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A blog for the people who manage, coordinate, and supervise volunteers. Chocked full of useful information to help you create amazing volunteer programs.

 

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Top tags: volunteer management  volunteer engagement  grassroots organizations  grassroots groups  volunteer recognition  supervising volunteers  volunteer program  volunteer  volunteer training  volunteers  Grassroots Growth  Toronto  volunteer retention  VECTor 2016  volunteer managers  Volunteer orientation  volunteer screening  volunteering  volunteerism  Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act  advice  Free resources  Leadership  networking  non-profits  Ontario  VECTor Conference  volunteer coordination  volunteer programs  volunteer recruitment 

Infographic: What To Do When Volunteers Burn Out

Posted By Kasandra James, Subscriptions Coordinator, November 10, 2016
Updated: November 9, 2016
 

Infographic: How to support volunteers who burn out 

 


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:  disengaged volunteers  disinterested volunteers  not enough volunteers  tired volunteers  Volunteer burn out  volunteer engagement 

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How To Get Your Grassroots Group Noticed By Building a Content Strategy

Posted By Jessica Pang-Parks, Education Coordinator - Grassroots Growth, October 20, 2016
Updated: October 19, 2016
 

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Want your grassroots project or event to get noticed? Before you get started with promoting your work, solidify a content strategy with your team! A content strategy is a plan for how your grassroots group will create and release content (e.g. blog posts, newsletters, Facebook event invitations) to your communities.

By developing a content strategy, you are setting expectations and goals with your communications volunteers. Working together to build a content strategy ensures that volunteers responsible for the content can feel confident that their contributions are consistent with your group’s identity and tone. As well, your volunteer team will be able to target different audiences in your community and be assured that their messages don’t overlap or conflict. Finally, a content strategy assigns timelines and responsibilities to individuals, providing further clarity on expectations.

Content strategy plans are meant to be flexible and can change as your project progresses. Perhaps you gain a new community partner on the way? Perhaps new talent joins your volunteer team? Perhaps a sensitive topic comes up in your community and your group is in a position to respond? Set up time to check-in with your team about the existing content strategy and make adjustments as necessary. Without these check-ins, your team may lose sight of the project goal or become demotivated.

The content strategy template below will help your group plot out the usage of different online and offline platforms to engage your communities. We’ve even included an example!

 Marketing Content Strategy Template for Grassroots Organizations

 

So, next time your organization has something to promote, get together and develop your content strategy first. It could save you from common issues in the non-profit sector: miscommunication, frustration, and headaches. Fortunately, the Grassroots Growth project is here to support volunteer-run organizations across Ontario with in-person workshops, informative handbooks, downloadable templates, and a vibrant online community where you can share ideas with other grassroots leaders.

 Join the conversation on grassroots outreach and access all our free grassroots resources through the online community at www.GrassrootsGrowth.ca! You can also register for one of our free Grassroots Engagement workshops. Our next Grassroots Engagement workshop will be held on Thursday, October 27th at 6pm. Spaces are limited so register today!

 

Grassroots Growth Website

 

As the Education Coordinator, Jessica is responsible for developing and delivering workshops and online content to help build the capacity of grassroots organizations across Ontario. Contact Jessica

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Infographic: A Roadmap To Engaging Senior Volunteers

Posted By Kasandra James, Subscriptions Coordinator, October 6, 2016
Updated: October 5, 2016

Infographic: A Roadmap To Engaging Senior Volunteers 

 


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:  How to get senior volunteers  Infographic  recruit seniors  Senior volunteers  seniors  working with senior volunteers 

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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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Are You Ready To Govern Your Grassroots Organization?

Posted By Louroz Mercader, Outreach Coordinator - Grassroots Growth, September 22, 2016
Updated: September 21, 2016
 

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

A governance structure is a system of guidance and organization. And we could all use a little guidance and organization in our lives! You need to implement a governance structure for the same reason you need to write mission and vision statements: because not having these can harm your legitimacy and volunteers may not be as willing to contribute their time to your group.

But governance structures will also help your team to make decisions and provide you with accountability. Have you ever found that your team seems to have lots of exciting ideas but they don’t ever get accomplished? Do you find that your meetings frequently go off on tangents? If your core volunteers are your friends and family, you’re probably particularly susceptible to this. A governance structure can help! Establishing a group of leaders will ensure you stay on track and carry out your work in a reasonable amount of time. Additionally, if you wish to register as a charity or incorporate your grassroots group, you will be required to follow a traditional governance structure.

Governance structures are like relationships – you have to be ready for them. Spending an extra six months preparing your structure is a far better practice than rushing into one before you’re ready and finding you’re in way over your head.

The map below will help to guide you in determining whether or not you’re ready to implement a governance structure right now. If it turns out that the answer is no, but you’re interested in professionalizing your grassroots group, try taking some of the steps to professionalizing, and revisit these questions at a later date to see if you’re ready then!

 

 

In the pursuit of establishing governance and building legitimacy, it is easy to become overwhelmed. There is a tendency to lose sight of the objective when one is inundated with policies, guidelines, best practices and documentation. Thankfully the Grassroots Project is here to support volunteer-run groups across Ontario with in-person workshops, informative handbooks, downloadable templates and an online community.

 Access all our free grassroots resources by joining us at www.GrassrootsGrowth.ca, or register for one of our free Grassroots Governance workshops at www.volunteertoronto.ca/page/GrassrootsWorkshops

 

Grassroots Growth Website

 

As Community Outreach Coordinator for the Grassroots Growth project, Louroz reaches out to volunteer-run groups in Toronto and across Ontario to help spread the word about the project and get our services out to those who need them most.

Tags:  grassroots governance  grassroots organizations  Identifying Grassroots Resources  Resources for Grassroots groups  volunteer-run groups 

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Inside The Mind of a Youth Volunteer: Subscriber Circle Recap

Posted By Helen Lin, Youth Auditor, September 15, 2016
Updated: September 14, 2016
Volunteer Toronto Subscriber Circle 

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes 

 

Whether they are the front-line and driving force of your organization, or they play an integral role in putting smiles on your seniors’ faces, engaging high school volunteers can be a challenge. But it doesn’t have to be!

 Helen Lin - Volunteer Toronto Youth Auditor
 Helen Lin - Youth Audtior

For our August Subscriber Circle on “Engaging Youth Volunteers” we asked high school student and Volunteer Toronto Youth Auditor Helen Lin to attend and offer her perspective to the discussion. Here’s Helen’s thoughts on three of the main questions discussed at the circle. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question 1: Some of my volunteers come intermittently, how can I get them to maintain regular shifts?

Helen’s Observation: Two volunteer managers shared that they do not sign any papers until the volunteer has reached the minimum commitment that they signed up for. I think it is certainly acceptable to be strict with your no-show policies, but attendance and punctuality can also be enforced by letting your volunteers know how important their work is to the organization.


Question 2: How can I convince volunteers to stay beyond their 40-hour mark?

Helen’s Observation: There are two types of volunteers: the ones who just want to complete the bare minimum, and the ones who want to seek meaningful opportunities. For the first group, have a conversation about the meaning behind volunteering. Lead them to an epiphany! When I started volunteering, I was caught up in the number of hours, but since then I have been able to think more deeply about my work and what it all means – to myself, the organization, and the community.

 

Question 3: What if it’s just not working out for the volunteer?

Helen’s Observation: They tell you networking is the most important skill these days, and it can really be beneficial for your volunteers. From the application and interview, you will know what volunteer’s goals are, or why they applied for your organization. Unfortunately, sometimes it doesn’t end up working out. One volunteer manager shared that she had many interested volunteers but no place for them because the organization is centred around heavy conversations concerning death. If you know another organization that could use an enthusiastic volunteer, being that connection could help make a perfect match.

 

Need more help? We’ve got you covered! This post only scraps the surface of ways to better engage youth in volunteering with your organization. If you are looking for some solid advice and next steps, we would highly recommend booking a Youth Audit, where our Auditors go into detail on the topics that are involved with youth in volunteers, such as selection and training, communication, benefits and perks, and promotions and advertising!


Helen Lin is a grade 10 students at TOPS - Marc Garneau Collegiate and she is a Youth Auditor at Volunteer Toronto. She started formally volunteering at age 12, and hasn't stopped her community involvement since. Helen has also volunteered at SickKids Foundation, TEDxYouth@Toronto, Ladies Learning Code, and Baycrest Hospital. Her passions include gender rights, sustainable development, global health, social innovation, engineering, and entrepreneurship."


 

Tags:  engaging youth volunteers  High School volunteers  How to get youth volunteers  Youth volunteers 

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Accessibility & Volunteer Programs - Online Learning Sneak Peek!

Posted By Sammy Feilchenfeld, Training Coordinator, September 8, 2016
Updated: September 7, 2016
 Volunteer Toronto Sneak Peak


With recent changes to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, you may be wondering how to ensure your volunteer program is accessible and inclusive for clients and volunteers. Volunteer Toronto just launched our newest Volunteer Management Basics course “Accessibility & Volunteer Programs” FREE for Subscribers!

Check out a sneak peek at this course before you try the 4 pre-recorded modules on disabilities, serving clients and accommodating volunteers.


 

 

Only Subscribers can get access to “Accessibility & Volunteer Programs.”

Not a Subscriber? Check out all the great benefits and subscribe today!

 



As Volunteer Toronto's Training Coordinator, Sammy Feilchenfeld develops and delivers in-person, online and on-demand training in order to support managers and coordinators of volunteers in Toronto’s non-profit and charitable organizations.

Tags:  Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act  Accessible volunteer programs  AODA  Making you volunteer program accessible to everyon  Volunteer Management 

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4 Ways You Can Reach Your Funding Goals

Posted By Rui Miguel Martins, Volunteer Guest Blogger, August 25, 2016
Updated: August 24, 2016
Blog Post: 4 Ways You Can Reach Your Fundng Goals

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes 

Non-profit and volunteer organizations face many unique challenges especially when they are in their infancy. They often struggle to find the proper funding and resources needed to reach their goals.


 Expert panel discussing funding 

Volunteer Toronto hosted a panel discussion with grassroots leaders and sector experts about the funding challenges affecting small and volunteer-run organizations. The event was hosted by Louroz Mercader, the Community Outreach Coordinator for Volunteer Toronto’s  Grassroots Growth Project.

 

 

 

The four featured panelists were

Our guest blogger, Rui Miguel Martins, provides a summary of the four main talking points.

 

Focus on finding the right fit

Looking for funding is a lot like dating. It should be about more about how well you connect and relate to one another rather than how much money they have. Know what you want ahead of time before you send out applications. Many foundations like to focus on certain areas. For example, the Laidlaw Foundation works with groups of young people on issues that affect their community. The City of Toronto has grants that are specifically linked with initiatives like poverty reduction, senior strategy or youth empowerment.  Do not dismiss smaller grants. Many foundations have micro-grants for everything from capacity building to skills development. Some foundations do not want to be your only source of funding either. “Small grants are good for jump-starting initiatives,” founder of ACCESS Charity Daniel Francavilla says.

 

Do your homework ahead of time

The unfortunate reality is that more established charities and non-profits tend to get funding. That is why it is so important to do your research and understand the process. “You have to be very clear about what you are looking for in your project,” Clare Nolan from the Ontario Trillium Foundation says. “The budget is where you tell your story.” Foundations often have very detailed information about their funding criteria on their websites. It is no big secret. The more you understand about the details of the funding streams, the better.  Overestimating or underestimating the dollar amount on an application always reflects badly as well. You need to have a clear vision.

 

Join the network and build relationships

Funders should know what your organization is doing before you apply. Stay connected with funders by attending any workshops and events they organize. Stay connected on social media as well. Speak with previous applicants about their experiences. Call people before you apply and then call them afterwards. Make yourself approachable. Look at partnerships if possible; it shows confidence and demonstrates that you are determined to get something done. Highlight your team and their achievements, and include biographies of your team members on your website. It raises your organization’s profile. As Louroz Mercader stated, “Do your homework and learn from relationship building.”

 

Learn from your mistakes

It is said that people learn nothing from success. Sometimes it takes many failures before you learn how to succeed. Rejection is the most difficult part of the process, but you will likely experience it often. Use it as a valuable opportunity to improve by learning to understand where you went wrong. Sometimes, applicants are rejected because there is just not enough money to reach their goals. Other times, applicants neglect to describe how they will measure impact. According to Claire Nolan, impact is a key element for a successful grant application. “We are looking for impact within our investment strategy. We need to know what the impact will be. What will be better? What will be different? Who will benefit?”

You can also check out one of our past posts 5 Tips For Securing Grants for more great information!

 

VECTor 2016 Early Bird Prices

 

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:  funders in Toronto  Funding  Getting funding for your organization  grants  How to get funding 

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Grassroots Organizations Will Soon Come Together Online!

Posted By Claire McWatt, Grassroots Growth Coordinator, August 19, 2016
 Grassroots Growth Website

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

For the past year, Volunteer Toronto has been hard at work, finding new ways to spread volunteer management magic. The Grassroots Growth Project is a capacity-building initiative for volunteer-run non-profits in Ontario, and will provide free resources, tailored to the unique experience of grassroots groups. We are pleased to announce the launch of our website grassrootsgrowth.ca, on August 30th.

Tight on cash and other resources, grassroots groups struggle to access the non-profit sector best practices that help organizations manage volunteers effectively, fundraise, and execute strategic plans. The website will be a freely accessible space for groups to take advantage of different types of learning materials, and network with other groups from across the Province.


 Our 8 resource handbooks

During the research and development phase, our team engaged hundreds of groups from all different backgrounds, to learn about their unique needs and challenges. As a result of our report, we devised a set of training topics that cover everything from governance structures, to succession planning, burnout, and social media (and of course, volunteer management basics). What we learned is that volunteer management for volunteer-run groups is both the management of self, and the management of others.

Groups with no full-time paid staff and an annual budget of less than $75,000 per year, are welcome to join for free. They can then take advantage of our online resources, which include useful, editable templates, and a video series.

Not wanting to re-invent the wheel, we knew there would be a number of other free resources available online for groups, that were going unused simply due to lack of awareness. To address this, our team developed a Wiki Resource Directory that will house all kinds of links to helpful articles, websites, blogs and learning portals. Further, Grassroots Growth users can easily share other resources, by editing the Wikis and adding links.

GrassrootsGrowth Website Wiki 
grassrootsgrowth.ca wiki page 


Larger non-profits understand the benefits that can come from networking and partnering with other organizations. For grassroots groups, it can be hard to know who else is out there, and be able to share insight and support one another. The Grassroots Growth site has an interactive discussion forum, complete with a Peer Mentorship component, to allow groups to network, and learn from the experiences of those doing similar work. The forum will feature bi-monthly Reddit-style “Ask Me Anything” events, where users can speak with an experienced Grassroots Growth Peer Mentor, and get their important questions answered.

Look out for more great features for Grassroots Growth users, and new content, between September and April. To learn more or to become a Grassroots Growth Peer Mentor, contact Claire McWatt, Project Coordinator at cmcwatt@volunteertoronto.ca.

 

Claire leads the development of the Grassroots Growth project’s online community of practice, including the Peer Mentorship Forum and Wiki Resource Directory. She also manages relationships with Grassroots Growth partners, handles project administration, and collaborates with the Education Coordinator and Outreach Coordinator in research, training and outreach.


Tags:  community for grassroots group  discussion forum  grassroots groups  grassroots growth  grassroots organizations  online learning  wiki 

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INFOGRAPHIC: How Setting Expectations Can Make Giving Volunteer Feedback A Breeze

Posted By Kasandra James, Subscriptions Coordinator, August 4, 2016
Updated: August 3, 2016
 

Infographic: How Setting Expectations Can Make Giving Volunteer Feedback A Breeze 

 


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:  Volunteer Feedback  Volunteer Management  Volunteer Program 

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How To Measure Your Organization's Social Impact

Posted By Rui Miguel Martins, Volunteer Guest Blogger, July 28, 2016
Updated: July 27, 2016
Blog Post: Measuring your organization's social impact

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes 

 

It has always been a challenge for organizations to accurately measure the impact their initiatives have on the lives of their clients and the community, as many organizations aren’t sure what to measure, how to define their intended outcomes, or just don’t know where to start.

Tinashe Mafukidze has worked in the non-profit sector as a process facilitator, project manager and curator for 15 years. She shared her experiences with leaders of grassroots organizations as part of Volunteer Toronto’s Trailblazer Series, a set of leadership talks for people who lead volunteer-run non-profits.

Our guest blogger, Rui Miguel Martins, provides a summary of how organizations could better measure their social impact.


Define your outcomes and plans 

Always begin by asking the right questions. Ask yourself what problem your organization is trying to solve and whether it is being addressed through proper actions. Also consider the negative consequences of your non-profit’s work. Are your organization’s actions unintentionally causing a new problem? Can your resources be better allocated somewhere else? 

Then develop a theory of change model- a comprehensive description and illustration of how and why your proposed changes will lead to achieving your organization’s long-term goals for the community it serves.

Start by:

  1. Outlining what your organization does for its intended beneficiaries,
  2. Defining the ultimate goals you hope to reach (in short, your vision) and,
  3. Identifying all the necessary activities to get there.

This will help you design and develop your programs, improve internal and external communication, and ultimately help you determine the true social impact of your organization. Consult surveys, focus groups, and social media to understand the impact your organization is having.

 

Establish shared principles of measurement 

You should aim to decide what you want to track by creating a solid framework. To do this, gather information in one place, possibly by using document-sharing software such as Google Apps, Salesforce and Nationbuilder. And remember to involve members of your team, stakeholders, potential funders and the public in the process of determining your measurements of success. Once created, develop a culture of reflective practice, and aim to make sense of the findings and identify the successes and failures. “We want to know that people and resources are being used in the right places in the best way possible,” Mafukidze says.


Be courageous in your reporting

Many non-profits are reluctant to measure their impact, due to lack of time and resources. There is also concern about perception. Organizations are hesitant to involve funders and clients in their evaluation, because they believe that it may project a negative image. On the contrary, honest reporting and involving stakeholders sends the message that an organization is always striving to improve. Reporting should always be authentic and transparent and should encourage feedback and suggestions. And be sure to create relatable stories with your numbers so those you communicate with understand the practical reality of the results you’ve gathered.



 

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.

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Should Grassroots Leaders Be Considered Volunteers?

Posted By Jenn Jozwiak, Education Coordinator, July 21, 2016
Updated: July 19, 2016
Blog Post: Should Grassroots Leaders Be Considered Volunteers?

 

What makes a volunteer?

This seems like a straightforward question: a volunteer is someone who opts to donate time to tasks without monetary compensation. Volunteers do meaningful work, but they aren’t part of the paid workforce.

But the boundary between volunteerism and work blurs for some members of the volunteer community. In particular, members of grassroots organizations – organizations that operate solely through the efforts of what we generally think of as volunteers – trouble the seemingly clear definition of “voluntary.”

Members of grassroots groups are driven by passion. Groups often form to address a community need, fill a gap in neighbourhood services, or try and make the world a better place. But to many members of grassroots groups, the work isn’t optional in a traditional sense of the term. It’s work that is necessary in order to push society forward. In this way, grassroots involvement is obligatory, and those who engage in it are simply responding to an inner call to action.

At the same time, grassroots organizations are not paid for their work. The reward for the time and energy that members contribute often comes in the form of opportunities for new projects, an expanded repertoire of community services, and an increase in awareness of the work they do. Funding, if it’s acquired at all, is funneled back into the organization.

Although grassroots work is often considered volunteering, there may be other labels that feel like a better fit for those involved: organizer, community member, activist, enthusiast or advocate.  

So we asked leaders of grassroots groups if they consider themselves volunteers. Watch their answers here.

 


 

At the end of the day, no matter what grassroots work is called, what counts is that there’s someone out there who cares enough to do it. Though we think “heart project” is a pretty good way of describing it.

Read our Grassroots Growth report!

  Jenn Jozwiak is currently the Education Coordinator with the Grassroots Growth project at Volunteer Toronto, where she is developing training workshops, a series of handbooks, and online content for volunteer-run non-profits. She has worked with volunteers at Hot Docs and TIFF, and established and managed her own grassroots film festival in Winnipeg. Jenn spends her days off drinking tea, watching movies, and reading about writing.

 

Tags:  Community Leadership  Grassroots Leaders  How to start a Grassroots Group  Volunteer  What is a volunteer? 

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Accessible Volunteer Programs and The AODA - Template Thursday

Posted By Sammy Feilchenfeld, Training Coordinator, July 14, 2016
Updated: July 12, 2016
 Template Thursday


With the recent changes to your requirements under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, don’t forget about the accessibility needs of your volunteers! Accommodating volunteers to help them do their role, especially with non-essential tasks, can help you engage an even broader range of volunteers with many abilities, skills and experiences to offer.

This free template, from our Accessible Volunteer Programs and the AODA Resource Guide & Workbook, can help you get started on making great accommodations for your volunteers of all abilities.

 

 Accesible Volunteer Programs and The AODA

 

In-house Training 


As Volunteer Toronto's Training Coordinator, Sammy Feilchenfeld develops and delivers in-person, online and on-demand training in order to support managers and coordinators of volunteers in Toronto’s non-profit and charitable organizations.

Tags:  Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act  Accessibility for Volunteers  Accommodating volunteers  ADOA 

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Great Ways To Build A Volunteer Community In Your Organization

Posted By Kasandra James, Subscriptions Coordinator, July 7, 2016
Updated: July 6, 2016
 Group of youth volunteers

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes 


Building volunteer communities are vital to encourage ongoing engagement and social connections for all volunteers, including (and maybe especially) the ones you don’t see that often!

Participants at the June 2016 Subscriber Circle came up with some great ideas for different kinds of communities you can create.

 

 

Volunteer communities outside shift hours

 

Volunteer communities during shift hours

At the Circle, we discussed the challenges of building community with occasional, short-term and event volunteers. Participants talked about the benefits of letting these volunteers know you’re thinking of them and that you’re still around. It’s important to make sure these volunteers – and all volunteers – feel like a part of the team.

Before the end of the session, participants came up with some great tips to build community for your volunteers:

  • Find out volunteer motivations to encourage connections and community over shared goals.

  • Share long-time volunteer experiences and stories, including quotes from volunteers and photos of volunteer activity.

  • Use icebreakers and social games to help volunteers communicate and get to know each other.

  • Recruit and engage community animators to bring online communities to life.

  • Build excitement about your organization, increasing prestige and interest in what you do, by communicating impact.

 

Use these ideas to start you on your journey to building volunteer community. Don’t miss any of our next Subscriber Circles – click here to see what’s coming soon!





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. 

 

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The AODA and Mandatory Volunteer Training

Posted By Melina Condren, Director of Engaging Organizations, June 30, 2016
Updated: June 29, 2016
 AODA Image

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes 

As you may have already heard, there have been some important changes to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) that may affect your volunteer program. Essentially, the AODA exists to set and enforce accessibility standards for Ontario’s public, private and non-profit sectors. Its aim is to reduce the barriers faced by people with disabilities trying to access services, public spaces, transportation, information, or employment.

The change in question relates to the Customer Service Standard (CSS). As of July 1st 2016, all volunteers (and all staff) must be trained on accessible customer service, regardless of how likely they are to interact with clients. How is this different from previous requirements? Before, only volunteers with client-facing roles needed to be trained. This means that although some of your volunteers may have already been trained (and don’t need to be retrained because of the current changes), any volunteers who haven’t already received this training will need to do so now.

Before you panic trying to figure out how you’ll manage to give all your volunteers this additional training, there are some great resources you should know about that will make that job a whole lot easier:

  • The Government of Ontario has free online training on accessible customer service. It only takes 45 minutes to complete, and volunteers can do the training by themselves anywhere with a computer and an internet connection.
  • Volunteer Toronto has a wealth of resources available in an online portal dedicated to the AODA’s Customer Service Standard. It includes tip sheets, presentations, and information about how the CSS requirements affect the voluntary sector. This information can all be used directly by volunteers, or by volunteer managers who want to facilitate accessible customer service training themselves but need some resources to get started.



Photo of Melina CondrenMelina Condren oversees all of Volunteer Toronto's services for organizations, including our training program, volunteer management conference, subscriptions program, and new Grassroots Growth project. Her priority is to ensure our services are effectively helping non-profits build capacity through volunteer involvement and continue to meet the ever-evolving needs of the voluntary sector.

Tags:  Accessibility in Ontario  Ontario Disability Act  Understanding the AODA 

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