The Canadian volunteer landscape is changing: one in five Canadians is now an immigrant. While immigrants volunteer at a lower rate than people born in Canada (38% vs. 45%), they tend to contribute more hours (162 hours per year vs. 152 hours).
Why should your organization engage newcomers?
- To expand your volunteer base
- To access new and diverse perspectives
- To increase cultural awareness
- To strengthen your relationship with the community
Newcomers face three big challenges to getting involved: varying language skills, a lack of Canadian work experience and unfamiliarity with the community. This is why organizations must be welcoming, supportive and intentionally reach out to newcomers.
Settlement agencies, integration workers, second language training programs and cultural associations are great resources for intentional outreach. Current newcomer volunteers can also serve as cultural bridges to engaging new volunteers. They can also provide leadership on outreach strategies.
Research indicates that immigrants are less likely to take on volunteer positions as organizers and leaders. Non-profit boards of directors are not reflective of the diversity of Canadian society or of immigrant involvement. Progressive bridging opportunities can help newcomers develop their skills towards leadership opportunities.
Immigrants who have been in Canada for less than 10 years in particular tend to view volunteering as a way to gain skills and experience. Offering newcomers skills-based volunteer opportunities can be a great way to encourage them to get involved and develop their skills in a Canadian context.
Serving as a reference and organizing training sessions and networking opportunities can be great ways to recognize newcomer volunteers.
If your organization is ready to engage newcomer volunteers, our checklist can help you get started:
You can also learn more at www.volunteer.ca.