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Great Ways To Build A Volunteer Community In Your Organization

Posted By Kasandra James, Subscriptions Coordinator, July 7, 2016
Updated: July 6, 2016
 Group of youth volunteers

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes 


Building volunteer communities are vital to encourage ongoing engagement and social connections for all volunteers, including (and maybe especially) the ones you don’t see that often!

Participants at the June 2016 Subscriber Circle came up with some great ideas for different kinds of communities you can create.

 

 

Volunteer communities outside shift hours

 

Volunteer communities during shift hours

At the Circle, we discussed the challenges of building community with occasional, short-term and event volunteers. Participants talked about the benefits of letting these volunteers know you’re thinking of them and that you’re still around. It’s important to make sure these volunteers – and all volunteers – feel like a part of the team.

Before the end of the session, participants came up with some great tips to build community for your volunteers:

  • Find out volunteer motivations to encourage connections and community over shared goals.

  • Share long-time volunteer experiences and stories, including quotes from volunteers and photos of volunteer activity.

  • Use icebreakers and social games to help volunteers communicate and get to know each other.

  • Recruit and engage community animators to bring online communities to life.

  • Build excitement about your organization, increasing prestige and interest in what you do, by communicating impact.

 

Use these ideas to start you on your journey to building volunteer community. Don’t miss any of our next Subscriber Circles – click here to see what’s coming soon!





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. 

 

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The AODA and Mandatory Volunteer Training

Posted By Melina Condren, Director of Engaging Organizations, June 30, 2016
Updated: June 29, 2016
 AODA Image

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes 

As you may have already heard, there have been some important changes to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) that may affect your volunteer program. Essentially, the AODA exists to set and enforce accessibility standards for Ontario’s public, private and non-profit sectors. Its aim is to reduce the barriers faced by people with disabilities trying to access services, public spaces, transportation, information, or employment.

The change in question relates to the Customer Service Standard (CSS). As of July 1st 2016, all volunteers (and all staff) must be trained on accessible customer service, regardless of how likely they are to interact with clients. How is this different from previous requirements? Before, only volunteers with client-facing roles needed to be trained. This means that although some of your volunteers may have already been trained (and don’t need to be retrained because of the current changes), any volunteers who haven’t already received this training will need to do so now.

Before you panic trying to figure out how you’ll manage to give all your volunteers this additional training, there are some great resources you should know about that will make that job a whole lot easier:

  • The Government of Ontario has free online training on accessible customer service. It only takes 45 minutes to complete, and volunteers can do the training by themselves anywhere with a computer and an internet connection.
  • Volunteer Toronto has a wealth of resources available in an online portal dedicated to the AODA’s Customer Service Standard. It includes tip sheets, presentations, and information about how the CSS requirements affect the voluntary sector. This information can all be used directly by volunteers, or by volunteer managers who want to facilitate accessible customer service training themselves but need some resources to get started.



Photo of Melina CondrenMelina Condren oversees all of Volunteer Toronto's services for organizations, including our training program, volunteer management conference, subscriptions program, and new Grassroots Growth project. Her priority is to ensure our services are effectively helping non-profits build capacity through volunteer involvement and continue to meet the ever-evolving needs of the voluntary sector.

Tags:  Accessibility in Ontario  Ontario Disability Act  Understanding the AODA 

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Stop Trying To Do It All! Making The Case For Volunteer Management Assistants

Posted By Sammy Feilchenfeld, Training Coordinator, June 23, 2016
Updated: June 22, 2016
 Volunteer Management Assistant

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes 

As a manager of volunteers, you have a lot on your plate: planning volunteer roles, making position descriptions, recruiting, screening, matching, supervising…the list goes on! Sometimes, it’s too much to handle, but there’s a way to get the help you need through the resources you already have: a volunteer assistant!

You could engage one or more volunteers to assist you in aspects of your role. By creating a new set of responsibilities and duties for volunteer assistants, you’re allowing more volunteers to gain worthwhile skills and experience and a deeper understanding of the world of volunteer management. What can these volunteer assistants actually do to support you?

  • Contact volunteers for interviews, check-ins and/or follow-ups
  • Schedule volunteers and events
  • Manage your volunteer database through data entry & clean-up
  • Review volunteer policies & procedures and recommend updates
  • Review and prepare position postings
  • Read potential volunteer applications
  • Contribute suggestions and help make changes to improve the volunteer program
  • Assist with volunteer program evaluation

...and more!

Think about the different parts of your role that you could use some extra help for and if those aspects can be supported by a volunteer. Remember to consider your own policies, such as confidentiality and privacy, to ensure you’re not breaking any rules by having your volunteers support the different functions of your role.

 

Making the Case for Support

Now that you know the benefits of having a volunteer assistant and what they might be able to do to help you, how do you make the case for this type of support? With every volunteer role, you’re ensuring the volunteer program strives to meet your mission. A volunteer assistant is a highly-valued and important role that helps you sustain and improve the volunteer program while also expanding your and the organization’s capacity. It allows the volunteer program to get more done and also gives your existing volunteers new leadership opportunities and pathways. Finally, it creates transparency around your program and helps volunteers feel connected to the change-making process that can improve their work and the entire organization.

Since volunteer engagement is already at the heart of your role, it might be time to bring a volunteer on to help you develop your volunteer program. Let these volunteers in and your entire organization can be better for it!

 



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:  need assistance  office assistants  overworked  Volunteer assistant  Volunteer Management 

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10 Steps of Screening - Online Learning Sneak Peek

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


Screening your volunteers might require more than an interview – have you considered the risk and your duty of care? Volunteer Toronto recently launched “10 Steps of Screening,” a brand new Online Course packed with 5 pre-recorded modules on the 10 safe steps of screening every volunteer manager should know.

Now, for the first time ever, we’re giving you a sneak peek at this new course so you can try before you buy. Check it out below!

 

 

Learn more about “10 Steps of Screening” and purchase access! 

Did you know: You get access to the course for one full year AND anyone in your organization can take the course during that time?




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:  Volunteer Screening 

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Screening, dating or both: How to approach your volunteer interview

Posted By Lori Gotlieb, Lori Gotlieb Consulting, May 26, 2016

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Although volunteer management processes are as varied as the organizations that use them, one process that is usually consistent is the interview. This stage of the volunteer cycle is key to learning about the volunteer: who they are and how they can make a difference in a meaningful way. But standard interviews may not reveal all the unique skills and capabilities that a volunteer could contribute.

If we want to learn about what a volunteer can do for our organization, rather than whether or not they’re a good fit for a specific, defined role, we need to have an open mind to see where the conversation leads. It is your role to set the stage for the interview to encourage dialogue and comfort so the potential volunteer can feel comfortable to discuss their:

  • Skills
  • Experience
  • Motivation
  • Hobbies
  • Expectations
  • Personal goals
  • Passions

So, the question is: are we taking this time to only screen or are we allowing a conversation to start where each party learns from each other and you “get to know each other”, like on a first date?

The first date concept is more of a conversation, where both parties are exploring the opportunity to partner in a mutually beneficial relationship. These conversations are more exploratory in nature and may require another meeting to agree on a specific role or project for the volunteer.

 

What can you do to begin this process?

  • Build an interview process that allows for a blend of exploratory questions and basic knowledge transfer between you and the volunteer to lay the foundation of the conversation.

  • Keep the conversation going; you may identify a role for the volunteer at that meeting, but you may want to take their information and explore internally where their skills may be of greatest value

  • Be open to new ideas

  • Train those who interview to be creative and open-minded

 

As you start this process and grow this culture of creativity in your volunteer program, you will find that your colleagues will consider how volunteers can be an asset to their programs and reach out to you for your expertise in connecting unique volunteers to unique roles.

Hopefully this will be a beginning of a wonderful relationship!

 

Lori Gotlieb is the President of Lori Gotlieb Consulting as well as co-developer and faculty member for Humber College Volunteer Management Leadership Certificate. She is a volunteer management expert who provides a unique concierge service to her clients. She is also an internationally published author and workshop facilitator who has taught workshops to many diverse audiences across North America. In 2012, Lori was the recipient of the Linda Buchanan Award for Excellence in Volunteer Management. 

You can reach here at  lorigotliebconsulting@gmail.com 


Tags:  how to screen a volunteer  volunteer interviews  volunteer management  volunteer screening 

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What's The Best Volunteer Management Database For You - Tips From The Bottom Up

Posted By Claire McWatt, Project Coordinator, May 19, 2016
Updated: May 18, 2016
 

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

In our most recent workshop, Leading Beyond the Core, the Grassroots Growth team explored the vast expanse of online databases for managing volunteers. Grassroots groups, like all non-profits, have to make decisions about how to best manage their lists and online presence. New software products are coming out every day, and features change at such a rapid pace that it can be a huge challenge to keep up. So, how do you choose the right content management system? The answer is: by being a smart consumer.

Back in the day, volunteers were managed using lists and contact sheets. They were mobilized by making phone calls. Computers brought us Excel spreadsheets, scheduling apps and e-mail, making things a lot easier. In the world of Web 2.0, we’ve seen all kinds of volunteer management software emerge, with a litany of shiny new capabilities, for a wide range of prices. Today, platforms such as Volgistics, Better Impact, and so many others compete in a saturated market for our precious business.

The market has changed a lot. We now have options that integrate all the features needed to run a non-profit and/or campaign into a one-stop-shop platform. Nationbuilder, widely becoming the benchmark, is a very popular integrated option. Volunteer managers are also testing new software, like Timecounts, with the capability to send text messages and tag volunteers with a wide range of extra skills.

For grassroots groups, there are five key points to remember when considering your management needs:

1. What can you realistically afford?

Platforms range from free to thousands of dollars per month. Some bill annually, some monthly. It’s great to have everything, but your budget will be a big factor in what you ultimately choose.

2. What are the needs of your organization?

Some platforms are best for mobilizing people, others for managing memberships. The type of work you do will factor heavily into what kind of product best meets your unique needs.

3. How many volunteers do you have in total?

If you have a lot of volunteers, standalone volunteer management software may be very useful. The more volunteers you have, the more likely it is to be necessary, and the more likely you are to need one that has more fancy features.

4. What are your shift-management needs?

If you need to manage a lot of volunteers at the same time (usually for events), you may want standalone volunteer management software, or at least the free or paid add-ons available in integrated products. Further, if you need to manage volunteers across different areas, standalone software is probably best for you.
 
5. What is your technological proficiency?

Are you an Excel pro? Sometimes the best option is what the person using it is most familiar with. If your volunteer manager has been using one platform forever and knows it inside and out, sticking with old faithful can sometimes be your best bet.


In the end, it is most important to consider your volunteer needs, and to reexamine them often. The market changes, and so do your volunteers. Taking the time to consider whether your database is working for you, both in the larger context of your non-profit, and as it makes your volunteer manager(s) life easier, will help you stay up-to-date and on-task.



 

 

Claire leads the development of the Grassroots Growth project’s online community of practice, including the Peer Mentorship Forum and Wiki Resource Directory. She also manages relationships with Grassroots Growth partners, handles project administration, and collaborates with the Education Coordinator and Outreach Coordinator in research, training and outreach.


Tags:  Free resources  volunteer engagement  volunteer management  Volunteer Management Databases 

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Giving Volunteers Feedback - Template Thursday

Posted By Sammy Feilchenfeld, Training Coordinator, May 12, 2016
Updated: May 11, 2016
 Template Thursday


Evaluating your volunteers and their performance can help them grow and succeed in their role. Looking for an easy way to provide feedback to volunteers? Use our free evaluation template for volunteer supervisors to provide meaningful feedback and let your volunteers know how they’re doing. Feel free to download, print or photocopy this resource, taken from our Giving Volunteers Feedback workbook, and check out our other great resources!

Keep an eye out for more free templates in the weeks to come. Click on the image to download. 


 

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:  Free templates  Free Volunteer Management work templates  Giving volunteers feedback  Volunteer evaluation  Volunteer Management resources 

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INFOGRAPHIC: Making the Case for Newcomer Volunteer Engagement

Posted By Kasandra James, Subscriptions Coordinator, May 5, 2016
Updated: May 5, 2016
 

Infographic: Volunteer Recognition 

 


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:  Canadian work experience  immigration  managing newcomer volunteers  newcomers  volunteer engagement 

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In Good Company: Is your workplace ready for an employer-supported volunteering program?

Posted By Volunteer Canada, April 28, 2016
Updated: April 27, 2016

 

Employer-supported volunteering (ESV) is increasingly prevalent as businesses recognize the positive effects it has on companies, employees and quality of life in their communities.

 

ESV is any activity undertaken by an employer to encourage and support the volunteering of their employees in the community[1]. In 2013, 37% of Canada’s 12.7 million volunteers, or 4.7 million, received some type of formal support from their employer[2]. Forms of employer support include: changing hours or reducing workload; allowing use of facilities or equipment to carry out volunteer activities; providing recognition or a letter of thanks; or offering paid time off.

 

ESV benefits everyone involved, but there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. It is important to consider what will work for your employees. For example, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) may face different challenges than a larger corporation. Understanding the values and motivations of employees at each stage of their working lives is key to effectively engage today’s multi-generational workforces. When ESV programs are aligned with a company’s business objectives, the benefits can transfer to their bottom line by way of improved employee retention, recruitment and performance.

 

To make your ESV program sustainable, it is important to evaluate its impact, and report that impact back to the employee volunteers.

 

Interested in learning more? Consult Volunteer Canada’s Canadian Code for Employer-Supported Volunteering. You can also attend Volunteer Canada’s upcoming forum, In Good Company that will feature speakers and in-depth discussions on current issues and trends in ESV.

 

In Good Company: A Community Building Forum for Businesses and Non-Profits will take place June 8-9 at the Eaton Chelsea Hotel in Toronto, Ontario.

 

Volunteer Toronto members are invited to register at the Volunteer Canada member price.

 

Click here to register.



 

 

 

 

 

 

Volunteer Canada is the national voice for volunteerism in Canada. Since 1977, we have been committed to increasing and supporting volunteerism and civic participation. We collaborate closely with volunteer centres, local organizations and national corporations to promote and broaden volunteering. Our programs, research, training, tools, resources and national initiatives provide leadership on issues and trends in Canada’s volunteer landscape.

 


 

Tags:  Ontario Employment Standards Act  Volunteer canada  volunteer engagement  volunteer management 

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Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Using Passion and Community Connections as Recruitment Tools

Posted By Jenn Jozwiak, Education Coordinator - Grassroots Growth, April 28, 2016
Updated: April 14, 2016

 

“One of our best members was brought on by another team member.”

 

“We had a friend of a volunteer who came last weekend to a workshop we were doing…and then, by the end, she was ready to sign up.”

 

These are the kinds of stories about recruitment that I heard this past January, when I conducted a series of video interviews as part of my position as Education Coordinator for the Grassroots Growth Project at Volunteer Toronto.

They were different from the typical tales of recruitment I’m accustomed to hearing from volunteer managers: while there were still discussions on finding skilled volunteers for particular tasks and using social media to get the good word out, there was an emphasis on local networking that made these responses distinct.

That’s because grassroots groups – defined as non-profit organizations operated entirely by volunteers – rely on connections to exist. Often, there isn’t a dedicated volunteer manager to take on the task of recruiting new team members. Instead, the responsibility of bringing on new volunteers tends to fall to the group as a whole, and everyone gets involved.

There are two elements that came out of my discussions with grassroots leaders this winter that I’d like to highlight here. Born from the need to solicit additional support while working with limited time and resources, grassroots organizations invite friends and family to join their ranks, and solidify their recruitment pitch by not really pitching at all, and instead simply speaking from the heart about projects they care deeply about.

 

Grassroots Groups Bring Friends into the Fold

Leadership and initial recruits tends to be comprised of the founder’s friends and family members, and so the circle remains small at the beginning. However, grassroots groups often expand organically: a member will bring a friend to an event, and the friend then joins the group. The next time a position opens up, that new member contacts their network about the opportunity, increasing the organization’s reach for potential volunteers. In this way, new connections are created. These expanded networks bring new ideas to the original group, and grassroots organizations not only gain more volunteers – they also gain access to new ways of understanding issues and solving problems.

 

Grassroots Groups are Built on Passion

Members of grassroots organizations are intimately linked to the ideas that drive them. Often, groups form to address a community need, and volunteers involved with the organization are directly impacted by their work. When grassroots members speak about their involvement with their organization in their communities, their personal experience is a powerful motivator that inspires others to join the team.

 

Of course, many grassroots groups employ traditional recruitment methods as well. However, these approaches to recruitment bolster conventional strategies by directly addressing two of the main incentives volunteers cite for donating their time to organizations: spending time with people and a shared belief in the cause. This, combined with the fact that recruitment is by default often a team effort, creates a group that is both unified and welcoming – exactly the kind of atmosphere that encourages people to volunteer in the first place.


  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:  Grassroots organizations  how grassroots groups recruit volunteers  how to recruit volunteers  recruiting friends  Volunteer Toronto Find volunteers  volunteering in Toronto 

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Seasonal Volunteer Planning - Template Thursday

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


Will you be recruiting volunteers for summer roles this year? If so, it’s time to start planning now. Summer camps, sports groups, festivals and events will all be recruiting volunteers for summer programming over the next couple of months—to make sure you’re on track, use our free planning resource for seasonal recruitment! Feel free to download, print or photocopy this resource, taken from our Short-Term Volunteers workbook, and check out our other great resources here. Keep an eye out for more free templates in the weeks to come.

 

 

 

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:  Free resources  planning for volunteers  volunteer management  volunteer management professional development  volunteer manager resources 

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4 Key Questions to Kickstart Your Mentorship Program

Posted By Kasandra James, Subscriptions Coordinator, April 7, 2016
Updated: April 6, 2016
 

Infographic: 4 Key Questions to Kickstart Your Mentorship Program 

 


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:  mentorship programs  start a mentorship program  volunteer  volunteering 

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Bringing the Grassroots Together: Maximizing Capacity for Mentorship and Collaboration

Posted By Claire McWatt, Project Coordinator, Grassroots Growth , March 18, 2016
 

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

In grassroots groups, passion runs high, as dedicated volunteers commit their spare time to running an entire organization with very limited resources.

Limited access to resources is a problem shared not only by grassroots groups, but also by the entire non-profit sector (am I right?). It can be a major challenge to accomplish goals when stretched so thin. But for grassroots groups who have limited access to sector support and difficulty applying best practices to a grassroots context, this can be particularly challenging. Although grassroots groups find impressive ways to get crafty in a pinch, these tips are not readily available to all groups that could potentially benefit. By engaging in peer mentorship, grassroots groups can learn from each other, and share tips and tricks to facing the unique challenges of managing volunteer-run organizations.

Due to the entrepreneurial spirit of grassroots groups, often there are many initiatives operating at the same time, with similar goals and mandates. In light of this, it makes sense to explore how to foster more collaboration between groups, and build capacity for the development of partnerships and coalitions.

Collaboration can benefit groups in a number of ways, increasing efficiency, resources, support, reach, and legitimacy. However, for this to work, these partnerships need to be mutually beneficial, and that requires thoughtful preparation to ensure a smooth ride, and a strong outcome.

For more information on collaboration, check out this helpful article from the Stanford Social Innovation Review, that outlines different types of partnerships and the various pros and cons.

As with a lot of sector resources, many are focused on larger nonprofits. Luckily, in the coming weeks Grassroots Growth will begin developing our Peer Mentorship strategy, specifically designed to bring grassroots groups together in our Community of Practice. This will allow for the sharing of tips, as well as tailoring of helpful approaches to collaboration to better suit the specific needs of volunteer-run groups. To learn more about how to get involved in shaping this process, contact Claire McWatt.

 

Claire leads the development of the Grassroots Growth project’s online community of practice, including the Peer Mentorship Forum and Wiki Resource Directory. She also manages relationships with Grassroots Growth partners, handles project administration, and collaborates with the Education Coordinator and Outreach Coordinator in research, training and outreach.


Tags:  activist groups  Challenges for Grassroots Organizations  collaboration  collaboration for Grassroots  grassroots groups  Grassroots organizations  improving your community group  Toronto 

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Measure Twice, Cut Once - Evaluating The Effectiveness of Your Volunteer Program

Posted By Sammy Feilchenfeld, Training Coordinator, March 16, 2016
Updated: March 14, 2016
 

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

A program evaluation is a process of reviewing all or part of a program to determine how efficiently and effectively it meets its goals. While you might be evaluating your volunteers regularly, you may not be evaluating the volunteer program itself! Through an assessment of key evaluation questions and determining proposed outcomes, you can collect data to analyze the success and impact of your volunteer program.

So why bother going through all of this effort? Here are a few great ways that a program evaluation can help you improve your volunteer program:

 

Measure efficiency

Do you sometimes struggle with finding work for volunteers to do? Do you have too many volunteers working on the same task? Your program’s efficiency can be improved by determining the work that needs to be done and the best way to do it (how many volunteers & volunteer hours, for example).

 

Measure effectiveness

Do you have a long-standing program that doesn’t meet changing needs? Are your volunteers resistant to changes that can improve program delivery? Your program’s effectiveness speaks to the success of volunteers – and their work – striving towards your organization’s mission. You can improve your volunteer program’s efficacy by understanding and eliminating the barriers to success.

 

Measure Impact

Are you going beyond efficiency and effectiveness and making lasting changes in the lives of clients? Do you know how to measure the direct impact of volunteers on clients? Even if you know your program’s impact is already felt or understood by the people who benefit from it, you can improve and advocate for your program by properly measuring and showcasing its impact. It will motivate your volunteers by showing them their impact, help you assess an overall direction for your volunteer program, and give you proof that your program is working that you can share with funders and decision makers.

 

How do you conduct an evaluation of your volunteer program in the middle of everything else you’ve got going on? Let us help you get started with “From Start to Finish: Building the Tools You Need to Evaluate your Volunteer Program” on April 21. You’ll leave this full day workshop with your evaluation questions written, logic model complete, achievable and well-planned goals established, data collection methods ready to go and a step-by-step plan to interpret your data. We’ll coach you through the process and you’ll be ready to take on your program evaluation with all the tools ready to go! Interested in learning more and signing up – click here and register 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:  evaluation  how to be more efficient in your volunteer program  Program evaluation  volunteer management  volunteer managers  volunteer programs  volunteers  ways to improve your volunteer program 

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An Age Old Tale… Striving to Engage Senior Volunteers

Posted By Kelly Devries, Outreach Coordinator, March 3, 2016
Updated: March 2, 2016
 Senior woman smiling

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

In Toronto, there are many seniors who want to volunteer and many non-profits wanting to engage them. So how can we make this happen? In the summer of 2015 Volunteer Toronto conducted several focus groups to learn more about what seniors are looking for in a volunteer opportunity and some of the barriers they experience. 

 

From that research I’ve found 7 key things for non-profits to remember when striving to engage senior volunteers:


1) Seniors have a lot of expertise to offer

Many seniors have worked for 35+ years and have a lot of professional and personal expertise to offer. Make sure to have roles that recognize the wealth of experience seniors can bring to your organization.


2) Seniors aren’t a homogenous group

Seniors can range in age from 55 to 105 years old and can encompass vast cultural backgrounds, experiences, abilities and knowledge. Ensure that you are acknowledging the diversity of seniors in your recruitment and that you aren’t acting on misperceptions.    


3) Seniors may want flexibility in their role

Non-profits have a notion that senior volunteers will be the most consistent for scheduling and commitments. Remember to recognize that seniors want flexibility to accommodate things like travel, babysitting grandkids, health concerns and more. Offering flexibility in your volunteer positions will allow seniors to actively engage in their volunteer position and their personal life.


4) Seniors may require special accommodation

Some seniors may need physical accommodation in their volunteer position including being able to sit instead of stand, not being expected to carry heavy supplies, a quiet work-space to be able to hear well, additional training and more. If you want to engage more senior volunteers you should ensure that you are able to provide proper accommodation as needed.


5) Seniors may have trouble with the bureaucracy of the application process (especially if everything is done online)

 Over the past 20 years, the volunteer recruitment & screening process has mostly moved online and for some folks this has made the process more challenging. Provide alternative methods for seniors to find out about and apply to volunteer opportunities, such as mailed newsletters and in-person application forms.


6) Seniors may not have a recent resume or cover letter

Asking for a cover letter and resume may discourage a senior who has been out of the workforce for 15 years from applying for your position. Consider asking for a self-assessment of skills, or highlights of experience.


7) Seniors want to be respected for their age

One of the largest takeaways from the focus groups was that seniors want to be respected for their age and experience. Recognize that seniors have a lot to offer and respect all that they do, while accommodating any particular needs they have from the point of life they are in.


I’ll be discussing this topic in greater detail with volunteer managers and coordinators from across the city at the March 9 VECTor Conference. Learn more about my Discussion Circle here and register for VECTor here!

 

Kelly DeVries is Volunteer Toronto's Community Engagement Coordinator. She coordinates a team of hardworking volunteers who represent Volunteer Toronto at community events. She is the voice of our Volunteer Times newsletter and assists the many events and programs we organize to inspire people in Toronto to volunteer.

Tags:  active seniors  how to engage senior volunteers  misconceptions about seniors  retired volunteers  seniors  working with senior volunteers 

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