust, respondents said the most important factor is a charity’s reputation (53%) followed by its media coverage/advertising (31%) and being asked to donate by a friend or colleague (30%)

About the survey

From February 2nd to 3rd, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 1,008 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error-which measures sampling variability-is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

About the Charity Fraud Awareness Quiz No purchase necessary. Each person who completes the online quiz on charity fraud at www.canadahelps.org and provides the name of their preferred charity is automatically given one entry. Organizations must be federally registered charities with the Canadian Revenue Agency. Contest begins at 9:00:00 a.m. ET on March 1, 2011 and closes at 9:00:00 p.m. ET on March 31, 2011. Full contest details atwww.canadahelps.org. Skill testing question required. Four prizes of a $1,000 donation and one grand prize of a $20,000 donation available to be won. Not open to residents of the Territories.

About Capital One Located in Toronto, Ontario, Capital One has offered Canadian consumers a range of competitive MasterCard credit cards since 1996, when the company first introduced the Platinum MasterCard in Canada. Capital One Canada is a division of Capital One Bank, a subsidiary of Capital One Financial Corporation of McLean, Virginia (NYSE: COF).

About CanadaHelps CanadaHelps is an online donations website where donors can give safely and securely to all charities in Canada that are registered with the Canada Revenue Agency. The mission of CanadaHelps is to engage Canadians in the charitable sector and provide accessible and affordable online technology to both donors and charities to promote – and ultimately increase – charitable giving in Canada.

Contact: Laurel Ostfield, Capital One 416-549-2753 laurel.ostfield@capitalone.com

Owen Charters, CanadaHelps 416-628-6948 ext. 2384 owen@canadahelps.org

 

Edmonton Journal -A letter from Volunteer Alberta on how generous Albertans are (December 10, 2011)

Is Canada’s culture of giving actually falling?

Some lament that rates of charitable giving and volunteering are on the decline. There is a false perception that too many charities pay their CEOs “over a million dollars with unlimited expenses” and non-profit misspending leaves only small portions of donations for actual charity.

Myths need to be dispelled and facts presented.

Volunteer Alberta compiled Statistics Canada data (visit www.volunteeralberta.ab.ca) clearly demonstrating Albertans are charitable with their time and money.

With donating, 85 per cent of Albertans gave financially in 2007 undefined an increase from 79 per cent in 2004 to 85 per cent in 2007.

Albertans donated the largest amounts ($596 average per person).

Fifty-two per cent of Albertans volunteered an average of 172 hours in 2007, up from 48 per cent in 2004 (also higher than the Canadian average of 48 per cent). Over 1,445,000 Albertans volunteer their time.

Regarding CEO pay, Canada Revenue Agency already requires charities to disclose highest compensated staff and rates of pay (donors can easily check this at www.cra-arc.gc.ca/charities).

Ask people working in the non-profit sector. But with few exceptions, most employees are not making wages anywhere near those in the private or public sectors.

Targeted research, planning and administration are necessary for efficient program delivery. Moreover, of Alberta’s roughly 19,000 non-profit/voluntary organizations, 58 per cent are completely volunteer run.

Albertans are generous and they naturally want to live in stronger and more vibrant communities.

This culture of giving does not mean we should let up. Instead, let’s continue researching where our financial contributions make the biggest difference in our communities and explore ways of volunteering using our talents and skills in more specialized ways.

Karen Lynch, executive director, Volunteer Alberta, Edmonton

Read more here.

 

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