Strong Employee Volunteer Programs Benefit Corporations and Communities More than just ‘Chequebook Philanthropy

Innovative Tool Capitalizes on Skills-Building Potential of Volunteer Work

OTTAWA, June 23, 2011 – Research about the changing landscape of volunteerism in Canada identifies comprehensive Employee Volunteer Programs as critical to effective community building. A new tool helps employees give back while developing essential skills to advance their careers.

To capitalize on skills-building potential, Volunteer Canada and Manulife Financial developed a new tool, titled Skills Plus. The tool identifies hard skills required for certain occupations (e.g. creating financial statements or managing meetings), as well as the core competencies that enable people to be highly effective employees.

Skills Plus matches the experience gained from a variety of volunteer opportunities with key competencies required in a range of occupations. Employees and managers can use the tool to assess the career-development benefits of volunteering. Voluntary organizations can use it to design their volunteer opportunities with real skill development lens.

“Corporations that have a robust corporate citizenship strategy which goes beyond community investment and donating dollars but integrates community involvement by actively supporting their employees’ desire to participate in community are setting the tone for more innovative volunteer engagement in Canada where all parties can benefit,” said Ruth MacKenzie, President & CEO, Volunteer Canada.

Manulife Financial is an example of corporate leadership when it comes to employer-supported volunteers. Today marks an important milestone for the company, which is celebrating the one-year anniversary of a partnership with Volunteer Canada to help advance the corporation’s official adoption of volunteering as its signature cause.

Manulife employees across Canada are supported in their volunteer efforts through a number of initiatives, including the Community Spirit Day program and Habitat for Humanity home sponsorship, that give employees a day off to volunteer and grant programs that support charities where employees volunteer their time.

“Since announcing our commitment to volunteerism last year, we’ve seen an incredible increase in awareness and participation in Manulife programs that support employee engagement,” said Nicole Boivin, Senior Vice-President, HR and Communications, Manulife Financial.

“Our commitment is to continue to build on our existing employee programs and also develop new and innovative initiatives that keep up with employee enthusiasm for volunteering and support the not for profit sector in its ability to deliver and manage great volunteer programs – we see it as a two-way street.”

Responding to findings in the Bridging the Gap research report, Manulife plans to develop new employee volunteer strategies by working closely with employees to better understand their volunteering styles, what they’re looking for in a volunteer experience, and how they hope to make a difference in their local communities across Canada.

Results of the pan-Canadian research study, Bridging the Gap, commissioned by Manulife Financial in partnership with Volunteer Canada, provides the most current national data about the changing culture of volunteering in Canada, including information specific to employer-supported volunteers. The study notes, among many of its key findings, the benefits of a common trend among some of Canada’s most successful companies to establish Employee Volunteer Programs. These programs are rooted in the philosophy that community volunteer work is also a matter of corporate concern and should be another measure of a company’s social responsibility.

“Formal employee volunteer programs and other forms of support for employees who are looking for meaningful volunteer experiences are having a positive impact on the communities in which they work as well as workforce morale, productivity, job satisfaction, employee retention, and staff development,” said MacKenzie.


Building the Bridge Campaign

In December 2010, Volunteer Canada and Manulife Financial unveiled Bridging the Gap, a pan-Canada research study identifying gaps between what Canadians look for when they consider volunteering and how organizations engage their volunteers.

The research gathered practical information organizations can use to engage volunteers in four distinct demographic groups: youth, family, baby boomers, and employer-supported volunteers. Volunteer Canada and Manulife are currently focused on filling these gaps through their Building the Bridge campaign launched in March 2011.

This multi-faceted effort includes a suite of digital components including: the new Skills Plus tool; the Volunteer Quiz (VQ); a ‘Get Volunteering’ web portal, Facebook page and application; a volunteer matching tool, at the recently enhanced, sponsored by Manulife Financial; a digital ad campaign; and the new Action Bénévole. New tools and resources will continue to roll out throughout 2011.

Volunteer Canada – The National Voice for Volunteerism in Canada

With more than 30 years of passionate commitment to the cause of volunteering and civic participation, Volunteer Canada inspires Canadians to be engaged from coast to coast to coast. Volunteer Canada develops programs, leads national initiatives, creates tools, and conducts vital research for the non-profit sector.

Focused on influencing social policy and developing valuable resources around volunteerism, the organization helps non-profits and businesses build capacity for the changing culture of volunteerism.

It recognizes the impact of Canada’s 12.5 million volunteers through national campaigns and works with its Corporate Council on Volunteering to catalyze conversations about corporate community involvement. Volunteer Canada works collaboratively with volunteer centres, business, and non-profit organizations to support volunteerism and the ultimate agents of social change, Canada’s volunteers.

Manulife’s Commitment to Volunteerism

Preparing for the future is something Manulife ( gets behind every day. The Manulife Volunteer Commitment focuses on helping Canadians build a better future on three important levels: by inspiring Canadians to want to get involved and give back; by supporting initiatives that help Canadians match their unique skills and talents with meaningful volunteer opportunities; and by engaging Canadians in the idea of volunteerism and its value to the future of our country.