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Volunteers in Arts and Culture Organizations in Canada in 2004

January 11, 200711 January 2007

Volunteers & donors / Nonprofit sector information

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Canadian arts and culture organizations rely on volunteers to fulfill many roles, including serving on boards of directors, organizing events, working in gift shops and performing various administrative tasks. Without volunteer support, many arts and culture organizations would be unable to achieve their mandates. In 2004, volunteers accounted for almost 75% of the overall workforce in not-for-profit heritage organizations and over 40% in non-profit performing arts companies.

This report from Hill Strategies Research shows that about 729,000 Canadians 15 or older, or 2.8% of the population in this age range, contributed volunteer labour to arts and culture organizations in 2004. The 729,000 volunteers contributed a total of 88 million hours to arts and culture organizations in 2004, equivalent to about 46,000 full-time, full-year jobs and valued at about $1.1 billion.

This represents a record number of volunteers in arts and culture organizations – higher than amounts captured in surveys conducted in 2000 and 1997. Because of changes in survey content and methodology, precise comparisons with previous data cannot be made. However, it is clear that there was an increase in volunteerism in arts and culture organizations between 2000 and 2004.

The report examines data from custom tabulations that Hill Strategies Research commissioned from Statistics Canada based on the 2004 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (CSGVP). This national survey questioned a very large and statistically representative sample of Canadians 15 or older (20,832 people) about their volunteer work with all types of not-for-profit organizations in the 12 months preceding the survey.

The 88 million hours contributed to arts and culture organizations represents an average of 120 hours per volunteer, which is a relatively high contribution when compared with other non-profit organizations. Religious organizations rank first, with an average of 126 hours per volunteer, followed by organizations in law, advocacy and politics (123 hours) and sports and recreation organizations (122 hours). Arts and culture organizations rank fourth, with 120 hours per volunteer, slightly more than social service organizations (117 hours) and hospitals (114 hours).

With 88 million in volunteer hours – 4.7% of total hours volunteered in all types of non-profit organizations – the arts and culture rank sixth out of 11 types of non-profit organizations. Sports and recreation organizations, social service organizations, and religious organizations each receive between 16% and 18% of all volunteer hours (respectively 361, 343 and 321 million hours). Arts and culture organizations receive fewer hours than education and research organizations (218 million hours) or development and housing organizations (115 million hours), but the same amount as health organizations (88 million hours). Organizations involved in law, advocacy and politics (75 million hours) receive slightly fewer volunteer hours than arts and culture organizations.

Demographic analysis in the report shows that Canadians with a university degree have a much higher volunteer rate than the national average (5.0% vs. 2.8%). Single Canadians (who have never been married) are also more likely to volunteer in arts and culture organizations than married, widowed, separated or divorced Canadians.

The report also provides a summary of the number of volunteers in each province as well as rough estimates of the number of volunteer hours, full-time equivalent jobs, and value of volunteer labour by region. The analysis shows that residents of the three northern territories are most likely to volunteer for arts and culture organizations (3.9% of territorial residents did so in 2004), followed by Saskatchewanians (3.6%), British Columbians (also 3.6%), Manitobans (3.1%), Albertans (3.0%) and Nova Scotians (3.0%). The arts and culture volunteer rate in Ontario matched the Canadian average (2.8%). The two other provinces with reliable data have arts and culture volunteer rates below the Canadian average: Quebec (2.2%) and New Brunswick (2.0%).

Given that the most common motivation cited by volunteers is making a contribution to their community, the report recommends that the cultural sector should work to increase the visibility and perceived community impacts of cultural organizations. Given that two important barriers to increased volunteerism are that people were not asked to volunteer or did not know how to get involved, the report suggests that cultural organizations clearly demonstrate their need for volunteers and how potential volunteers can get involved. In addition, cultural organizations – if they do not already do so – should recognize that volunteering is a true exchange, with volunteers requiring interesting and challenging positions and non-profit organizations requiring that certain activities get done.

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