By Jill Zacharias. Revelstoke Social Development Coordinator
When I heard that this year’s theme for National Volunteer Week (April 12-18) was ‘the ripple effect’, immediately I thought of our local economy. Volunteers keep many enterprises running in our community and while hard to measure, the economic spinoffs are tangible. At risk of de-valuing the generosity of volunteer contributions, I think that demonstrating value or economic benefit can help us understand how linked together social and economic contributions are to our community.
The International Labour Organization defines a volunteer as an individual who performs unpaid, non-compulsory work whether through an organization or directly for others outside their own household. Monetary and/or in-kind compensation is not provided. There is no obligation to perform the task, activity or service.
Using information from the last census and putting a dollar value on time spent, senior economists for TD Economics figured out that in 2010, 54 per cent of Canadians, or more than 13.3 million people, completed volunteer work, devoting 2.1 billion hours to their activities. This was equal to 1.1 million full-time jobs, or 8 per cent of full-time jobs in Canada at the time. A conservative estimate put the value of this effort at $50 billion each year, or about 3 per cent of the national economy — roughly equal to the contribution of the province of Manitoba to Canada’s GDP.
This estimate comes from simply placing value on people’s time. More directly, the recent Revelstoke Ski Club race series is a prime example of the profound impact volunteer effort can have on our local economy. Last month, with the support of RMR, local business and funders like CBT and the Revelstoke Accommodation Association, the Ski Club hosted three major races at Revelstoke Mountain Resort — the high school provincials from March 2–4, the Okanagan Zone Finals March 7–8, and the CanAm U14 on March 9–22. About 200 children and youth attended each race, bringing 19 to 24 coaches, and an additional 100 to 200 family members, who spent between two and five nights in Revelstoke.
Countless volunteer hours went into making these races happen both before and during the races. For the CanAm race alone, 30 local and 35 out-of-town volunteers were required each day. A very conservative figure that only takes into account accommodation and a modest daily expense budget, estimates that these events brought in about $340,300 directly to our local economy. One club. One month. Lots of volunteer effort by, for the most part, parents who are just out there supporting their kids.
We know there are less tangible economic benefits to volunteerism both for individuals and the community. Volunteers can develop or improve on skills that might lead to higher paid work in the future. Community-based volunteerism can support people who are having a hard time transition to a point in their lives where they are better able to participate in community life. Further, I think of all the volunteer Boards of Directors who are advising and directing the outcomes of important organizations in our community like Community Futures, the Chamber of Commerce and the Revelstoke Credit Union, thereby impacting socio-economic outcomes.
From ski races to Christmas hampers, the multi-faceted efforts of volunteers bring about continuous societal change that improves our quality of life and community vitality. For our community, the return is leaps and bounds more than just dollars and cents. But you have to admit an extra $340,000 isn’t so bad.
Happy National Volunteer Week!