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Why do we volunteer?

Three masked volunteers packing supplies in a truck.
Courtesy of CEE Centre For Young Black Professionals

This National Volunteer Week, we’re talking about the reasons we give back through volunteering

Dear Friend,

As we kick off National Volunteer Week, I want to thank each and every one of our volunteers for sitting on our board and committees, mentoring youth, partnering with local organizations to deliver meals, ensuring our events run smoothly, packing care packages, and so much more. Each of these single acts—each of you—have an incredible impact on our community.

But I also want to talk about why we volunteer. We volunteer because our time and our care—person to person, face to face—is the most selfless gift we can give each other. Because offering our support, allyship, solidarity is the heart and soul of humanity. Because we are, and will remain, stronger when we act in a united way.

I see the impact this care can have every day. I see it in a long-time volunteer, Talena, who grew up going to United Way-funded music lessons and leadership programs and now spends hours reviewing grant applications so that the next generation gets the same supports she did.

I see it in the former paramedic, Manuel, who witnessed how poverty and inequality impacted people’s lives. He’s spent the better part of a decade championing United Way in his workplace, motivating, educating and reminding people of the importance of giving back.

And I see it in Joanne, a mother of three who found herself suddenly without a home. A United Way employment program helped her get back on her feet and made Joanne feel like her family was going to be ok. For years, she criss-crossed our region, generously sharing her story and inspiring others to step up.

Below you’ll find some ideas of how you too can give your time and care to community. Whether you choose to get involved with a workplace fundraising campaign, help out at one of our agencies or volunteer at one of our events, know that you are helping our region be a better place for all.

Always, and only, thank you. 

Daniele Zanotti
President & CEO
United Way Greater Toronto

Talena Jackson’s early experiences with United Way-supported organizations inspired her to give back, and she has spent 10 years supporting our work, including by reviewing grant applications and helping us celebrate community workers through the Bhayana Family Foundation Awards. Talena is currently a Field Education Manager at Nipissing University.

Manuel Elsayed is the Director, Shopper Marketing, Retail Media & Data Strategy at P&G Canada. He has been on the leadership team behind the P&G Gives Back campaign for more than seven years, supporting United Way and other Canadian charities. He considers his role in the campaign a year-round effort and is always encouraging his colleagues to get involved in whatever way they can.  

Joanne Amos has been part of our Speakers Bureau for over five years, shining a light on the impact United Way has on individual lives. She also has worked as a Case Manager at the John Howard Society of Toronto, a United Way-supported organization, connecting people to critical supports and services.

Things to Know Right Now

Volunteers handing out food bags.
Courtesy of ACSA

Reengaging Volunteers

The non-profit sector has been struggling with a decline in volunteerism. A survey last year showed that 62 per cent of non-profits lost volunteers and more than 50 per cent struggle to recruit new volunteers. The Philanthropist recently spoke with our President and CEO Daniele Zanotti and other sector leaders about the challenges organizations face around volunteerism and potential solutions. These include acknowledging the mindset shift caused by the pandemic, the need for flexibility for younger generations and focusing on community care over transactional volunteer engagement.

Minimum Wage Increase

The provincial government is increasing the minimum wage to $16.55 from $15.50 an hour starting Oct. 1. This is welcome news, but the affordability crisis continues to put a squeeze on budgets, even for the most basic items. “Every bit of money that people have is going toward accommodation needs and housing needs. And the thing that always gets sacrificed is food,” says Deena Ladd, executive director at the United Way-funded Workers’ Action Centre. While the minimum wage increase is a step in the right direction, a living wage—calculated based on the cost of necessities like housing, food, clothing and transportation—is necessary for income security. In the GTA, that equals $23.15 an hour. At United Way, we advocate for a true living wage and enhanced income security supports and are proud to model this ourselves.

Update from the Frontlines

Construction cranes in a building develoment

Inclusive Affordable Housing

United Way-funded Community Living Toronto (CLTO) is partnering with Tridel to build 2,200 residential units in Scarborough. CLTO will own one of five towers, where they will provide programming for people with intellectual disabilities. The 280-unit building will also include affordable, deeply affordable, and market rental apartments, with 20 per cent reserved for people living independently with support from CLTO. Building inclusive communities with accessible and affordable housing is essential, and we believe that partnering across sectors is the best way to achieve this. But we also know that there is more work to be done, and we will continue to advocate for better policy solutions and collaborative initiatives to ensure everyone has access to safe, affordable and inclusive housing.


Over the pandemic, community service agencies saw a drastic decrease in the number of volunteers they could rely on, but 72-year-old Dave Madder knows the difference one person can make, volunteering with eight programs at the United Way-funded East Scarborough Storefront and Kingston Galloway Orton Park Connects. Now retired, he’s been volunteering since 1990 and spends his time coming up with new programs and keeping them running, from assembling Christmas hampers and dropping off meals to helping people find shelter and fill out paperwork.

Get Involved

Three volunteers directing people where to go and holding signs that say ‘Elevator Down.’

Volunteer with United Way

Volunteers are essential in building better, stronger, more inclusive communities. If you’re looking to get involved, we’ve got some exciting opportunities to inspire you:

  • Looking for a platform to share your United Way story and expand your network? Join our Speakers Bureau, where volunteers deliver speeches that showcase community successes and needs, while inspiring others to donate, advocate and volunteer for United Way. Contact to learn more about the program.
  • Our CN Tower Climb returns this October, and as the climbers take on the tower, the volunteers will be creating an unforgettable experience for everyone involved. Register to be notified once volunteer registration opens up.
  • Want to get involved with United Way at work? Learn how to organize a fundraising campaign at your workplace.
  • For other ways to volunteer in community, check out United Way-funded Volunteer MBC (Mississauga, Brampton, Caledon) or Volunteer Toronto.

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