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Why Group Volunteering isn't as Easy as You Think

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, December 15, 2017
 Ask Kelly Banner

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes | Written by Melina Condren

In the past few years, we’ve seen more and more for-profit organizations seek out group volunteering in order to boost employee engagement and expand their social responsibility strategies. Unfortunately, finding a volunteer opportunity for your team AND making a big impact with a non-profit partner isn’t always easy.

On a practical level, many non-profits simply don’t have the space to accommodate a crowd of people. In addition to taking a lot of space, it also takes a lot of time and effort to organize team opportunities. Between planning a task, making sure everyone is properly trained, setting up and cleaning up the space, and all the other responsibilities that are part of holding a successful large-scale event, many volunteer managers don’t have the time to invest in group volunteering. Finally, the type of work that can get done by a group in one day isn’t always the type of work that’s needed most.

To make sure your volunteer experience steers clear of these pitfalls, here are five tips to get you started in planning meaningful, high-impact group volunteering:


Plan ahead

We get a lot of last-minute inquiries about group volunteer opportunities, but the truth is that many of them fill up months in advance. Start planning early to make sure that you find an opportunity that aligns with your organization’s mission and values, and to give the non-profit you’re working with plenty of time to prepare.

Split up into teams

Finding two volunteer opportunities for twenty people may be easier than finding one opportunity for forty. If you have a large group and you want everyone to volunteer, consider breaking up into smaller teams and helping out a few different causes. You’ll be able to choose from a much wider range of non-profits to work with, since so many can’t accommodate crowds.

Be prepared to donate money, not just time

Engaging large groups of volunteers takes a lot of time, effort, and resources, so the return on investment just isn’t worth it for many non-profits. Be prepared to make a financial contribution to help cover the costs of the staff time and resources that are being invested to make your volunteer experience successful or donate the food and supplies for the program you’re assisting with. For example, if you volunteer to pack welcome bags with toiletries, towels and pyjamas for a shelter, you might be expected to donate the supplies, not just the time it takes to pack them.

Build lasting partnerships

There are many different ways that employers can support volunteering and give back to their communities—not just by having a big, one-day volunteer event. You could organize a recurring fundraising event and donate the proceeds to a charitable partner, getting your employees involved by contributing or helping to coordinate the fundraiser. Or, you could encourage your employees to volunteer individually in ongoing programs for causes they care about, and support them in doing so with flexible work hours or extra time off. You could even volunteer as a team for the same organization each year, helping to plan, staff and provide the supplies for an annual event. Whatever you choose to do, making an ongoing commitment to a non-profit that goes beyond a single day of service is one of the best ways to make a meaningful impact.

Learn best practices

If you’re reading this blog post, you probably want to learn more about how to incorporate volunteering into your organization. As a next step, I recommend taking a look at the Canadian Code for Employer Supported Volunteering. It’s a great resource put together by Volunteer Canada that provides guidance to help you establish or improve an employer supported volunteer program.


Group volunteering isn’t easy, but when it’s done well it can be a great way to make a difference and give back. By following these five tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating a volunteer experience that your team, and the non-profit you support, will be grateful for.


Tags:  Activism  applying to volunteer  Career  City of Toronto Development  Event Volunteering  Give Back  group volunteering  How to give back  How to start volunteering  how to volunteer  How to volunteer in Toronto  How to volunteer to help the homeless  Leadership  Make a Difference  Office Volunteer  poverty reduction  Questions about volunteering  short-term volunteering  skilled volunteering  Skilled Volunteers  Skills  Toronto volunteers  types of volunteer positions  Volunteer  volunteer engagement  volunteer for one day  Volunteer for the holiday  volunteer in group  Volunteer in Toronto  volunteer leaders  Volunteer questions  Volunteering  volunteering in Toronto  Volunteerism  volunteers  Ways to volunteer  What's It Like To Volunteer  Work 

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Why You Need to Get a Head Start on Your Holiday Volunteering

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, November 13, 2017
Updated: November 13, 2017
 Holiday volunteering opportunities

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes 


Halloween is over. The costumes are stored away and the candy is down to the last packet of Rockets and straggling Tootsie rolls. Stores have started unpacking their holiday decorations, getting ready to bombard the masses with tinsel, spinning dreidels and wreaths of inordinate sizes. Every year I think to myself, “Are they really decorating now?” but I am starting to realize they’ve gotten it right.

If you’re like me, you enjoy getting your shopping done early to avoid the long lines, repetitive music and over-abundance of good cheer. The same should go for your holiday volunteering activities.

Over the years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of people who call us on Christmas Eve, hoping to find a place to volunteer. Although well intentioned, many believe it’s possible to just show up at a soup kitchen or shelter to donate their time. Sadly, times have changed and it’s not the reality anymore. There are a limited number of volunteer roles available over the holidays and most get snapped up even before December has even started.

It’s not that organizations don’t want or need the help, it’s that they could use it year-round, not just during the holiday season. Most charities are looking for passionate, reliable, dedicated volunteers who are willing to give their time throughout the year to support their cause. These are often the volunteers who are anointed with the coveted holiday shifts. They know the staff, have been properly trained and are comfortable with the in’s and out’s of the organization.

"Often, the generosity that many of our program participants receive around the holidays is so great that it can be very difficult for them in the new year when the holiday meals, special donations and influx of volunteers taper off. The new year can be a cold and difficult time of year particularly for those who are homeless or precariously housed. Many holiday volunteers don’t realize this, and if they did, some might change the way/time of year they volunteer as a result."

- Kaleigh Wisman, Community Relations Coordinator
at West Neighbourhood House


So, I suggest taking all the enthusiasm to give back that you get as December approaches and consider volunteering not just for a day but for a few months or longer. If that won’t do, and you are set on volunteering over the holiday season, then set yourself up for success by contacting organizations NOW. Don’t wait until the last minute! Search using our 'Holiday Volunteering' category to see what opportunities are currently available.  If you’re too late and can’t find anything, think local. Research charities in your area then call or email them directly to see if they will need help. Or, check out other informal ways you can give back this season. 

When you properly plan both you and the organization you support will have a positive experience, making everyone’s holiday season an extraordinary one.  


If you are media looking to speak on volunteering during the holidays please get in touch with Cara Eaton, Marketing and Communications Manager at Volunteer Toronto.

Tags:  Christmas volunteering  holiday volunteer opportunities  Holiday Volunteering  holiday volunteers  How do I volunteer at Christmas  How to volunteer during Christmas  Volunteer for the holiday  volunteer holidays 

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The Volunteer Behind Getting Financial Literacy in the Classroom

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, September 28, 2017
Updated: August 1, 2017

Daniel Rotsztain Fake Development Proposal

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes


Prakash Amarasooriya is a volunteer with the Toronto Youth Cabinet. He recently succeeded in campaigning to have financial literacy education added to Ontario’s Grade 10 curriculum. Prakash is one of 25 Toronto volunteers recognized with a 2017 Legacy Award for their exceptional contributions. This is his story as a volunteer.


Graduate in flux

In 2015, I graduated with a health sciences degree, but around the same time I decided I wanted to go in a different direction. I actually had my eye on business; I saw there was more of a need to drive meaningful change. So, I applied for 170 jobs. Without success. It was discouraging, but I kept going and trusting the process. In January 2016, I stumbled into a job opportunity at TD with no bank experience.

As the same time, I was watching HBO's TV show, The Wire. Season four was all about flaws in the education system, and I saw a lot of parallels to the real world. I had also seen the memes online joking about how young people were taught about things like parabolas but not how to do their own taxes. They felt they had missed out on learning life skills, and I did too. As my work began at TD, I also started to understand the value of financial literacy. What was a savings account? What is a TFSA? I noticed there were a lot of parents who were not financially stable—always in overdraft, or having loans rejected without knowing why. Without help, they would normalize the problem and pass these patterns onto their children. I realized things needed to change from a young age, and that is when I started to link financial literacy to education.

 Around the same time, I knew I wanted to get involved with the City of Toronto. I typed, “young people getting involved in Toronto” into Google and the Toronto Youth Cabinet showed up. The Toronto Youth Cabinet is a semi-autonomous advisory body to the City of Toronto with a space at City Hall.


Wheels in motion

I emailed Tom Gleason, Executive Director of the Toronto Youth Cabinet in January 2016 (also a 2017 Legacy Award recipient). I described the gap I saw in financial literacy, and said that I wanted to get involved. They did not yet have anyone for education, so Tom asked if I wanted to be that guy. A working group was then formed to respond to this need.

After joining, I began the research. What was currently being done? What were people saying regarding financial literacy in Canada? I knew that I wanted to see a tangible change, but I also wanted to identify the path of least resistance. So I developed a proposal. I had no templates or experience, just answers to questions I found along the way. Based on my research (and a couple of epiphany moments), I decided that the Grade 10 careers course would be an obtainable measure of success; a foot-in-the-door to start the financial literacy conversation. So my goal was decided—but how do I get this implemented?


Campaigning as a volunteer

My first step: connect with the Toronto school boards. I personally emailed each of the trustees, met with them, developed relationships, and asked them to help me advocate for financial literacy. You’d be surprised how willing people are to speak with you, especially if you reach out with respect and genuine curiosity. Eventually, I met with two Provincial curriculum advisors, but it did not go well. They said they had not heard any complaints regarding the current state of financial literacy in schools.


Strategy pivot

Despite the government’s discouraging initial reaction, I knew there was a need that the public would support. So I released a petition supporting the proposal on Thanksgiving 2016, gathering 100 names through my personal Facebook. The next day, I sent a press release to key media representatives. Hours later, CityTV called and wanted to interview me. This led to three weeks of media interviews, during which the petition grew and the government changed their stances, agreeing to meet with me again.

On the day of my last scheduled media interview, I was invited to meet with Mitzie Hunter, the new Minister for Education. It was November 1st (fun fact: I forgot it was my birthday that day). My aim was to approach her as cooperatively as possible, positioning a revision to the careers course as a win-win. She had a few questions, but was in full support of the proposal. The one I created—a youth volunteer—with no template. “Did we just win?” Tom and I asked each other as we left the room. We were excited, but wanted to see the results first.


A win, but not the end

Two days later, Minister Hunter tweeted, "We’ve heard you Toronto Youth Cabinet. We’ve accepted your proposal". We had won. And since then, the government has met with me to receive feedback on their plan moving forward. Twenty-eight Ontario schools piloted a new course this past spring. The revised course will formally begin in September 2018.

Reflecting, I am happy the government has committed, but there is still much work to be done. I did this for the people who need it, who signed that petition, and who supported the initiative from the beginning. The course is one thing, but peer-to-peer, and parent-to-child conversations are another. Ultimately, the goal was raising consciousness in having these conversations about money management. I continue to attend financial literacy events and spread the message. Last month, I even became a board member—a goal I set for myself after attending a Volunteer Toronto ‘Becoming a Board Member’ workshop—for the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education.


My advice to youth

My advice on work/life/volunteer balance? I only do the things that I know I would fight for when I am beyond exhausted. If you see unmet needs in your community, be agile and work with the administration to drive change. Never take no as your final answer: it's just short for “not this way.” I did not know how my proposal would end up; just that I would fight for as long as it took to succeed. When I get older, I always want to be conscious of not underestimating young people, because I have been in the position where people underestimate just how much I can do. 


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Tags:  40 High School Community service hours  Career  City of Toronto Volunteers  How to give back  job experience  Legacy Awards  skilled volunteering  Skilled Volunteers  Teen volunteering  Toronto volunteers  Volunteer  volunteering for youth  volunteering in Toronto  Volunteerism  What's It Like To Volunteer  Youth Support  Youth Volunteers 

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5 Excellent Reasons to Attend our Seniors Fair

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, July 25, 2017
Updated: July 24, 2017

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Are you a boomer or a senior? Looking for a great way to give back to your community?

Join us for our free Seniors Volunteer Fair, where you'll meet face-to-face with 25+ non-profits recruiting volunteers like you.
Whatever your age, interests and skills or the amount of time you want to give back there are non-profits that would love your help.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017 from 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.
North York Seniors Centre
21 Hendon Avenue, near Finch & Yonge

Whether you want to plant flowers, deliver meals or read with children, this is a great event for you to attend. Here’s why:


1)  Share your skills

You have incredible skills and experience to share. You might have been a teacher, a custodian, a parent or shopkeeper, or you may know how to organize events or cook a meal for 20 people. Whatever skills and experience you’ve gained over the years, there will be non-profits out there who could use your help.


2)  Find out about some great non-profits

The non-profits that will be at the Seniors Volunteer Fair are doing great work in the community. This includes Habitat for Humanity, Hospice Toronto, Ernestine’s Shelter, Toronto Botanical Gardens and Toronto City Cultural Events, to name a few. These organizations are building homes, providing end-of-life care, assisting in emergencies, exploring natural beauty and celebrating our city. At the fair, you can find out how to lend a hand and help them with the great things they are doing. Check out our Seniors Volunteer Fair webpage to learn more about which non-profits are attending. 


3)  Volunteering leads to endless possibilities

People gain in all sorts of ways from volunteering. Volunteering has been proven to improve people’s physical and mental health, It is also a great way to meet people and make friends. You can learn so much from volunteering about yourself and your community. Volunteering provides a sense of meaning and  impacts the community around you. …. The possibilities are endless.  Check out Colin’s story to learn how volunteering changed his life. 


4)  It’s convenient

We are making finding a great volunteer opportunity easy for you! The North York Seniors Centre is two minutes from Finch TTC station. The building is fully accessible. There is parking close by. You’ll be able to meet 25+ great non-profits in your city. All of the organizations are looking for senior volunteers and will be promoting opportunities in North York and across the city. What could be better?


5)  Network and meet organizations in person

A volunteer fair is a great way of meeting face-to-face with representatives from the organization. They’ll be able to learn more about you and you’ll be able to ask them questions too. You can find out crucial details like whether they provide TTC tokens, or how much of a commitment they expect, in order to see if the organization is a good fit for you. 


So what are you waiting for? We hope to see you at this unique event!

If you have any questions check out our Seniors Fair webpage or give Hamdi a call at
416-961-6888 ext 241.



Tags:  Retirement  Senior volunteering  Seniors  Skills  Toronto  Toronto seniors 

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7 Grassroots Groups You Need to Follow in Toronto

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, March 24, 2017
Updated: March 24, 2017
 Grassroots Groups in Toronto

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Fuelled by pure passion and little-to-no-money, grassroots groups across Toronto are challenging the status quo. These community collectives are completely powered by volunteers and are calling for positive social change.

But who are they?

Volunteer Toronto has spent two years trying to find out, and by doing so is working to increase their capacity and community impact. Here are 7 grassroots groups that are driving social change in the 6ix:


1.   CivicTech Toronto

What do you get when you combine the tech-savvy and the socially conscious? A group of powerhouse digital entrepreneurs, set out to improve government policy for the greater good. Designers, urban planners, politicos, web developersthis grassroots group unites to take on civic challenges through weekly hackathons.


2.  Mornelle AllStars

Scarborough is a little brighter, and safer, due to the Mornelle AllStars, a group of tireless volunteers who are driving programming in their neighbourhood to make things ultimately safer. Need a walk to-or-from school? After-school programming? A shoulder to lean on? This grassroots group is here to help.


3. Fix the 6ix

What can you really buy with less than $5 in Torontothe truth is, very little. But many small things contribute to a greater good. This grassroots group is collecting your digital loose change and converting it into social change. Fix the 6ix will take the last bits from those random gift cards and combined with others, they will put it towards food, clothing and other items for shelters across the city.


4.   Shelter Movers of Toronto

Helping others flee abusive living situations is the goal of Shelter Movers of Toronto, who work tirelessly to relocate victims that need a safer space to call home. This group of volunteers offer free services, working collaboratively with victim service agencies, shelters and law enforcement to make a difference.


5.   Queers for Dinner

Nothing brings people together quite like a good meal. Queers for Dinner is doing just that: building friendships, fostering a sense of community, and belongingone bite at a time. They put on hugely successful events at great local restaurants, creating an inclusive environment for LGBTQ folks and allies.


6.   Repair Café Toronto

Take recycling one step further to save the planet! Repair Cafe has an entirely new spin on your broken toaster or chair: don’t just toss it, try to fix it. Volunteers at this grassroots group run free sessions, teaching and empowering you to challenge wasteful thinking.


7.   Amanda’s Lemonade

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade… and sell it to raise money for charity. This grassroots group is reviving the classic curbside lemonade stand and encouraging others to donate their proceeds to the causes they care about. This June Amanda’s Lemonade is hosting a World Record attempt for the most lemonade stands in a row!


Meet fearless volunteers from these, and other groups during the Grassroots Week Volunteer Fair on March 26 at the Toronto Reference Library.


Tags:  grassroots growth  grassroots leaders  Grassroots week  volunteer leaders 

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Can You Help Me Find a Volunteer Position that will Give Me a Visa?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, March 20, 2017
Updated: March 16, 2017
 Ask Kelly Banner


“Ask Us” is our blog series aimed at answering your most pressing volunteer questions. Got a burning question? We're here to help!

Submit your question to - subject line: Ask Us

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Hey Volunteer Toronto,

My name is Alejandro and I am living in Brazil. I want to come to Toronto as a volunteer. Can you help me find a volunteer position that will give me a visa? And it would be great if that position could pay for my room and board. Thanks,




Hello Alejandro,

Thanks for your email and your interest in volunteering in Toronto. This is a question we receive often and is important to clarify.

Volunteer Toronto supports people already living in Toronto who are looking to volunteer. We work with non-profits who are in search of volunteers in the city. If you move to Toronto, we would be happy to help you find a meaningful volunteer position. You can check out all current opportunities at

None of the non-profit organizations we work with provide visas for volunteer work, as they look to recruit volunteers already living in Toronto. Additionally, if you do an online search you can find websites that may offer room and board for volunteering in Canada, however we are not connected to these organizations.

I hope this information was helpful and if you do come to Toronto, please do get in touch so we can help you find a meaningful volunteer opportunity!


Tags:  Ask Kelly  volunteer in Canada  volunteer visa 

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4 Ways Volunteering Changed My Life

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, February 21, 2017
Updated: February 13, 2017

 Collin J. Rainsbury planting a tree in Mumbai, India during a field trip with UNICEF

Colin J. Rainsbury planting a tree in Mumbai, India while on a field trip with UNICEF

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

I was first introduced to volunteering at the age of six. In London, England during World War II, my parents volunteered by helping to organize community events on weekends in the local school. My sisters and I used to help by serving tea or collecting tickets.

Little did I know how being a volunteer would evolve into such an important and integral part of my life. Over the years, volunteering has helped me develop new skills that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to experience in my day-to-day work.

Here are four ways volunteering changed my life:


I Became A Leader

As a young adult, I volunteered as a youth leader in the Boys' Brigade and was also Cadet Officer. This involved program planning and teaching such things as communications, first aid, military skills, as well as organizing gymnastics, games and events. I also served as a Board Member and Secretary for the international youth organization.


Collin meeting The Queen & Duke of Edinburgh

Colin meeting Her Majesty the Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh as a Cadet Officer (1967)


I Got Organized

I chaired, planned, and attended local, provincial, national and international conventions and training conferences. As Board Secretary, I also perfected the art of note-taking.

 Colin Rainsbury with fellows from the Electrical Engineering Apprenticeship Association

Colin (front right) as Secretary for the Electrical Engineering Apprenticeship Association meeting with members from around the Commonwealth (1953)


I Got Out Of My Bubble

Being a volunteer gave me the opportunity to meet and learn from people at all levels of society including those from other countries. This was especially true when I emigrated to Canada in 1957.

 Colin Rainsbury talking to local village chief in Kenya

Colin (left) speaking with a local village chief in Kenya while evaluating a UNICEF/Canada project (1975)


I Became A Better Public Speaker

All of the above gave me the necessary experiences to improve on my public speaking skills. I learned how to properly speak with the media, as well as develop my presentation abilities on varied subjects to different audiences.

 Colin Rainsbury making a speech

Colin making a speech as Secretary for the Electrical Engineering Apprenticeship Association


In 1963, after a two-year working vacation, during which I visited Australia and hitch-hiked from Cape Town to Cairo, I finally returned to Canada after renewing many of my international association friendships along the way.

In Ottawa, I became the Executive Assistant to the General Manager/Chief Engineer of a Crown corporation responsible for public utilities across northern Canada. While my training as an electrical engineer helped, it was due to the additional skills I learned as a volunteer that made me stand out. After receiving the position, I later learned they had had difficulty filling it for some time.

In the following years, because of my new administrative work and continued volunteer experiences, I began to consider switching to non-profit work.

In 1970, UNICEF was looking for its first Canadian Field Director. From the job-description I had the qualifications they were looking for; administrative and public speaking skills, volunteering, plus international experience. I obtained the position and what followed was 26 years of a very satisfying career change.

The work was both challenging and varied. It took me across Canada and eventually, UNICEF Canada became known around the world for its success in developing a national volunteer network of all ages.

It has been a long journey since I was a boy serving tea in 1940 to representing Canada on the international stage, including various disaster zones, but it is a journey that has been well worth it!


Collin J. Rainsbury

Colin J. Rainsbury has a wealth of experience not only as a volunteer for over 70 years, but also as the Executive Director for a number of non-profit organizations, both large and small. A number of months ago he changed his focus and joined Volunteer Toronto as a member of the outreach team and enjoys sharing his experiences from both sides of the “volunteer fence” with potential new and returning volunteers. As a "foodie", in his spare time, he updates his own unique “Wine & Dine the Subway” website and assists his partner in running a small but successful business.

Tags:  City of Toronto Volunteers  Toronto  Toronto volunteers  Volunteer  Volunteer in Toronto  Volunteer questions  Volunteering  volunteering for youth  volunteering in Toronto  Volunteerism  What's It Like To Volunteer  Youth Support 

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Do I Need to Speak Perfect English to Volunteer?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, February 6, 2017
Updated: February 3, 2017
 <Ask Kelly Banner


“Ask Us” is our blog series aimed at answering your most pressing volunteer questions. Got a burning question? We're here to help! 

Submit your question to - subject line: Ask Us

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Hey Volunteer Toronto,

I have been looking for volunteering in non-profit organizations for almost two months but I didn't find anything. I am new in Canada and my English is not perfect yet. Is it affecting on opportunities that exist?




Hello Susan,

Welcome to Toronto and thanks so much for wanting to volunteer. It is hard to say exactly why you haven’t found a volunteer position, but we can give you some tips for the application process.

  1. Choose Positions That Fit

    There are hundreds of different positions on our website. Before applying for positions spend some time reflecting on what kind of volunteering you`d like to do. Then, when researching positions, be sure to look at their requirements. Are they asking for fluency in English? Are they asking for certain types of experience? You’ll have better luck if you apply for positions that fit your current skills and strengths.

  2. Follow the Instructions on How to Apply

    Volunteer Toronto works with over 600 different non-profit organizations. At the bottom of a posting you will find a Contact/How to Apply section, which should outline what steps you need to take to apply. This could include sending an email, filling out an application form or making a phone call among other things. It is important to follow the instructions to show that you can pay attention to detail, respect the wishes of the volunteer coordinator and care about the position.

  3. Come Across Professionally

    Making a great first impression can go a long way in the application process. Coming across professionally will help your application shine above the rest. You should customize your application to the specific role and clearly introduce yourself and why you are interested in the position. Make sure to answer all questions fully and before submitting your application, double check everything for spelling and grammar.

  4. Demonstrate You Care

    Non-profit organizations rely on volunteers to help them achieve their mission. If you care about the work they do or the community they serve demonstrate this in your application. The more concrete your reasons the better! For example, do you want to volunteer with seniors because your grandma played an important role in your life? Do you want to tutor science because you want to share your passion? Explain this in your application.

  5. Don’t Give Up

    Sometimes you might find a great position and write an amazing application that clearly demonstrates why it’s the perfect fit and still not get the position. Although that can be disappointing, do not give up! Sometimes the position may have just been filled. Or the volunteer coordinator was overwhelmed with applications. Or there was a better candidate out there (hard to believe I know!). Please don’t give up. Keep applying and striving to find a good fit, because when you do it will be worth it.

Tags:  Ask Kelly  ESL volunteers  How long does it take to find a volunteer position  How to volunteer as a newcomer  Kelly Harbour 

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The Ultimate Volunteer Leadership Role

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, January 30, 2017
Updated: January 27, 2017

Becoming A Board Member Sessions

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes


At Volunteer Toronto, we often meet seasoned professionals with great skills and experience who want to find a way to apply what they know to benefit a non-profit. For someone with an interest in a high-level leadership role, volunteering on a non-profit’s board of directors is a great way to put your skills to good use and build on your leadership experience along the way.

But before you decide to start applying for board roles, it’s important to consider whether a board member role is right for you.

3 things to consider:

1. What issues am I most passionate about?

2. Can I contribute the time necessary to be an effective board member? 

3. What type of board would my skills and personality be a good fit for?

To make this easy, we run regular informational workshops on what’s involved in being a board member. In two hours, you’ll learn everything from what a Board of Director does, what skills you’ll need to join one, whether previous board experience is needed, what you should know before you join a board, and what the benefits are of volunteering on a board.

The session ends with tips and information on how you can find a board member role. While the session isn't about matching you with the right board member role, we can certainly give you all the tools and information you’ll need to find a non-profit board that is a good match for you.

So, if you want a volunteer role that will be as rewarding as it is challenging, come to one of our workshops to find out more about what’s involved!

Becoming A Board Member Sessions

Tags:  Accountability  Board Member  Board of Directors  Board Work  Governance  How do I join a Board of Directors?  Joining a Board  Leadership  Skilled Volunteers  Volunteer Board of Directors 

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Can I Volunteer for My Birthday?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, January 23, 2017
Updated: January 19, 2017
 Ask Kelly Banner


“Ask Us” is our blog series aimed at answering your most pressing volunteer questions. Got a burning question? She’s here to help!

Submit your question to - subject line: Ask Us

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Hey Volunteer Toronto,

For my birthday, my friends and I would like to volunteer. Is this kind of thing possible? Are there any opportunities we can do as a group? Can you please let me know?




Hello Akhal,

Thanks so much for your interest in volunteering with your friends. Most opportunities to volunteer with your friends are one-time special events such as festivals, fundraisers and marathons. These opportunities occur throughout the year, and are particularly abundant in the spring and summer.

Volunteering for your birthday sounds like fun! All of our group volunteer opportunities depend on the needs of the organizations we work with, so it is hard to predict if there will be an opportunity specifically on your birthday. You’ll have better success if you are open to looking for something anytime during your birth month.

We don’t know how many friends you’re thinking about inviting, but before you send out those invitations know that the average group opportunity asks for sizes of 5-10 people. It is quite difficult to find opportunities for groups larger than 10.

To find group opportunities that suite your birthday interests please search and use Category “4. Suitable for Groups”. You’ll then be able to read through opportunities and when one interests you, you can apply by following the instructions in the “How to Apply/Contact” section. Just so you know, the opportunities on our website change daily, so if you don’t find something that interests you right now, be sure to check back soon.

Hope you have fun Akhal! Happy birthday!

Thanks for reaching out,

Volunteer Toronto



Tags:  Kelly Harbour  volunteer in group  Volunteer with friends 

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Q&A with Daniel Rotsztain: The Man Who Used Art to Protest Toronto’s Condo Boom

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, January 9, 2017
Updated: January 5, 2017

Daniel Rotsztain Fake Development Proposal

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes


At Volunteer Toronto, we love to hear about Torontonians getting involved in their communities and taking action on issues they feel passionately about.

In fall of 2016, two local artists took the city by surprise when they launched “Development Proposal”, an art project that placed fake development proposal signs by some of Toronto’s most well-known landmarks. Can you imagine a 40-storey condo on top of the CN Tower? Or Old City Hall being transformed into a 90-storey condo and parking garage?

We interviewed co-creator Daniel Rotsztain to find out more about the project and how it made a difference.


Hi Daniel, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Daniel Rotsztain

I call myself an Urban Geographer and that means I’m an artist, writer and mapmaker. I’m really in love with places and am interested in our relationship to places that we live in. I’m especially inspired by Toronto, which is where I grew up and I feel really passionate about this place and in love with all the energy that I see other Torontonians putting into the city. I write for the Globe and Mail and NOW Magazine, and I’m an illustrator.





What kind of volunteering or activism have you done in the past?

My volunteerism started near my home. I volunteered for the local Out of Cold program at the synagogue by my house. I also helped at the kitchen at the Good Shepherd centre on Queen and Parliament. In university, I got involved in a lot of food justice activism and helped at a Pay What You Can vegan kitchen. Activism-wise, I’ve gone to all the protests and I’m currently planning on going to Ottawa to support the Chippewwa of the Thames case against Line 9.


What did you hope would happen after you put the signs up?

I’m not against condos, but because I grew up here I’m so energized that everyone wants to move here. Condos represent a relatively affordable way to live in the city but that doesn’t mean that I can’t criticize the “unbalanced-ness” of it.

I wanted to spark a conversation about the development process in Toronto, about who is part of the conversation and who isn’t. I decided on the ideas of fake signs as I wanted to critique the signs themselves so the best way to do that was to use straight satire.  With art you are given the opportunity to explore ideas about the future in a way that you can’t with politics and journalism. I also like street art as a medium, it’s the most democratic form of art. It’s not in a gallery…it’s on the street and accessible to everyone.  So putting a physical sign at a busy intersection in downtown Toronto was an easy way to launch our website and get lots of people to see it!


Fake condo proposal for the CN Tower  Fake condo proposal for the Toronto Island Ferry 
Daniel Rotsztain and Mike Stulberg Fake Development Proposals


I often set mini goals [for my work] to contextualize my work and motivate me, and I really wanted to see a little article on the CBC Toronto’s website. The sign we put up at Old City Hall was up for three whole days. We put it up on Friday and it was gone on Monday, but during that time every major news source covered it. BlogTO, CTV, City TV, Global News, The Star, The Globe and Mail all covered it. Some of the television newscasts had these wild segments where they showed animations of the fake condos that I had proposed, literally coming out of these buildings. I was quite tickled at that.


Was there anything you learnt from the project?

There’s quite an informed and engaged community about urban issues in the city especially on Twitter, and from them I learned that the problem really is that the official plan of the city protects neighbourhoods with single-family homes. People in those neighbourhoods can reject even nice, small four-storey condos because the plan says that these neighbourhoods need to be protected.

So what’s happening is it’s in the neighbourhoods that don’t have a lot of people protecting their interests like Liberty Village and Yonge Street, where there weren’t a lot of people living before that are receiving all of this massive development. That’s the real problem, I think.


Why did you choose this rather unusual approach?

I believe in art being about communication, and a lot of these issues are complicated. I’m interested in expressing them in a way that will get people thinking about them in a different way or realize something that’s happening that they didn’t realize before.


What surprised you about your campaign?

I did this project with a collaborator – Mike Stulberg – and we thought we would get some attention, but the torrent of attention was unexpected. It taught us that this is an issue that people care about and it reminded me that Torontonians do indeed care about their city and the development proposal process. The official plan needs to reflect that more because right now they do these public meetings and a lot of people don’t show up.

Another thing is that a project is an opportunity to start a conversation so I walked in thinking I knew what the issues were but I left knowing much more. That was really humbling.


What tips would you give to other Torontonians who are interested in taking a stand on matters they believe in?

I would say that in the city there are a lot of engaged people and there are events almost every night that are discussing issues from inclusivity to affordability to design. Show up at those events. Also, don’t be shy if you don’t know everything about an issue but you want to be part of it. It’s okay to ask questions and engage people in conversation without all the answers. That’s how we learn and that’s how we can support our communities.


To someone who is new to city building and activism where would they find these events?

Good question. NOW Magazine has lots of listings, and Facebook is really your best friend. If you’re on Facebook, there’s this group called the Yonge Urbanists League and it has just over 3,000 members. Every day people are posting events on it and that’s my go to source right now. It’s a super supportive community.


What do you have planned next either for the campaign or other civic actions?

I still want to explore urban planning and how people are left out of the conversation and who gets to be part of the conversation. I’m exploring the idea of hosting a mock proposal meeting and what alternatives are possible to engagement. I don’t know what form that will take but I have some ideas. I don’t want to say too much as I may do it in secret again!


Free Information Sessions!


Tags:  Activism  Activists  City of Toronto Development  Daniel Rotsztain  Fake Development Proposals  Toronto Fake Condo Proposals 

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10 Places in Toronto to Buy Gifts that Support the Local Community!

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, December 1, 2016
Updated: December 19, 2016
  10 Places To Buy Gifts That Support The Local Community!

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

It is officially the start of the season of giving.  Why not direct your generosity in a way that benefits our community, by selecting gifts that give back? We’ve made it easy for you by putting together our top ten gift ideas for 2016 - just click the link in each title to find out more!


Inspirations Studio

Located on Dundas West, Inspirations Studio is a pottery studio that teaches women living on low-incomes how to create and sell pottery. The program allows women to gain meaningful employment and provides a safe and inclusive space for creativity. They sell mugs, bowls, plates, platters and beautiful handmade items of all shapes and sizes!


Inspirations Studio

Inspirations Studio is a pottery studio that teaches women living on low-incomes how to create and sell pottery.



It’s easy to shop online and select thoughtfully created gift baskets, cookie platters and baby gifts for those you love.  DANI Toronto is a local charity that provides vocational training for adults with special needs so that they can participate as valued members of our community by being involved in the organization’s gift shop, catering, café, and restaurant. 



DANI Toronto is a local charity that provides vocational training for adults with special needs



For that special person, choose from an exquisite collection of jewelry that is considered wearable art! Sappho empowers women from marginalized populations across Toronto by employing them to make the jewelry and an income that they can use to support their families. They also sell beautiful “empathy effect” pins with 15% of the proceeds given to a charitable organization that is catalyzing empathy. 


Sappho empowers women from marginalized populations across Toronto
by employing them to make the jewelry.


St. John’s Bakery

St. John’s Bakery in the east end employs people on Ontario Works, people with disabilities, people struggling with addictions, people with emotional and or mental Illness, people new to Canada and single parents.  And they make the best bread in the city!  Their sweets and bread can be purchased at their location at Queen and Broadview.  Their bakery goods will make the perfect hostess gift for the party season!

 St. John's Bakery

St. John's Bakery employs people with disabilities, mental illness,
those struggling with addictions, and newcomers to Canada. 


Pursuit OCR 

Have a friend who would love to attend an acroyoga class or enjoy the challenges of an indoor obstacle course?  Purchase a gift card from Pursuit OCR in Little Portugal!  By donating 30% of their profits to local non-profits, Pursuit OCR is helping to build awareness in schools about the LGBTQ community.   

 Pursuit OCR

Pursuit OCR donates 30% of their profits to non-profits supporting the LBGTQ community




FoodShare is a Toronto based non-profit organization that works with communities and schools to deliver healthy food and food education.  Enjoy visiting their website to choose gift baskets of delicious food and bakery items, packaged in beautiful custom made totes and baskets!


FoodShare is a non-profit organization that works with communities and schools
o deliver healthy food and food education. 



Native Canadian Centre of Toronto

Drop by the Native Canadian Centre in The Annex to visit their indigenous owned and operated store.  Select from a wide variety of First Nations, Métis and Inuit handcrafted jewelry, carvings, basketry, beadwork, moccasins, and original art.

 Native Canadian Centre

The gift shop is Toronto’s only indigenous owned and operated store.



Ezzy Lynn

Ezzy Lynn is a lifestyle brand of trendsetting apparel and accessories started by three graduates from Western University who are based in Toronto and London, Ontario. Each item they sell represents a unique endangered animal which they adopt through WWF-Canada from proceeds of each sale.  What a wonderful way to make someone happy in your life and also make an impact on wildlife conservation!  

 Ezzy Lynn

Each Ezzy Lynn item represents a unique endangered animal which the company adopts
through WWF-Canada from proceeds of each sale.  



Klink Coffee

Brew up some good by purchasing coffee in support of the John Howard Society. This social enterprise assists individuals in removing barriers to entering the workforce. This non-profit organization works especially with clients coming out of the criminal justice system offering employment readiness and on-the-job training.  

 Klink Coffee

Klink Coffee works with clients coming out of the criminal justice system offering employment readiness and on-the-job training. 



Brighton Launch

If you know someone who loves one-of-a-kind items, check out Brighton Launch! Based in Toronto, their program offers students with learning challenges the business skills and experience that will allow them to find full time jobs. Their online store carries stocking stuffers and unique handmade items such as bath bombs and tub teas.

 Brighton Launch

Brighton Launch offers students with learning challenges the business skills and
experience that will allow them to find full time jobs.



Tags:  Best Christmas Gifts of 2016  Christmas gift  Ethical holiday gifts  Gifts to support the local community  Kindest Christmas Gives This year  What to buy for Christmas 

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Do You Have Volunteer Opportunities in Mississauga?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, November 24, 2016
Updated: December 19, 2016
 "> Ask Kelly Banner


“Ask Us” is our blog series aimed at answering your most pressing volunteer questions. Got a burning question? She’s here to help!

Submit your question to - subject line: Ask Us

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Hey Volunteer Toronto,

I’m interested in volunteering in Mississauga. Can you please send me some opportunities? Also, my friend lives in Oakville; can you send her options too?  




Hello, Dennis

Thanks for your email and your interest in volunteering. We at Volunteer Toronto serve the City of Toronto, which includes downtown, North York, Scarborough and Etobicoke. You can think about it like this: we serve anywhere the T.T.C. travels. Although on our website you may find a handful of opportunities outside of the City of Toronto, most of the opportunities we offer are within Toronto.  

Mississauga is a different city than the City of Toronto. Luckily, there is an organization called Volunteer MBC that services Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon. I would suggest you contact them to find volunteer opportunities in your community.

There are 26 volunteer centres like Volunteer Toronto and Volunteer MBC across the province that exist to help people like you find meaningful volunteer opportunities in their community. For people across Ontario who are looking to volunteer, a great place to find the nearest volunteer centre to you is


Thanks so much for contacting us and we wish you great luck as you seek out a volunteer opportunity.




Tags:  Ask Kelly  Ontario Voluntary Centre Network  OVCN  Volunteer in Mississauga  Volunteer MBC  Where to volunteer outside the GTA 

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5 Quotes to Help Inspire You to Make a Difference

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, October 24, 2016
Updated: October 21, 2016
 Volunteer Quotes

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Sometimes we need a little inspiration, comforting encouragement to help us feel connected and provide context for the life we live. The world is complex, filled with a myriad of choices and paths to take. When you decide to give freely of your time, for whatever reason, it can steer you in a new direction or affirm your choices. Just by giving your time, you can be part of something bigger than yourself and your actions can have a ripple effect.


We've compiled five sharable volunteer quotes in images! We hope that

they'll inspire you to volunteer and truly make a difference for your community. Feel free to share, save, and print these images and spread the joy!


Volunteer quotes - volunteering has no destination. The roads you can take are endless.

 "Volunteering has no destination. The roads you can take are endless."

Fiona Kovacaji - Volunteer with the Bata Show Museum“I started volunteering as a way of giving back to the community. As a student, it can feel like you’re constantly taking; from your parents, OSAP… etc and not contributing too much back to society. Volunteering is my way of making a contribution plus I’ve discovered new passions that I wouldn’t have otherwise discovered. When I began volunteering at Bata Shoe Museum I fell in love with museum work and it has inspired me to pursue a career in Museum Education.”

Fiona Kovacaji 
Volunteer Docent with the Bata Show Museum


 Volunteer quote - The greatest gift you can give is time.

"The greatest gift you can give is time."


Erica Whyte - Volunteer with Jesse's Centre“I love kids, and I am very goofy, so every day that I am volunteering I try to make it as fun and as exciting as possible. We dress up in crazy clothes and we sing songs and have dance parties. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing those kids smile and laugh, so I do whatever I can to make that happen.”



 Erica Whyte
Parent Child Centre Volunteer with Jesse’s Centre


 Volunteer Quote - Be part of something bigger than yourself

"Be part of something bigger than yourself."


Rod Rodney“This particular volunteer experience was unplanned but a result of an inquiry at my sailing Club about involving kids in boatworks. The Club, which supports Broad Reach Foundation for Youth Leaders, shared with me the charity’s contact information and over time I became more involved. Why not volunteer? Seemed like the right thing to do, meet good people, show the kids what possibilities exist and use my knowledge and experience to create social change.”


 Captain Ron
Volunteer Sailing Instructor with Broad Reach Foundation for Youth Leaders



 Volunteer Quote - Small acts when multiplied can transform the world

"Small acts when multiplied can transform the world."


Veronica Seeto - Volunteer with TRIEC“I am proud to say my work with International IT professionals has helped them to re-establish their careers in Canada opening so many opportunities to them and their families. Many of my mentees have gone on to contribute back to the community.”




Veronica Seeto
Volunteer Mentor with TRIEC


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The How-to for a First-Time Volunteer: Ace it, Enjoy it.

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, October 23, 2016
Updated: October 22, 2016
Teens heart shape 

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes 


Once I was a shy, naive, volunteering newbie…

But since then I’ve woken up at 5am for shifts, dedicated hundreds of hours of service, experienced volunteering at a handful of nonprofit organizations...and made every mistake in the book.

Now that you’ve been to the Youth Expo and gotten a good sense of what nonprofits and roles are out there, the time has come to volunteer. Volunteering is so different from going to school, because now you’re actually faced with real world challenges!

Here are 6 tips to help reduce the challenges, so you’re just left with facing the real world. (Sorry, there’s nothing I can do about that; you’ll have to face it sooner or later.)


1. Pre-Shift Reflection: Did You Pick the Right Volunteer Position?

There’s nothing worse than not enjoying your first shift, especially since volunteering is supposed to be both fun and meaningful. Before you agree to volunteer with an organization long-term or even short-term, make sure it fits you!




2. Be Prepared and Be On Time.

So you’ve decided to commit to an organization? Great! The best way to show your commitment is by reading up on that volunteer manual (if available) as well as arriving on time or earlier. Don’t be that one volunteer who runs in panting and sweating because they’re 10 minutes late.



3. Make a Good Impression

First step to first impressions is following #2: Be Prepared, Be On Time. The most impressive first-time volunteers I’ve seen are the ones who walk in already knowing what to expect. Also, do your best to be enthusiastic and follow your supervisor’s directions. If you can do that, you’ll look super dedicated, the volunteer manager will love you, and you might even be asked to help other volunteers who might be experiencing difficulties.


4. Don’t Be Shy

Spark conversations. Ask questions. Make friends. Volunteering is so much more enjoyable when you’re with people you’re comfortable with. Being friendly plays a big part in making a good first impression. It may be awkward at first, but trust me, try your best to step out of your comfort zone and initiate a conversation with a fellow volunteer or the manager.
Don’t be shy, Awesome > Comfort Zone.



5.You Did It, Be Proud!

Has it been three hours already? I hope it was a good experience. Whether you’re doing this for your community service hours, or because your parents made you, pat yourself on the back. You have just taken a big step into the world of social responsibility. It also doesn't hurt to talk about it on social media, the organization you volunteer with would greatly appreciate the exposure especially if you tag them! 



6. Post-Shift Reflection: Again, Did You Pick the Right Position?

Time for a metacognitive analysis! I mean, self-reflection. How do you feel? If you liked it, hooray! If you didn’t, no problem. Not everything is going to be all rainbows and sunshine, so if this wasn’t the right organization/position for you, don’t worry. Let your volunteer manager know and give as much notice as possible. Hopefully you signed up for more than one organization at the Youth Expo though… if not, Volunteer Toronto has your back.


On behalf of staff at Volunteer Toronto, the Youth Advisory Committee, the volunteers who helped put on the event, and the organizations that attended, thanks for coming to the 2016 Youth Expo!



Tags:  40 High School Community service hours  40 hours  getting your 40 hours  How to get your 40 hours  volunteer in Toronto  Volunteering  Youth volunteers 

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