Organizations, charities starved of volunteers
If volunteers are the lifeblood of a caring community then Edmonton is in serious need of a transfusion.
It started about seven years ago. Residents aren’t volunteering their time like they used to — and it’s been getting worse every year.
While nearly 46 per cent of Edmontonians volunteer, that number has been on a steady decline, according to a city report presented to the city’s community services committee yesterday.
Some sectors are struggling to keep their programs running due to a lack of volunteers, the report states. Over half are run entirely by a shrinking pool of volunteers at the city’s 8,000 non-profit groups.
One of the biggest groups, the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, has expressed difficulty in recruiting and retaining volunteers — a sentiment shared by dozens of city festivals and organizations.
Kyla Danard, volunteer manager for the city’s Fringe Festival, says they require about 1,000 volunteers, but they’ve been struggling to recruit new volunteers since 2001.
"We’ve ended up leaning heavily on those super-dedicated volunteers and then try and pull everyone else together and get them into the fabulous spirit that is volunteering," she says.
Reasons for the declining volunteer levels may signal a cultural shift in attitudes as the baby boomers retire — something city officials have attributed to a "time famine" for Edmonton residents.
Berna Skrypnek, a University of Alberta expert who studies workplace and family relationships, says a growing female labour force, coupled with increased demands at the workplace, may be a contributing factor.
"The expectations keep going up and up, so extra time goes into work and that means there’s less time and energy left for volunteering," she says.
Another theory is that the influx of residents living temporarily in Alberta to make money off of the economic boom may have limited interest in volunteering.
"They may not … have the same commitment to the community as long time Albertans would," she says.