Skip to main content
From humanitarian holidays to online activism, 21st Century volunteerism promises plenty of new ways to make a difference.

The 21st Century is a great time to do some good. National Volunteer Week (April 23-29) is right around the corner and it may be easier than ever now for Canadians to give back.

Data synthesized by Volunteer Canada in 2015 suggests while Canadians do volunteer at an average of 154 hours per year, obstacles such as lack of time (67%) and the inability to make long-term commitments (61%) keep the non-volunteering population on the sidelines.

While making a meaningful impact on those in need in our fast-paced, technologically driven world might seem challenging, the innovative landscape has lead to the development of several exciting new channels that can make volunteering more accessible, engaging, and enjoyable.

Virtual Volunteerism

Virtual volunteering is an emerging form of service that allows participants to contribute to organizations remotely, via the internet. Some examples include web development, teaching, writing and editing, and administration. This new avenue for advocacy addresses some of the current obstacles hindering volunteer engagement by offering flexible scheduling and the freedom to work anywhere. By bringing opportunities from the field directly to the volunteer, this promising channel could enable any of the 83% of Canadians with internet access to give back, including sectors of the population such as retirees and disabled persons who may previously have been overlooked in recruitment.

While volunteering on your laptop may seem to lack the rewards of a more traditional role, the impact can be meaningful to all parties involved. According to the United Nations online volunteer service, both the organizations and the 12,000 volunteers with which they work report a 94% satisfaction rate.

To find an opportunity now, check out the United Nations’ online volunteering platform.

Employer Supported Volunteering

At the end of a long workday, employees may feel as though they have little left to give, but many businesses are recognizing the benefits of a socially engaged workforce and are finding ways to integrate volunteering into corporate culture. Employer Supported Volunteering (EVS) refers to any number of ways in which a business supports or facilitates volunteer activity.

More than 4.7 million Canadians volunteer with the support of their employers and aside from the benefits these initiatives offer the causes they champion, they may be equally valuable to the businesses themselves. Volunteer Canada’s 2016 report on employer supported volunteering “Leading With Intention” says among its advantages, ESV can help “engage and motivate clients, attract talent, and facilitate professional development and individual well-being by boosting company morale.”

To learn about building your own ESV program, read Volunteer Canada’s page on Corporate Citizenship.


With the increased visibility of social, economic and environmental issues across the globe, many vacationers are foregoing swim-up bars and beach chairs for responsible, purposeful globetrotting. “Voluntourism” is a broad term used to describe service-centered travel that also satisfies the cultural and recreational facets of a conventional tourist experience.

Whether your area of interest is microfinance or marine biology, there are several organizations including Earthwatch, Habitat For Humanity, and Me to We that offer opportunities see the world and make an impact. Pack your bags and get giving!

Skills-Based Volunteering

While the concept of reciprocity might seem out of place in the volunteer sector, the economic impact of skills-based volunteering (SBV) could be greater than other forms of volunteering. A study by True Impact found that skills-based volunteering can generate over 400% more value for nonprofits and communities than typical volunteer activity.

Whether performing pro-bono-legal work or playing guitar, volunteers can be driven by the a desire to apply their existing skills (or hone new ones) in the non-profit sector. Instead of approaching an organization and asking, “How can I help,” volunteers are answering the question themselves and carving out roles based on the experience they bring to the table.

Not sure exactly what opportunity would make the best use of your skills? The Skills Plus tool can help.


Micro-volunteering operates on the philosophy that a lot of little can make a big difference. According to the most recent Statistics Canada data, 67% of non-volunteering Canadians list time as the number one impediment. Micro-volunteering addresses the needs of the harried humanitarian by offering quick, easy ways to give back, many of which can be performed on a mobile device. Micro-volunteering requires no training, screening, or long-term commitments of its volunteers and in many cases, tasks can be completed any place at any time. Popular examples of micro-volunteering include completing surveys, crowdsourcing, translating and tagging photos.

For more information on micro-volunteering and available opportunities visit: