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Is It A Performance or Conduct Issue? Free Tool To Help You With Problem Volunteers

Posted By Jessica Pang-Parks, Education Coordinator - Grassroots Growth, January 19, 2017
Updated: January 18, 2017

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

At the start of each year, we often reflect on the past year’s achievements, and think about how we can grow and improve. For grassroots groups, this means reviewing things like governance and outreach but what about the performance of your volunteers? Maybe some of them are not doing their best work and you have to consider letting them go.

If you are experiencing issues with volunteers in your organization, dismissal should be the last resort. Work with the volunteer to find a resolution and make every effort to keep them on board. Remember, volunteers are people and people are complex; problems will come up in every organization. How you handle them will indicate the organization’s level of legitimacy to volunteers and other supporters.

Providing feedback to volunteers should start with identifying whether the issue is one of performance or of conduct. An issue of performance is relatively easy to deal with, whereas an issue of conduct often presents more challenges.

Let’s use an example to demonstrate these two issue types:
Imagine your organization is doing a book drive, and volunteers are tasked with calling potential donors from a shared list. Each call is to be logged on the list so the same donors aren’t called repeatedly. 


One of the volunteers isn’t updating the list after each call, and donors are getting annoyed with the duplicate requests. This is an issue of performance; for some reason, the volunteer isn’t following instructions. You should clear up any misunderstandings with the volunteer and do follow-up training if necessary.



In the same example, another volunteer is making the calls and updating the list correctly, but donors have been complaining about this volunteer’s “bad attitude” and “rude language”. This is an issue of conduct; providing more information on the task or doing follow-up training will not resolve the problem. In this case, you will need to meet with the volunteer and have a conversation to review expectations. 


What do you say? How do you even bring up the subject?

Thankfully, the Grassroots Growth project has developed a volunteer evaluation template to help you step-by-step through the process!




For more information on grassroots volunteer management, register for our FREE Volunteer Management Basics workshop on Thursday, January 26th

We are also releasing two highly-requested interactive training modules through our website: Volunteer Communications and Feedback, and Managing Volunteer Issues. Join our online community now to access those resources and to connect with other volunteer-run organizations across Ontario for advice and peer mentorship. 


Grassroots Growth Website


As the Education Coordinator, Jessica is responsible for developing and delivering workshops and online content to help build the capacity of grassroots organizations across Ontario. Contact Jessica

Tags:  free resources  free templates  issues of conduct  issues of performance  Volunteer performance review 

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New Research on Community Service Order Volunteers - Template Thursday

Posted By Sammy Feilchefeld, Training Coordinator, January 12, 2017
Updated: January 11, 2017
 Template Thursday


For this Template Thursday, we’re highlighting volunteers with Community Service Orders (CSOs) with our research summary and “frequently asked questions” from the VECTor Report. The most recent VECTor Conference for Volunteer Managers took place in November 2016. Looking at innovations in volunteer management and research on “mandatory volunteering,” the Conference brought volunteer managers together to discuss new directions for the sector. The VECTor Report collects the highlights, research findings and discussion summaries from the Conference.


Read on to learn more about CSOs and check out the VECTor Report anytime to learn more!



 Court Ordered Community Service Research


In-house Training 

As Volunteer Toronto's Training Coordinator, Sammy Feilchenfeld develops and delivers in-person, online and on-demand training in order to support managers and coordinators of volunteers in Toronto’s non-profit and charitable organizations.

Tags:  Community Service  Community Service Order Volunteers  VECTor Conference  VECTor Report 

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Five Tips For Nominating A Volunteer For A Legacy Award

Posted By Camara Chambers, Director of Community Engagement, January 5, 2017
Updated: January 3, 2017
 Five Tips For Nominating A Volunteer For A Legacy Award

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Each April, Volunteer Toronto presents 25 exceptional volunteers with a Legacy Award to recognize the amazing volunteering they have done for their community. This year, we will be accepting nominations from January 3rd to January 31st and nominations can be submitted here.

The application form asks you three questions about the individual’s volunteering and you only have 200 words to answer each:

  1. How has the nominee contributed to the community?
  2. What difference or impact has their contribution made?
  3. What is unique or extraordinary about what they have done for their community?

If you’re thinking of nominating one of your volunteers, read these tips to ensure you know how best to describe why your volunteer should be one of the few chosen to receive an award!


1.   Be clear about why your volunteer stands out above the crowd

There are fewer awards than the number of people who deserve them and each year with over 100 nominations to choose from, it’s always incredibly challenging for our judging panel to decide which 25 nominees should receive an award.

With so many giving people in the city doing great things, you’ll need to be explicitly clear about what is exceptional about your nominee. In the past, people have been chosen for all kinds of reasons – for the much needed role they play in the community, for the commitment they’ve shown, for their admirable leadership skills, for their courage to overcome personal challenges, or any other reasons that stand out to the judging panel. So don’t be shy! This is the time to express what makes your nominee exceptional and how they have gone above and beyond.

Simon Chamberlain

2015 Recipient 
Simon Chamberlain

Simon Chamberlain received a Legacy Award in 2015 for his work in the Mount Dennis Community. 10 years ago, Simon became a strong voice actively leading community clean-ups and projects to bring people together. Over the past three winters, Simon has been the driving force behind the creation, organization and supervision of one of the best resident driven projects in Mount Dennis - An Outdoor Community Skating rink in Pearen Park.


2.   Consider nominating someone who has not been recognized before

With so many great volunteers to choose from, if your nominee has won numerous awards for their volunteer work, it’s likely they will already feel appreciated and have had the experience of being publicly recognized for their contributions. When choosing who to award, we encourage you to look to volunteers who haven’t had the wonderful experience of receiving an award for their efforts and who would truly appreciate being celebrated for the first time in their life. 

Amanda MacEwan

2016 Recipient
Amanda MacEwan

A dedicated volunteer who has made giving back a way of life, 2016 Legacy Award Recipient Amanda MacEwan, was an inspiration to her fellow volunteers and the employees at Native Child and Family Services of Toronto. Each year, Amanda leads a team of volunteers in organizing the Centre’s holiday party and hamper drive. It’s because of all the time and effort she puts into planning the event and creating fun activities for the children and families that make the event such a special experience. For more than seven years, Amanda has inspired others to look at even the smallest tasks with enthusiasm and she leads by example always encouraging everyone to do their best.


3.   Tell a story

Setting the scene and providing some background on the volunteer is a great way of helping the judging panel better understand the nominee and their volunteering. For example, mentioning that Sarah is a newcomer from Dublin and has only been in Toronto for a year but has made a lot of impact in a short amount of time, or that Bryan became involved in volunteering for an animal shelter after rescuing a stray cat one winter, or that Danielle works 50 hours a week as a nurse at a local hospital but still manages to find the time to volunteer weekly, will help the panel create a picture of the volunteer in their mind and understand the story of their volunteering. 

Charles Brimbleby

2016 Recipient
Charles Grimbleby

2016 Legacy Award recipient Charles Grimbleby was a volunteer driver for the Toronto Christian Resource Centre (CRC) for 22 years. Chuck’s role varied from collecting food, clothing and furniture to helping people move into new housing, and rushing important documents and applications to City Hall. As a volunteer, Chuck demonstrated a dedication, interest, and care for his community that went above and beyond what was expected of a volunteer. Before taking on his volunteer role, Chuck needed a place to live and CRC assisted him with moving into a rooming house where he stayed for seven years. He now has his own place, but will never forget how CRC helped him get back on his feet.


4.  Crunch the numbers

When reading about what a volunteer has done and why they are so unique, often it’s helpful to have a statistic to help frame the story. For example, if you have a volunteer who has delivered meals to seniors for the past 15 years, you could mention approximately how many meals she has delivered or how many hours she’s volunteered over the years. Or if you have a youth volunteer who’s raised money for your organization, you could mention how much he’s donated through his fundraising efforts. These figures help to create a picture of the impact the volunteer has had and how hard they have worked.


Palvinder Kaur

2016 Recipient
Palvinder Kaur

When 2016 Legacy Award Recipient Palvinder Kaur uncovered the depth of need in the community for services to those who are hampered by age, illness or disability and are unable to cook meals for themselves, she knew had to do something. This is what led to a volunteer-driven charitable organization called Langar Seva Meal & Support Services. The organization provides people in the GTA with healthy, fresh food at no charge, and while it’s only been in operation for 3 years, it’s delivered over 10,000 meals. Palvinder and her team of 40 volunteers operate on the philosophy that everyone has the right to live with respect and dignity. In such a short amount of time, Palvinder’s commitment and efforts have positively impacted the lives of many people in many communities across our city.


5.   Explain the ripple effect of the volunteer’s work

You’ll be asked about the impact of the volunteer’s contribution, so be sure to not only mention the immediate effects but also the wider impact. What were things like before the volunteer joined? How has your organization or the community improved since the volunteer’s involvement? What positive things happened to the clients since your volunteer helped them? It’s one thing to say that Ali’s role as a fantastic Support Group Facilitator led to more people attending the group, but it’s quite another to say that one of the attendees went on to secure her first job in five years because of the self confidence he instilled in her and that another was able to rebuild his troubled relationships with his family because of Ali’s support. 

Miguel Abascal

2016 Recipient
Miguel Abascal 

When 2016 Legacy Award Recipient Miguel Abascal came to Canada in 2010 he had difficulty finding meaningful employment and was forced to work numerous part-time jobs to support his family. Staying focused and positive, he completed several English and technical certification courses, spent a year volunteering and was eventually hired as a Project Analyst in the financial industry. A month later, he shared his experience at a conference for newcomers. The success of his talk inspired him and his wife Doris to form UnstoppableMe, a professional immigrant association dedicated to helping skilled immigrants find meaningful employment and advance their careers. Last year, UnstoppableMe delivered almost 750 hours of support to its 77 members. Members reported that the activities helped them improve their self-confidence, along with their professional and soft skills.


We hope you found these tips useful! To find out more about the Legacy Awards, visit our Legacy Awards page, or click here to read about the 2016 recipients. 


Camara Chambers manages Volunteer Toronto's public engagement strategy and team. This includes working with community partners, leading large-scale events and overseeing various programs that aim to encourage Torontonians to volunteer. In 2014, the community engagement team helped connect 550,000 people to volunteer positions in Toronto!

Tags:  Legacy award Nominations  Legacy Awards  National Volunteer Week 2017  Volunteer Recognition  Volunteer Service Awards 

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Grassroots Leadership: How To Supervise Your Mom

Posted By Jessica Pang-Parks, Education Coordinator - Grassroots Growth, December 16, 2016

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

In the midst of this festive season, we are readily reminded of the support we get from friends and family. As grassroots leaders, we often lean on our friends and family to bake muffins for a fundraiser, proofread our grants, and babysit our kids during a meeting; the list can go on and on!

When many grassroots groups start out, the core volunteer team is made of the founder’s friends and family. There are lots of benefits to this!

First of all, you already know your volunteers and they already know you. You’re familiar with each other’s communication styles, strengths, skills, and weaknesses. Secondly, you don’t need to formally recruit, which will save you some time and effort. Most importantly, your existing relationships with these volunteers mean that they trust you and know that you are legitimate. Building legitimacy is hard work, and having volunteers who come in with confidence in you and your organization makes things a lot easier.

Having friends and family on your volunteer team is amazing, but beware of challenges that may arise. For example: in my family, my mom is the boss; what she says goes. But as the founder of my grassroots group, it’s my role to lead the volunteers.

If my mom joins my volunteer team, I know that I’ll have her support and her amazing communications skills, but our entire power dynamic will change! Also, how am I supposed to give constructive criticism to my mom? And what if my mom wants to come to meetings late, but I expect all volunteers to be on time? Finally, my mom is already doing fantastic volunteer work for her local theatre organization, and frankly just isn’t as excited about my gardening group. How do I make sure my group can be successful without her long-term commitment?

Thankfully, the Grassroots Growth project is here to help. The chart below outlines what you can do to mitigate common challenges to volunteering with friends and family.

How to supervise your friends and family

For more free resources on work-life balance, please visit Today we are releasing two brand-new interactive training modules through this website: Preventing and Managing Burnout, Volunteering with Friends and Family. Our vibrant online community supports volunteer-run organizations across Ontario with informative handbooks, downloadable templates, and opportunities to share ideas with other grassroots leaders.

You can also register for one of our free workshops on a variety of subjects pertinent to grassroots leaders at 


Grassroots Growth Website


As the Education Coordinator, Jessica is responsible for developing and delivering workshops and online content to help build the capacity of grassroots organizations across Ontario. Contact Jessica

Tags:  grassroots groups  Grassroots organizations  volunteerism  volunteer-run organizations  volunteers  volunteers supporting your cause 

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Ways To Adapt Your Volunteer Engagement for Event Volunteers

Posted By Kasandra James, Subscriptions Coordinator, December 8, 2016
Updated: December 7, 2016

Infographic: Ways To Adapt Your Volunteer Engagement for Event Volunteers 


As Volunteer Toronto’s Subscriptions Coordinator, Kasandra James is the first point of contact for non-profits looking for support. She facilitates monthly Subscriber Circles - discussion groups for managers and coordinators of volunteers, contributes to our Sector Space newsletter and social media communications, and makes sure our subscriptions package continues to help non-profit organizations build capacity through volunteer involvement. 


Tags:  best practises in volunteer engagement  Event volunteers  Infographic  orientation  recognition  recruitment  screening  training  Volunteer engagement  volunteer management  volunteer managers 

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How To Keep Your Volunteer Program Compliant With The Sexual Violence & Harassment Action Plan Act

Posted By Sammy Feilchenfeld, Training Coordinator, December 2, 2016
Updated: December 5, 2016
 Sexual Violence & Harassment Action Plan Act

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes


On September 8, 2016, the Sexual Violence & Harassment Action Plan Act (also known as Bill 132) came into force. Here’s what you need to know to ensure your volunteer program is compliant and you’re protecting volunteers, employees and board members from sexual harassment and violence.

 The Act made changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act to:

  1. Expand the definition of workplace harassment to specifically include workplace sexual harassment, and
  2. Determine the obligations of employers to be more proactive in addressing harassment in the workplace

There are a few things you’ll need to do to make sure that your organization is complying with Bill 132, and they involve volunteers along with employees.


Policy – Including Sexual Harassment

First, your organization must review and update your Workplace Violence & Harassment Policy to include the definition of workplace sexual harassment. Here’s the definition from the Ministry of Labour:

“(a) engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, where the course of comment or conduct is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, or

(b) making a sexual solicitation or advance where the person making the solicitation or advance is in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the worker and the person knows or ought reasonably to know that the solicitation or advance is unwelcome;”


Program – Complaints, Investigations & Results

 Next, you’ll need to create a written program to implement this policy by creating mechanisms for volunteers, employees and board members to make complaints and report incidents. This program should clearly explain the process for how complaints are made and how they’ll be responded to.

 Your organization must take complaints seriously and implement an investigation and reporting process for every complaint. Failure to do so may result in the Ministry of Labour engaging a third party for investigation – with the cost falling entirely on your organization. This investigation process should resolve the complaint, and your policy should address the repercussions for individuals who have been proven to sexually harass others in your organization.


Training – Letting Everyone Know

 The last compliance measure is that you must train everyone – staff, volunteers and board members – about your Workplace Violence & Harassment Policy. Your training should answer these questions:

·       What is sexual harassment?

·       How will volunteers make complaints and/or report incidents?

·       What will happen after a volunteer makes a complaint?

·       How will results of the investigation be shared?


The Ministry of Labour has produced a Code of Practice to help you understand your requirements. Our online Legislation course can also help you understand the many obligations your organization has to ensure a compliant volunteer program. If you have any other questions about implementing this new change to Ontario law, contact Sammy at or 416-961-6888 x235.


Get in-person volunteer management advice from our experts!

As Volunteer Toronto's Training Coordinator, Sammy Feilchenfeld develops and delivers in-person, online and on-demand training in order to support managers and coordinators of volunteers in Toronto’s non-profit and charitable organizations.

Tags:  Ontario Government Legislation  Sexual Harassment  Sexual Violence & Harassment Action Plan Act  Volunteer Assessment  volunteer engagement  Volunteer Management  Volunteer Program Policies  Volunteer Survey 

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How To Explain The Mission Of Your Grassroots Group To Friends

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, November 24, 2016
Updated: December 19, 2016

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Imagine this: you’re a grassroots volunteer leader and bump into an old friend at the supermarket. You’re really excited about your group’s upcoming event and have been taking every opportunity to spread the word. Hopefully, this will encourage your friend to attend or volunteer!

After a couple minutes of talking about the event to your friend, she asks, “Cool, is this event put on by the city?” When you reply, “No, it’s an initiative of my grassroots group.” Your friend asks, “So, what exactly does your group do?”

Do you:

a) Freeze and give a blank stare?

b) Take ten minutes to share the group’s history, explain plans for the next year, and pitch a volunteer role?

c) Answer in 30 seconds with your group’s clear and concise mission and vision statements?

If you answered “c” you are ahead of the game! Having mission and vision statements that are easy to remember and repeat allows easy articulation of your group’s values and goals. This will define your organization, narrow your team’s focus, and better orient projects and tasks.

Don’t have mission and vision statements yet? Check out this questionnaire for help!


What's the Difference Between a Mission and Vision Statement?

Mission and vision statements are similar, but not quite the same. Mission statements focus on what your group is doing in the present; they demonstrate why your work is important. Vision statements focus on what your group will do in the future; they explain what success looks like for your group. Many groups find that it is easier to start the mission/vision exercise with the vision statement, as it guides the framework of their current projects.

Writing mission and vision statements is a great opportunity for team building! By working together to set realistic goals and specify the group’s values, you can create a cohesive organizational identity.


For more information on defining your organization, check out There, you will find new interactive training modules that will provide solutions to common grassroots governance challenges. Our vibrant online community supports volunteer-run organizations across Ontario with informative handbooks, downloadable templates, and opportunities to share ideas with other grassroots leaders.

You can also register for one of our free Grassroots Governance workshops. Our next Grassroots Governance workshop will be held on Sunday, November 27 at the Scarborough Civic Centre Library. Spaces are limited so register today!


Grassroots Growth Website


As the Education Coordinator, Jessica is responsible for developing and delivering workshops and online content to help build the capacity of grassroots organizations across Ontario. Contact Jessica

Tags:  Grassroots Growth  Grassroots organizations  Mission and Vision Statements  Resources for Grassroots organizations  volunteer run organizations 

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Design Thinking: An Innovative Way To Approach Your Volunteer Program

Posted By Christine Martin, Senior Manager, Volunteer Engagement, Evergreen, November 18, 2016
 Ways to innovate your volunteer program

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Design is everywhere in our lives – from websites to buildings to smartphones. The mindsets and processes that have been behind them are now being applied to everything from the retail experience to health care to education. But what about volunteer engagement and the non-profit sector more broadly? It’s time to add to our toolboxes in this area so we can adapt and improve to meet the challenges of an ever-changing sector, in an ever-changing world.

But what is design thinking?  At its heart, it’s a practice that uses a host of creative tools and approaches to identify and solve problems for the benefit of users. It’s about improving products, processes and services.  It’s collaborative. It is human-centred. It’s creative. It focuses on action.  And it has huge potential to transform volunteer engagement. 

We all want volunteer engagement to be amazing and add value – for our volunteers, for our staff and of course, for our organization’s clients and mission.    In a way, each of these groups are “users” of volunteer services. Through applying design thinking, we can open up new possibilities for these users, resulting in a better experience for staff and volunteers. At Evergreen, it’s about putting myself in the volunteer’s shoes – what is it like when they look for an opportunity? What are they experiencing on their first day of volunteering? How might we make it better?

By exploring what’s possible, looking at the whole system and digging into our challenges, we can take volunteering to a whole new level. So, pull together a diverse, collaborative team and follow these key stages for a design-thinking approach:

EMPATHIZE: Really understand your users and their experiences and challenges

DEFINE: Use this understanding to be clear about the real problem you want to address

IDEATE: Come up with as many solutions as possible – encourage divergent thinking, no judgement, then narrow it down.

PROTOTYPE: Explore how the possible solution might look; work using physical objects or models.  This will help stimulate better conversation to surface new insights, questions and needs.

TEST: Try it out with your user – how is it working?  How can we improve?


The design thinking world is full of tools. Tools like brainstorming and interviewing will feel familiar while point-of-view madlibs or how to draw toast might seem downright strange. However, two key tools really stand out with potential for innovating volunteer engagement:  empathy mapping and journey mapping. 



Using deep knowledge of your volunteers, ideally from direct observation and interaction, you can synthesize this knowledge into four key quadrants: what a volunteer is saying and doing and what it seems they are thinking or feeling – use this to help identify needs and insights better.

Here's an example of what an Empathy map can look like:

 Empathy Map Example
 From David Leetch Ed Tech


Here’s a few more examples of Empathy Maps:


Desiging A New Way of Thinking: A New Approach to Solving Social Problems - Charity Village


Imagining a persona of a volunteer, map out their actions/experiences with you as a volunteer over time. Along a parallel timeline, map the moments when the volunteer is interacting with you organization – virtually or in person and what the volunteer attitudes and needs might be at various steps. Where are the pain points?  What stands out? What are possible solutions?

Here's one example of a journey map:

 Journey Map Example
 From 7 Things To Consider When Designing A CX Journey Mapping Workshop


Here’s a few more examples: 

Designing CX



The field of design thinking is rich and deep and proving to be incredibly powerful for innovation and for organizations to thrive. Imagine if this were applied to how we engage volunteers and work with stakeholders and clients. Imagine if we could quickly identify and adapt to emerging trends and opportunities.  Imagine if you had a ready toolkit to identify the hard questions and transform your organization.  Imagine.


Christine Martin is the leader and designer behind Evergreen’s dynamic and varied volunteer engagement which engages over 7000 volunteer a year in about 70 different roles across the country, and especially at Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto. She’s committed to equipping and empowering volunteers and staff to reach their potential in partnering together to achieve great things. She loves to apply innovation, facilitation and collaboration approaches to all aspects of her work and to share this with others to help them thrive.

Tags:  Design thinking  empathy mapping  innovative thinking for volunteer management  journey mapping  volunteer management  volunteer program 

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Infographic: What To Do When Volunteers Burn Out

Posted By Kasandra James, Subscriptions Coordinator, November 10, 2016
Updated: November 9, 2016

Infographic: How to support volunteers who burn out 


As Volunteer Toronto’s Subscriptions Coordinator, Kasandra James is the first point of contact for non-profits looking for support. She facilitates monthly Subscriber Circles - discussion groups for managers and coordinators of volunteers, contributes to our Sector Space newsletter and social media communications, and makes sure our subscriptions package continues to help non-profit organizations build capacity through volunteer involvement. 


Tags:  disengaged volunteers  disinterested volunteers  not enough volunteers  tired volunteers  Volunteer burn out  volunteer engagement 

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How To Get Your Grassroots Group Noticed By Building a Content Strategy

Posted By Jessica Pang-Parks, Education Coordinator - Grassroots Growth, October 20, 2016
Updated: October 19, 2016

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Want your grassroots project or event to get noticed? Before you get started with promoting your work, solidify a content strategy with your team! A content strategy is a plan for how your grassroots group will create and release content (e.g. blog posts, newsletters, Facebook event invitations) to your communities.

By developing a content strategy, you are setting expectations and goals with your communications volunteers. Working together to build a content strategy ensures that volunteers responsible for the content can feel confident that their contributions are consistent with your group’s identity and tone. As well, your volunteer team will be able to target different audiences in your community and be assured that their messages don’t overlap or conflict. Finally, a content strategy assigns timelines and responsibilities to individuals, providing further clarity on expectations.

Content strategy plans are meant to be flexible and can change as your project progresses. Perhaps you gain a new community partner on the way? Perhaps new talent joins your volunteer team? Perhaps a sensitive topic comes up in your community and your group is in a position to respond? Set up time to check-in with your team about the existing content strategy and make adjustments as necessary. Without these check-ins, your team may lose sight of the project goal or become demotivated.

The content strategy template below will help your group plot out the usage of different online and offline platforms to engage your communities. We’ve even included an example!

 Marketing Content Strategy Template for Grassroots Organizations


So, next time your organization has something to promote, get together and develop your content strategy first. It could save you from common issues in the non-profit sector: miscommunication, frustration, and headaches. Fortunately, the Grassroots Growth project is here to support volunteer-run organizations across Ontario with in-person workshops, informative handbooks, downloadable templates, and a vibrant online community where you can share ideas with other grassroots leaders.

 Join the conversation on grassroots outreach and access all our free grassroots resources through the online community at! You can also register for one of our free Grassroots Engagement workshops. Our next Grassroots Engagement workshop will be held on Thursday, October 27th at 6pm. Spaces are limited so register today!


Grassroots Growth Website


As the Education Coordinator, Jessica is responsible for developing and delivering workshops and online content to help build the capacity of grassroots organizations across Ontario. Contact Jessica

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Infographic: A Roadmap To Engaging Senior Volunteers

Posted By Kasandra James, Subscriptions Coordinator, October 6, 2016
Updated: October 5, 2016

Infographic: A Roadmap To Engaging Senior Volunteers 


As Volunteer Toronto’s Subscriptions Coordinator, Kasandra James is the first point of contact for non-profits looking for support. She facilitates monthly Subscriber Circles - discussion groups for managers and coordinators of volunteers, contributes to our Sector Space newsletter and social media communications, and makes sure our subscriptions package continues to help non-profit organizations build capacity through volunteer involvement. 


Tags:  How to get senior volunteers  Infographic  recruit seniors  Senior volunteers  seniors  working with senior volunteers 

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We're Charting A New Course

Posted By David Allen, Executive Director, September 29, 2016
Updated: September 27, 2016
 Our New Course

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Compare the Volunteer Toronto of today to three years ago, and you wouldn’t recognize the place. We’ve grown and learned a lot and things are only getting better!

Volunteer Toronto’s new strategic plan is indicative of the dramatic transformation that our organization has experienced of late.  The new plan outlines our aspiration of becoming a thought leader in our field by ensuring our programs are relevant to the needs of our various client groups, and by adopting and testing best practices that demonstrate our impact. With programs like ours we envision a Toronto that is caring, inclusive and engaged where volunteering is an important avenue through which everyone has the opportunity to participate and contribute meaningfully.


What We've Been Up To

In order to make way for new innovations, it is important to reflect on our past. Here are some of the most significant changes that I have seen during my short tenure at Volunteer Toronto:

  • We introduced our fresh, new branding and completely redesigned our website and database. The website is now easier to navigate, volunteers can create profiles, and receive email alerts of relevant opportunities.
  • We started our Grassroots Growth project conducting major research to identify the unique needs of small, unincorporated grassroots groups, and developed targeted training and resources for them.
  • We launched an online learning centre and resource library, including an array of training courses and tools for paid managers of volunteers, which are now being used by volunteer centres and non-profit organizations across Ontario, setting new standards in the sector.
  • We created VECTor, an annual full-day conference for volunteer managers to learn, connect, and get inspired through the discovery of the latest trends, research, and innovation in the sector.
  • We introduced a new subscription model to better support small non-profits with little funding.  A set of basic services is now available for free to non-profits with annual operating budgets of less than $75,000.
  • We expanded the role and hours of our Referral Counsellors to provide in-person and phone support to those needing extra help finding a volunteer position.
  • Our Board recruited best-in-class directors that have the right combination of experience and expertise in such areas as non-profit management, human resources, marketing and communications, finance and accounting, law, strategy development, and fundraising.

We also implemented a wide variety of outreach and public awareness initiatives, including:

2015 Legacy Awards Recipients     Volunteer Toronto Information Sessions

The Legacy Awards

An annual event that formally recognizes 25 volunteer superstars who have made Toronto a better place.



Free Public Information Sessions 

Created to educate newcomers, jobseekers, high school students and those new to volunteering on the best ways to get started.


Volunteer Toronto Becoming A Board Member Workshops      Craft Your Change 

Becoming a Board Member 

Workshops for people who want to know what to expect before joining a board of directors of a non-profit.


Craft Your Change 

An annual event focusing on engaging skilled volunteers.

2015 Youth Expo      Youth Auditors 
The Youth Expo

An annual event for high school students to meet over 80 non-profits recruiting youth volunteers;


Youth Audits

A program that advises organizations on how they can better accommodate high school aged volunteers through an assessment and feedback process led by young people;

Volunteer Toronto Youth Innovators       Volunteers of Toronto homepage

Youth Innovators

A project in which youth with unique community improvement ideas are trained and mentored to turn their ideas into reality.


Volunteers of Toronto

A unique website that uses photography and videography to share the stories of volunteers from across Toronto.


Our funders have noticed the extent of change at Volunteer Toronto.  Their growing confidence in us is evidenced through renewed contracts, positive assessment reports and the receipt of major new grants.  I credit this to the creativity, energy, and initiative of our staff, and the strategic leadership and support of our Board of Directors.  I find our team a constant source of inspiration and learning. 


What's Up Next? 

What can you expect from Volunteer Toronto in the future?  We intend to operate more as an externally-focussed organization, collaborating with others to conduct research, test service delivery models and publish results.  We’ll investigate the feasibility and benefits of providing people facing barriers to volunteering with more intensive matching support, in addition to existing referral services.  And because our major funders are revamping their granting programs, moving toward short-term project grants with reduced allocations for administrative overheads, we will endeavour to diversify our revenue streams through sponsorships, fee-for-service and fundraising. 

We must keep pace with the rapidly changing needs and opportunities in our sector and our whole team is enthusiastic about the road ahead. With any luck, you won’t recognize Volunteer Toronto in another three years.

Volunteer Toronto 2015-2016 Annual Report



Reporting to the Board of Directors, David Allen provides leadership for all aspects of service delivery, research and program development, financial performance, employee morale and customer satisfaction.

Tags:  The work we do at Volunteer Toronto  Volunteer Toronto  Volunteer Toronto Mission and Vision  Volunteer Toronto Strategic Direction 

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Are You Ready To Govern Your Grassroots Organization?

Posted By Louroz Mercader, Outreach Coordinator - Grassroots Growth, September 22, 2016
Updated: September 21, 2016

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

A governance structure is a system of guidance and organization. And we could all use a little guidance and organization in our lives! You need to implement a governance structure for the same reason you need to write mission and vision statements: because not having these can harm your legitimacy and volunteers may not be as willing to contribute their time to your group.

But governance structures will also help your team to make decisions and provide you with accountability. Have you ever found that your team seems to have lots of exciting ideas but they don’t ever get accomplished? Do you find that your meetings frequently go off on tangents? If your core volunteers are your friends and family, you’re probably particularly susceptible to this. A governance structure can help! Establishing a group of leaders will ensure you stay on track and carry out your work in a reasonable amount of time. Additionally, if you wish to register as a charity or incorporate your grassroots group, you will be required to follow a traditional governance structure.

Governance structures are like relationships – you have to be ready for them. Spending an extra six months preparing your structure is a far better practice than rushing into one before you’re ready and finding you’re in way over your head.

The map below will help to guide you in determining whether or not you’re ready to implement a governance structure right now. If it turns out that the answer is no, but you’re interested in professionalizing your grassroots group, try taking some of the steps to professionalizing, and revisit these questions at a later date to see if you’re ready then!



In the pursuit of establishing governance and building legitimacy, it is easy to become overwhelmed. There is a tendency to lose sight of the objective when one is inundated with policies, guidelines, best practices and documentation. Thankfully the Grassroots Project is here to support volunteer-run groups across Ontario with in-person workshops, informative handbooks, downloadable templates and an online community.

 Access all our free grassroots resources by joining us at, or register for one of our free Grassroots Governance workshops at


Grassroots Growth Website


As Community Outreach Coordinator for the Grassroots Growth project, Louroz reaches out to volunteer-run groups in Toronto and across Ontario to help spread the word about the project and get our services out to those who need them most.

Tags:  grassroots governance  grassroots organizations  Identifying Grassroots Resources  Resources for Grassroots groups  volunteer-run groups 

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Inside The Mind of a Youth Volunteer: Subscriber Circle Recap

Posted By Helen Lin, Youth Auditor, September 15, 2016
Updated: September 14, 2016
Volunteer Toronto Subscriber Circle 

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes 


Whether they are the front-line and driving force of your organization, or they play an integral role in putting smiles on your seniors’ faces, engaging high school volunteers can be a challenge. But it doesn’t have to be!

 Helen Lin - Volunteer Toronto Youth Auditor
 Helen Lin - Youth Audtior

For our August Subscriber Circle on “Engaging Youth Volunteers” we asked high school student and Volunteer Toronto Youth Auditor Helen Lin to attend and offer her perspective to the discussion. Here’s Helen’s thoughts on three of the main questions discussed at the circle. 







Question 1: Some of my volunteers come intermittently, how can I get them to maintain regular shifts?

Helen’s Observation: Two volunteer managers shared that they do not sign any papers until the volunteer has reached the minimum commitment that they signed up for. I think it is certainly acceptable to be strict with your no-show policies, but attendance and punctuality can also be enforced by letting your volunteers know how important their work is to the organization.

Question 2: How can I convince volunteers to stay beyond their 40-hour mark?

Helen’s Observation: There are two types of volunteers: the ones who just want to complete the bare minimum, and the ones who want to seek meaningful opportunities. For the first group, have a conversation about the meaning behind volunteering. Lead them to an epiphany! When I started volunteering, I was caught up in the number of hours, but since then I have been able to think more deeply about my work and what it all means – to myself, the organization, and the community.


Question 3: What if it’s just not working out for the volunteer?

Helen’s Observation: They tell you networking is the most important skill these days, and it can really be beneficial for your volunteers. From the application and interview, you will know what volunteer’s goals are, or why they applied for your organization. Unfortunately, sometimes it doesn’t end up working out. One volunteer manager shared that she had many interested volunteers but no place for them because the organization is centred around heavy conversations concerning death. If you know another organization that could use an enthusiastic volunteer, being that connection could help make a perfect match.


Need more help? We’ve got you covered! This post only scraps the surface of ways to better engage youth in volunteering with your organization. If you are looking for some solid advice and next steps, we would highly recommend booking a Youth Audit, where our Auditors go into detail on the topics that are involved with youth in volunteers, such as selection and training, communication, benefits and perks, and promotions and advertising!

Helen Lin is a grade 10 students at TOPS - Marc Garneau Collegiate and she is a Youth Auditor at Volunteer Toronto. She started formally volunteering at age 12, and hasn't stopped her community involvement since. Helen has also volunteered at SickKids Foundation, TEDxYouth@Toronto, Ladies Learning Code, and Baycrest Hospital. Her passions include gender rights, sustainable development, global health, social innovation, engineering, and entrepreneurship."


Tags:  engaging youth volunteers  High School volunteers  How to get youth volunteers  Youth volunteers 

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Accessibility & Volunteer Programs - Online Learning Sneak Peek!

Posted By Sammy Feilchenfeld, Training Coordinator, September 8, 2016
Updated: September 7, 2016
 Volunteer Toronto Sneak Peak

With recent changes to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, you may be wondering how to ensure your volunteer program is accessible and inclusive for clients and volunteers. Volunteer Toronto just launched our newest Volunteer Management Basics course “Accessibility & Volunteer Programs” FREE for Subscribers!

Check out a sneak peek at this course before you try the 4 pre-recorded modules on disabilities, serving clients and accommodating volunteers.



Only Subscribers can get access to “Accessibility & Volunteer Programs.”

Not a Subscriber? Check out all the great benefits and subscribe today!


As Volunteer Toronto's Training Coordinator, Sammy Feilchenfeld develops and delivers in-person, online and on-demand training in order to support managers and coordinators of volunteers in Toronto’s non-profit and charitable organizations.

Tags:  Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act  Accessible volunteer programs  AODA  Making you volunteer program accessible to everyon  Volunteer Management 

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