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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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Ask Kelly - What Is The Best Way For Me To Find A Volunteer Position?

Posted By Kelly Devries, Outreach Coordinator, March 7, 2016
Updated: March 4, 2016
 Ask Kelly Banner

 

“Ask Kelly” is our new blog series aimed at answering your most pressing volunteer questions. As Volunteer Toronto’s Community Engagement Coordinator, Kelly DeVries is our in-house expert on all things volunteering. Got a burning question? She’s here to help!

Submit your question to info@volunteertoronto.ca - subject line: Ask Kelly


Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Hello Kelly,

am retiring soon and interested in getting involved in a volunteer position. I last volunteered about twenty years ago, and it seems that the field has changed since I was last involved. Why is this? What is the best way for me to find a volunteer position?

 

Sincerely,

Mary

 


 

Hello, Mary

 

Thank you so much for your interest in volunteering! I am glad to hear that volunteering is part of your retirement plan!

Yes, you are right that the voluntary sector has changed significantly in the past twenty years. The primary reason for this is a greater concern for risk management and safety for the clients being served. This has translated into a more professionalized screening process for volunteers. For example, the application and screening process may now include:

 

  Submitting an application, possibly including a cover letter and resume 

  

Interview(s) by phone or in-person

 

 

Reference checks, Background checks or Vulnerable Sector Police Checks, particularly if you will be working with vulnerable populations

 

 

The best way for you to find a volunteer position is to follow the 3 R’s – Reflect, Research and Reach Out! 


  Before looking for a volunteer position, spend time thinking about what you would most be interested in. Here are some questions to reflect on:

a. What are you looking for from a volunteer position?

b. What is your availability?

c. Are you interested in a particular cause or organization?

d. What kind of skills would you like to use or gain?

e. How long would you like to commit to a position? A few months? A year?

   
Once you have a clear idea of what you are interested in start researching possible options. The best way to do this is visit our Volunteer Opportunities Page and search by Category. Be prepared to spend some time looking through the 100’s of postings on the website.
   
   

When you find a position title that appeals to you, apply to the position by following the instructions under the  “How to Apply/Contact” section of the posting. I would encourage you to apply to several different organizations at the same time. You never know which ones might work out or how many other people are applying.

 

You could also come to our Seniors Volunteer Fair at the North York Seniors Centre  on Tuesday, August 15 from 12PM-3PM to talk face-to-face with 25+ non-profits looking for senior volunteers.

If you need any additional help don’t hesitate to contact one of our Referral Counsellors who can spend some time answering your questions, and helping you navigate the website to find suitable positions. You can book an appointment with them here or give them a call at 416-961-6888 ext 229.

 

 

Kelly Devries, Community Engagement CoordinatorKelly 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:  Frequently Asked Questions  how to start volunteering  Questions about volunteering  volunteering in Toronto  volunteers 

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5 People Who Changed Toronto For The Better In 2015

Posted By Camara Chambers, Director of Community Engagement, January 11, 2016
Group photo of award winners
Winners of the 2015 Legacy Awards

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

At Volunteer Toronto, every day we hear tidbits about the incredible work being done by volunteers to make Toronto a city we’re proud to live in. Whether they are advocating for the rights of those less privileged, making it easier for people in low-income neighbourhoods to access food, or providing a home for the many abandoned cats in the city, Toronto wouldn’t be the same without the contribution of its volunteers.

And every now and again, we come across people who have gone above and beyond in their contribution and wowed us with their commitment to the community. Our annual Legacy Awards began in 2011 and shine a light on 25 special volunteers who have given an exceptional contribution to their community. Last year’s winners amazed us. Here are just five of their stories...


Photo of Khadija Aziz with Award Khadija Aziz, the youngest 2015 award winner, is an 18-year old youth leader and arts advocate in her community of Thorncliffe Park. Her belief that all youth should be encouraged to explore arts and take on leadership roles has resulted in her creating the first ever youth-led art show in East York called Thorncliffe Artscape. At school, her passion and advocacy for the arts influenced an increase in student participation and engagement  and recently, Khadija facilitated the creation of two live murals in downtown Toronto where twenty-four students put their artistic skills to use by painting two 5ft by 5ft canvasses that would be displayed at a youth shelter in Etobicoke. Go to www.khadijaaziz.ca to view her work. 
   
Photo of Yves Boucher with award  Yves Boucher was working as a fire fighter, when in 2008 he was diagnosed with a stage 3-4 brain tumour and told he only had 5 more years to live. Despite the side effects of the surgery and radiation/chemotherapy, he was still driven to help others and began volunteering his time at Gilda's Club of Greater Toronto, encouraging others to heal. Yves and his dog Betty volunteer at Bridgepoint Hospital visiting patients and providing inspiration for their rehabilitative therapy. When asked about the surgery scar on his head, he replies “Don’t worry, it’s just cancer!” He has helped raise over $25,000 for Princess Margaret Hospital where he continues to receive treatment.
   
Photo of Reesee with award Reesee survived an abusive relationship and several years later founded Reclaim Your Voice, an event series that creates a platform for survivors and those going through abuse to experience the power of sharing their stories. For many survivors of abuse, it stands as a place of solace and understanding for anyone looking to take an important step in the healing process by speaking out. The events, funded out of her own pocket, are open to men, women, survivors and supporters alike and restore survivors' faith in the opposite sex by emphasizing the compassion that exists within us all.  
   

Photo of Simon Chamberlain with Award

 

10 years ago, in an effort to revive the Mount Dennis community association, Simon Chamberlain became a strong voice actively leading community clean-ups and projects to bring people together. Over the past three winters, Simon has been the driving force behind the creation and supervision of one of the best resident-driven projects in Mount Dennis - an Outdoor Community Skating rink in Pearen Park. He spends 30-50 hours a week volunteering at the outdoor rink organizing one of Toronto's few "Learn to Skate Programs." and has been instrumental in helping hundreds of new skaters enjoy an outdoor sport they would not normally be exposed to.  

   
 Photo of Tamara Doerksen with Award

 

In 1971, Tamara Doerksen lost her brother to a congenital heart defect. In 2010, she launched Lonny’s Smile Foundation, a children's initiative to honour the memory of her brother, and help children with medical challenges to experience the typical elements of childhood such as play, friendship, laughter and adventure. Under Tamara’s leadership as CEO and Founder, Lonny’s Smile has raised over $100,000 to send more than 100 kids to Camp Oki, Canada’s first Summer Camp for children with congenital heart disease. 

   
 

Do you know someone deserving of recognition? We are accepting nominations for the 2016 Legacy Awards until 5pm on Thursday February 4th. If you know someone who deserves an award, nominate them today!

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:  Abuse Stories  Arts Advocates  Cancer  City of Toronto Volunteers  Gilda's Club of Greater Toronto  Legacy Awards  Lonny's Smile  Reclaim Your Voice  Thanking Volunteers  Toronto volunteers  Volunteer Appreciation Awards  volunteer celebration  volunteer recognition  Volunteers 

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