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Do politics affect why people volunteer?

Posted By Erin Spink, September 28, 2017
 

Estimated reading time - 2 minutes. Written by Erin Spink. 

 

We're living in a time of significant upheaval, not least of which is being reflected in our political leadership, democratic institutions and civic engagement. Many of us have seen the groundswell of support online, in the streets and through financial donations to specific causes and charities in recent months. But do these shifts extend to volunteer behaviour? We know anecdotally that in North America some volunteer-promotion sites like VolunteerMatch in the U.S. have seen significantly increased traffic to their site, specifically on President Trump’s inauguration day. 

As leaders of volunteers, we have unique insights into shifts in our organization’s key stakeholders, yet we rarely document or share those trends with sector leaders or amongst each other. We’re often the first point of contact for members of the community to our organizations. There is a power and responsibility that comes with that- much like the canary in the coalmine, to announce the changing barometer of stakeholder opinions, priorities and motivations.

Not much gets written about the interconnections between politics and volunteerism, yet the entire political system in this country would collapse without volunteers. Beyond that, at a higher level, whether we work for a charity that is in the cross-hairs of a political figure or party or not, we may feel the shockwaves as people express their political views more tangibly through social activism, advocacy, donating and changing their volunteer behaviour.

I asked questions of both individuals and non-profits to document whether there is a shift going on in volunteer behaviour across North America, and whether any of it is connected to the political landscape. The survey closes Tuesday, October 3rd.

Initial results will be presented at Volunteer Toronto’s VECtor conference. If you're with the media and would like to learn more or attend the conference, please contact Cara Eaton.  

 

 

 

Erin Spink is the founder of spinktank, an innovative think tank on the profession of volunteer engagement. In 2008, Spink produced the first-ever academic work to quantify the concept of “volunteer engagement,” and has since been published in both Canadian and international journals. She has served on the Board of Directors for PAVRO (Professional Administrators of Volunteer Resources – Ontario) for five years, including two years as president, and has been an Instructor in Conestoga College's Volunteer Program Management faculty for eight years.

 

Tags:  activist groups  leaders of volunteers  Non-profit strategy  Toronto  VECTor Conference  VECTor Presenter  volunteer  volunteer engagement  volunteer management  volunteer programs  volunteering in Toronto  volunteerism  volunteers 

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Grassroots Leadership: How To Supervise Your Mom

Posted By Jessica Pang-Parks, Education Coordinator - Grassroots Growth, December 16, 2016
 

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

In the midst of this festive season, we are readily reminded of the support we get from friends and family. As grassroots leaders, we often lean on our friends and family to bake muffins for a fundraiser, proofread our grants, and babysit our kids during a meeting; the list can go on and on!

When many grassroots groups start out, the core volunteer team is made of the founder’s friends and family. There are lots of benefits to this!

First of all, you already know your volunteers and they already know you. You’re familiar with each other’s communication styles, strengths, skills, and weaknesses. Secondly, you don’t need to formally recruit, which will save you some time and effort. Most importantly, your existing relationships with these volunteers mean that they trust you and know that you are legitimate. Building legitimacy is hard work, and having volunteers who come in with confidence in you and your organization makes things a lot easier.

Having friends and family on your volunteer team is amazing, but beware of challenges that may arise. For example: in my family, my mom is the boss; what she says goes. But as the founder of my grassroots group, it’s my role to lead the volunteers.

If my mom joins my volunteer team, I know that I’ll have her support and her amazing communications skills, but our entire power dynamic will change! Also, how am I supposed to give constructive criticism to my mom? And what if my mom wants to come to meetings late, but I expect all volunteers to be on time? Finally, my mom is already doing fantastic volunteer work for her local theatre organization, and frankly just isn’t as excited about my gardening group. How do I make sure my group can be successful without her long-term commitment?

Thankfully, the Grassroots Growth project is here to help. The chart below outlines what you can do to mitigate common challenges to volunteering with friends and family.

How to supervise your friends and family

For more free resources on work-life balance, please visit grassrootsgrowth.ca. Today we are releasing two brand-new interactive training modules through this website: Preventing and Managing Burnout, Volunteering with Friends and Family. Our vibrant online community supports volunteer-run organizations across Ontario with informative handbooks, downloadable templates, and opportunities to share ideas with other grassroots leaders.

You can also register for one of our free workshops on a variety of subjects pertinent to grassroots leaders at www.volunteertoronto.ca/page/GrassrootsWorkshops. 

 

Grassroots Growth Website

 

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

Tags:  grassroots groups  Grassroots organizations  volunteerism  volunteer-run organizations  volunteers  volunteers supporting your cause 

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How Do YOU Inspire Action?

Posted By Melina Condren, Director of Engaging Organizations, December 10, 2015
Updated: December 10, 2015
 

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes 

Inspiration is an important part of any volunteer’s journey. It’s what makes people want to give back to their community and what motivates them to stick around, week after week, giving their time, energy and skills to a good cause. As its title suggests, this blog is all about inspiring action—and so is our upcoming conference for volunteer managers!

The schedule has just been released for VECTor (Volunteering, Engaging, Connecting Toronto) 2016, and the common theme across all workshops, panels and discussion groups is 'Inspiring Action'—how to get volunteers interested, keep them motivated and make sure you have a dedicated, driven team. We’ll hear from our amazing VECTor presenters in the months to come, but to get you thinking about inspiring action in your volunteer program, let’s take a closer look at what you can do in the months ahead.  


Tell the Volunteer Story

Nothing is more inspiring than hearing about regular people doing amazing things. Learning about your current volunteers’ impact can help potential volunteers picture themselves in the role and gain confidence in their ability to have an impact in your organization. Check out our Volunteers of Toronto site for examples of inspirational volunteer spotlights.


The Mission is the Message
 

According to the Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement, volunteer programs should have a mission-based approach. That means that all of your volunteer positions should be clearly linked to your organization’s mission, so that volunteers can easily see how they’re making a difference and helping others.


Share Volunteer Impact 

The best way to make sure that initial inspiration doesn’t quickly fade once volunteers are faced with the realities of their work is to share with them the impact of the role. Make sure you track volunteer contributions and measure program outcomes to be able to tell volunteers exactly what it is they’re helping you accomplish.

The common thread among these three inspiration strategies is that volunteering—freely giving your time to benefit people who need your help—is inspirational in and of itself! Highlighting that through volunteer stories, mission-based roles and volunteer impact statements can help people understand how valuable volunteering can be, for themselves and for their communities.

Want to learn more about inspiring volunteer action? Check out the VECTor 2016 website and stay tuned for Registration to open in January 2016!

 
 
  Melina 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:  get people volunteering  how to motivate volunteers  Inspiring volunteers  supervise volunteers  volunteer action  volunteer management  volunteerism  ways to volunteer 

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3 Little Books With Big Advice For Grassroots Organizations

Posted By Claire McWatt, Project Coordinator - Grassroots Growth, November 13, 2015
Updated: November 12, 2015
 
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes  

 

When just starting out, it can be extremely difficult to understand the basics of building the nonprofit of your dreams. Actually – this doesn’t just apply to new groups, but to all the small, volunteer-run community groups looking to expand. With resources stretched to the limit, and time as your largest hurdle, getting help with the logistics is a necessity.

Fortunately, Volunteer Toronto’s Grassroots Growth project is here to help! With a free suite of resources to support the little organizations that make a big impact, we are working to ensure this need is covered. The project is still in development, but until then, we have identified a few great resources that can take you from chaos to coordinated without breaking the bank.

American Nonprofit specialist Erik Hanberg has brought a refreshing spin to world of nonprofit management with his For Small Non-Profits series. The books can be purchased for less than $20 (or just $9.99 for the Kindle version), and provide a realistic, no-nonsense point of reference on essential topics such as Social Media and Fundraising.

His approach is simple – avoid using too much jargon, and recognize that not all nonprofits are built the same. Smaller groups face unique challenges, and thus the solutions should take that into account. Many grassroots groups are completely self-funded, and his guide, The Little Book of Gold: Fundraising for Small (and Very Small) Non-Profits is a great start for navigating the complicated but critical task of asking for money.

 

In The Little Book of Likes: Social Media for Small (and Very Small) Non-Profits, Hanberg uses this same relatable approach and applies it to designing a social media strategy. Often social media is a barrier for less established groups, and can be intimidating. The book, which is very small and straight to the point, is easy to read, and is useful for groups with a variety of experience levels.

  


The newest of the series, The Little Book of Boards: For Small (and Very Small) Non-Profits, is a perfect introduction to the confusing world of nonprofit governance, and can help smaller groups implement a structure that suits their unique needs. Policies and procedures are an important part of staying on track, and whether you need to implement new ones, update old ones or learn the basics before joining an established board, this book has you covered.

 

For more information, check out the author’s website, where you can find a useful blog, as well as occasional giveaways of his books for free!

 

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:  board of directors  fundraising  grassroots groups  Grassroots organizations  non-profits  social media  volunteerism  volunteer-run groups 

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Advice For A New Volunteer Manager - Jade Pichette

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, October 15, 2015
Updated: October 14, 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 third installment with advice from Jade Pichette, Volunteer and Community Outreach Coordinator at Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives



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

Tags:  advice  supervising volunteers  The6ix  tips  volunteer coordination  volunteer engagement  Volunteer Management  volunteer program  volunteerism 

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