Janie is a CPA with great skills, a desire to help her community and very little time. Over the years she has volunteered at her kid’s school, helped coach soccer and spent many hours sorting food at her local food bank. Now she wants to use her considerable financial skills to help a nonprofit better manage their finances. Her employer is keen to help her do this because they know Janie is they kind of top talent they want to retain.

Together with a vast array of partners, the JW McConnell Family Foundation and MaRS Discovery District, are creating a thriving and prosperous Canada through the development of a skills-based volunteer marketplace. This work will enable nonprofits to further realize their impact and increase their sustainability while engaging corporate volunteers to use their considerable skills to make a real impact.

According to the global leading Taproot Foundation who has successfully led this work in the US, skills-based volunteering is the fastest growing employee volunteer program and employees are increasingly seeking meaning from their work, even more than happiness.

In Canada, there is lots of activity already happening in this space but what we are lacking is a marketplace. Instead what we have is a collection of isolated stories of committed volunteers helping causes they believe in. What we need is to get beyond the current support system that is sporadic, disconnected and sub-optimal.

We know we can help more nonprofits find the skills they need. We can help more corporate volunteers find the causes they care about. We can help make these matches more successful through adequate scoping and capacity building.

We need to tell a new story: one of innovation capacity being built by all who participate because these opportunities for cross-sectoral collaboration help us redefine our problems and then get to better solutions.

Over the next five years we are taking a journey that will see us:

  • conduct a needs assessment of skills needed by nonprofits and skills available from corporate volunteers
  • conduct a technology assessment of the types of features needed to make skills-based matching and ideally grow to create a platform where we can work together to collectively work on our challenges
  • conduct an awareness campaign that elevates the profile of skills-based volunteering and features exemplars
  • build capacity in nonprofits and corporates to make successful and effective matches
  • ensure the sustainability of this work as we make this approach the new way of doing business for all stakeholders
  • seek other opportunities for impact by linking our work to the Global Pro Bono Network; UN Impact 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.


We will be successful when we know that we have made citizens better aware of opportunities to use their skills to make a difference in tackling everything from simple to complex challenges and engaged to make it happen.

Want to join us? We need your skills to help us build this marketplace, so please contact Allyson Hewitt, JW McConnell Family Foundation, Senior Fellow, Social Innovation at the MaRS Discovery District: ahewitt@marsdd.com

Allyson Hewitt is a McConnell Foundation Senior Fellow and Director, Social Entrepreneurship, SiG@MaRS at MaRS Discovery District

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This