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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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3 Things Your Non-Profit Can Learn From Grassroots Groups

Posted By Jenn Jozwiak, VECTor 2015 Conference Presenter, January 28, 2016
Updated: January 27, 2016
 

Jenn Jozwiak presents “From Passion to Action: What Grassroots Groups Do Differently” at the 2016 VECTor Conference on March 9, 2016. Register now to choose her workshop, and check out some great tips below!


 

Ontario has a thriving community of volunteers: from film festivals in Toronto, animal rescue centres in Burlington, food banks across the province and all sorts of organizations in between, there are a variety of non-profits supported by volunteer efforts. Often, when we think about volunteerism, large agencies such as the United Way, Habitat for Humanity, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation may come to mind. But there are thousands of non-profit organizations operating across Ontario – and over half of them (53%) aren’t just assisted by volunteers, they’re completely run by them.

These organizations are what we’ve termed grassroots groups. In March 2015, Volunteer Toronto launched the Grassroots Growth Project to help these groups effectively manage their volunteers. After five months of research the Grassroots Growth team completed an in-depth report that outlines the unique challenges that volunteer-run non-profits face and the creative ways groups meet these challenges.

The report also identified 10 characteristics that distinguish grassroots groups from other non-profit organizations (aside from the fact that they have no paid staff!). Three of these characteristics showcase ways of doing things that might be productively applied to traditional volunteer management.


   

Grassroots groups create a supportive community for their members.

All organizations that engage volunteers work hard to support and sustain their members. However, grassroots groups completely rely on these relationships for their success, since everyone involved is a volunteer. Grassroots organizations frequently mentor each other, work together to build skills, and help one another to access other services. These supportive relationships encourage friendships within the organization and inspire long-term volunteerism.

   
   

Grassroots groups are built on community relationships.

Of course, all non-profit organizations are invested in building strong relationships within their communities. Grassroots groups, however, tend to blur the boundaries between professional and personal relationships in a highly productive way, forming working relationships out of personal community connections and developing friendships through a commitment to shared passions. Relationships are rooted in the desire to work collaboratively towards common goals, whether by partnering on particular projects or simply sharing supports and resources.

   
   

A shared mission and vision consistently motivates grassroots groups.

Non-profit organizations start with an idea of how to make things better. This is what inspires staff to join organizations, and mobilizes volunteers to lend a hand to groups they believe in. Sometimes, though, we forget the reason we wanted to do the work in the first place. Grassroots groups, on the other hand – because they remain “grassroots”  – tend to stay close to the passion that drove them from the start. Often, the people who came up with the original vision are still intimately involved in the group’s activities. Volunteers who assist the organization have an opportunity to connect with its founders. The result is that a shared mission and vision consistently links all members of the grassroots group.

 

Wondering how you might apply these characteristics to your own work with volunteers? Curious about how these approaches might benefit you? Then join me on March 9 at
VECTor, where I’ll cover strategies to incorporate a grassroots framework into more traditional volunteer coordination, and discuss in more depth the benefits to taking a grassroots approach volunteer management – at least some of the time.

  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:  grassroots groups  Grassroots organizations  Networking  Non-profits  Ontario  Professional Development  Toronto  VECTor 2016  VECTor Conference  VECTor Presenter 

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How Non-Profits Can Recruit and Manage Skilled Volunteers

Posted By Leila MacDonald, VECTor16 Presenter, January 14, 2016
Updated: January 13, 2016
 Senior woman smiling
 


Lelia MacDonald presents “How to Recruit & Manage Professional Volunteers” at the 2016
VECTor Conference on March 9, 2016. 
Register now to choose her workshop, and check out some great tips below!


              

A skilled volunteer is a professional who offers specific expertise, for example in HR, strategy or marketing.  Unlike volunteers who help with operations, skilled volunteers help management. 

 

Why do you need a skilled volunteer?

·      Expertise that fills a gap

·      Short term (you don’t need to nurture them over time like an employee)

·      Unbiased third party (they are not tied to the ways things used to be and they don’t have pet projects)

·      Outside perspective (they are not caught up in the daily crises, so it’s easier for them to see the big picture)


 

6 Steps For Recruiting and Managing Skilled Volunteers

 

1. Recruit

Write a job description and post on:

·      Online posting boards (such as Volunteer Toronto)

·      Your own website, LinkedIn, Facebook, and through connections of your Board of Directors

·      Local companies with a large head office

·      In Toronto, MAS is a pro bono consulting charity

 

2. Understand what is in it for them

You can pay a skilled volunteer in ways other than money.  Perhaps they want to build their resume or learn a new industry.  Perhaps they want to give back using the skills they learned in their career.  Perhaps they want to see the difference they can make.  Being open about their needs will help you trust them to stay motivated and give their project the attention it deserves.

 

3. Select

Interview them like you would a prospective employee.  Check for good listening skills, easy-to-understand language, and a spirit of collaboration.

 

4. Manage

Mutually structure the relationship like a consultant.  Draw up a proposal that defines the frequency of meetings and the topics to be investigated. 

 

5. Orient your volunteer

Even if your volunteer is only around for one project, make sure they understand the mission and structure of your organization, and that they know how their work fits into the bigger picture of what you do.

 

6. Make it worthwhile

At the end, finish with a close form.  This is how you “pay” your skilled volunteer.  It gives them a sense of accomplishment and closure.  It formalizes what they can put on their resume and what you will say as a reference.



 
Lelia MacDonald is a Volunteer Consultant with MAS, a charity that gives pro bono advice to Toronto nonprofits since 1993. MAS’s 50 Volunteer Consultants in governance, strategy, marketing, HR and fundraising are professionals who give back using the skills they learned in their careers.

Tags:  how to get volunteers for your event  Ontario  Toronto  VECTor 2016  VECTor Conference  volunteer management  volunteer recruitment  volunteering 

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What Makes A Great Volunteer?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, January 12, 2016
 
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes  

 

Volunteers all come with great qualities and skills, but occasionally you come across someone who is the perfect fit for the role you have and who continues to wow you time and time again. Someone you acknowledge and appreciate as being a fantastic volunteer. So what qualities are universal to great volunteers?

 

Enthusiasm

A volunteer who is enthusiastic and positive about their tasks and responsibility is often a pleasure to work with. We all know most roles have an unglamorous side to them, whether it’s lugging boxes at an event or cleaning up after five-year olds at an after-school program. A great volunteer will have the same enthusiasm whether they’re doing their favourite part of the role, or a task that is a little mundane.

 

Initiative

A great volunteer will make an effort to know their role and responsibilities well, and won’t hesitate to go a step beyond what the role entails while respecting boundaries, protocol and the expectations of the organization. They’ll proactively seek ways to improve their work, apply their strengths to the tasks and work on their weaknesses. They may even go a step further and make innovative suggestions for changes that will improve how your organization works.

 

Professionalism

Volunteers are often representatives of your organization and to external stakeholders like service users, they may assume a volunteer is a member of staff when they see them in a position of authority. That’s why it’s always great to find a volunteer who really understands professionalism; everything from suitable dress code to appropriate demeanour.

 

Reliability

An exceptional volunteer will recognize the importance of trust and reliability, and will make an effort to turn up when they should and be on time. Of course, life happens, and they may occasionally have to cancel, but if they do, they’ll let you know with as much notice as possible. In short, you’ll never question their commitment to the role!

 

At Volunteer Toronto, every day we hear tidbits about volunteers across the city with all of these traits, making Toronto a city we’re proud to live in. Our annual Legacy Awards began in 2011 and shine a light on 25 special volunteers who are great volunteers and have made an exceptional contribution to their community. We are accepting nominations for the 2016 Legacy Awards until 5pm on Thursday February 4th. If you know someone who deserves an award, click here to nominate them!

Camara Chambers manages Volunteer Toronto's public engagement strategy and team. This includes working with community partners, leading large-scale events and overseeing various programs that aim to encourage Torontonians to volunteer. In 2014, the community engagement team helped connect 550,000 people to volunteer positions in Toronto!

Tags:  best volunteers  find a volunteer  finding a great volunteer  good volunteers  happy volunteers  how to be a great volunteer  Ontario  Toronto  volunteer  Volunteer positions  volunteer recognition  volunteers 

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