Measuring the Economic Value of Volunteering

Economic Value of Volunteering in CanadaThe final week of April saw Canada celebrate National Volunteer Week. In honour of this event, TD Bank released a report that estimates volunteering in Canada creates $50 billion in economic value each year. To put it into perspective, that is almost 3% of Canada’s national economy.

In fact, the report also calls that $50 billion figure “conservative,” as it’s only about half of Statistic Canada’s estimation of the value add from the non-profit sector in Canada. The discrepancy comes from the fact that this figure doesn’t include capital investment (not to mention intangible outcomes).

The report begins with the International Labour Organization (ILO) definition of a volunteer as an individual who performs “unpaid non-compulsory work; that is, time individuals give without pay to activities performed either through an organization or directly for others outside their own household.”

As volunteer work is unpaid, the report argues that one way to measure economic value from volunteering is by the opportunity cost for spending time on unpaid work as opposed to paid work. Multiply the average hourly wage rate ($24) by the total Canadian volunteer hours (2.1 billion) and you are left with the $50 billion figure that would have been produced if those volunteer hours were instead spent on paid work.

Again, this is a meager estimate as it doesn’t include economic value from the social capital generated. These are the intangible benefits associated with volunteering, such as skills developed through volunteering that are applied to a paid job, or socio-economic outcomes that benefit vulnerable groups.

Putting aside the calculation of this figure, let’s talk about why it is important.

For the most part, volunteering is recognized by its altruistic characteristics like selfless acts and giving back to the community. While these characteristics are important to our society’s well being, they are difficult to quantify and do not demonstrate economic value. Without these things, it is far too easy to undervalue the important role that volunteerism plays in our economy.

We’ve seen first hand what this undervaluation can do. There are many aspects of volunteering that go neglected causing ongoing struggles for organizations working with volunteers. This creates a burden on volunteering that could be overcome with more investment into a supporting infrastructure. Technological innovation in the sector is particularly lackluster, current tools leave much to be desired and innovation is stagnant in favour of more profitable markets.

This study reminds Canada how critical volunteering is for our economy. It becomes clear that volunteerism that is not only worth protecting, but also bettering. We call upon our friends in the volunteer sector to join us in thinking big, innovating, and working to improve accessibility so that our volunteer hours (and dollars) continue to be put to great work.

With better tools, support, and innovation, who knows what the world of volunteerism can achieve?

- Kevan and Jon

Update: What’s Going on at Kindness Connect?

Kindness Connect Coming Soon

The past few months have been a flurry of activity. We received a Global Action Grant, met with some great organizations in the GTA, hosted a workshop at University of Waterloo’s Leadership Starts Here conference, and kept up with the design and development of Kindness Connect.

“When will Kindness Connect be ready?”

While the journey thus far has been enjoyable, we are growing more and more eager to put the final Kindness Connect product in to the hands of users. It appears as though we’re not alone in this eagerness. Lately we’ve been receiving a lot of questions about the status of Kindness Connect, and so we thought we’d share an update for those following our progress.

Here’s a peek behind the curtain to see what’s coming up.

Burning Through the Development Backlog
It’s safe to say that design and development of the web platform has been the primary focus of our time. To track progress, we follow our development backlog – a list of features that make up the entire web platform, ordered chronologically by time of development.

Moving through the development backlog is a lot like reaching “inbox zero”, the activity of reading and actioning every item in your email inbox. When a feature has been designed and developed, it’s checked off the list and we move on to the next. This process is repeated until there are no longer any features left.

Slowly but surely the list of remaining features has dwindled down to a handful of items, which indicates that Kindness Connect is almost complete. We’ll be spending the next month finishing off those remaining features and performing an internal end-to-end test of the platform.

Here is a sneak peek of Map Search, one of the intuitive ways we make it easier for volunteers to connect with great local organizations. It’s a handy little feature that lets you visually investigate volunteer opportunities around your location.

Kindness Connect Map Search

Testing With a Beta Group
Once development and internal testing is complete, we’ll be opening up the doors to a small group of individuals and organizations for a beta trial period. At this point users will be given their own Kindness Connect account and will have the ability to access the platform’s full functionality. This is perhaps the most important milestone for us. Users will be able to experience the benefits of Kindness Connect early on while we collect real world usage and feedback. We are beyond excited to demonstrate what we’ve been building.

You have ideas, and we’d love to hear them. Kindness Connect is a collaborative and continuous effort, injected with great ideas from all kinds of sources. Discussions with friends and strangers alike frequently lead to “wouldn’t it be cool if” or “have you thought of”, and ideas from these conversations have often made it into development. If you have any ideas you’d like to share, please don’t hesitate to say hello here: kevan at kindnessconnect dot com.

Thank-you for taking the time to catch up with us, and we look forward to continuing the conversation.


Kevan Osmond

Good News Tuesday – 5 Inspirational Photos (Edition #11)

After a detour week, Good News Tuesday is back in its place: Tuesday. We thought we would celebrate this return with a picture edition. Enjoy!

If you have something to share for the next edition, please drop us a note (






1. Doug Eaton - ”I asked a bunch of my friends on Facebook what should I do on my sixty-fifth and I got a whole long list of stuff and one of my friends said, ‘Why don’t you do 65 random acts of kindness?’” Doug decided to spend 65 minutes handing out $5 bills to people driving through a popular Oklahoma City intersection.



2. Olympic volunteer – Being a volunteer can pay off in many ways. For one volunteer at the 2012 Olympics this meant an unexpected fist bump from Usain Bolt – the fastest man alive – before the 200m final. Just look at that smile.



3. Hearing for the first time – Sloan Churman was born deaf and relied on reading lips to communicate with others. Finally, after 29 years, she received an Esteem Implant that allowed to to hear for the first time.



4. Parking Space – Ithaca’s youngest-ever mayor recently made headlines by turning his parking spot into a park, open for anyone to visit. According to the mayor it is “a small statement, but it is an important statement.” He hopes that the little park will inspire people to “do something that will change the environment around them”.



5. Canada Pride – Digging back to the 2011 Pride Parade in Toronto, this photo captures a Toronto police officer having fun with the crowd. What a perfect example of two sides coming together, utterly devoid of animosity.


Smells Like Team Spirit: The Mika Story

Office morale is an important thing. It can result in showing up for work with enthusiasm, happily putting in extra hours when work demands it, or openly praising a workplace. In fact, entire teams have been formed with the sole purpose of building out culture and raising office morale. Here at Kindness Connect, we knew we couldn’t fall behind. It was our task, nay, our responsibility to make sure office morale was taken care of.

So we decided to hire a mascot.

Let me clarify before things get carried away. We’re not making someone walk around in an giant styrofoam costume. It would get hot in there. Besides, that type of mascot usually requires financial compensation. Instead, we decided to search for an employee that we could pay with food and board. It was the best offer we could put forward and lucky for us, the new hire happily agreed.

Allow me to officially introduce Mika. She is a big fan of play breaks, enjoys pacing the office, and takes the phrase “toss me a bone” a little too seriously.


When we drafted the initial letter of employment we actually had no idea how great the results could be. But lo and behold, math never lies. Here is a graph of office morale levels before and after hiring our mascot:

mika graph

Mika, we look forward to building out a professional relationship with you. From all of us at Kindness Connect, welcome to the team!


Good News Tuesday – Edition #10

Good News Tuesday…on a Wednesday?! Stranger things have happened, so we’re going for it!

If you have something to share for the next edition, please drop us a note (

  1. Conscientious people are more likely to have higher GPAs, according to new Rice research - Conscientiousness is one of the “Big Five” personality traits – others being agreeableness, extraversion, neuroticism and openness to experience – and is now linked to grade point averages, says a new study at Rice University. What this essentially means is that those who are conscientious are more likely to have higher GPAs. As I see it, a positive incentive to boost conscientiousness is likely a good thing. (thanks for sending this in, Shane!)
  2. Google Hands Street View Trekker Over To A Local To Get Imagery Of Canada’s Arctic Territory - You may have taken advantage of Google’s famed Street View to view panoramic pictures of streets all around the world, or most recently to take in a virtual tour of the Grand Canyon. Google is sticking to its mission of providing panoramic pictures of everywhere on earth, but they are deviating from their usual tactics to accomplish this. As they set out to map Canada’s territory of Nunavut, Google has teamed up with a local resident instead of using a Google employee. Chris Kalluk is the lucky Nunavut resident who will strap up the Google Trekker backpack and venture across the territory, collecting thousands of photos along the way. I can’t wait to see the results!
  3. Tim’s Place, Albuquerque: Good Food, Good People – Tim Harris is America’s first restaurant owner who also happens to have Down syndrome. Running a successful restaurant can be a difficult task, but Tim has wanted this since he was 14 and has dedicated time and focus to making sure he would succeed. Here are just some of Tim’s practices that make his restaurant a place to love: he is so excited that he has a personal dance-off in the parking lot every morning on his way to work, he gives each customer who wants one a hug (32,475 and counting), and he goes into the kitchen to tell the cooks that they are the best cooks ever. I know where I will end up if I ever visit Albuquerque!
  4. Happiness Goes Global — How Will You Celebrate International Day of Happiness - Today is the first ever International Day of Happiness, a movement inspired by a representative from the small country of Bhutan. During a recent conference the Hon. Jigme Thinley introduced a UN resolution to consider the happiness of a country’s citizens. He spoke of countries coming together in a new vision of global happiness, starting with each individual. Before long 193 countries unanimously sanctioned March 20 as the first International Day of Happiness. Read on for information about how you can get involved!
  5. Iram Leon, Dad With Brain Cancer, Wins Marathon While Pushing Daughter In Stroller - Winning a marathon is an incredible accomplishment. Scratch that, finishing a marathon is an incredible accomplishment. But Iram Leon wasn’t going to let his recent diagnosis of brain cancer get in the way of winning the Gusher Marathon in Beaumont, Texas. In fact, Leon finished in just over 3 hours while pushing his 6-year-old daughter in a stroller the entire way. Remarkable.

Happy reading!

Good News Tuesday – Edition #9

Welcome to Good News Tuesday!

Isn’t there enough bad news in the world? Jack Johnson seems to think so, and here at Kindness Connect we do too. That’s why each Tuesday we’ll be rounding up a week’s dose of positive news and sharing it with you. If you have something to share for the next edition, please drop us a note (






  1. Drowning boy saved from stormy sea by ‘human chain’ of 12 people holding hands on New Zealand beach (VIDEO) - the title of this article says it all. 12-year-old Josh McQuoid was dragged out to sea when a bunch of strangers banded together to help save his life. Hit the link for a video of this unbelievable rescue.
  2. Best magic trick ever? Street magic offers homeless man hope – and cash (VIDEO) – keeping in tune with the video theme this week, take a look at this young street magician pull off a trick of a lifetime. What a great take on magic for good!
  3. Mitchell Marcus sinks one basket and lifts crowd’s hearts (VIDEO) - this video has gone viral since its original appearance on YouTube, and for good reason. Mitchell Marcus, an 18-year-old developmentally disabled student, loved basketball so much that his high school basketball team named him its general manager. To Mitchell’s surprise, the coach told him he would be suiting up for a game. With two minutes left in the game, Mitchell finally got his chance to join teammates out on the court for game action. What happened next is nothing short of inspiring.
  4. One man’s eight-year effort to build a wooden ship by hand (VIDEO) – Jonah Eaton put his mind to something, and by gosh it looks he’ll get it done. The young man from Philadelphia decided that he would build a 42-foot sail boat by hand. What seemed like a daunting task to handle individually has turned into a reality thanks in part to “scores” of volunteer help. According to Eaton, “there is a long long long list of people who would come in even for just a few hours or a day.”

Happy reading everyone!

Our Experience at the University of Waterloo Leadership Conference

UW Workshop - 1

A short while ago Jon and I were asked to take part in University of Waterloo’s inaugural Leadership Starts Here conference. The event is a one-day student-run conference for 200 UW undergrad students looking to expand their leadership abilities and network with peers, staff, and alumni.

When we received the invite we were honoured to say the least. Jon and I are both UW graduates and can link some of our current progress and inspiration back to our days in Waterloo.  Naturally, we were happy to come back for a day and help out. We were to assume the role of workshop lead, meaning we would plan and prepare a workshop for about 50 attendees.

The theme we were given was “passion into action”. Ok, awesome! But what would we talk about?

Before we started writing anything down we decided to take a few steps back and come up with some objectives. A presentation is only as good as the foundation it sits on, right? First off: how could we provide the most value for the attendees? We really wanted the students to come out of the workshop feeling like it was a useful and fun experience. We also wanted to get them involved somehow. No one likes listening to someone talk at them for an hour straight.

With our theme and objectives in place we were ready to pick a relevant topic. Some good advice I’ve received in the past is to talk about what you know. One thing that Jon and I have found is that you can never underestimate how important a pitch is, that is, communicating your idea in a succinct and convincing way. We are constantly being asked “what is it you’re doing?” which inevitably results in a pitch of some sort. Meeting with our advisors, potential customers, friends, family, or networking. The audience changes but the core message remains the same. The best part is, a pitch is not exclusive to starting a business. Whether it’s trying to start a business, taking an idea to your boss, or anything in between. Your pitch is your idea’s gateway to the community.

It was decided then. We would talk about the importance of a pitch and incorporate a fun competition to get the students involved.

The competition went like this: we divided the attendees into groups, gave them a product and 15 minutes to prepare a pitch, then 2 minutes to pitch as a group in front of everyone assuming their product was new to market. The groups then voted on each pitch using a sign that said “Buy” on one side, and “Pass” on the other. For example, we used products like toilet paper, staplers, and pillows. Funny, yes, but simple enough that they wouldn’t take away from the pitch.

UW Workshop - 2

This was the best part of the workshop. It gave the students an opportunity to get out of their seats and put some theory into practice. Soon they were networking, collaborating to design a pitch, and for some, getting over a fear of public speaking. Everyone seemed to have a laugh while we took time to vote “Buy” or “Pass” after each pitch. It was a scenario reminiscent of Dragon’s Den.

All in all it was a great experience for us and hopefully for the attendees as well. To the eager individual that listed “prizes!” as a suggestion for a future workshop: we are listening and couldn’t agree more!

Thank-you to the crew from Alumni Affairs and the Student Success Office for putting on such an inspiring event and inviting us out. We’ll see you next year!

Good News Tuesday – Edition #8

Welcome to Good News Tuesday!

Isn’t there enough bad news in the world? Jack Johnson seems to think so, and here at Kindness Connect we do too. That’s why each Tuesday we’ll be rounding up a week’s dose of positive news and sharing it with you. If you have something to share for the next edition, please drop us a note (


  1. Timeraiser (Toronto) - Looking to do some good and get some great artwork out of it? Look no further. Timeraiser is an event that takes place in various cities across Canada where individuals bid on artwork. Except in this scenario, the individuals are not bidding with money…they are bidding with volunteer hours. You too can do the same on Friday March 22nd as the Timeraiser event comes to Toronto (check the link for details).
  2. Zuckerberg, Gates, Will.I.Am Encourage Students to Code – Computer programming is important, isn’t it? It’s impossible to go a day without interacting with something that was built using code. Code empowers young people to build a product with a few friends that within a few years could turn into something that is used daily by a billion people (read: facebook). It has the power to flip industries on their sides, start businesses over night, and transform our lives. For these reasons and more, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and plenty of other star-studded advocates have stepped up to show their support for, a non-profit carrying out a mission that says “every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn to code.”
  3. Fan who took off Pistons jersey post-Tayshaun Prince trade meets idol at Grizzlies game (video) - A short while ago the Detroit Pistons traded their 11 year veteran Tayshaun Prince to the Memphis Grizzlies. As this video shows, one Tayshaun Prince fan had to discover the hard way that his favourite player had been traded. As soon as he realized Prince wasn’t coming out of the locker room that night, the eager fan took off his jersey and slammed it to the ground. All was not entirely lost. The video went viral and soon enough an the fan was swept down to Memphis for a surprise meeting with his favourite player Prince.
  4. Y Combinator Backs Its First Non-Profit, Watsi; Paul Graham Says He’s “Never Been So Excited” To Invest – We are blown away by a new non-profit named Watsi, a “global crowdfunding platform for healthcare that enables anyone to donate as little as $5 to directly fund life-changing medical care for people in need.” The concept is pretty simple: Watsi posts a few profiles of individuals that require medical attention who cannot receive it, anyone can help fund the treatment with as little as $5, and everyone is posted with updates about the outcome of the treatments. The incredible part about the Watsi crew is that 100% of every donation goes towards they medical care…Watsi even pays for the credit card processing fees that would otherwise cut into the donation.

Zuckerberg Code


Happy reading everyone!

Good News Tuesday – Edition #7

Welcome to Good News Tuesday!

Isn’t there enough bad news in the world? Jack Johnson seems to think so, and here at Kindness Connect we do too. That’s why each Tuesday we’ll be rounding up a week’s dose of positive news and sharing it with you. If you have something to share for the next edition, please drop us a note (


  1. How do you say ‘volunteer’ in Russian? Sochi 2014 Olympics introduces a new concept - With the 2014 Olympics in Russia fast approaching, one can look back at the 1980 Moscow Olympics for the sake of comparison. At the 1980 Games there were no volunteers – people were conscripted by the Communist regime. Fast forward to today where 25,000 actual volunteers  selected from over 160,000 applicants. That sounds like forward progress for Russia.
  2. Fauja Singh, World’s Oldest Runner at 101, Races For Women’s Rights - Read about the man who took up running at age 89, and is now planning for his final two Marathons. “I will keep running to inspire the masses”.
  3. In Shanghai, migrant worker loses 17,600 yuan, receives 22,000 in donations - Fortunately for Qin Xiaoliang, he had savings. Unfortunately he was carrying it on his moped when he fell and lost it all to passer-bys. Fortunately the story was picked up by Chinese press which led to donations totalling more than he had lost!
  4. Greatest Person Of The Day – We are just learning about this awesome program today. The Huffington Post is looking for nominees for their Greatest Person of the Day awards. “The recognition honors acts of service that go above and beyond — from local heroes performing selfless acts of courage in their communities to global trailblazers embarking on humanitarian efforts worldwide.” If you know someone that fits this bill, why not give them a nomination?
  5. Edmonton romantics to deliver 1,000 love letters, to strangers - Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and it looks like this guy isn’t the only one planning for it. Ashley Green of Edmonton has initiated a movement known as Love Letters 2 Strangers, designed to include those who might otherwise be left out on Valentine’s Day. 60 volunteers, 1 library, and 1,034 letters later their job was nearly complete. The next step? Placing, tucking, hiding, and handing out the letters across Edmonton.

Happy reading everyone!

Good News Tuesday – Edition #6

Welcome to Good News Tuesday!

Isn’t there enough bad news in the world? Jack Johnson seems to think so, and here at Kindness Connect we do too. That’s why each Tuesday we’ll be rounding up a week’s dose of positive news and sharing it with you. If you have something to share for the next edition, please drop us a note (


  1. Google Giving helps bring 15,000 Raspberry Pi units to UK school children – for those new to the Raspberry Pi craze, allow me to clear something up. It is not a dessert. The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer designed to teach basic computer science in schools. It appears as though the philanthropic arm of Google understands the increasing relevance of teaching computer science in school.
  2. Random Acts Of Kindness With #GiveMondays - Do you have a case of the Mondays? “#GiveMondays is a community of anonymous givers who thought that it would be nice to start off everyone’s week with a random act of kindness. The act of giving makes you feel better, and it doesn’t matter what you give or how much you give, either.” Try it out and let us know what you think!
  3. Global Action Grant Winners: Kevan Osmond and Jon Burns - we admit, this is pretty shameless promotion. Thank-you to YCI for believing in our vision and helping us reach our goals.
  4. Sports Illustrated 2012 SportsKids of the Year: Conner and Cayden - a truly inspirational story of two brothers. Cayden (age 6) was born with cerebral palsy, affecting his motor control centre and body movement, which has relegated him to the sidelines for most of his life. Wanting to share physical activities and a bond with his younger brother, Conner (age 9) entered a triathlon as a two man team. The 9 year old pushes and pulls his younger brother through every step of the race so that Cayden can finally participate.
  5. Be part of the National Day of Service - this one goes out to all of our friends south of the border. Regardless of political views, we can all agree that President Obama is an outgoing man. This year he is facilitating the process  for Americans searching for community opportunities. We like the looks of this tool! (thanks Priyanka for sending this one in)

Happy reading everyone!