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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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Meet some of the stellar volunteers working on Grassroots Week

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, March 17, 2017
Updated: March 15, 2017

 Grassroots Week Website

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Grassroots Week, a time to celebrate Ontario’s volunteer-run non-profits, is fast approaching. With the completion of our Grassroots Growth project at the end of the month, we are excited to showcase the amazing leaders and groups we’ve met over the last two years. Just as volunteers are key to the success of any grassroots initiative, so they are to the success of our Grassroots Week. 

 

We wanted to take a moment to introduce you to three of the stellar volunteers who have be working to help make Grassroots Week possible. Meet Miles, Laura and Alex!

 

 Miles Mayordomo

 

Miles Mayordomo works in project management at the College of Nurses of Ontario. He moved to Toronto to study at York University from a small town in Manitoba, where his family settled after emigrating from the Philippines. Miles’ attention to detail and superb scheduling skills are integral to his work on the Grassroots Week Panel Series (happening March 21-23). He has organized three two-hour panels that feature trailblazing grassroots leaders like Michael Prosserman, Salomeh Ahmadi, and Farah Mawani. Each panel focuses on a different aspect of grassroots work: starting a grassroots group, volunteer management, and media engagement.

 Laura Scrivener

 

Laura Scrivener is a bilingual graduate of York University’s Glendon College, where she studied political science and government. She’s very passionate about and engaged with social and environmental issues, which led her to volunteer with the Grassroots Week team. Laura is coordinating the Raise the Roots Leaders’ Brunch, which provides grassroots leaders with opportunities to gather together to network and learn. This brunch is open to all grassroots leaders who have attended a Grassroots Growth workshop, and have registered for an account on grassrootsgrowth.ca.

 Alex Jesus

 

Alex Jesus recently returned to Ontario from the UK, where she spent the last two years travelling and working at Radian, a social housing association. A proud Western University grad, she is starting an event planning program at Humber College this fall and joined the Grassroots Week team to build her experience in this area. Alex is coordinating the Grassroots Volunteer Fair, the finale event of Grassroots Week! It’s a great opportunity to meet with 50+ local non-profits and find out about volunteer opportunities in Toronto. Also, If you have a grassroots group and would like to request a table, please register here.

 

Jessica Pang-Parks, our Education Coordinator, took a moment to chat with Miles, Laura, and Alex about grassroots work and what inspired them to volunteer with this project.

 

JPP: It’s been such a pleasure to work with all three of you! Thank you for taking on the planning and implementation for our Grassroots Week events. So, why are grassroots groups important to you?

 

AJ: In a world where money is the catalyst for just about everything, grassroots groups are a breath of fresh air. Starting a grassroots group can be difficult but it’s almost always done for positive community growth. There is something amazing about everyday people coming together and donating their time to make the world a better place.

 

MM: I owe a lot to grassroots groups from a social and professional perspective. My close circle of friends all came from the various grassroots organizations that I’ve volunteered for. These organizations and their supportive members helped me grow as a community organizer and leader. Over time, my grassroots experiences translated into my employment in the Project Management field.

 

LS: I agree with Miles, grassroots volunteering is a great opportunity for growth; volunteers can grow their skills, their networks, and their compassion. Personally, I see grassroots involvement as an important component of improving communities and protecting the environment. I’m passionate about working with the Grassroots Growth project because it has allowed me to branch out with my professional skills.

 

JPP: That’s awesome! For me, this project is inspiring because I’ve gotten to meet so many amazing volunteer-run groups. I love cats and had the opportunity to chat with the Annex Cat Rescue, who just celebrated their twentieth anniversary! Which grassroots group inspires you, and why?

 

LS: My favourite grassroots group to date is the Toronto Seed Library. I am very passionate about alternatives to industrial farming and concerned about reliance on monocultures (which are highly susceptible to crop failure). Seed libraries around the world serve an important ecological function; the Toronto Seed Library started in 2012 and continues to provide insurance for the food diversity of humans and other living species.

 

AJ: I was really impressed when I heard about Fix the 6ix. This grassroots group collects mostly useless, partly-used gift cards and old Raptors’ tickets (that are eligible for a free slice from Pizza Pizza), to provide relief to Torontonians in need. They found something disposable to the average person and turned it into something impactful for Toronto’s homeless and at-risk individuals.

 

MM: I’m a big fan of the Toronto Spartan Volleyball League, the largest LGBT+ volleyball league in North America. They currently have over 600 members on 96 teams that participate cumulatively over the 2 divisions in the league. This league continues to grow, year after year, and continues to engage with grassroots volunteer organizers.

 

JPP: Amazing! Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and your talents with us. We’re so grateful to have your skills and expertise on the team. See you at Grassroots Week!

 

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 Growth  grassroots week  Grassroots Week Panels  Leader's Brunch  Raise the Roots  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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Measure Twice, Cut Once - Evaluating The Effectiveness of Your Volunteer Program

Posted By Sammy Feilchenfeld, Training Coordinator, March 16, 2016
Updated: March 14, 2016
 

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

A program evaluation is a process of reviewing all or part of a program to determine how efficiently and effectively it meets its goals. While you might be evaluating your volunteers regularly, you may not be evaluating the volunteer program itself! Through an assessment of key evaluation questions and determining proposed outcomes, you can collect data to analyze the success and impact of your volunteer program.

So why bother going through all of this effort? Here are a few great ways that a program evaluation can help you improve your volunteer program:

 

Measure efficiency

Do you sometimes struggle with finding work for volunteers to do? Do you have too many volunteers working on the same task? Your program’s efficiency can be improved by determining the work that needs to be done and the best way to do it (how many volunteers & volunteer hours, for example).

 

Measure effectiveness

Do you have a long-standing program that doesn’t meet changing needs? Are your volunteers resistant to changes that can improve program delivery? Your program’s effectiveness speaks to the success of volunteers – and their work – striving towards your organization’s mission. You can improve your volunteer program’s efficacy by understanding and eliminating the barriers to success.

 

Measure Impact

Are you going beyond efficiency and effectiveness and making lasting changes in the lives of clients? Do you know how to measure the direct impact of volunteers on clients? Even if you know your program’s impact is already felt or understood by the people who benefit from it, you can improve and advocate for your program by properly measuring and showcasing its impact. It will motivate your volunteers by showing them their impact, help you assess an overall direction for your volunteer program, and give you proof that your program is working that you can share with funders and decision makers.

 

How do you conduct an evaluation of your volunteer program in the middle of everything else you’ve got going on? Let us help you get started with “From Start to Finish: Building the Tools You Need to Evaluate your Volunteer Program” on April 21. You’ll leave this full day workshop with your evaluation questions written, logic model complete, achievable and well-planned goals established, data collection methods ready to go and a step-by-step plan to interpret your data. We’ll coach you through the process and you’ll be ready to take on your program evaluation with all the tools ready to go! Interested in learning more and signing up – click here and register today!

 

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:  evaluation  how to be more efficient in your volunteer program  Program evaluation  volunteer management  volunteer managers  volunteer programs  volunteers  ways to improve your volunteer program 

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4 Things to Think About When Increasing Diversity and Inclusion in Your Organization

Posted By Rui Miguel Martins, Volunteer Guest Blogger, February 29, 2016
Updated: February 26, 2016
 

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Toronto’s rapidly changing demographics present new opportunities and challenges for small organizations. Increasing diversity could help with networking and building relationships in your community, however, attracting people of diverse backgrounds is often difficult.

Jim Milligan is a certified LifeSkills coach and former volunteer manager. He spoke to a group of grassroots leaders about strategies for recruiting and retaining people of different backgrounds. It was the latest event in Volunteer Toronto’s Trailblazer Series, a set of leadership talks geared towards people who lead volunteer-run non-profits.

 

Here are the four things that organizations should consider when thinking about diversity and inclusion.

 

1. Frame of Reference

Are you open to thinking about your organization in new ways? What biases do you have? Everything we have experienced until this point in our lives has shaped our opinions and perceptions. Perspective is everything. Recognizing your frames of reference is critical when thinking about the recruitment and retention of volunteers.


2. Dimensions of Diversity

It is always important for an organization to have clearly-defined goals and a recruitment strategy in place. Begin by deciding what type of diversity you want to focus on. Diversity consists of many different dimensions including gender, sexual orientation, education, age, etc. Think about why your organization might be attractive to people of diverse audiences. How will your organization benefit? And how will the volunteer benefit from their involvement? Next, you need to decide how you are going to reach out to these groups. “Diversity is about how we are different and how those differences could enhance our relationships,” Milligan says. Diversity is a strength, not a barrier.


3. Cultural Competence

Non-profit leaders should be able to understand how our own cultural differences manifest themselves through beliefs, values, practices and through our biases. Having the professional skills to connect with each person and understand their world view is always important.


4. Deliberative Dialogue

Use dialogue that is intentional and collaborative. Listen to find meaning and understanding. This could mean admitting you are wrong or weighing the alternatives. The purpose should always be to find common ground. Your organization is about solving a problem and not about winning and losing. Oppositional or divisive language will just drive people away. “Good diversity always begins with you,” Milligan says. 

 

 

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:  board of directors  cultural competency  diversity in your non-profit  how to attract diverse people  increase diversity  Toronto  volunteer  Volunteer Toronto  volunteering  volunteers 

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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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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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