How are British Columbians making a difference in their communities?

In July 2019, Vancouver Foundation surveyed 7,980 British Columbians to learn more about the state of community participation across the province. Our goal was to delve deeper into the various ways people are contributing to their communities and what the differences are between generations. How are British Columbians participating in community? Who’s most active and in what ways? What motivates or limits them from doing more?

Key Findings

People are actively involved in communities by participating in a range of ways they believe make an impact. Many of the contributions may seem small, such as making choices about products that align with personal values or wearing a ribbon in support of a cause, but they’re done with a belief in making a difference. In some cases, people may even be contributing more than they think. When we take into account engagement through social media and the workplace, the ways people participate in community broaden even more.

Many people experience barriers such as work or school obligations, finances, and health issues that prevent them from doing more in their community but some barriers are experienced more than others depending on stage in life. Lack of time is the most common barrier to participation for all generations. Not knowing how to get more involved was also prevalent, especially amongst iGen, Millennials, and Matures experiencing this slightly more so than others. Lastly, the youngest and oldest generations share similar challenges of not knowing how to do more in community.

Most British Columbians feel welcome and may have a desire to be more involved in making their communities a better place to live. They’re motivated by a belief in giving back and more than 90% believe they can have at least some impact in making their communities better. The ways they participate and contribute in their communities ultimately reflect a strong belief that individual actions can make a difference.

British Columbians are actively contributing to their communities in a range of ways.


The Vital Signs report summarizes the findings from an online survey of 7,980 BC residents. The survey was administered by Mustel Group between June 26 to July 9, 2019. The final sample was weighted to match census data based on gender, age, and region of residence. 

Community foundations across BC (including Vancouver Foundation) promoted and shared the survey through websites, social media, and email. Approximately 70% of interviews were collected by Mustel Group and 30% by community foundations. Respondents were able to complete the survey in English or Chinese.

Results may not add up to 100% due to rounding and ‘prefer not to say’ responses.


Vital Signs® is a community check-up conducted by community foundations across Canada that measures the vitality of our communities and identifies significant trends in a range of areas critical to quality of life. Vital Signs is coordinated nationally by Community Foundations of Canada and with special thanks to the Toronto Foundation for developing and sharing the Vital Signs concept.

We would also like to thank the contributions and support of community foundations of BC, Mustel Group, and Affinity Bridge. As well as Vital Signs Research Committee members: Dr. Meg Holden, Robert Janus, Maggie Hodge Kwan, Kevin Millsip, Dr. Jat Sandhu, and Sarah Trudeau for their valuable time and expertise.