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St. Albert Appreciates Volunteers

National Volunteer Week was a huge success! There were many great volunteer appreciation events across the province and staff represented Volunteer Alberta at a number of events, including the Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon hosted by the St. Albert Community Information and Volunteer Centre (CIVC).

When Ellie (VA Program Coordinator) and I arrived at the St. Albert Alliance Church Hall, it immediately became clear this was going to be an outstanding event. There was a constant stream of vehicles pouring into this large parking lot. The venue was adorned with white and orange balloons and streamers; it took on the feel of a gala rather than a modest luncheon. The hall was filled with over 300 volunteers, public officials, small business owners and honored guests – the atmosphere was one of tremendous warmth.

Emcee Glennis Kennedy, from the St. Albert CIVC, welcomed everyone and introduced special guests St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse and Member of Parliament for Edmonton-St. Albert Brent Rathgeber, who both expressed their heartfelt thanks to the volunteers of St. Albert. Last year’s Volunteer Citizen of the Year, Anna Rodger, was then invited on stage to say grace. After Anna’s beautiful words, everyone filed into the buffet lines.

Waiting in line for lunch, it was fascinating to see all these outstanding members of the community treat each other with such admiration. These volunteers, who are used to serving others, now found themselves being catered to for their invaluable contribution to their community, and yet their incredible spirit of giving still shone through. As Ellie and I waited in the salad line we remarked at the diversity of the group, and how these volunteers made up what seemed to be a perfect cross section of the community. It was uplifting, seeing teenagers sharing a laugh with seniors, and individuals of every walk of life together celebrating the vital role of volunteerism.

After lunch, Glennis drew door prizes contributed by local businesses.  When all the prizes were gone, we were all treated to a performance by the musical comedy group, Il Duo. They put on a great show and there couldn’t have been a more perfect way of putting smiles on the faces of the volunteers of St. Albert. Their performances had people doubled over in their seats laughing. At the end of the event we were all encouraged to take individual cakes baked in mason jars with tangerine icing… by a volunteer, of course. They had thought of every detail – the event was organized largely by volunteers, after all.

Mayor Crouse said something during his remarks that stuck with me; he pointed out that without the efforts of volunteers there would be no extracurricular school activities, no amateur sport, no music festivals, or religious institutions. These are the things that make a community a community. The Mayor captured the true essence of volunteerism, and this event captured the true essence of community.

A big thank you to the St. Albert CIVC for their incredible hospitality. Congratulations on a successful event and Volunteer Alberta looks forward to attending next year!

Tim Henderson
Office & Communications Coordinator

What I learnt by listening

A few months ago I sat in on a presentation of The Art of Selling the Invisible – one of Volunteer Alberta’s newest workshops, helping organizations market their volunteer opportunities to recruit new volunteers, as well as retain their current volunteers. One of my key takeaways was the need to conduct satisfaction interviews with your current volunteers – see if they’re happy in their role, happy with the way the organization works, and ask if there are any areas they’d like to expand into within the organization.

One of my volunteer activities is managing a completely volunteer-run online magazine, Sound and Noise, so I decided to apply that learning to my own organization. It had never occurred to me to actually ask our volunteers whether they were happy with their experience, which is strange because the reason I began managing the magazine was that I was dissatisfied with my own experience.

While the prospect of sitting down with our volunteers and asking for feedback on how I was doing seemed daunting, I was surprised at how easy the process ended up being. The Editor and I sat down to decide what questions we wanted to start with. I was a little wary, as the four questions we came up with seemed so basic. I wasn’t sure if we would get the feedback we wanted (or needed!) from our questions, but I decided to give it a shot.

We decided to ask:

  • General check in – what do you want to do more of? What do you want to do less of? Are there any particular skills you’d like to improve by being involved with Sound and Noise?
  • If you weren’t a writer, would you read Sound and Noise? Why or why not? What would make you a regular reader?
  • Do you find our writing workshops helpful? How do you feel about the quality of writing on the magazine?
  • How is the writing and editing process? How can we improve it?

I was blown away by the responses I got.

Once I bought our volunteers a coffee and sat down to chat with them, they completely opened up about everything that is right – and wrong – with the magazine. But more than that, they were more than willing to give me concrete suggestions for things I should keep the same and ways I could improve their experience. I went into my meetings expecting to hear general comments such as, “I like the atmosphere” or, “I want to improve my articles,” but I ended up hearing things like:

  • You should highlight the events you think we should review.
  • The workshops are great, but can we do more workshops about concept pieces?
  • I’m interested in helping out with the editorial process.

On top of all the great suggestions I got directly from the people who see “the other side” of the work I do, I got the sense that the volunteers were happy they were able to contribute in a different way to the magazine. In turn, asking for feedback makes it more likely that they’ll continue on as volunteers, and maybe take on greater roles within the magazine.

What about you? Have you ever conducted a satisfaction interview with your volunteers? What types of questions did you ask and what feedback did you get?

For more information on The Art of Selling the Invisible please contact Annand at aollivierre@volunteeralberta.ab.ca or (780) 482-3300 ext 231.

Jenna Marynowski
Marketing and Communications Manager

UN Report Paints New Picture of Volunteerism

“It is essential to understand and appreciate volunteerism in terms of the focus which it places on people centred approaches, on partnerships, on motivations beyond money, and on openness to the exchange of ideas and information.  Above all, volunteerism is about the relationships it can create and sustain among citizens of a country. It generates a sense of social cohesion and helps to create resilience [which] are often the mainstay of a decent life for which all people strive. Volunteerism is an act of human solidarity, of empowerment and of active citizenship.”

This is one of the closing remarks of the 2011 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report, an informative and enthusiastic testament to the value of volunteering in all corners of the world. The report is the United Nation’s first on volunteering and marks the 10th anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers.

While the focus of the report is on how volunteerism contributes to peace and development globally, the insights it shares are certainly applicable right here in Alberta. The report defines ‘development’ as much more than economic growth, instead it sees development as “expanding the choices available to people so that they may lead lives that they value”. This definition challenges us to think about volunteering differently, to see it as even more powerful than many of us in the voluntary sector believe.

The Volunteerism Report dismisses the idea that volunteerism is a one-way street where the volunteer gives and someone else benefits. Instead advocating an understanding of volunteering as a reciprocal relationship where volunteering works to benefit the volunteer and their community simultaneously.

With this in mind, the report provides a wide range of examples of how those engaging volunteers around the world are changing their techniques to achieve their goals.  Rather than only sending volunteers from developed countries to developing countries, international volunteering programs are involving people from developing countries as volunteers themselves. Volunteers living in poverty remind us that while a lack of income may restrict their opportunities, they also have knowledge, skills, labour, and networks. Through volunteering, they are able to improve their own lives while sharing these assets with their communities. These are lessons that we can apply here in our own province.

A quick glance at the 2010 Canadian Survey of Giving, Volunteering, and Participating (CSGVP) statistics, released last month, shows the pronounced effect volunteering has on our communities. For volunteers, the benefits of getting involved are numerous; volunteering offers people an opportunity to change the society they live in, for example, through political lobbying and activism. Volunteering provides individuals with skills and values they can bring with them into the workforce, or to continue to use a lifetime of knowledge. There is a correlation between volunteering and improved mood, life satisfaction, self-respect, and increased physical health. Alberta is great because of our volunteers, but volunteers may just be the biggest winners of all.

Join us in celebrating volunteerism in Canada and all the good that it represents during National Volunteer Week, April 15th–21st.

If you’d like to find out more about world-wide volunteerism, you can read the 2011 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report here.

Sam Kriviak
Program Coordinator

Volunteers Vote 2012 Helps You Gear Up for the Spring Election!

With the provincial election coming soon, Volunteer Alberta is connecting you with the information you need to be an informed voter. Volunteers Vote 2012 is a non-partisan guide to the upcoming spring election. The webpage features the policies of each party, in their own words, on the issues relevant to volunteers and Alberta’s nonprofit/voluntary sector.

Between mainstream media and social media, there are hundreds of sources of information regarding this upcoming election. Volunteers Vote 2012 gives Albertans an impartial and non-partisan source of information with a focus on the issues facing the nonprofit/voluntary sector.

Volunteers Vote 2012 provides links to the campaign platforms of each provincial party and how their positions affect Alberta’s nonprofit/voluntary sector. In addition to the party platforms, Volunteers Vote 2012 provides basic information to help you determine which riding you vote in, and which candidates are running in your riding. There is also an FAQ page to answer questions regarding voter eligibility and voter registration.

People who work and volunteer in the nonprofit/voluntary sector are some of the most engaged Albertans, so you know better than anyone what challenges the sector faces in this province. This provincial election will affect the future of the sector, so make sure you are informed and take advantage of this opportunity to exercise your democratic right. Volunteer Alberta will be updating Volunteers Vote 2012 regularly so check back for updates as Election Day draws near. Please access this resource in the weeks leading up to the election.

Volunteer Alberta wants to know what most affects the way you vote. Is it the party, party leader, candidate, party platform or some other reason? Cast your vote in the Volunteers Vote 2012 poll.

 

Tim Henderson

Office/Communications Coordinator

Volunteer Management Isn’t Just a Buzzword

 

Being (what I term) a serial volunteer, as well as working in the nonprofit/voluntary sector, has given me some special insight into how to go about managing volunteers. I’m always happy every time a volunteer manager (either by title or by their role within the organization) makes sure that I, as a volunteer, am satisfied with my experience, and know that I am appreciated. One of the reasons I started working at Volunteer Alberta was because I was interested in ensuring every volunteer has a good experience, and wants to become even more involved in their community.

However, I’m sure we’ve all had experiences where we – as volunteers – were managed poorly. I had one such experience recently while attending a meeting of an organization that is just in the early stages of incorporating as a nonprofit. So, what did I, as a manager of volunteers at another organization, learn about volunteer recruitment and management from this experience? Here are just three things, but I’m sure there’s many more:

  1. Ask your volunteers what they want from you. What are they looking to get out of their experience? Why are they giving their time? By asking these two simple questions, you can create a role that’s suited to the volunteer – not ask them to take on a role that they are either unsuited for, or that doesn’t interest them.
  2. Always let your volunteers know what to expect from a meeting. If volunteers know what to expect from a meeting, they can come prepared to contribute in a meaningful way. If they know what to expect, they will also leave the meeting knowing how their input contributed to the organization or the project, and will be more satisfied with the outcome of the meeting. Personally, if I had known what to expect from the meeting I recently attended, I would have left the meeting much more satisfied with the outcome, and would be much more likely to come back and volunteer my skills to them again.
  3.  Show your volunteers that you value their time. Whether you send out an agenda (which is something I frequently do for the volunteers I manage), or just manage the meeting in an efficient way (including being there when the volunteers arrive), volunteers are giving their time (personally, one of my most valuable resources), and we should be appreciative of that.

Volunteer Alberta has some great resources on management of volunteers, including resources about:

Your turn! What lessons have you learnt about volunteer management – either through the way you, as a volunteer, were managed, or in your role of managing volunteers in your organization?
– Jenna Marynowski
Communications and Marketing Manager

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