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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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Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Using Passion and Community Connections as Recruitment Tools

Posted By Jenn Jozwiak, Education Coordinator - Grassroots Growth, April 28, 2016
Updated: April 14, 2016

 

“One of our best members was brought on by another team member.”

 

“We had a friend of a volunteer who came last weekend to a workshop we were doing…and then, by the end, she was ready to sign up.”

 

These are the kinds of stories about recruitment that I heard this past January, when I conducted a series of video interviews as part of my position as Education Coordinator for the Grassroots Growth Project at Volunteer Toronto.

They were different from the typical tales of recruitment I’m accustomed to hearing from volunteer managers: while there were still discussions on finding skilled volunteers for particular tasks and using social media to get the good word out, there was an emphasis on local networking that made these responses distinct.

That’s because grassroots groups – defined as non-profit organizations operated entirely by volunteers – rely on connections to exist. Often, there isn’t a dedicated volunteer manager to take on the task of recruiting new team members. Instead, the responsibility of bringing on new volunteers tends to fall to the group as a whole, and everyone gets involved.

There are two elements that came out of my discussions with grassroots leaders this winter that I’d like to highlight here. Born from the need to solicit additional support while working with limited time and resources, grassroots organizations invite friends and family to join their ranks, and solidify their recruitment pitch by not really pitching at all, and instead simply speaking from the heart about projects they care deeply about.

 

Grassroots Groups Bring Friends into the Fold

Leadership and initial recruits tends to be comprised of the founder’s friends and family members, and so the circle remains small at the beginning. However, grassroots groups often expand organically: a member will bring a friend to an event, and the friend then joins the group. The next time a position opens up, that new member contacts their network about the opportunity, increasing the organization’s reach for potential volunteers. In this way, new connections are created. These expanded networks bring new ideas to the original group, and grassroots organizations not only gain more volunteers – they also gain access to new ways of understanding issues and solving problems.

 

Grassroots Groups are Built on Passion

Members of grassroots organizations are intimately linked to the ideas that drive them. Often, groups form to address a community need, and volunteers involved with the organization are directly impacted by their work. When grassroots members speak about their involvement with their organization in their communities, their personal experience is a powerful motivator that inspires others to join the team.

 

Of course, many grassroots groups employ traditional recruitment methods as well. However, these approaches to recruitment bolster conventional strategies by directly addressing two of the main incentives volunteers cite for donating their time to organizations: spending time with people and a shared belief in the cause. This, combined with the fact that recruitment is by default often a team effort, creates a group that is both unified and welcoming – exactly the kind of atmosphere that encourages people to volunteer in the first place.


  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 organizations  how grassroots groups recruit volunteers  how to recruit volunteers  recruiting friends  Volunteer Toronto Find volunteers  volunteering in Toronto 

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Why Requiring “Fluency in English” is a Barrier To Finding Great Volunteers

Posted By Melina Condren, Director of Engaging Organizations, February 23, 2016
Updated: February 23, 2016
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Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

At Volunteer Toronto, we provide a lot of training and support for volunteer managers who are trying to recruit volunteers. One of the things that we always recommend is they recruit using detailed position descriptions, with specific requirements for each role. This basic strategy works wonders for people trying to find the right fit for the position, but sometimes requirements that are too narrow can do more harm than good.

One of the most common requirements that we see in the volunteer positions listed on our website is “fluency in English.” This requirement automatically shuts the door for a huge pool of applicants; applicants who may have very valuable skills, perspectives and ideas to contribute, and applicants who certainly deserve the same opportunities to be engaged in their communities as everyone else.

I won’t try to deny that being able to communicate effectively in various ways is an important part of many volunteer roles. But being “fluent” in a language is not an easy concept to quantify, and the requirement may deter people who don’t have a perfect mastery of the language, or who are volunteering specifically as a way to improve their English. Although some positions may actually require complete fluency, many others can be accomplished with varying levels of language skills. A great way to start making your volunteer program more open and accessible is to re-examine your positions to figure out exactly what language skills are required to be able to fulfill the role successfully, and then get a lot more specific in your position descriptions.

 
Ask yourself:


  • What, exactly will this volunteer be doing? What are the specific tasks associated with this role?
  • Is communication a big part of this role? If so, will it be in person, over the phone or in writing?
  • Will most of the communication in this role be spontaneous (walk-in clients with questions) or prepared in advance (written content or presentations that have been practiced)? Will it be formal or casual?
  • Is there any jargon or technical language that this volunteer will need to know? If so, will they receive training to help them prepare?

 

Once you’ve given those questions some thought, update your position descriptions. Delete “Must be fluent in English” and replace it with the skills you actually need:


  • If your front desk volunteer will be greeting clients and making them feel welcome, say “Must have good conversation skills and a friendly approach with clients.”
  • If your communications assistant volunteer will be writing blog posts, say “Must be able to write and proofread clear, concise and engaging content.”
  • If your outreach volunteer will be doing group presentations, say “Must be comfortable with public speaking and be able to clearly explain our services to a group.”

 

You may even find that some of your positions don’t have specific language requirements after all!

Not only is being specific and direct about the real requirements of the position a fairer and more inclusive way to recruit, but it will also broaden your applicant pool and help you find the best volunteer for the role. It’s a win-win situation that I can’t recommend enough.

 

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:  ESL volunteers  How to volunteer as a newcomer  Learning english through volunteering  newcomer volunteers  volunteer  Volunteer position description  volunteering in Toronto  writing good position descriptions 

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Advice For A New Volunteer Manager - Natalia Dziubaniwsky

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, October 8, 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. 

Every Thursday until November 5th we'll be releasing a new episode! 


Check out our second installment with advice from Natalia Dziubaniwsky, Supervisor, Volunteers & Communications at ESS Support Services

 


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

Tags:  advice  Human resources  relationships  supervising volunteers  tips  volunteer engagement  Volunteer Management  Volunteering  volunteering in Toronto 

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