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Five Tips For Nominating A Volunteer For A Legacy Award

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, January 5, 2017
Updated: November 19, 2019
 Five Tips For Nominating A Volunteer For A Legacy Award

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Each year, Volunteer Toronto presents exceptional volunteers with a Legacy Award to recognize the amazing volunteering they have done for their community.

Nominations are now open for the 2020 Legacy Awards—to be presented Monday, April 20. Learn more here and nominate a volunteer in your life

The application form will ask 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 incredibly challenging for our judging panel to decide which nominees should receive an award.

With so many giving people in the city doing great things, you’ll need to be as clear and explicit as possible about what makes your nominee exceptional. In the past people have been chosen for all kinds of reasons—for the much needed role they play in the community, the commitment they’ve shown, their admirable leadership skills, 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've gone above and beyond.

Youdon Tsamotshang

Youdon Tsamotshang
2019 Recipient

Youdon’s volunteer journey began at the age of 14, only two years after immigrating from Dharamsala, India—where she was born a stateless Tibetan refugee. Inspired by her father’s active role in their community, his selflessness and tenacity, she began to volunteer alongside him. Before long she noticed how volunteering was helping her to lay down roots of her own, to find her own voice, and to reconnect with her identity.

Thirteen years later Youdon is the vice-president of Tibetan Children’s Project Canada and an essential part of Students for a Free Tibet Canada where she takes part in outreach and training for concerts, festivals, and rallies.

Pushing back against the chaos and despair she sees in the world, Youdon is known for creating supporting, affirming spaces and helping those around her discover their passion. “To volunteer is to see a problem”, she says, “and to become part of the solution.”


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 been publicly recognized for their contributions. We encourage you to look to volunteers who haven’t had the experience of receiving an award for their efforts and who would truly appreciate being celebrated for the first time in their life. 

Tom McFeat

Tom McFeat
2019 Recipient

“I’d wish it on everyone”, says Tom, describing how he feels seeing the gratitude and relief his volunteering brings to others.

Working as a finance journalist Tom was inspired to channel his passion for boiling down difficult concepts when he learned how a coworker volunteered as a literacy tutor. Searching with Volunteer Toronto he quickly found Woodgreen Community Services and started volunteering as a debt management counsellor. After retiring he joined their tax clinic and loved it so much that he’s stayed on year-round.

He finds himself awed by the courage and dignity of his clients, many facing incredible challenges, and relishes the opportunity to tell them they’re owed hundreds or even thousands of dollars— offering them both encouragement and hope.


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. 

Jessica McDougall

Jessica McDougall
2019 Recipient

Jessica has a rare quality that sets others at ease and has made her 33 years of volunteering a story of countless connections.

She met her husband while in her first volunteer role, at a therapeutic horseback riding program for children with disabilities. Later, volunteering locally and at her children’s school she found new friends, created a sense of community, and broadened her family’s horizons.

Now, most of Jessica’s volunteering happens at Emily House, Toronto’s only child hospice, where her comfort and openness are essential qualities of her care. Thinking back, the first family she helped there stands out in her mind—throwing a 1 month birthday party and feeling the privilege of taking part in a lasting family memory. Over 10 years later, reconnecting with them at memorial and fundraising events is still a profound experience.


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 ground 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 they have delivered or how many hours they've volunteered over the years. Or if you have a youth volunteer who’s raised money for your organization, you could mention how much they've contributed. These figures help to create a picture of the impact the volunteer has had and how hard they have worked.


Jagger Gordon

Jagger Gordon
2019 Recipient

Working as a chef and caterer, Jagger was faced with the reality of food waste—that 40% of Canadian food ends up in landfill while 1 in 7 families live with food insecurity.

Unwilling to stand idly, he founded Feed it Forward, a completely volunteer run non-profit that has rescued thousands of pounds of food and provides meals and groceries that have fed nearly 80 thousand people on a pay-what-you-can basis.

12 hours a day, 7 days a week, Jagger isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. While continuing with Feed it Forward he’s started to lobby for Canada to follow in the footsteps of France and Italy by making it illegal to throw away edible food.


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. 

David Lockett

David Lockett
2019 Recipient 

First inspired by Terry Fox and the Marathon of Hope, David began volunteering in 1983 and shortly afterwards joined the Rotary Club—taking their motto, “Service over Self” deeply to heart.

He has since sought out innovative ways to make lasting improvements to Toronto’s support systems. Cutting the ribbon of the Redwood Shelter as co-founder in 1993, he increased Toronto’s number of shelter beds for victims of domestic violence by 10%. Also co-founder and volunteer president of the PACT Urban Peace Program, David has continues to look forward, seeking out and developing new programs to address Toronto’s needs.

Reflecting on a lifetime of volunteering, David recalls the words of Margaret Mead, that “that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”


We hope you found these tips useful! To learn more about nominating an exceptional volunteer in your life, click here

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

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