National Survey of Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations

// This is an archived page. This Voluntary Sector Initiative is no longer active.

The National Survey of Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations (NSNVO) is the first-ever, large-scale survey of nonprofit and voluntary organizations in Canada. The survey provides detailed information on the size and scope of the voluntary sector in Canada, including types of organizations, what they do, their budgets, and numbers of paid staff and volunteers. The survey also helps clarify the needs and challenges facing the sector by providing data on organizations’ perceptions of their strengths and weaknesses. The resulting research will contribute to improved policy and program decision-making. The NSNVO is funded by Human Resources Development Canada through the Capacity Joint Table of the Voluntary Sector Initiative.

The two major objectives of the NSNVO project are:

  • To provide a preliminary assessment of the areas where organizations could improve their capacity to achieve their missions; and
  • To collect comprehensive information about the breadth of the nonprofit and voluntary sector in Canada, the types of organizations that make up the sector and the services they provide.

The NSNVO was carried out by a consortium of organizations with the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy as the lead organization. A Research Steering Committee guided the survey development and research.

In the initial phase of the project, a nation-wide series of consultations with nonprofit and voluntary organizations were held in 2002 to learn about the challenges that organizations face in trying to fulfill their missions and achieve their objectives, and the unique strengths and capacities they possess. The results of this research, released in May 2003, are reported in The Capacity to Serve: A Qualitative Study of the Challenges Facing Canada’s Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations.

The second phase of the project involved a national survey of approximately 13,000 nonprofit and voluntary organizations. The survey was conducted in the Spring of 2003 by Statistics Canada on behalf of the NSNVO consortium. A report, Cornerstones of Community: Highlights from the National Survey of Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations was released on September 20, 2004.

The Capacity Joint Table Advisory Committee supports a range of research initiatives on the voluntary sector. The National Survey of Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations is one of three research and information projects focusing on profiling the size, scope, and contributions of the voluntary sector to Canadian society. The two other projects are the Johns Hopkins Comparative Non-profit Project and the National Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating.

For further information about the NSNVO, please visit