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Why group volunteering isn't as easy as you think

Posted By Melina Condren, Director of Services for Non-Profits, December 15, 2017
 Ask Kelly Banner

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes | Written by Melina Condren

In the past few years, we’ve seen more and more for-profit organizations seek out group volunteering in order to boost employee engagement and expand their social responsibility strategies. Unfortunately, finding a volunteer opportunity for your team AND making a big impact with a non-profit partner isn’t always easy.

On a practical level, many non-profits simply don’t have the space to accommodate a crowd of people. In addition to taking a lot of space, it also takes a lot of time and effort to organize team opportunities. Between planning a task, making sure everyone is properly trained, setting up and cleaning up the space, and all the other responsibilities that are part of holding a successful large-scale event, many volunteer managers don’t have the time to invest in group volunteering. Finally, the type of work that can get done by a group in one day isn’t always the type of work that’s needed most.

To make sure your volunteer experience steers clear of these pitfalls, here are five tips to get you started in planning meaningful, high-impact group volunteering:

 

Plan ahead

We get a lot of last-minute inquiries about group volunteer opportunities, but the truth is that many of them fill up months in advance. Start planning early to make sure that you find an opportunity that aligns with your organization’s mission and values, and to give the non-profit you’re working with plenty of time to prepare.

Split up into teams

Finding two volunteer opportunities for twenty people may be easier than finding one opportunity for forty. If you have a large group and you want everyone to volunteer, consider breaking up into smaller teams and helping out a few different causes. You’ll be able to choose from a much wider range of non-profits to work with, since so many can’t accommodate crowds.

Be prepared to donate money, not just time

Engaging large groups of volunteers takes a lot of time, effort, and resources, so the return on investment just isn’t worth it for many non-profits. Be prepared to make a financial contribution to help cover the costs of the staff time and resources that are being invested to make your volunteer experience successful or donate the food and supplies for the program you’re assisting with. For example, if you volunteer to pack welcome bags with toiletries, towels and pyjamas for a shelter, you might be expected to donate the supplies, not just the time it takes to pack them.

Build lasting partnerships

There are many different ways that employers can support volunteering and give back to their communities—not just by having a big, one-day volunteer event. You could organize a recurring fundraising event and donate the proceeds to a charitable partner, getting your employees involved by contributing or helping to coordinate the fundraiser. Or, you could encourage your employees to volunteer individually in ongoing programs for causes they care about, and support them in doing so with flexible work hours or extra time off. You could even volunteer as a team for the same organization each year, helping to plan, staff and provide the supplies for an annual event. Whatever you choose to do, making an ongoing commitment to a non-profit that goes beyond a single day of service is one of the best ways to make a meaningful impact.

Learn best practices

If you’re reading this blog post, you probably want to learn more about how to incorporate volunteering into your organization. As a next step, I recommend taking a look at the Canadian Code for Employer Supported Volunteering. It’s a great resource put together by Volunteer Canada that provides guidance to help you establish or improve an employer supported volunteer program.

 

Group volunteering isn’t easy, but when it’s done well it can be a great way to make a difference and give back. By following these five tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating a volunteer experience that your team, and the non-profit you support, will be grateful for.

 

  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:  Activism  applying to volunteer  Career  City of Toronto Development  Event Volunteering  Give Back  group volunteering  How to give back  How to start volunteering  how to volunteer  How to volunteer in Toronto  How to volunteer to help the homeless  Leadership  Make a Difference  Office Volunteer  poverty reduction  Questions about volunteering  short-term volunteering  skilled volunteering  Skilled Volunteers  Skills  Toronto volunteers  types of volunteer positions  Volunteer  volunteer engagement  volunteer for one day  Volunteer for the holiday  volunteer in group  Volunteer in Toronto  volunteer leaders  Volunteer questions  Volunteering  volunteering in Toronto  Volunteerism  volunteers  Ways to volunteer  What's It Like To Volunteer  Work 

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Why you need to get a head start on your holiday volunteering

Posted By Cara Eaton, November 13, 2017
Updated: November 13, 2017
 Holiday volunteering opportunities

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes 

 

Halloween is over. The costumes are stored away and the candy is down to the last packet of Rockets and straggling Tootsie rolls. Stores have started unpacking their holiday decorations, getting ready to bombard the masses with tinsel, spinning dreidels and wreaths of inordinate sizes. Every year I think to myself, “Are they really decorating now?” but I am starting to realize they’ve gotten it right.

If you’re like me, you enjoy getting your shopping done early to avoid the long lines, repetitive music and over-abundance of good cheer. The same should go for your holiday volunteering activities.

Over the years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of people who call us on Christmas Eve, hoping to find a place to volunteer. Although well intentioned, many believe it’s possible to just show up at a soup kitchen or shelter to donate their time. Sadly, times have changed and it’s not the reality anymore. There are a limited number of volunteer roles available over the holidays and most get snapped up even before December has even started.

It’s not that organizations don’t want or need the help, it’s that they could use it year-round, not just during the holiday season. Most charities are looking for passionate, reliable, dedicated volunteers who are willing to give their time throughout the year to support their cause. These are often the volunteers who are anointed with the coveted holiday shifts. They know the staff, have been properly trained and are comfortable with the in’s and out’s of the organization.

"Often, the generosity that many of our program participants receive around the holidays is so great that it can be very difficult for them in the new year when the holiday meals, special donations and influx of volunteers taper off. The new year can be a cold and difficult time of year particularly for those who are homeless or precariously housed. Many holiday volunteers don’t realize this, and if they did, some might change the way/time of year they volunteer as a result."

- Kaleigh Wisman, Community Relations Coordinator
at West Neighbourhood House

 

So, I suggest taking all the enthusiasm to give back that you get as December approaches and consider volunteering not just for a day but for a few months or longer. If that won’t do, and you are set on volunteering over the holiday season, then set yourself up for success by contacting organizations NOW. Don’t wait until the last minute! Search using our 'Holiday Volunteering' category to see what opportunities are currently available.  If you’re too late and can’t find anything, think local. Research charities in your area then call or email them directly to see if they will need help. Or, check out other informal ways you can give back this season. 

When you properly plan both you and the organization you support will have a positive experience, making everyone’s holiday season an extraordinary one.  

 

If you are media looking to speak on volunteering during the holidays please get in touch with Cara Eaton, Marketing and Communications Manager at Volunteer Toronto.

Tags:  Christmas volunteering  holiday volunteer opportunities  Holiday Volunteering  holiday volunteers  How do I volunteer at Christmas  How to volunteer during Christmas  Volunteer for the holiday  volunteer holidays 

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