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April 12, 2001 Quebec is distinct in its giving, say national surveys






Paul Reed.

Photo by Edith Katz

by Andrew Mefferd

A survey of Canadians’ volunteering habits indicate that Quebecers’ rate of participation is lower than that of other Canadians.

Paul Reed, a professor at Carleton University and senior social scientist with Statistics Canada, spoke about the research on April 6 as part of a lecture series for the International Year of the Volunteer, sponsored by the John Molson School of Business Graduate Diploma in Administration (DIA) and Graduate Diploma in Sport Administration (DSA).

The National Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating 1997 was followed by a more recent study, for which only preliminary results are available.

“Canadians are moving away from gifts to organizations and towards gifts to individuals,” Reed said. “There has been a precipitous decline in donations to religious organizations, and donations to secular organizations are flat.”

He had good and bad news for his audience of graduate students from Concordia and McGill, academics, senior managers and administrators of a wide variety of not-for-profit organizations. While the number of people involved in volunteering their time is slightly down, the amount of time each person volunteered was up, resulting in a net gain of volunteer power.

The good news is that Canada is the world leader in collecting data on the non-profit sector to help determine who volunteers their time and money, and why. This will assist in developing new approaches in recruiting volunteers and fundraising, and encourage a healthy volunteer sector.

Since this is only the second time the government has undertaken such an extensive survey of volunteering and giving, Reed promised that the data gathered will continue to become more accurate. “With time, we’ll do a better job in capturing the nuances.”

“In terms of formal volunteering, Quebec is at the bottom of the list,” Reed said. The prairies provinces consistently produce the most volunteers in Canada. Quebecers’ unique style of giving made statisticians rethink the way they evaluate these activities, and they included informal aid as well as formal volunteering and giving in the study.

“Quebecers prefer giving money to volunteering. They are much more oriented to helping people they know in the parish, family or community,” Reed said.

He also said that Quebecers are unique in their continuing interest in fraternal or service clubs like the Lions, Rotary or Optimist Club. “These are a really big thing in Quebec, and they are negligible in the rest of the country.”

Reed teaches sociology, anthropology and law at Carleton, and is associate director of that university’s Centre for Applied Social Research. This was the first of three events planned for the International Year of the Volunteer.

The Graduate Diploma in Administration is focused on providing administrative and management skills for the not-for-profit sector, including the arts, health care and community groups.

Students in the Graduate Diploma in Sport Administration work in amateur sport organizations at the local, regional and national levels as well as in professional sport and in business.