Give – or Get Off the Pot

The Governor General’s annual New Year’s message could be described as preaching to the choir. In his address, David Johnston urged Canadians to celebrate and encourage volunteerism and philanthropy, continuing the spirit of giving we are known for – we did rank third out of 153 countries on Gallop’s World Giving Index, after all.

Johnston wants us to become a “- more caring Canada” as a means for progress, and he might be on to something. In 2010, the Gallop World Poll results indicated that the correlation between happiness and giving is stronger than the correlation between wealth and giving. In fact, altruism in all its forms may be beneficial. A report released by the United Nations in 2011 found that volunteerism has a significant positive impact on community well-being, creating ties among people, increasing social capital and contributing to many social factors that create healthy societies in which people enjoy living. The State of the World’s Volunteerism report also indicated that a stronger sense of community leads to more volunteering.

The Governor General cited that 12 million of us spend more than two billion hours volunteering each year. Interestingly, a research study conducted on behalf of Volunteer Canada study found that the average number of hours volunteered is highest among seniors and that the addition of retired boomers could have a dramatic impact on the number of volunteers to offset the current group of aging seniors who have made up the bulk of “uber volunteers” – a relatively small group responsible for a vast majority of volunteer hours. Perhaps it’s time for the choir to stop singing and start working – unpaid of course!

– Tara Losinski