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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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5 Ways Volunteering Can Help You Find a Job

Posted By Kelly Devries, Community Engagement Coordinator, October 7, 2015
Updated: October 5, 2015

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes 

Maya Atallah - Volunteer “When I came to the city last year, as you can expect things were not very easy: different lifestyle, different culture and most of all different weather! I was completely out of my comfort zone and wanted to quickly blend in and feel like I was part of this new community. When I started volunteering at Volunteer Toronto, it totally changed my life. I suddenly regained my passion, developed a sense of commitment and felt awesome when helping others. It has also allowed me to practice my marketing skills for a good cause and opened my eyes to how nice people are in the city and how diversity is what Toronto is all about.” 


- Maya Atallah

 

Maya moved to Canada from Egypt over 12 months ago. She was an ace volunteer at Volunteer Toronto working as a Referral Councellor, Outreach Presenter and Social Media Advisor helping individuals connect to meaningful volunteer opportunities. After a few months on the job hunt, this fall, she was able to land a new job in Corporate Marketing. 

Maya’s story isn’t unique. Many people turn to volunteering when looking for work. As Maya’s story outlines, volunteering can help job-seekers regain passion, connect with others and become familiar with a new city. It can also help you in other ways.

 

Here are 5 ways volunteering can help you find a job:

 

Helps Develop Your Skills

When thinking about the job you would like, reflect on what skills are necessary for the position. Think about hard skills, like IT knowledge or nursing experience, and soft skills, like leadership, managing multiple priorities and research. What skills would you like to develop? Search for volunteer opportunities that suite the hard or soft skills you’d like to improve.

 

Allows You To Network

Volunteering allows you the opportunity to meet many new people. Reflect on who you would like to make connections with and look for volunteer opportunities that will allow you to make some of those connections.

 

Gives You Interview Practice

The application process for volunteer positions often mirrors looking for work. Usually, you will be asked for a cover letter and resume and need to participate in interviews, whether by phone or in-person.  This is an awesome opportunity to practice adapting cover letters and resumes for specific roles and to practice answering questions in an interview.

 

Provides You With Constructive Feedback

In general, volunteer coordinators want to see their volunteers thrive in their role and in life more generally. When volunteering, feel free to ask for feedback from your supervisor about your performance in the role. This will help you identify your strengths and work on your areas of improvement. If you don’t get the volunteer position you were hoping for, ask how you could have improved in the application process.

 

Helps You Earn Great References

Many volunteer coordinators will provide references for your service. If this is important to you, make sure to ask the Volunteer Manager if they give references before you start in the position. Of course getting a great reference will depend on you doing your volunteer service well: arrive on time, do the tasks to the best of your ability and ask questions if you don’t understand something.        

 

And remember, volunteering won’t only benefit you as a job-seeker, but it can be an incredibly fun and engaging way to get involved in your community and better our city!

 

 
 Kelly Devries, Community Engagement Coordinator Kelly Devries is Volunteer Toronto's Community Engagement Coordinator. She coordinates a team
of hardworking volunteers who represent Volunteer Toronto at community events. She is the voice
of our Volunteer Times newsletter and assists the many events and programs we organize
to inspire people in Toronto to volunteer.
 

Tags:  Career  Finding a Job  How to get a job  Job Hunt  volunteer engagement  Volunteering  Work  Work Experience 

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Finding Your Sense of Fulfillment

Posted By Samantha Glave, September 21, 2015
Updated: September 21, 2015

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Does your job provide you with a sense of fulfillment? Or, do you feel invisible in your workplace? No one epitomizes this feeling better than Milton Waddams, the silent, disgruntled employee from the hilarious 1999 comedy 
Office Space. 

 

Milton had been laid off for years but was so ignored and unnoticed by his colleagues and superiors that no one saw fit to inform him. The only reason he continued to show up at work was because he still got paid, thanks to a glitch in the payroll system! 

Now, Milton is an extreme example, but he does illustrate how negatively the work we do on a daily basis can make us feel if it’s not gratifying.  He demonstrates what can result when your skills or potential are underused, go unnoticed and when your work doesn’t allow you to feed your passions. Not everyone has the luxury of finding that perfect job or career, the one that checks all the boxes and fulfills your passions and goals. Fortunately, there is something you can do to rid yourself of this drudgery. It’s not found in a magic pill, nor will it be found in an eBook at the affordable cost of only $19.99! The solution to finding work you enjoy that gives you a sense of purpose is through volunteering. There are hundreds of organizations seeking individuals to contribute their time and efforts in a variety of ways. When you volunteer, it’s not only the organization and the population it serves who profit; it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Heidi Tsao is a volunteer with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), The Santa Claus Parade and Not Far From The Tree.  She has come to realize that “just as with personal relationships, where you can't be all things to one person, you can't expect all your work fulfillment from one position either.”  Her various volunteer positions allow her to express her creativity, something she’s unable to do in her day job. Her volunteer work allows her to think of new ways to bring organizational goals and ideas to life.

Volunteering has been a part of Jennifer Hingston’s life from an early age. She explains that being part of the National Ballet of Canada’s volunteer committee “provides me with a different outlet for my creativity.” This position also allows her to satisfy her interest for this beautiful art form.

You too can find opportunities that make you happy, giving you the chance to showcase your skills and allowing you to reach your full potential. All that’s required on your part is a bit of reflection and some effort. Here are 3 steps to help you in your search.

Another chance to find your perfect opportunity is happening on September 24, 2015. Attend Craft Your Change, a one-night event that brings together good beer, good people and great causes. Aimed at Toronto professionals, it allows people to create their own opportunity by offering their skills and strengths to non-profits looking for volunteers.

 

 
 

Samantha Glave is a writer and editor whose work is regularly published on the Ontario Public Service’s intranet.
When she’s not writing, you can find her watching science-fiction, doing kettle bell workouts or reading the
latest research on raising the ‘strong-willed’ child. She lives in Toronto with her husband and their six-year old son. 
You can find her on LinkedIn

 

Tags:  Career  Happiness  Life  Volunteering  Work 

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