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Policy priority: Paid and Unpaid Labour

Collage of Diverse Workers and Volenteers
Policy priority: Supporting the paid and unpaid labour powering the nonprofit sector

The nonprofit sector employs 2.5 million individuals and benefits from the contributions of 13 million volunteers. However, we're facing volunteer and employment challenges that jeopardize the sector's work.

Why it matters
Paid workers and volunteers are the engine of the sector, providing crucial services to communities. However, the sector is facing labour and volunteer challenges that are already having a concrete impact on organizations’ ability to advance their missions and meet the demand from their community. In late 2022, 35% organizations that were experiencing challenges recruiting or retaining volunteers reported that they would reduce programming and services as a result, while 17% reported they would outright cancel programs and services. In early 2023, 83% of community nonprofits reported that challenges recruiting and retaining staff would have a medium or high impact on their organization. If not addressed, labour and volunteer shortages will mean that communities have less access to the programs and services they need.
Did you know?
  • A staggering 58% of charities (and many more nonprofits) have no paid staff, and many organizations with paid staff also benefit from volunteer contributions.
  • Our workforce is 77% women, 47% immigrants and 35% Indigenous and racialized people. Our workforce is better educated and older than economy-wide averages.
  • The average annual salary for those working in community nonprofits is $38,716, compared to $57,137 in the economy overall. Much of the work in the sector is precarious, short-term and doesn’t include benefits.
Our Ask

That the federal government:

  • Develop a labour force strategy grounded in equity, diversity and inclusion that addresses retention, skills development, compensation, training, leadership development and succession planning.
  • Expand the Canada Digital Adoption Program’s eligibility to nonprofits and charities.
  • Build the resilience of the nonprofit sector by establishing another cycle of the Community Services Recovery Fund.
  • Allocate an additional $298M to the Skills for Success Program over the next three years to provide Canadians with the opportunity to improve foundational and transferable skills.


Intersections with other policy priorities

  • Making federal funding more equitable and effective: The prevalence of short-term project funding and underfunding leads to low wages, few benefits and precarious work for our diverse workforce. Our funding policy recommendations would deliver concrete improvements to the quality of employment in the sector.
  • Building the digital capacity of the sector: Digital technologies have the potential to transform the nonprofit sector and its workforce. The nonprofit sector may face challenges adapting to the new skillsets demanded by digital technologies, potentially leading to skill mismatches that could disproportionately affect certain segments of the workforce.
  • Data for effective decision making: The sector lacks critical labour market data on both charities and nonprofits, leading to an inability to conduct labour force planning and understand basic facts related to workforce composition, skills and compensation. Imagine Canada and the Federal Nonprofit Data Coalition are advocating for more and better nonprofit sector labour market information.
Looking for free HR resources, tailored to a nonprofit context?

With less than 1% of Canadian charities and nonprofits having paid staff for human resources, organizations are struggling to compete in a super-charged labour market. Created by and for the sector, Imagine Canada's HR Intervals strives to bridge this gap through its comprehensive, bilingual online knowledge base. HR Intervals was established to help nonprofit managers, employees and board members better understand, address, and guide people management within their organizations.

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