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Research and Key Findings

Meaningful volunteerism takes resources, skills, and dedicated expertise to enable. Our research and key learnings from 2019-2020 continue to inform innovations in our program and engagement.

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It was fascinating to study the effect of important events, such as physical distancing policies and Volunteer Toronto’s COVID-19 response, as they were being implemented to help inform the organization's work in real-time.

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Michael Lebenbaum

— Michael Lebenbaum, Research Volunteer

Pre-COVID-19, we were lucky to harness the skills of a talented researcher to study the cycle of volunteer role postings on What roles are always recruiting? What roles are re-posted throughout the year? And what predicts a post's popularity? Shortly after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, Michael Lebenbaum pivoted the focus of his research to analyze interventions that promoted new types of roles in response to new needs in the community. Through this research we've learned that our COVID-19 Response Team and agile messaging were extremely successful in sustaining volunteer interest during the early part of the crisis. 


Together, we have submitted a co-authored paper to a peer reviewed journal on the impact of physical distancing measures on the supply and demand for volunteers in Toronto.

University of Toronto logo

During the Winter 2020 term, research students from the University of Toronto’s Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources took on two key research topics to help inform pressing needs identified by Volunteer Toronto:

 We learned that youth, newcomers, and racialized individuals benefit most from volunteering as an access point to social and economic opportunities.

#1: How effective is volunteering as a stepping stone to employment?

Seniors volunteer the most hours

in Canada. Research revealed that seniors face barriers too, and micro-volunteering might also be the way of the future for this demographic.

#2: Will seniors continue to
be a powerhouse of the
voluntary sector?

University of Toronto Scarborough

In our second year of an ongoing partnership, the University of Toronto Scarborough provided evaluations expertise to collect primary research with past participants of our programming.

The research surveyed newcomers who had attended our Volunteering for a Newcomer information sessions or who had an appointment with a Volunteer Advisor. Insights from
this research tell us where we need to improve our programs while identifying roadblocks newcomers are experiencing when they apply for volunteer roles:

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Newcomers face barriers to accessing volunteer roles very similar to paid roles in the employment sector. Many participants compared the process of applying to a volunteer role as applying to a job.

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Volunteer managers do not have the capacity to provide more feedback, and often even a response, to unsuccessful applicants. Some participants also expressed a wait time of several weeks before hearing anything from the non-profit contact after applying to a role.

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Participants expressed an interest in other programs to help secure a volunteer role, including housing assistance, resume formatting, mock-interviews, and basic language training. 

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It was recommended Volunteer Toronto translate materials to improve access to learning. Students also recommended we provide accreditation or pre-screening services to skilled newcomers, and work with non-profits to reduce the intensity of application processes for securing a role.

A special note of appreciation goes to Deloitte and the dedicated team of volunteer consultants that helped our organization innovate and evaluate program and revenue development opportunities during a 4-month project from February-May 2020.


We continue to leverage new data to inform our decisions. Access further insights
on the volunteer sector during COVID-19:

 published on July 3, 2020 on

 published on July 27, 2020 on

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