Research Excerpt | COVID-19 Impact on Volunteerism

publication date: May 4, 2021
author/source: Charity Village and The Portage Group

Results from a recent survey, Human Resources Impact of COVID-19 on Canadian Charities and Nonprofits, suggests that the pandemic has had a significant negative impact on volunteerism across the charitable and nonprofit sector in Canada.

A majority (64%) of surveyed organizations indicated that they have experienced a decrease in the number of volunteers since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. 

Among those that have experienced a decrease, the impact has been significant with most experiencing a decrease of more than 30% of their volunteer base. A full quarter (26%) of participating organizations lost more than 75% of their volunteers over the last year.

Conversely, a comparably small number (11%) experienced an increase in volunteers. One quarter (26%) experienced no change in volunteer levels at all. The challenge has been greatest for charities, with 67% indicating a reduction in volunteers, compared to 48% for foundations.

The pandemic has had an equally adverse impact on the ability of Canadian charities and nonprofits to recruit and retain volunteers. A majority (63% to 65%, respectively) indicated it has become more difficult to recruit and retain volunteers since the onset of COVID-19. Like countless other industries, the charitable and nonprofit sector has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact from staff and volunteer losses over the past year have undoubtedly further strained already limited resources, impacting the ability of many charities and nonprofits to carry out their critical mandates.

Government supports have been a life buoy for many organizations, including charities and nonprofits, and there is continued risk for a small number of charities’ ability to operate when these supports are removed.

Although much uncertainty remains, there are positive signals for the months ahead, with many participants anticipating a stabilizing of job and volunteer losses in the coming months. Although a return to pre-pandemic staff and volunteer levels will not happen overnight, the study points to a tone of cautious optimism across many participating organizations for a gradual recovery in the months ahead.

To download your own copy of the full report, click here


Since 1995, CharityVillage has been the HR partner for recruitment in the Canadian nonprofit sector. Our specialized job board for Canadian nonprofit professionals has helped thousands of organizations find exceptional talent. Through our online learning, volunteer and event listings, webinars, newsletters, articles, tools and resources, we connect the sector with the talent, tools, training and technology they need to successfully deliver on their purposeful missions every day. For more information please contact

The Portage Group (TPG) is a team of thought leaders in innovative and research-driven not-for-profit planning and development. They offer deep and diverse experience to help organizations succeed across areas that include: Strategy, Research, Organizational Performance, Human Resources (including search), Governance and more. Their team of consultants brings professional expertise in each of these areas together by applying a team-based approach to all projects. This enables them to help our clients push past ‘predictable’ to find truly comprehensive solutions that consider all the angles. For more information please contact 1-866-920-3999

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