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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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4 Ways You Can Reach Your Funding Goals

Posted By Rui Miguel Martins, Volunteer Guest Blogger, August 25, 2016
Updated: August 24, 2016
Blog Post: 4 Ways You Can Reach Your Fundng Goals

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes 

Non-profit and volunteer organizations face many unique challenges especially when they are in their infancy. They often struggle to find the proper funding and resources needed to reach their goals.

 Expert panel discussing funding 

Volunteer Toronto hosted a panel discussion with grassroots leaders and sector experts about the funding challenges affecting small and volunteer-run organizations. The event was hosted by Louroz Mercader, the Community Outreach Coordinator for Volunteer Toronto’s  Grassroots Growth Project.




The four featured panelists were

Our guest blogger, Rui Miguel Martins, provides a summary of the four main talking points.


Focus on finding the right fit

Looking for funding is a lot like dating. It should be about more about how well you connect and relate to one another rather than how much money they have. Know what you want ahead of time before you send out applications. Many foundations like to focus on certain areas. For example, the Laidlaw Foundation works with groups of young people on issues that affect their community. The City of Toronto has grants that are specifically linked with initiatives like poverty reduction, senior strategy or youth empowerment.  Do not dismiss smaller grants. Many foundations have micro-grants for everything from capacity building to skills development. Some foundations do not want to be your only source of funding either. “Small grants are good for jump-starting initiatives,” founder of ACCESS Charity Daniel Francavilla says.


Do your homework ahead of time

The unfortunate reality is that more established charities and non-profits tend to get funding. That is why it is so important to do your research and understand the process. “You have to be very clear about what you are looking for in your project,” Clare Nolan from the Ontario Trillium Foundation says. “The budget is where you tell your story.” Foundations often have very detailed information about their funding criteria on their websites. It is no big secret. The more you understand about the details of the funding streams, the better.  Overestimating or underestimating the dollar amount on an application always reflects badly as well. You need to have a clear vision.


Join the network and build relationships

Funders should know what your organization is doing before you apply. Stay connected with funders by attending any workshops and events they organize. Stay connected on social media as well. Speak with previous applicants about their experiences. Call people before you apply and then call them afterwards. Make yourself approachable. Look at partnerships if possible; it shows confidence and demonstrates that you are determined to get something done. Highlight your team and their achievements, and include biographies of your team members on your website. It raises your organization’s profile. As Louroz Mercader stated, “Do your homework and learn from relationship building.”


Learn from your mistakes

It is said that people learn nothing from success. Sometimes it takes many failures before you learn how to succeed. Rejection is the most difficult part of the process, but you will likely experience it often. Use it as a valuable opportunity to improve by learning to understand where you went wrong. Sometimes, applicants are rejected because there is just not enough money to reach their goals. Other times, applicants neglect to describe how they will measure impact. According to Claire Nolan, impact is a key element for a successful grant application. “We are looking for impact within our investment strategy. We need to know what the impact will be. What will be better? What will be different? Who will benefit?”

You can also check out one of our past posts 5 Tips For Securing Grants for more great information!


VECTor 2016 Early Bird Prices


Rui Miguel Martins is a communications specialist and social media strategist based in Toronto. He currently volunteers his time at Make A Change Canada, Yonge Street Mission, as well as at Volunteer Toronto.

Tags:  funders in Toronto  Funding  Getting funding for your organization  grants  How to get funding 

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INFOGRAPHIC: How Setting Expectations Can Make Giving Volunteer Feedback A Breeze

Posted By Kasandra James, Subscriptions Coordinator, August 4, 2016
Updated: August 3, 2016

Infographic: How Setting Expectations Can Make Giving Volunteer Feedback A Breeze 


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:  Volunteer Feedback  Volunteer Management  Volunteer Program 

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How To Measure Your Organization's Social Impact

Posted By Rui Miguel Martins, Volunteer Guest Blogger, July 28, 2016
Updated: July 27, 2016
Blog Post: Measuring your organization's social impact

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes 


It has always been a challenge for organizations to accurately measure the impact their initiatives have on the lives of their clients and the community, as many organizations aren’t sure what to measure, how to define their intended outcomes, or just don’t know where to start.

Tinashe Mafukidze has worked in the non-profit sector as a process facilitator, project manager and curator for 15 years. She shared her experiences with leaders of grassroots organizations as part of Volunteer Toronto’s Trailblazer Series, a set of leadership talks for people who lead volunteer-run non-profits.

Our guest blogger, Rui Miguel Martins, provides a summary of how organizations could better measure their social impact.

Define your outcomes and plans 

Always begin by asking the right questions. Ask yourself what problem your organization is trying to solve and whether it is being addressed through proper actions. Also consider the negative consequences of your non-profit’s work. Are your organization’s actions unintentionally causing a new problem? Can your resources be better allocated somewhere else? 

Then develop a theory of change model- a comprehensive description and illustration of how and why your proposed changes will lead to achieving your organization’s long-term goals for the community it serves.

Start by:

  1. Outlining what your organization does for its intended beneficiaries,
  2. Defining the ultimate goals you hope to reach (in short, your vision) and,
  3. Identifying all the necessary activities to get there.

This will help you design and develop your programs, improve internal and external communication, and ultimately help you determine the true social impact of your organization. Consult surveys, focus groups, and social media to understand the impact your organization is having.


Establish shared principles of measurement 

You should aim to decide what you want to track by creating a solid framework. To do this, gather information in one place, possibly by using document-sharing software such as Google Apps, Salesforce and Nationbuilder. And remember to involve members of your team, stakeholders, potential funders and the public in the process of determining your measurements of success. Once created, develop a culture of reflective practice, and aim to make sense of the findings and identify the successes and failures. “We want to know that people and resources are being used in the right places in the best way possible,” Mafukidze says.

Be courageous in your reporting

Many non-profits are reluctant to measure their impact, due to lack of time and resources. There is also concern about perception. Organizations are hesitant to involve funders and clients in their evaluation, because they believe that it may project a negative image. On the contrary, honest reporting and involving stakeholders sends the message that an organization is always striving to improve. Reporting should always be authentic and transparent and should encourage feedback and suggestions. And be sure to create relatable stories with your numbers so those you communicate with understand the practical reality of the results you’ve gathered.


Rui Miguel Martins is a communications specialist and social media strategist based in Toronto. He currently volunteers his time at Make A Change Canada, Yonge Street Mission, as well as at Volunteer Toronto.

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Should Grassroots Leaders Be Considered Volunteers?

Posted By Jenn Jozwiak, Education Coordinator, July 21, 2016
Updated: July 19, 2016
Blog Post: Should Grassroots Leaders Be Considered Volunteers?


What makes a volunteer?

This seems like a straightforward question: a volunteer is someone who opts to donate time to tasks without monetary compensation. Volunteers do meaningful work, but they aren’t part of the paid workforce.

But the boundary between volunteerism and work blurs for some members of the volunteer community. In particular, members of grassroots organizations – organizations that operate solely through the efforts of what we generally think of as volunteers – trouble the seemingly clear definition of “voluntary.”

Members of grassroots groups are driven by passion. Groups often form to address a community need, fill a gap in neighbourhood services, or try and make the world a better place. But to many members of grassroots groups, the work isn’t optional in a traditional sense of the term. It’s work that is necessary in order to push society forward. In this way, grassroots involvement is obligatory, and those who engage in it are simply responding to an inner call to action.

At the same time, grassroots organizations are not paid for their work. The reward for the time and energy that members contribute often comes in the form of opportunities for new projects, an expanded repertoire of community services, and an increase in awareness of the work they do. Funding, if it’s acquired at all, is funneled back into the organization.

Although grassroots work is often considered volunteering, there may be other labels that feel like a better fit for those involved: organizer, community member, activist, enthusiast or advocate.  

So we asked leaders of grassroots groups if they consider themselves volunteers. Watch their answers here.



At the end of the day, no matter what grassroots work is called, what counts is that there’s someone out there who cares enough to do it. Though we think “heart project” is a pretty good way of describing it.

Read our Grassroots Growth report!

  Jenn Jozwiak is currently the Education Coordinator with the Grassroots Growth project at Volunteer Toronto, where she is developing training workshops, a series of handbooks, and online content for volunteer-run non-profits. She has worked with volunteers at Hot Docs and TIFF, and established and managed her own grassroots film festival in Winnipeg. Jenn spends her days off drinking tea, watching movies, and reading about writing.


Tags:  Community Leadership  Grassroots Leaders  How to start a Grassroots Group  Volunteer  What is a volunteer? 

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Accessible Volunteer Programs and The AODA - Template Thursday

Posted By Sammy Feilchenfeld, Training Coordinator, July 14, 2016
Updated: July 12, 2016
 Template Thursday

With the recent changes to your requirements under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, don’t forget about the accessibility needs of your volunteers! Accommodating volunteers to help them do their role, especially with non-essential tasks, can help you engage an even broader range of volunteers with many abilities, skills and experiences to offer.

This free template, from our Accessible Volunteer Programs and the AODA Resource Guide & Workbook, can help you get started on making great accommodations for your volunteers of all abilities.


 Accesible Volunteer Programs and The AODA


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:  Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act  Accessibility for Volunteers  Accommodating volunteers  ADOA 

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