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Five Tips For Nominating A Volunteer For A Legacy Award

Posted By Adam Dias, 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 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 2-31 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 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.

Andrew Greaves

Andrew Greaves
2018 Recipient

Within a few weeks of his arrival as a gay refugee claimant, Andrew started volunteering with Access Alliance’s LGBTQ+ newcomer initiatives. Since then, he has contributed over 250 volunteer hours leading and participating in workshops, organizing pride events, and sharing his journey.

Andrew was the creative force behind a newcomer-led cooking program—bringing together discussion of culture, cuisine, and migration—and has trained as a peer support volunteer, accompanying newcomers to appointments across the city.

In a short time, Andrew has developed into a powerful role model for his peers. In the words of his nominator, Andrew’s “generosity of spirit, positive attitude and commitment to volunteering are exemplary… he is offering back to his community while he himself is [still] very much in the resettlement process.”


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. 

Katie Heggtveit

Katie Heggtveit
2018 Recipient

Volunteering first became a major part of Katie’s life in high school, where she completed an international service tour, volunteering at a nursery in Kingston, Jamaica.

Her experience inspired her to volunteer at a shelter upon returning home to London, Ontario. Since moving to Toronto four years ago, Katie has volunteered with numerous organizations—including Trek for Teens Foundation, Youth Without Shelter, Horizons for Youth, Ryerson University, ME to WE, MLSE Foundation, TREC Education, and Blyth Academy.

Last summer, she founded her own organization, Bootcamps for Change. This initiative has partnered with 35 fitness professionals to hold fitness classes in Toronto youth shelters; fundraised for Jays Care Foundation, the Toronto Humane Society, and Sick Kids; and run an activewear drive to reduce barriers to participation faced by some youth in shelters.


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. 

Michael James

Michael James
2018 Recipient

When Michael was hired to manage a computer lab for seniors he thought it was just another of his many careers. What he didn’t expect was to become one of the faces for the United Way’s fundraising campaigns

As a 12 year volunteer with the United Way Speakers’ Bureau Michael has presented to more than 20,000 people. Now he mentors his fellow speakers—youth, seniors, newcomers, and people with trauma—building their public speaking skills, raising their confidence, and helping them make the impact that their stories deserve.

Michael has developed his own training materials and delivers over 20 writing and public speaking workshops each year. This past year alone his students have inspired over 60,000 people to support local community initiatives.


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.


Paul Nguyen

Paul Nguyen
2018 Recipient

Paul has come a long way since making King Fu movies with his friends. Since 2004 he has launched over 400 videos on, a self-financed grassroots project that combats negative stereotypes about the Jane-Finch community. He’s made music videos, news clips, short documentaries, and more covering a wide range of topics—from politics to culture.

Paul’s YouTube channel has over 14 million views, made national headlines, and many of the young reporters, writers, and artists he has featured have gone on to win awards and scholarships for their work on Most importantly, he has given a new pride and a voice to residents of his community—providing them with a space to express their art, concerns, and ideas to the wider public.


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. 

Patrick Robinson

Patrick Robinson
2018 Recipient 

“I can't describe the feeling” says Patrick, explaining an instance when his emergency response contributed to saving a life, “other than [as] an overwhelming urge to continue helping people”

Patrick is a staple volunteer with Emergency Response Team Search and Rescue (ERTSAR)—a UN recognised disaster response search and rescue team that deploys locally and around the world. He has one of the highest personal attendance records on his team despite being an independent business owner and single parent—he can be seen keeping the public safe year around at events like the CNE or the Nathan Philips Square New Year’s Eve celebration.

Patrick has undertaken medical training and additional rescue and emergency response training at his own expense. Dedicated to improving his team, Patrick readily passes on his knowledge and skills to fellow team members, recruits new volunteers, and donates his extra supplies to fellow volunteers facing financial difficulties.


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 last year's recipients. 


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

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