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Survey Examines Corporate Support of Employee Volunteers in Canada

(Jan. 22, 2007) Most corporations and businesses in Canada encourage or accommodate their employee volunteer activities during work hours, although the manner and extent of the support varies widely, according to a new survey.

Business Support for Employee Volunteers in Canada, conducted by Imagine Canada’s Knowledge Development Centre in Toronto and the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, found that 71 percent of Canadian businesses support their employees’ volunteering in some way. Nearly half (49 percent) encourage their employees to volunteer on their own time, while 35 percent accommodate volunteer activities during the work day.

Just 18 percent of businesses, however, encourage volunteering during regular working hours.

The most common forms of support include:

  • Adjusting working schedules (78 percent)
  • Providing time off without pay (71 percent)
  • Allowing access to company facilities and equipment (70 percent)

The survey notes that most business encouragement of volunteerism is reactive rather than proactive. For example, just 35 percent recognize employee volunteers, 31 percent make information about volunteering available and 29 percent allow time off with pay for such activities.

Volunteer/Contribution Connection

The survey also found that there is some connection between employees’ volunteering for a charity and the employees’ businesses financially supporting a charity. Of those companies that provide financial or in-kind support to charities, nearly six in 10 (58 percent) said they support nonprofit organizations and causes where their employees volunteer. The organizations most likely to receive this support are health (16 percent), social services (13 percent) and sports and recreation (12 percent).

Few companies (14 percent) that support employee volunteering have formal corporate volunteer programs. Even those that do usually do not track employees’ volunteer time or evaluate their support of a charity. However, more than half (54 percent) have an employee whose official responsibilities include a volunteer program, and in many cases (63 percent) a member of the company’s senior management team manages the program.

Strategies for the Future

The survey includes recommendations for nonprofits to encourage the creation of corporate volunteer programs:

  1. Collaborate with businesses to provide meaningful opportunities for employee volunteers
  2. Recognize the less obvious supports provided by businesses to employee volunteers (e.g., adjustments to working hours or access to company facilities or equipment)
  3. Develop strategies to accommodate volunteers who are available only during nonworking hours
  4. Partner with large businesses if they need many volunteers and/or support a cause that is popular with the corporate sector (e.g., health)
  5. Approach small businesses for support if they need only a few volunteers and/or support a cause that is less popular with the corporate sector (e.g., environment).

The survey also contains recommendations for businesses, such as developing written policies on employee volunteers and supporting causes that aren’t always popular with the corporate sector, and for government, such as creating tax benefits for companies that support employee volunteering.

About the Survey

The survey is available on the Imagine Canada Knowledge Development Centre website.

The Centre, a part of Imagine Canada, works to build the body of knowledge on volunteering and volunteerism in Canada and transfers that knowledge to voluntary organizations to improve their capacity to benefit Canadians. It is funded as part of the Canada Volunteerism Initiative through the Community Participation Directorate of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

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