Charities struggle to find enough volunteers in Metro Vancouver
Local non-profits losing recruits as people delay retirement and high cost of living drives families away
As winter approaches, some Metro Vancouver non-profits say they're struggling to find enough volunteers to meet the needs of the people they serve.
Gregory Ould's group Blanket B.C. has its annual drive on Friday and Saturday, handing out blankets to homeless people along eight stops on the Canada Line. But Ould says he's having trouble signing up enough volunteers.
"If we don't have enough people to cover the stations we need to be at, we'll have to close one or two stations and maybe concentrate on the downtown core. And we don't want to do that," Ould told CBC News.
He explained that many of his former volunteers have moved away from Metro Vancouver because of the high cost of living.
People retiring later
In Surrey and North Delta, Meals on Wheels is facing a similar shortage. The group's volunteers are mainly retirees who eventually have to leave when they hit their 80s and 90s, according to executive director Christine Morettin.
"Replacing them is getting harder because people are working longer, past the retirement age of 65," she said.
"We ask for volunteers on our website, we have pamphlets that we hand out to people at events asking for volunteers. We ask our volunteers to ask for volunteers and that's how we've gotten some of them."
According to Statistics Canada, the percentage of Canadians who volunteer has fallen from a high of 47 per cent of people over the age of 15 in 2010, to 44 per cent in 2013.
To address that decline, Maria Turnbull, associate executive director at the non-profit charitable society Vantage Point, says smaller charities need to keep their recruiting tactics up to date. Facebook is no longer the most effective method.
"Younger people are moving on to different modes of technology. Web use is still very strong, obviously, but perhaps there are more effective ways to reach the volunteers," she said.
There's also been a shift in the type of of volunteer opportunities people are looking for, according to Turnbull. Now people are more likely to want to use their skills and expertise to contribute in some way, rather than just serving as an extra set of hands.
Meanwhile, larger charities seem to be faring a bit better. The Salvation Army, for example, pays staff members to help with recruitment.
"The Salvation Army has been around for more than 150 years so we've seen a lot of changes over those years. Because of the immensity of the services we do provide, we can provide a wide variety of opportunities for people who do want to make a difference," spokeswoman Deb Lowell said.
With files from Anita Bathe