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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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What's it Like to Volunteer for... a Special Event?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, July 18, 2016
Updated: July 15, 2016

2016 YWCA Women of Distinction Awards - Volunteer 
Photo courtesy of the YWCA. View on Flickr

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Have you ever dreamed of helping bring a big event to life? Does the idea of organizing a star-studded gala for a good cause fill you with excitement? Then consider volunteering as part of a special events team! Whether it’s a small appreciation party, or a major international fundraiser, at many events volunteers make sure events go off without a hitch.

Angela Ho, volunteer on the YWCA Women of Distinction Awards 
 Angela Ho

We chatted with Angela Ho, a volunteer with YWCA Toronto about her role as a Production Assistant for the organization’s annual Women of Distinction Awards.






What’s the name of the organization you volunteer for and what is your role there?

I’ve volunteered with the YWCA Toronto, an organization that advocates for women and girls, for three years. I worked as a Production Assistant for the annual Women of Distinction Awards and gala. This event recognizes outstanding women who create new opportunities and strengthen the voices of women and girls in the community.


How would you describe your current volunteer role?

As a Production Assistant, I provide behind-the-scenes support for the gala. I work backstage to organize awards for distribution and provide stage directions to presenters.


Was training provided for your role?

Volunteers are required to attend a 1-2 hour orientation session before the event. During this meeting, volunteers meet other team members, receive a behind-the-scenes event overview, and Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) training.


What is the time commitment involved?

The time commitment involved for this role is about 4 hours, including the pre-event orientation and activities on the day of the gala. People often assume that volunteering requires a long-term commitment. However, there are many short-term opportunities like this one that are still extremely important.


What skills and characteristics do you feel contribute most to success in your volunteering?

This role requires organization, patience, and attention to detail. I think the ability to be personable and detail-oriented matters more than any specific technical skill.

To be successful as a Production Assistant, a volunteer must be able to follow directions while taking initiative to ensure things are executed correctly. You must be comfortable working in the dark (literally as you’re behind the stage!) and willing to help others make the most of their moment to shine!


What have you learned from your volunteering? What has been surprising or challenging?

I’ve developed a strong appreciation for the amount of teamwork and time it takes to make an event run smoothly. That being said, it's also important to be flexible and able to problem solve quickly. Despite all the planning that goes into an event, there will always be unexpected challenges!


What advice do you have for anyone looking to do this type of volunteering?

Be open to volunteering in roles that are out of your comfort zone, you'll learn skills and meet many different people. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Attend any of our free information sessions on volunteering in Toronto!


Tags:  Awards Ceremony Volunteer  Event Volunteering  One-Day Volunteer Opportunities  short-term volunteering  YWCA 

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