FES Prof. Handy turns research spotlight on volunteers

York’s Prof. Femida Handy, Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES), was the lead researcher in a study on the impact of the dwindling number of volunteers on hospitals, commissioned by the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy (CCP). The work came as extension to Handy’s earlier research on the non-profit sector.

Handy”s two-part study, entitled “Costs and Contributions of Professional Management: Lessons from Ontario’s Hospitals”, and “Hospital Volunteers: An Important and Changing Resource”, was in collaboration with marketing Prof. Narasimhan Srinivasan from the University of Connecticut. Srinivasan was visiting York as a Fulbright scholar and Kahanoff Fellow with the Nonprofit Management and Leadership Program at the Schulich School of Business.

Their study was one of 14, which were part of a larger research project undertaken during the International Year of Volunteers 2001, with funding supplied by the federal government. The comprehensive study delved into the questions of why volunteering matters and how volunteers are changing. As well, it looked at the economic value of volunteering and how corporations benefit from encouraging employee volunteerism.

With a $68,655 grant from the CCP, Handy and Srinivasan studied the changing role of volunteers and the part they play in increasing the perceived quality of care in hospitals. It was CCP’s premise that “due to the increasing strain placed on hospitals and the healthcare system in general from funding cuts and an aging population, volunteers are more important than ever in maintaining one of Canada’s most cherished systems. Although volunteer auxiliaries have been a historical feature in many hospitals, the nature and role of volunteers have changed significantly.”

Handy’s and Srinavasan’s findings showed that hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area and surrounding regions derived an average of $6.84 in value from volunteers for every dollar they spent – a return on investment of 684 per cent.

For further details on the over-all study, visit the Media Relations Web site at: http://www.yorku.ca/ycom/release/archive/120602.htm.