NWT lost thousands of volunteers in last five years, survey shows

Rotary Club of Yellowknife member Brian George, and Debra George, volunteer at a kettle at the Yellowknife Co-op
Brian George and Debra George volunteer at a Salvation Army kettle at the Yellowknife Co-op in 2019. Photo: James O'Connor

People in the Northwest Territories are now significantly less likely to spend time volunteering than they were even five years ago, new data suggests.

The NWT Bureau of Statistics says 13,561 residents reported volunteering in its most recent survey of communities, carried out last year. That’s down from 16,189 five years earlier and represents a drop of around 10 percentage points.

The news isn’t all bad. Volunteer numbers rose over the past five years in almost a dozen of the NWT’s smaller communities, according to the data.

Increases were recorded in Colville Lake, Délı̨nę, Fort Good Hope, Fort Liard, Fort McPherson, Fort Providence, Gamètì, Łutselk’e, Nahanni Butte, Tulita, and Ulukhaktok.



However, there were big drops in other places.

Yellowknife, which had more than 8,000 volunteers in 2014, reported just over 6,000 in 2019. Hay River lost nearly 150 volunteers (1,406 in 2019), while Fort Smith lost 200 (799 in 2019) despite its population increasing by almost the same amount.

Fort Simpson is down almost 100 volunteers (369 in 2019) and Inuvik has lost more than 200 (1,098 in 2019).

One in 10 NWT residents on a board

The data comes from a survey of all NWT communities carried out every five years. The most recent results were published last month.



The survey asked residents aged 15 and older whether they had volunteered the year before.

The latest results show more than 10 percent of NWT residents aged 15 and older volunteer on at least one board of directors. Yellowknife alone has more than 2,000 people on boards.

More than 2,500 residents across the NWT volunteer collecting, serving, or delivering food or goods. A similar number volunteer as coaches or referees.

More than 3,000 volunteer in some form of education role.

Volunteering is at its highest in the Sahtu, where 882 of the region’s 2,023 residents – 44 percent – reported some form of volunteer activity. That’s about five percent above the NWT average.

Behchokǫ̀ reported one of the lowest volunteer engagement rates. Out of the community’s 1,438 residents, 453 – 32 percent – said they volunteered.

More: NWT Bureau of Statistics 2019 community survey data

The survey relies on self-reporting, meaning it’s up to people to be honest about whether or not they took part in volunteering.

Across the NWT, 42 percent of women reported volunteering compared to 35 percent of men.

The most common volunteer activity is fundraising.