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Little Bites: Solutions you can snack on - Episode #2 ft. Andrea Field on volunteer recognition

Posted By Sammy Feilchenfeld, December 19, 2017

Estimated reading time - 2 minutes. Episode runtime: 15:16 minutes. 


Sammy here—your Training Specialist from Volunteer Toronto. Episode #2 of Little Bites is now live with more Solutions you can Snack On!

At Volunteer Toronto, we know volunteer managers, like you, are busy. If you’re looking to save time, on challenges from small to big, we’ll give you tips during every episode of Little Bites.  Each month I'll welcome a different guest to talk volunteer management, favourite snacks and great ideas we think you should know about. You can check back here monthly for new episodes on our blog!

To celebrate the end of the year, we welcomed guest Andrea Field, Manager of Education and Volunteer Resources at the Bata Shoe Museum, to “The Pantry” to talk about recognizing volunteers. December is a big time of year to hold volunteer appreciation events, but why not explore the benefits of going beyond a holiday party or National Volunteer Week event and celebrate your volunteers year round!

Tune in to hear about how the Bata Shoe Museum handles recognition, and the big successes that have kept their volunteers coming back. We also talked about the ways you can get to know your volunteers and their motivations to provide meaningful recognition – even without a budget. Listen below!


If you just don't have time to listen, here are Andrea’s top three tips for volunteer managers in recognizing your volunteers:

  1. Find ways to recognize your volunteers outside of the organization, such as nominating them for a Volunteer Toronto Legacy Award or Ontario Service Award
  2. Celebrate your volunteers on your website and social media – they can share it with friends and jobseekers can benefit from a positive online presence
  3. Get to know your volunteers! The Bata Shoe Museum gives special recognition to volunteers who have given more than 1000 hours, how would you recognize those volunteers you really know well?

Want to learn more about the reciprocal programs Andrea mentioned? Check out the Toronto Attractions Council and the Ontario Association of Art Galleries. You can also create your own reciprocal arrangements with likeminded organizations and local businesses – just ask and discover what's possible!

Do you have a pressing question you want answered on air? E-mail me at or tweet @VolunteerTO with #VTlittlebites.

Thanks for listening, and keep snacking!


As Volunteer Toronto's Training Specialist, 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:  best practises in volunteer engagement  Celebrate volunteers  Free resources  Giving volunteers feedback  how to find great volunteers  How to keep volunteers  how to motivate volunteers  How to thank your volunteer  how to thank your volunteers  innovative thinking for volunteer management  Inspiring volunteers  leaders of volunteers  Leadership  supervising volunteers  volunteer  volunteer coordination  volunteer coordinators  volunteer engagement  volunteer management  volunteer managers  volunteer program  volunteer programs  volunteer recognition  volunteer recruitment  volunteer retention  what kind of recognition do volunteers want? 

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Little Bites: Solutions you can snack on - Episode #1 ft. Lisa Robinson on volunteer barriers

Posted By Sammy Feilchenfeld, December 15, 2017

Estimated reading time - 2 minutes. Episode runtime: 14:38 minutes. 


Sammy here—your Training Specialist from Volunteer Toronto. I'm so excited to announce the launch of Little Bites, our new podcast for volunteer managers with solutions you can snack on!

At Volunteer Toronto, we know volunteer managers, like you, are busy. If you’re looking to save time, on challenges from small to big, we’ll give you tips during every episode of Little Bites.  Each month I'll welcome a different guest to talk volunteer management, favourite snacks and great ideas we think you should know about. You can check back here monthly for new episodes on our blog!

On our first episode, we welcomed guest Lisa Robinson to “The Pantry” to talk about barriers faced by volunteers. Lisa is Volunteer Toronto's Program Developer, Placement Support, and is working to identify a variety of barriers then researching ways to help potential volunteers and organizations overcome them. This November, we talked about the barriers that definitely exist in the sector—you may already recognize them as a volunteer manager!

Lisa also shared what she's learned from her research across Toronto, including amazing solutions non-profits have already come up with. And we talked about how barriers can exist in your organizations that aren’t your fault, from funding to staff time – and what you can do about them. Plus, hear about what surprised Lisa most in her research (hint: these barriers aren’t limited just to volunteering), and discover just how much I know about…apparently everything! Tune in now to hear all about it:



If you want to connect with Lisa and share your experiences, challenges and successes in supporting people facing barriers in volunteering, you can reach out at or 416-961-6888 x237. 

OR do you have a pressing question you want answered on air? E-mail me at or tweet @VolunteerTO with #VTlittlebites.

Thanks for listening, and keep snacking!


As Volunteer Toronto's Training Specialist, 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:  Leadership  non-profit  Non-profit staff  Non-profit strategy  Volunteer Management  volunteer recognition 

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Five Tips For Nominating A Volunteer For A Legacy Award

Posted By Camara Chambers, Director of Community Engagement, January 5, 2017
Updated: January 3, 2017
 Five Tips For Nominating A Volunteer For A Legacy Award

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Each April, Volunteer Toronto presents 25 exceptional volunteers with a Legacy Award to recognize the amazing volunteering they have done for their community. This year, we will be accepting nominations from January 3rd to January 31st and nominations can be submitted here.

The application form asks you three questions about the individual’s volunteering and you only have 200 words to answer each:

  1. How has the nominee contributed to the community?
  2. What difference or impact has their contribution made?
  3. What is unique or extraordinary about what they have done for their community?

If you’re thinking of nominating one of your volunteers, read these tips to ensure you know how best to describe why your volunteer should be one of the few chosen to receive an award!


1.   Be clear about why your volunteer stands out above the crowd

There are fewer awards than the number of people who deserve them and each year with over 100 nominations to choose from, it’s always incredibly challenging for our judging panel to decide which 25 nominees should receive an award.

With so many giving people in the city doing great things, you’ll need to be explicitly clear about what is exceptional about your nominee. In the past, people have been chosen for all kinds of reasons – for the much needed role they play in the community, for the commitment they’ve shown, for their admirable leadership skills, for their courage to overcome personal challenges, or any other reasons that stand out to the judging panel. So don’t be shy! This is the time to express what makes your nominee exceptional and how they have gone above and beyond.

Simon Chamberlain

2015 Recipient 
Simon Chamberlain

Simon Chamberlain received a Legacy Award in 2015 for his work in the Mount Dennis Community. 10 years ago, Simon became a strong voice actively leading community clean-ups and projects to bring people together. Over the past three winters, Simon has been the driving force behind the creation, organization and supervision of one of the best resident driven projects in Mount Dennis - An Outdoor Community Skating rink in Pearen Park.


2.   Consider nominating someone who has not been recognized before

With so many great volunteers to choose from, if your nominee has won numerous awards for their volunteer work, it’s likely they will already feel appreciated and have had the experience of being publicly recognized for their contributions. When choosing who to award, we encourage you to look to volunteers who haven’t had the wonderful experience of receiving an award for their efforts and who would truly appreciate being celebrated for the first time in their life. 

Amanda MacEwan

2016 Recipient
Amanda MacEwan

A dedicated volunteer who has made giving back a way of life, 2016 Legacy Award Recipient Amanda MacEwan, was an inspiration to her fellow volunteers and the employees at Native Child and Family Services of Toronto. Each year, Amanda leads a team of volunteers in organizing the Centre’s holiday party and hamper drive. It’s because of all the time and effort she puts into planning the event and creating fun activities for the children and families that make the event such a special experience. For more than seven years, Amanda has inspired others to look at even the smallest tasks with enthusiasm and she leads by example always encouraging everyone to do their best.


3.   Tell a story

Setting the scene and providing some background on the volunteer is a great way of helping the judging panel better understand the nominee and their volunteering. For example, mentioning that Sarah is a newcomer from Dublin and has only been in Toronto for a year but has made a lot of impact in a short amount of time, or that Bryan became involved in volunteering for an animal shelter after rescuing a stray cat one winter, or that Danielle works 50 hours a week as a nurse at a local hospital but still manages to find the time to volunteer weekly, will help the panel create a picture of the volunteer in their mind and understand the story of their volunteering. 

Charles Brimbleby

2016 Recipient
Charles Grimbleby

2016 Legacy Award recipient Charles Grimbleby was a volunteer driver for the Toronto Christian Resource Centre (CRC) for 22 years. Chuck’s role varied from collecting food, clothing and furniture to helping people move into new housing, and rushing important documents and applications to City Hall. As a volunteer, Chuck demonstrated a dedication, interest, and care for his community that went above and beyond what was expected of a volunteer. Before taking on his volunteer role, Chuck needed a place to live and CRC assisted him with moving into a rooming house where he stayed for seven years. He now has his own place, but will never forget how CRC helped him get back on his feet.


4.  Crunch the numbers

When reading about what a volunteer has done and why they are so unique, often it’s helpful to have a statistic to help frame the story. For example, if you have a volunteer who has delivered meals to seniors for the past 15 years, you could mention approximately how many meals she has delivered or how many hours she’s volunteered over the years. Or if you have a youth volunteer who’s raised money for your organization, you could mention how much he’s donated through his fundraising efforts. These figures help to create a picture of the impact the volunteer has had and how hard they have worked.


Palvinder Kaur

2016 Recipient
Palvinder Kaur

When 2016 Legacy Award Recipient Palvinder Kaur uncovered the depth of need in the community for services to those who are hampered by age, illness or disability and are unable to cook meals for themselves, she knew had to do something. This is what led to a volunteer-driven charitable organization called Langar Seva Meal & Support Services. The organization provides people in the GTA with healthy, fresh food at no charge, and while it’s only been in operation for 3 years, it’s delivered over 10,000 meals. Palvinder and her team of 40 volunteers operate on the philosophy that everyone has the right to live with respect and dignity. In such a short amount of time, Palvinder’s commitment and efforts have positively impacted the lives of many people in many communities across our city.


5.   Explain the ripple effect of the volunteer’s work

You’ll be asked about the impact of the volunteer’s contribution, so be sure to not only mention the immediate effects but also the wider impact. What were things like before the volunteer joined? How has your organization or the community improved since the volunteer’s involvement? What positive things happened to the clients since your volunteer helped them? It’s one thing to say that Ali’s role as a fantastic Support Group Facilitator led to more people attending the group, but it’s quite another to say that one of the attendees went on to secure her first job in five years because of the self confidence he instilled in her and that another was able to rebuild his troubled relationships with his family because of Ali’s support. 

Miguel Abascal

2016 Recipient
Miguel Abascal 

When 2016 Legacy Award Recipient Miguel Abascal came to Canada in 2010 he had difficulty finding meaningful employment and was forced to work numerous part-time jobs to support his family. Staying focused and positive, he completed several English and technical certification courses, spent a year volunteering and was eventually hired as a Project Analyst in the financial industry. A month later, he shared his experience at a conference for newcomers. The success of his talk inspired him and his wife Doris to form UnstoppableMe, a professional immigrant association dedicated to helping skilled immigrants find meaningful employment and advance their careers. Last year, UnstoppableMe delivered almost 750 hours of support to its 77 members. Members reported that the activities helped them improve their self-confidence, along with their professional and soft skills.


We hope you found these tips useful! To find out more about the Legacy Awards, visit our Legacy Awards page, or click here to read about the 2016 recipients. 


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:  Legacy award Nominations  Legacy Awards  National Volunteer Week 2017  Volunteer Recognition  Volunteer Service Awards 

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Get To Know Some Of Our Amazing Volunteers

Posted By Ainsley Kendrick, Marketing and Communications Manager, March 31, 2016
Updated: March 30, 2016
 Volunteer Toronto Volunteers/Staff

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Every year, for one special week in April, non-profits across the country are encouraged to recognize their volunteers for their amazing contributions. National Volunteer Week is going into its 13th consecutive year celebrating and thanking those who give passionately to support their cause. Big or small, the efforts and time volunteers give is vitally important to the work non-profits do to support the community.

At Volunteer Toronto, our work focuses on supporting people on their volunteer journeys, guiding them to great organizations that need their help.  We are in the community giving presentations, offering free information sessions, organizing volunteer fairs, small and large-scale events, training sessions and conferences. We do a lot! However, our small but mighty staff couldn’t do what we do without the support of our over 60 volunteers. Yes, 60 volunteers!

From outreach presenters to newsletter editors, referral counselors to subscriptions assistants, our volunteers are working out in the community and behind the scenes making our services more accessible to all.  In preparation for National Volunteer Week, we would love to introduce you to a few of these incredible people.


Joan Janzen

Joan Janzen has been volunteering with us since 2008. She joined the team after connecting with our Outreach Coordinator at a community fair. At the time, she was between jobs and was looking for a good way to spend her free time so she decided to volunteer doing outreach presentations to the public. A project manager and communications person by trade, Joan easily fit into the role. Since then, she has moved on to table at community fairs and works with us weekly in the office performing follow-up calls to subscribers and conducting research for case studies. Joan’s bright personality and equally bright red hair are a welcome addition to our family. Without volunteers like Joan, we wouldn’t be out in the community building important relationships and connecting with future volunteers.

Nathan Liu

Nathan Liu is a grade 11 student from Jean Vanier Catholic Secondary School. He joined the Youth Volunteerism Ambassadors after finding out about the opportunity through his school. He loves how this opportunity allows him to meet other youth who share his same love for volunteering. He works to spread the word about Volunteer Toronto and inspire his peers to find great ways to give back. Without volunteers like Nathan, youth would have no idea about the variety of ways they could earn their volunteer hours.  

Karima Dia

Karima Dia is a superstar volunteer. With a background in Public Relations, her talents have been put to good use helping us coordinate our Grassroots Growth launch event and Seniors Volunteer Fair. She joined the team last November as a way to practice her PR skills and also gain more experience in event planning. She was surprised to have been given the opportunity to also try her hand at volunteer management, a role she picked up quickly and performed flawlessly. Without volunteers like Karima, these special events couldn’t happen. 



Vivian Thompson

Vivian Thompson started volunteering as a Referral Counsellor back in December of 2015. She had always volunteered in some capacity, in her kids’ school or helping with their sports teams, but had yet to try more formal ways of giving back.  Her Referral Counseling role allows her to interact face-to-face with a variety of people as she helps guide them through our website to find a suitable volunteer opportunity. What surprises her most about the role is how much more she has learned about the city and the opportunities that exist to make a difference.  Without volunteers like Vivian, technological barriers would reduce our ability to support many of the potential volunteers in the city.


We love our volunteers and absolutely couldn’t succeed without them. Volunteers are the heart of every organization, so this National Volunteer Week, we encourage you to take the time to let them know how much you appreciate them and the work they do. 


Ainsley Kendrick is the creative voice behind Volunteer Toronto's external communications. She manages their website and social media channels as well as works with all departments to develop key collateral and messaging. Her mission is to reach the furthest corners of the city to let people know about Volunteer Toronto's programs and services. 

She can be reached at

Tags:  Celebrate volunteers  Legacy Awards  National Volunteer Week 2016  Toronto volunteers  volunteer recognition  Volunteer Week 

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INFOGRAPHIC: How Do You Thank Your Volunteers?

Posted By Kasandra James, Subscriptions Coordinator, March 2, 2016

Infographic: Volunteer Recognition 


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 thank your volunteer  Inforgraphic  Volunteer awards  volunteer recognition  ways to thank your volunteers  what kind of recognition do volunteers want? 

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Starting The Conversation With Leadership About Volunteer Impact

Posted By Sammy Feilchenfeld, Training Coordinator, February 25, 2016
Updated: February 25, 2016

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

The impact of volunteering can easily be overlooked by executives and senior managers who aren’t directly involved in the organization’s volunteer program. However, volunteer involvement is crucial in the functioning of non-profits in at least two ways: governance and strategy.

First of all, it’s important to remember that the governance of your organization relies exclusively on volunteer engagement: your Board of Directors is made up of volunteers! This team of high-skilled, high-level volunteers have a huge influence on your organization’s functioning, from its image to its strategic direction to its finances. The type of work they do for your organization, their motivations for volunteering, and the way they’re supervised may be very different from those of your other volunteers, but it’s still important to consider best practices in volunteer management when working with your Board volunteers.

Take volunteer recognition, for example. You may think that your Board members aren’t interested in the volunteer socials you hold for your program volunteers and the thank you gifts you give them each year (and you may be right). But that doesn’t mean you should forego recognition. Volunteer management best practice tells us that recognition should be meaningful to the volunteer, and that the most common way volunteers want to be recognized is by knowing the impact of their work. So if you can, take some time to get to know the motivations of your Board members and to find a type of recognition that would match those motivations, including letting them know their impact. Becoming familiar with volunteer management best practices, from recruitment to retention, can help you find ways to engage your Board more effectively.

Second, program volunteers may be responsible for a larger proportion of your organization’s direct impact on clients than you’re aware of. How many of your services would be unsustainable without volunteer involvement? What is the value added that volunteers bring to your programs? If you aren’t sure about some of these questions, it may be time to evaluate your volunteer program to get a better sense of its outcomes and impact. Through this program evaluation, you can showcase to your senior managers and executives the direct impact your volunteer program has on the community you serve, and more importantly how volunteers help you achieve your mission. This can have a huge influence on strategic planning and decisions being made about program growth or service changes.

While convincing leadership to appreciate the values and impact of the volunteer program can be a challenge, there are a few ways to start the conversation:

  • Introduce – and even adopt – the Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement, a guiding document on the value, principles and standards of engaging volunteers adopted by hundreds of organizations
  • Re-evaluate what you report to your executives and Board on volunteer involvement; how you report it can also have an impact, as volunteer stories can go a long way
  • Encourage senior managers to meet and learn more about your volunteers, from Board members to occasional volunteers

At the VECTor Conference on March 9, we’re inviting Executive Directors, senior managers and Board members to explore the impact of volunteer programs on their communities in the Leadership Stream. This specialized program stream will explore governance and strategy in a collaborative way to improve organization-wide (and top-down) support of volunteer programs. While your executives and senior managers may not have a chance to attend, you can always remind them of the great work, value and impact of your volunteer program that informs how successful your organization is at striving toward your mission.


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:  Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement  Executive Directors  governance strategy  Leadership stream  Non-profit board of directors  Non-profit leadership  volunteer recognition 

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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?



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.



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.



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.



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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3 Things To Think About When Recognizing Your Volunteers

Posted By Sammy Feilchenfeld, Training Coordinator, November 17, 2015
Updated: November 16, 2015

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes 


As Volunteer Toronto’s Training Coordinator, one of the questions I hear more than any other is “how do I recognize my volunteers?” With the United Nations International Volunteer Day fast approaching on December 5th, this is the perfect time to think about meaningful ways to thank your volunteers! We have a lot of resources and online courses on this topic, but volunteer needs and wants change all the time - the person best suited to know what kind of recognition your volunteers want is…you!

Let me break down what the research says first. In a recent survey from Volunteer Canada, we found that volunteers prefer, more than anything, to be told about the impact of their work. After that, they want to be thanked in-person, informally and prefer informal events over letters and formal events.

When organizations were asked what kind of recognition they like to give volunteers, they put thanking them informally at the top too, but follow that with letters and formal events. Based on this research, it looks like organizations and volunteers aren’t on the same page when it comes to recognition!

We know recognizing volunteers helps them feel appreciated, valued and like integral members of your team, but the wrong recognition may send the wrong message. If you have lots of volunteers, you don’t want to relegate your recognition to impersonal form letters.

 Graph taken from Volunteer Canada's Volunteer Recognition Study


So how do you recognize your volunteers in a meaningful way?


1. Get to know their motivations
People volunteer for many different reasons. Get to know why they’re there and what keeps them returning. Maybe your volunteers are looking for more social interactions or to gain skills for their careers. Can you think of some recognition methods that could serve those motivations? For example, if they're looking for work, a reference letter would be a great form of recognition that matches their motivations!

2. Get to know their work
Even though you may have many volunteer roles that do a lot of different things, get an idea of what your volunteers are actually doing, and how that serves your mission, to make your recognition relevant. Don’t just thank them for their work, thank them for the specific thing they did that day that made an impact!

3. Get to know their preferences
As the Volunteer Canada survey noted, it’s important to recognize your volunteers in the way they prefer. Ask your volunteers what kind of recognition they’d appreciate, and do your best to cater to that. Maybe your annual banquet can be skipped in favour of a more meaningful means of recognition.


It’s easy to informally recognize your volunteers every day in a meaningful way. Treat volunteers as team members and ask for their input. Ask your volunteers if they are satisfied, allow room for them to grow and make them aware of other volunteer contributions (and their impact). Most importantly – and probably most easily too – take the time to say thank you, especially on December 5, International Volunteer Day!

Check out Volunteer Toronto's online learning centre to get more recognition tips!  


As Volunteer Toronto's Training Coordinator, Sammy 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:  how to thank your volunteers  Thanking your volunteers  Volunteer appreciation  Volunteer recognition  volunteer retention  what kind of recognition do volunteers want? 

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Advice For A New Volunteer Manager - Abha Govil

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, October 29, 2015


In the lead-up to International Volunteer Managers Day on November 5th, we decided to help the novices in the field with a little advice from those who remember what it's like to be new at Volunteer Management. 

Check out our final installment with advice from Abha Govil, Coordinator, Volunteer Services at Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities.


What advice would you give? Write your thoughts in the comments section below.

Tags:  supervising volunteers  volunteer engagement  Volunteer Management  volunteer recognition  volunteer retention 

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Preparing Your Short-Term Volunteer Roles

Posted By Sammy Feilchenfeld, Training Coordinator, October 21, 2015
Updated: October 19, 2015
Estimated reading time - 3 minutes              


Currently, short-term volunteering is one of the biggest trends in volunteer management. More and more volunteers want to make a bigger impact in a shorter time-frame – maybe they can’t commit to long-term or recurring programs, or maybe they’re drawn to the shorter event or activity you’re running. Either way, volunteer managers, and coordinators want to know how to engage this new crop of short-term volunteers.

As Volunteer Toronto’s Training Coordinator, I meet a lot of volunteer managers and coordinators from different kinds of organizations. Some manage a few volunteers who’ve stayed on for years and years. Others bring in a thousand volunteers for two weeks and then may not see a lot of them again! In providing training and materials to help all kinds of volunteer managers do their jobs well, I’ve found the best approach is to cater to as many kinds of volunteer needs as possible.

Today, we’re releasing our newest Resource Guide & Workbook on Short-Term Volunteers. In preparing the workbook, I could see the need for this kind of information was growing as Toronto already has many festivals, single day events, short-term and seasonal volunteer activities.  You might need volunteers for your sports league that only lasts a couple of months, or you might need a lot of volunteers for a big fundraising event for one night. On top of all those events and seasonal programs, more and more volunteer managers and coordinators are seeing the value of setting up short-term projects for volunteers who want to make a big impact without a long-term commitment. How do you prepare these volunteers for their roles? And perhaps more importantly, how do you prepare your organization for short term volunteers?

To help get you started, here are a few tips straight from our new Resource Guide & Workbook:


  1. Screen every volunteer – even if the volunteer is short-term and may be contributing 6 hours on only one day, you must always find a way to screen your volunteers to make sure it’s a good fit – get help from existing or program volunteers to conduct phone interviews or better review applications

  2. Train every volunteer – while not every volunteer will be available for an in-person orientation, have all materials available to every volunteer through a handbook or website; you need to make sure your volunteers know and follow your basic rules and procedures and know enough about your organization and who they serve to be a good ambassador

  3. Supervise every volunteer – if your event or activity has more than a handful of volunteers, it could be very difficult to provide supervision for all of them; make sure you have senior volunteers, staff, board members and/or others you can rely on to supervise and oversee volunteer operations.

Knowing where your organization – and your volunteer program – stands in working with short-term volunteers can help you engage more of them, in ways that are both rewarding for them and helpful for your organization.

To learn more about how to deal with the challenges of engaging short-term volunteers, get better prepared for engaging them effectively, and learn some promising practices from Toronto organizations, check out our brand new Resource Guide & Workbook on Short-Term Volunteers – FREE for all Volunteer Toronto Subscribers!

Not a subscriber? Find out how subscribing to Volunteer Toronto can help you achieve volunteer management greatness!

As Volunteer Toronto's Training Coordinator, Sammy 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:  Short-Term Volunteers  supervising volunteers  volunteer engagement  Volunteer Management  volunteer program  volunteer recognition  Volunteer Retention  volunteer training 

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10 Sector Insights on Supervising Offsite Volunteers

Posted By Kasandra James, Subscriptions Coordinator, August 26, 2015
Updated: September 2, 2015

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes  

I find it fitting that this month’s subscriber circle on Supervising Off-Site Volunteers was effectively “off-site”. A group of volunteer managers and coordinators gathered at West Toronto Support Services to discuss how they tackle issues that arise from working with volunteers they can’t always supervise in-person, and to share their experiences and ideas with others who understand their challenges.

The group covered several topics including risk assessment, policies and guidelines for off-site volunteers, performance reviews, volunteer feedback and volunteer recognition and motivation.  They shared their ideas on tackling the unique challenge of supervising work they can’t always oversee, and provided each other with a series of strategies to address off-site volunteer supervision. 

I learned a lot during the session and thought I’d share my top-ten insights here:

Before volunteering begins:

  1. Know the level of risk involved in the position, and plan supervision accordingly. The higher the risk, the greater the level of supervision needed.
  2. Be aware of legislation and policies that can affect your off-site volunteers and the clients they will interact with. Rules around vulnerable clients may affect the level of supervision required in some volunteer programs.
  3. Be clear about the roles and responsibilities of the volunteer position. Use orientation and training to reinforce boundaries and position requirements, and don’t hesitate to give refreshers when necessary.

Creative ways to supervise off-site volunteers:

  1. Mix and match your supervision methods. Check-in calls, activity logs and email questionnaires can be as valuable as formal performance reviews.
  2. Recruit volunteer Team Leaders, staff and clients to help. Utilize these sources both to oversee day-to-day programs and to help the review of volunteer performance.
  3. Always leave room for volunteer feedback, whether it’s with a suggestion box, a comments section in the activity logs, or a call to find out how a volunteer is doing.

Effective (and fun) ways to recognize off-site volunteers and keep them motivated:

  1. Keep track of positive feedback from clients so you can let the volunteer know when their work is appreciated. It can help the volunteer feel valued, and it lets them know that you understand how important they are for the clients they work with.   
  2. Have a coffee break. Meet with off-site volunteers occasionally for coffee and treats to say “thanks for a doing a good job”. You can also arrange group meetings, where your volunteers can gather together to network and socialize.
  3. Throw a potluck: Nothing brings people together like food! Host a potluck for your off-site volunteers where they can reconnect with your mission. Use this opportunity to educate and engage your volunteers with a guest speaker or a panel discussion on topics that interest them.
  4. Just say thanks!  Volunteer Canada’s 2013 Volunteer Recognition Study found that overwhelmingly, volunteers prefer to be thanked in person and to know the impact that their involvement is having.  Find a way to give your off-site volunteers that personal “Thank You”.

This incredible group of volunteer managers weren’t afraid to critique different approaches, outlining the pros and cons of different strategies and giving each other valuable feedback and encouragement. We even had a friendly disagreement on whether positive reinforcement or reprimands were the better way to tackle low volunteer performance.

Do you think negative consequences are necessary when volunteer performance slips? What do you do when it’s time (if ever) to let a volunteer go? Bring your thoughts to our next Subscriber Circle: How to Fire a Volunteer.

If you aren’t a Volunteer Toronto Full Subscriber, sign up today, and join in the discussion!

  As Volunteer Toronto’s Subscriptions Coordinator, Kasandra is the first point of contact for non-profits looking for support.
She facilitates monthly Subscriber Circle 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:  supervising volunteers  volunteer engagement  Volunteer Management  volunteer recognition  volunteers 

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