Eligibility, Award Categories and Recognition


Nominees can be individuals or groups, businesses or not-for-profit organizations. Nominees must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Individual nominees must be Canadian citizens, permanent residents or protected persons within the meaning of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and at least 18 years of age.
  • Eligible organizations must be Canadian (e.g. registered not-for-profit organizations or businesses registered in Canada). For the purposes of the administration of the Prime Minister's Volunteer Awards, not-for-profit organization means entities incorporated under either federal or provincial not-for-profit legislation, or registered charities that do not have transferable ownership interests, and are organized and operated exclusively on a not-for-profit basis for a variety of purposes, including social, educational, professional and charitable purposes.
  • All nominees must have contributed to addressing social challenges in their community.
  • Political work and public advocacy work are excluded.

Award categories

The Prime Minister's Volunteer Awards consist of 17 awards in total. Two awards—Emerging Leader and Lifelong Achievement—are national awards. Three awards—Community Leader, Business Leader and Social Innovator—are regional awards. One winner for each regional award is selected from each of the following five regions: 

  1. Atlantic (New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island),
  2. Quebec,
  3. Ontario,
  4. Prairies (Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan), and
  5. British Columbia and the North (British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon). 

National awards

Two award categories—Lifelong Achievement and Emerging Leader—are for national awards.

Lifelong Achievement

Nominees in this category have made a difference in their communities by volunteering and leading volunteer efforts over the course of their lives. Generally, nominees in this category have volunteered for more than 20 years. Their contributions may have been made through ongoing commitments to one organization or cause, or separate commitments to a variety of organizations or causes.

Examples of nominees include (all examples are fictitious):

  • When he was 35 years old, Arthur started a shelter when a friend confided in him about the years of abuse she suffered as a child. The shelter, which accommodates up to 16 children, provides short-term services to boys and girls between 10 and 17 years old who have suffered abuse. Now 58 years old, Arthur continues to run the shelter and works tirelessly to educate others in his community about how they can protect children from abuse.
  • Millie makes weekly visits to residents at the local seniors' home, volunteers at special events that raise funds for development projects and sits on the board of directors for a community not-for-profit organization. She also babysits, lends her car and offers a place to stay to people who need help.

See the profile of this year’s recipient of the Lifelong Achievement award.

Emerging Leader

Nominees in this category are new volunteers whose volunteer contributions made or are making a positive difference in their communities. Generally, nominees in this category have volunteered for no more than three years.

Examples of nominees include (all examples are fictitious):

  • Inspired by her family's experience, Lucy collaborated with a local university, fellow students and a not-for-profit organization that works with new immigrants. Together, they organized a volunteer youth-senior matching program that helps immigrants adjust to life in Canada.
  • James has given up teaching in southern Ontario to teach and volunteer in a northern community. He works with others to develop and implement a variety of social programs, including initiatives to help local high school students overcome their addictions and to help all high school students in the community graduate.

See the profile of this year’s recipient of the Emerging Leader award.

Regional awards

Three awards—Community Leader, Business Leader and Social Innovator—are regional awards. 

Community Leader

Nominees in this category are individuals or groups who have made exceptional contributions to improve the well being of individuals and families.

Examples of nominees include (all examples are fictitious):

  • Lorne, a resident of Nunavut, saw hockey as a way of giving local children an opportunity to have fun and learn together. By getting local businesses to chip in with support, he was able to create a hockey league for kids in his community and provide them with new equipment.
  • Hélène is a retired social worker who volunteers her time by sitting on the board of a small community organization that helps young people at risk. In this role, she organizes workshops in high schools and provides advice and shares best practices with employees of the organization.
  • Gail and other members of her community realized that several of them knew elderly men and women who were having a hard time getting to medical and other appointments. Seeing a real need in their community, the group set up a driving service to transport elderly people to their appointments.

See the profiles of this year’s recipients of the Community Leader award.

Business Leader

Nominees in this category are businesses that demonstrate social responsibility and support the well-being of their communities. Businesses are vital contributors to communities through donations and volunteer contributions. Since businesses' contributions to communities can take many forms, nominees' volunteer contributions can vary widely. Through socially responsible actions, businesses, including social enterprises, move towards creating shared value by either partnering with NFPs to address complex social issues, donating time or resources to an NFP or encouraging employees to either volunteer or make a donation to a charity in order to contribute to social goals. 

Examples of nominees include (all examples are fictitious):

  • As a business with a charitable workplace campaign, Easy Lawn Care encourages its 20 employees to contribute to the United Way every year, and supports each employee to volunteer up to five days a year with local charities.
  • JKR Accounting is a small firm that provided start-up financing and mentors a local vintage clothing boutique. Aside from its for-profit activities, the store loans suits to women with low incomes to wear to job interviews. The accounting firm also offers sessions to help women advance their careers.
  • Recycling Inc. is a local business that hires and trains people with disabilities.

See the profiles of this year’s recipients of the Business Leader award.

Social Innovator

Nominees in this category are not-for-profit organizations that use innovative ideas and approaches, including the adoption of business practices, to improve their ability to respond to social challenges. Social innovators are organizations that develop new ideas or use existing ideas in new ways to address complex social challenges and help build stronger communities. These innovations take many forms: implementing creative approaches to programs and services, developing and delivering resources, and building relationships. Social innovators provide creative solutions that respond to unmet social needs.

Examples of nominees include (all examples are fictitious):

  • A local food bank started a social enterprise catering business that employs street kids and clients of the food bank.
  • Yes, a youth organization, uses social media to recruit young people to volunteer for the local elementary school's breakfast program. It also hires young people to give them valuable work experience.
  • A number of small volunteer-based community organizations reduced their overhead costs by sharing office space, a reception area and accounting services.
  • Grandma's House is a small not-for-profit organization that coordinates volunteers from churches across the country to provide shelter, meals, clothing and counselling to homeless single mothers and couples with young children.

See the profiles of this year’s recipients of the Social Innovator award.


Award recipients will be recognized at an award ceremony, where they will receive a medal, a pin and a certificate from the Prime Minister.

In addition, regional award recipients will be eligible to identify a not-for-profit organization to receive a $5,000 grant. National award recipients will be eligible to identify a not-for-profit organization to receive a $10,000 grant. 

More information

You can find more information about the Awards on these pages: