Ontario’s nonprofit sector is a significant job creator, a strong enabler of volunteer engagement, and a critical program and service delivery partner to the government. Employing over 844,000 workers1in Ontario and contributing $65 billion to the economy2, Ontario’s nonprofit sector has never been more critical for Ontarians. Integral to the success of the entire nonprofit sector are leaders of volunteers, individuals tasked with ensuring that citizens who wish to volunteer are connected with the organizations who need them. The Provincial Association of Volunteer Leaders-Ontario (PAVRO) promotes the profession of Volunteer Administration by advocating for understanding of its value to civic engagement, its requirements for success, and appropriate recognition (including compensation) for the individual professional.
The very purpose of our sector is to confront immense challenges, but our strength, capacity, and capability to do so are not drawn solely from within. The support of others, especially government, is so paramount. We have worked hard to deliver on basic needs and maintain a quality of life during the greatest health and economic crisis in generations. There is, however, pandemic fatigue. Volunteer motivations are changing. The sector is dealing with the biggest loss of volunteer management expertise in living memory. Recovery is occurring, but it has not followed a linear trajectory, and our sector continues to struggle.
Ontario’s voluntary sector is:
• An economic driver, contributing to 8% of the provincial GDP.
• Provides over 50% of the human resources for the nonprofit sector or the work contribution equivalent to 2.6% of the provincial GDP.
• As relied upon system for essential program delivery, meeting the needs of community, and providing millions of dollars in labour alleviation for frontline services.
• An access point to increased opportunity and skills for youth, newcomers, jobseekers, and other vulnerable positions.
The PAVRO is:
• An established association of volunteer engagement professionals with decades of experience and presence across the province.
• A ready ally to the government on the ground, supporting leaders of volunteers and their nonprofit organizations who steward millions of volunteers annually.
• Subject matter experts with ability to consult, deliver, and drive impact that achieves the province’s goals.
• Ready for government investments to directly strengthen leaders of volunteers, the communities they serve, and address pandemic-drive disruption to the voluntary sector.
In advance of the 2023 Provincial budget, the PAVRO would like to support the Ontario Volunteer Centre Network’s and the Ontario Nonprofit Network’s pre-budget submissions and expand on their recommendations to reinforce the role of volunteerism in our Province. We urge you to:
1. Establish a minimum core funding threshold that invests in quality services and decent work.
2. Enable a whole-of-government approach for Ontario’s 58,000 nonprofits and charities by creating a “home in government” for the sector including a secretariate for volunteerism.
3. Develop and deliver a Provincial Action Strategy for Volunteerism.
Pre-pandemic, leaders of volunteers engaged with and empowered Ontario citizens to volunteer with the nonprofit sector, supplying just over 50% of the sector’s human resources. Recent numbers from Statistics Canada and Volunteer Canada report that 65% of community benefit organizations are having difficulty recruiting volunteers, 50% report challenges with volunteer retention, and 42% are reporting that volunteers are not able to commit to long term volunteer roles.
Pandemic-related restrictions severely disrupted the system of volunteer engagement. One in two leaders of volunteers were let go or redeployed from nonprofits, and hundreds of thousands of volunteers were dismissed from their roles in 2020. PAVRO membership dropped by over 50% in 2020/21 and today, membership is down 36% compared to pre-pandemic levels. Organizations continue to experience challenges in recruiting volunteers while at the same time experiencing hiring challenges to bring qualified volunteer engagement professional back into their programs.
In 2023, more than at any other time in the recent past, a need for a strategy to support volunteerism is paramount.
1. Establish a minimum core funding threshold that invests in quality services and decent work
Essential charitable and nonprofit sector organizations have the same needs as organizations in the public and private sphere. They must focus on organizational health, resilience, and preparedness. To do this, they must invest in staffing, governance, financial management, communications, revenue generation, training, technology and overhead. Many of these basic activities are ineligible to be covered by current government projects funds or the percentage allotted falls far short of comparable budgets in the private and public sectors.
For many volunteer-led organizations, the pandemic was the straw that broke their funding model. The pandemic restrictions increased their operational costs, strangled their fundraising, and, in many cases, reduced their staff and volunteers. Many carved into their long-term sustainability to meet the increased need for services. Even with the wage subsidy, many volunteer-led organizations had to let go of staff. The pandemic restrictions shut down many volunteer programs, so the groups could not afford to keep their “volunteer managers”. In Toronto, half of volunteer managers were laid off, redeployed, or had their positions eliminated. This cascaded down to fewer volunteers being recruited. Now organizations are scrambling to fill these manager positions with limited success.
The sector workforce is diverse, made up of 77% women, 47% immigrants, and 35% Indigenous and racialized people3. These groups are often the most negatively impacted by the working conditions created by project-based funding which include but are not limited to lower wages, lack of benefits, little or no professional development opportunities, and precarious, short-term contract work.
We call on the Government of Ontario to:
• Provide core funding for nonprofit organizations to support the re-engagement of dedicated volunteer engagement professionals who were dismissed during the pandemic.
• Take an equity approach to the provision of core funding to address historical inequities.
2. Enable a whole-of-government approach for Ontario’s 58,000 nonprofits and charities by creating a “home in government” for the sector including a secretariate for volunteerism
Ontario nonprofits deal with more than 16 ministries for policy planning, program delivery, regulatory compliance, and transfer payment agreements administration. While nonprofits often have great relationships with their most immediate ministries, more complex and collaborative innovative work requires a minister-level appointment and office to lead, listen, and enable innovation without red tape. Currently, no such mechanism exists, creating a myriad of inefficiencies and lost opportunities.
Even as government after government relies on the sector to deliver critical services, no entity exists to ensure the health of charities and nonprofits as a sector, and many measures in the last few years initially failed to include the nonprofit sector or take into account their unique characteristics and revenue models. A host of other issues, ranging from inefficient and ineffective funding practices to a lack of access to support for social enterprise activities, also continue to impact the sector in chronic ways, with no end in sight. While individual mandates have enabled targeted voluntary sector programming, the siloed approach to volunteerism means, as a whole, the sector is underappreciated for the potential it has to impact all Ontarians and nonprofit groups serving diverse community needs.
We call on the Government of Ontario to:
• Create an Associate Minister-level appointment within the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade, supported by a Deputy or Assistant Deputy Minister in an Office representing nonprofits, charities, and social innovation.
• Create a secretariate for volunteerism that will leverage the potential for engaging, recognizing, and mobilizing volunteers for cross-ministerial functions.
3. Develop and deliver a Provincial Action Strategy for Volunteerism
The loss of volunteer engagement professionals has severely disrupted the system of volunteer engagement. Whereas volunteers provide a diverse range of skills, contribute their time, and have tremendous impact on the lives of Ontarians, this vast human resource does require coordination, guidance, and oversight. The lack of dedicated volunteer engagement
professionals to restart and revitalize volunteer programs means that 65% of nonprofits representing both urban and rural areas are reporting volunteer shortages as of late 2022.
We call on the Government of Ontario to:
• Rehabilitate the systems of volunteerism through a Provincial Action Strategy for Volunteerism delivering capacity building for nonprofits and leaders of volunteers in alignment with the Canadian Code of Volunteer Involvement and the Ontario Human Rights code in partnership with PAVRO and the Ontario Volunteer Centre Network (OVCN).
The current context highlights the need for a provincial strategy on volunteerism in Ontario. A home for the sector with a secretariate for volunteerism will provide a focal centre for this strategy. The nonprofit sector and the voluntary sector stand ready to partner with the province as we move towards progress. We look forward to building Ontario’s future together.
The Provincial Association of Volunteer Leaders-Ontario (PAVRO) is an association of leaders of volunteers – paid and unpaid – which builds individual, organizational, and community capacity to effectively engage volunteers through the professional management of volunteer resources.
Guided by the core competencies of volunteer engagement, PAVRO empowers our members to employ the best practices in the management of volunteer resources. We promote the profession of Volunteer Administration by advocating for understanding of its value to civic engagement, its requirements for success, and appropriate recognition (including compensation) for the individual professional.
For more information:
Heather Johnson, President
Tel: 416-258-5495 Email: email@example.com
1 Statistics Canada. Table 36-10-0617-01 Employment in non-profit institutions by sub-sector (x 1,000)
2Statistics Canada. Table 36-10-0616-01 Gross domestic product (GDP) of non-profit institutions by sub-sector (x 1,000,000)
3Statistics Canada. Table 36-10-0650-01 Employment