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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, 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 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


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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Stop Trying To Do It All! Making The Case For Volunteer Management Assistants

Posted By Sammy Feilchenfeld, Training Coordinator, June 23, 2016
Updated: June 22, 2016
 Volunteer Management Assistant

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes 

As a manager of volunteers, you have a lot on your plate: planning volunteer roles, making position descriptions, recruiting, screening, matching, supervising…the list goes on! Sometimes, it’s too much to handle, but there’s a way to get the help you need through the resources you already have: a volunteer assistant!

You could engage one or more volunteers to assist you in aspects of your role. By creating a new set of responsibilities and duties for volunteer assistants, you’re allowing more volunteers to gain worthwhile skills and experience and a deeper understanding of the world of volunteer management. What can these volunteer assistants actually do to support you?

  • Contact volunteers for interviews, check-ins and/or follow-ups
  • Schedule volunteers and events
  • Manage your volunteer database through data entry & clean-up
  • Review volunteer policies & procedures and recommend updates
  • Review and prepare position postings
  • Read potential volunteer applications
  • Contribute suggestions and help make changes to improve the volunteer program
  • Assist with volunteer program evaluation

...and more!

Think about the different parts of your role that you could use some extra help for and if those aspects can be supported by a volunteer. Remember to consider your own policies, such as confidentiality and privacy, to ensure you’re not breaking any rules by having your volunteers support the different functions of your role.


Making the Case for Support

Now that you know the benefits of having a volunteer assistant and what they might be able to do to help you, how do you make the case for this type of support? With every volunteer role, you’re ensuring the volunteer program strives to meet your mission. A volunteer assistant is a highly-valued and important role that helps you sustain and improve the volunteer program while also expanding your and the organization’s capacity. It allows the volunteer program to get more done and also gives your existing volunteers new leadership opportunities and pathways. Finally, it creates transparency around your program and helps volunteers feel connected to the change-making process that can improve their work and the entire organization.

Since volunteer engagement is already at the heart of your role, it might be time to bring a volunteer on to help you develop your volunteer program. Let these volunteers in and your entire organization can be better for it!


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:  need assistance  office assistants  overworked  Volunteer assistant  Volunteer Management 

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Connecting The Grassroots: Building A Network Across Ontario

Posted By Louroz Mercader, Community Outreach Coordinator, June 17, 2016

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Collaboration starts with relationships; it’s all about interactions between people. Personal connections that already exist between groups and volunteers can be a great starting point, but sometimes groups need the opportunity to get out there and meet new people, identify common interests and figure out who is working towards the same goals.

 As we enter the next phase of the Grassroots Growth project, our goal is to focus on collaboration and partnerships amongst grassroots groups.  We’re building a network so groups from across the province can facilitate peer support, spark collaboration and develop strong local partnerships.

Collaborating with others can have a multitude of benefits:

The synergy created from working collaboratively will result in greater accomplishments than each group working on its own could ever hope to achieve.


The sharing of knowledge and expertise can make goals more manageable, and ensures that resources get distributed appropriately.


Avoiding Duplication
Working together can help ensure efforts and services aren’t being duplicated in the community, increasing efficiency and eliminating unnecessary competition.


Funding Opportunities
It’s become increasingly common for funders to require that two or more groups collaborate together when submitting a grant proposal. By working as a collaborative these funds can be accessed to support your initiatives.


Coming in September 2016, we’ll be launching a new online community of practice for groups across Ontario to connect and collaborate together. The website will be an online learning centre, with specifically designed content and a wiki resource directory for volunteer leaders. It will also be a space to build capacity for groups to connect with peer mentors, through a discussion forum and with "Ask Me Anything" themed chats with exceptional grassroots leaders.

Join us as we explore the theme of collaboration with our exciting panel discussion with grassroots groups and sector leaders. Click the button below to learn more. 


Grassroots Growth Panel Discussion


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:  collaboration between non-profits  community groups  grassroots groups  Grassroots organizations  Ontario community groups 

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10 Steps of Screening - Online Learning Sneak Peek

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

Screening your volunteers might require more than an interview – have you considered the risk and your duty of care? Volunteer Toronto recently launched “10 Steps of Screening,” a brand new Online Course packed with 5 pre-recorded modules on the 10 safe steps of screening every volunteer manager should know.

Now, for the first time ever, we’re giving you a sneak peek at this new course so you can try before you buy. Check it out below!



Learn more about “10 Steps of Screening” and purchase access! 

Did you know: You get access to the course for one full year AND anyone in your organization can take the course during that time?

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:  Volunteer Screening 

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How to Apply the 5 Rules of Improv to Volunteer Management: What I learned at PAVRO’s 2016 LiVe Conference

Posted By Kasandra James, Subscriptions Coordinator, June 3, 2016

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes


I had the pleasure of attending PAVRO’s LiVE Conference for the first time this year at the beautiful Nottawasaga Inn Resort. From May 25 to 27, volunteer managers from across Ontario came together under the theme: Today’s Vision, Tomorrow’s Reality – Retreat, Recharge, Realize. Over 3 days, we engaged in workshops that covered a range of topics from the Power of Storytelling and Workplace Safety, to Human Rights & Diversity and Servant Leadership.

However, as a first-time attendee, the most intriguing ideas came during Thursday’s lunchtime keynote from Jennifer Spear of Cleanslate Strategies. During her presentation on how volunteer managers could Lead Unscripted, she encouraged us to apply the 5 rules of improvisation to our role as volunteer managers:

1.   It’s Not About You

 In improv, what’s happening on stage is never about you, but about your co-performers and your audience .The same applies for volunteer management. The work we do is about the clients we serve, the volunteers we lead and the people we work with. Keeping the focus on them ensures we are in tune and ready to address their needs.

2.   Our Common Goal

Improv performers all want the same thing – to tell a great story that entertains and engages their audience. Volunteer Managers must lead in a way that ensures that our programs are mission-focused and aligned with other stakeholders in our organizations. Our programs, volunteers and systems must all work towards our organizations’ goals.

3.   Accept All Offers

On stage, it is the duty of every performer to accept all offers – that means saying yes to everything! Volunteer managers maybe can’t say yes to EVERYTHING, but we need to remain open to ideas and offerings from those around us. Nothing should be dismissed without thought and consideration.

4.   Yes And…

 More than just accepting every offer, improv requires that performers build on what they’re given in order to move the story forward. Being an unscripted volunteer manager means taking what volunteers offer and bringing them to the next level –incorporating great ideas and making changes to the way we work that can better serve our Common Goal.

5.   Be Present and in the Moment

The greatest challenge of improv (as far as I’m concerned) is that it requires you to be in the moment at all times. To effectively capitalize on new ideas and fluid situations, performers and volunteer managers both need to be out of our heads and in the moment. This can mean getting out of established mindsets of how things have “always been” and reacting to what is happening right now.



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:  improv and volunteer management  new forms of volunteer engagement  Volunteer Management 

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Screening, dating or both: How to approach your volunteer interview

Posted By Lori Gotlieb, Lori Gotlieb Consulting, May 26, 2016

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Although volunteer management processes are as varied as the organizations that use them, one process that is usually consistent is the interview. This stage of the volunteer cycle is key to learning about the volunteer: who they are and how they can make a difference in a meaningful way. But standard interviews may not reveal all the unique skills and capabilities that a volunteer could contribute.

If we want to learn about what a volunteer can do for our organization, rather than whether or not they’re a good fit for a specific, defined role, we need to have an open mind to see where the conversation leads. It is your role to set the stage for the interview to encourage dialogue and comfort so the potential volunteer can feel comfortable to discuss their:

  • Skills
  • Experience
  • Motivation
  • Hobbies
  • Expectations
  • Personal goals
  • Passions

So, the question is: are we taking this time to only screen or are we allowing a conversation to start where each party learns from each other and you “get to know each other”, like on a first date?

The first date concept is more of a conversation, where both parties are exploring the opportunity to partner in a mutually beneficial relationship. These conversations are more exploratory in nature and may require another meeting to agree on a specific role or project for the volunteer.


What can you do to begin this process?

  • Build an interview process that allows for a blend of exploratory questions and basic knowledge transfer between you and the volunteer to lay the foundation of the conversation.

  • Keep the conversation going; you may identify a role for the volunteer at that meeting, but you may want to take their information and explore internally where their skills may be of greatest value

  • Be open to new ideas

  • Train those who interview to be creative and open-minded


As you start this process and grow this culture of creativity in your volunteer program, you will find that your colleagues will consider how volunteers can be an asset to their programs and reach out to you for your expertise in connecting unique volunteers to unique roles.

Hopefully this will be a beginning of a wonderful relationship!


Lori Gotlieb is the President of Lori Gotlieb Consulting as well as co-developer and faculty member for Humber College Volunteer Management Leadership Certificate. She is a volunteer management expert who provides a unique concierge service to her clients. She is also an internationally published author and workshop facilitator who has taught workshops to many diverse audiences across North America. In 2012, Lori was the recipient of the Linda Buchanan Award for Excellence in Volunteer Management. 

You can reach here at 

Tags:  how to screen a volunteer  volunteer interviews  volunteer management  volunteer screening 

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What's The Best Volunteer Management Database For You - Tips From The Bottom Up

Posted By Claire McWatt, Project Coordinator, May 19, 2016
Updated: May 18, 2016

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

In our most recent workshop, Leading Beyond the Core, the Grassroots Growth team explored the vast expanse of online databases for managing volunteers. Grassroots groups, like all non-profits, have to make decisions about how to best manage their lists and online presence. New software products are coming out every day, and features change at such a rapid pace that it can be a huge challenge to keep up. So, how do you choose the right content management system? The answer is: by being a smart consumer.

Back in the day, volunteers were managed using lists and contact sheets. They were mobilized by making phone calls. Computers brought us Excel spreadsheets, scheduling apps and e-mail, making things a lot easier. In the world of Web 2.0, we’ve seen all kinds of volunteer management software emerge, with a litany of shiny new capabilities, for a wide range of prices. Today, platforms such as Volgistics, Better Impact, and so many others compete in a saturated market for our precious business.

The market has changed a lot. We now have options that integrate all the features needed to run a non-profit and/or campaign into a one-stop-shop platform. Nationbuilder, widely becoming the benchmark, is a very popular integrated option. Volunteer managers are also testing new software, like Timecounts, with the capability to send text messages and tag volunteers with a wide range of extra skills.

For grassroots groups, there are five key points to remember when considering your management needs:

1. What can you realistically afford?

Platforms range from free to thousands of dollars per month. Some bill annually, some monthly. It’s great to have everything, but your budget will be a big factor in what you ultimately choose.

2. What are the needs of your organization?

Some platforms are best for mobilizing people, others for managing memberships. The type of work you do will factor heavily into what kind of product best meets your unique needs.

3. How many volunteers do you have in total?

If you have a lot of volunteers, standalone volunteer management software may be very useful. The more volunteers you have, the more likely it is to be necessary, and the more likely you are to need one that has more fancy features.

4. What are your shift-management needs?

If you need to manage a lot of volunteers at the same time (usually for events), you may want standalone volunteer management software, or at least the free or paid add-ons available in integrated products. Further, if you need to manage volunteers across different areas, standalone software is probably best for you.
5. What is your technological proficiency?

Are you an Excel pro? Sometimes the best option is what the person using it is most familiar with. If your volunteer manager has been using one platform forever and knows it inside and out, sticking with old faithful can sometimes be your best bet.

In the end, it is most important to consider your volunteer needs, and to reexamine them often. The market changes, and so do your volunteers. Taking the time to consider whether your database is working for you, both in the larger context of your non-profit, and as it makes your volunteer manager(s) life easier, will help you stay up-to-date and on-task.



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:  Free resources  volunteer engagement  volunteer management  Volunteer Management Databases 

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Giving Volunteers Feedback - Template Thursday

Posted By Sammy Feilchenfeld, Training Coordinator, May 12, 2016
Updated: May 11, 2016
 Template Thursday

Evaluating your volunteers and their performance can help them grow and succeed in their role. Looking for an easy way to provide feedback to volunteers? Use our free evaluation template for volunteer supervisors to provide meaningful feedback and let your volunteers know how they’re doing. Feel free to download, print or photocopy this resource, taken from our Giving Volunteers Feedback workbook, and check out our other great resources!

Keep an eye out for more free templates in the weeks to come. Click on the image to download. 


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:  Free templates  Free Volunteer Management work templates  Giving volunteers feedback  Volunteer evaluation  Volunteer Management resources 

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