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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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4 Things to Think About When Increasing Diversity and Inclusion in Your Organization

Posted By Rui Miguel Martins, Volunteer Guest Blogger, February 29, 2016
Updated: February 26, 2016

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Toronto’s rapidly changing demographics present new opportunities and challenges for small organizations. Increasing diversity could help with networking and building relationships in your community, however, attracting people of diverse backgrounds is often difficult.

Jim Milligan is a certified LifeSkills coach and former volunteer manager. He spoke to a group of grassroots leaders about strategies for recruiting and retaining people of different backgrounds. It was the latest event in Volunteer Toronto’s Trailblazer Series, a set of leadership talks geared towards people who lead volunteer-run non-profits.


Here are the four things that organizations should consider when thinking about diversity and inclusion.


1. Frame of Reference

Are you open to thinking about your organization in new ways? What biases do you have? Everything we have experienced until this point in our lives has shaped our opinions and perceptions. Perspective is everything. Recognizing your frames of reference is critical when thinking about the recruitment and retention of volunteers.

2. Dimensions of Diversity

It is always important for an organization to have clearly-defined goals and a recruitment strategy in place. Begin by deciding what type of diversity you want to focus on. Diversity consists of many different dimensions including gender, sexual orientation, education, age, etc. Think about why your organization might be attractive to people of diverse audiences. How will your organization benefit? And how will the volunteer benefit from their involvement? Next, you need to decide how you are going to reach out to these groups. “Diversity is about how we are different and how those differences could enhance our relationships,” Milligan says. Diversity is a strength, not a barrier.

3. Cultural Competence

Non-profit leaders should be able to understand how our own cultural differences manifest themselves through beliefs, values, practices and through our biases. Having the professional skills to connect with each person and understand their world view is always important.

4. Deliberative Dialogue

Use dialogue that is intentional and collaborative. Listen to find meaning and understanding. This could mean admitting you are wrong or weighing the alternatives. The purpose should always be to find common ground. Your organization is about solving a problem and not about winning and losing. Oppositional or divisive language will just drive people away. “Good diversity always begins with you,” Milligan says. 



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:  board of directors  cultural competency  diversity in your non-profit  how to attract diverse people  increase diversity  Toronto  volunteer  Volunteer Toronto  volunteering  volunteers 

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INFOGRAPHIC: Assessing Your Volunteer Training Program

Posted By Kasandra James, Subscriptions Coordinator, February 2, 2016
Updated: February 1, 2016

Infographic: Assessing Your Volunteer Training 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:  adult learners  Assessing your volunteer training program  How to keep volunteers  subscriber circles  volunteer engagement  Volunteer Management  Volunteer Toronto  Volunteer Training 

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