The Gift of Volunteering
By: Jen Hale, Manager of Volunteer and Social Recreation Services
In a study completed by the Conference Board of Canada, it was estimated that Canadians volunteered over 2 billion hours of service in 2017. If volunteering were an industry, it would employ roughly the same number of people as those working in education, and even though volunteers are unpaid, their contribution adds to the national economic activity through the value of the services provided. We can all agree that volunteers do amazing work in our communities, and are a valuable resource, but we often struggle with how to measure that value. How do we determine and show the impact of volunteers?
We can use a wage replacement formula, multiplying the number of volunteer hours by an hourly wage. We can examine the market value of the service provided, such as a tutoring session or a companionship visit. We can also look at the return on investment, estimating the savings to society for the support that is no longer required as a result of the volunteer’s intervention or service.
All of these models are problematic, however, because they reduce the value of volunteering to a dollar figure, and the benefits that these dedicated and talented individuals bring to society is so much more than economic.
Volunteering builds confidence, competence, connections and community for the individual, the organization, neighbourhoods, businesses and society as a whole. Volunteering instils a sense of well being and connectedness to the individual volunteer and allows for skill development and networking. For organizations, volunteers expand capacity, enable deeper community engagement and connections to diverse partners. Businesses can further develop their workforce, bond as a team and improve stakeholder relations. Neighbourhoods build resiliency, cohesion and experience more robust social inclusion. And society benefits from more engaged citizens, informed public policy and enhanced democracy.
The Alzheimer Society London & Middlesex works with a team of over 240 volunteers annually who help us to achieve our mission, broaden our reach into the community, help set our strategic direction, bring varied and fresh perspectives to our programs and policies, and help foster an environment of compassion, support and empathy where all are welcome and accepted. Our volunteers are the beating heart of our organization; they provide meaningful and personal interactions with clients and care partners and meet our clients wherever they are on their dementia journey, providing support on their terms. We are fortunate to have a richly diverse volunteer team, consisting of several age groups, cultural backgrounds and languages spoken. The value of this team goes far beyond the number of hours they spend answering phones, assisting in social recreation programs or performing administrative tasks. As Gerry, a care partner stated, “… volunteers are the MVPs … You are the standard for how we treat others, and you are demonstrating to our communities what you stand for through your words and actions.”
To all of our volunteers, thank you for your impact. We see it. We feel it. And we value it.
Interested in volunteering at the Alzheimer Society, go to our website alzheimerlondon.ca/volunteer or contact Jen Hale 519-680-2404.