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Study Defines Size and Scope of Canadian Voluntary Sector

(September 27, 2004) Findings from a landmark study on Canadian nonprofit organizations and registered charities were released last week at the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy's annual symposium in Toronto.

The results paint a first-time portrait of the size and scope of the voluntary sector, illustrating the challenges it faces and identifying significant hurdles. This research is the first comprehensive snapshot taken of such Canadian organizations and is expected to be instrumental in determining strategic solutions to community issues.

The National Survey of Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations (NSVO) studied 13,000 nonprofits and charities and illustrated the large impact the sector has on Canadian economies and communities.

Approximately 161,000 incorporated nonprofit organizations and registered charities operated in Canada in 2003, spanning all aspects of Canadian life including day-care centers, sport and recreation clubs, art and culture organizations, hospitals, food banks, environmental and social justice organizations, places of worship and health charities. The survey found most organizations are governed by volunteer boards and more than half are run entirely by volunteers. Canadians are volunteering 2 billion hours every year, fill 19 million volunteer positions and donate $8 billion annually.

Marlene Deboisbriand, president of Volunteer Canada, indicated that while the results illustrate the magnitude and scope of Canadian nonprofit and charitable organizations, they also show that the full potential of the sector has yet to be realized.

'By having access to better information on the types of obstacles these organizations are facing, we can be well positioned to help them address issues specifically related to volunteerism through our research and support initiatives,' she said.

One of the key findings of the study shows that most organizations face enormous challenges in recruiting qualified volunteers and obtaining volunteer board members. 'Results such as this are crucial to the understanding of the role and impact of volunteers in Canada---how and when they are mobilized, their importance to our economy, and how organizations engage, recruit and retain volunteers,' said Deboisbraind. 'Until now, this has remained largely undefined.'

The NSNVO is the result of more than two years of work by organizations involved in the research of social issues. For more information and a free downloadable electronic publication in Adobe Acrobat format, visit The catalogue number is 61-533-XIE. A print version for $20 can be ordered by calling 800-267-6677 or by emailing

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