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SCiP’ing our way to National Volunteer Week!

National Volunteer Week is VA’s busiest week of the year; nearly all VA staff participate in the different events around the province, helping to recognize Alberta’s fantastic volunteers. Volunteer Alberta also administers Enhancement Funding, assisting communities and municipalities to celebrate local volunteers. Since NVW is the highlight of year, I thought it would be a great opportunity to involve a SCiP intern to help with getting out the Enhancement Funding.

The process of creating a job description was quite simple; over the past three National Volunteer Weeks, I’ve managed the Enhancement Funding application process so I found it quite easy to determine what our potential interns’ responsibilities would be. I wanted to make sure that we would engage her in a meaningful way and not just give her the task of compiling reports.

We had several applicants for the position, conducted interviews, and hired our intern!

On Kassie’s first day, the SCiP workbook really helped me orient her about a normal day at VA. I explained the project, detailed her roles and responsibilities, and she got right to work.

The Letter of Agreement was the only paperwork that SCiP required, but it was also a good opportunity to confirm VA’s expectations and have Kassie sign off on them, including her availability for the internship, how often we would expect her, and who to work with when she’s here.

Because National Volunteer Week is such a communications-based projects, we’ve been able to involve Kassie in our meetings with how to promote National Volunteer Week and Enhancement Funding. It’s been great to have a new perspective and enthusiasm, especially regarding a program that has been running for multiple years. The experience that she has had with school projects has been a great asset.

Having a SCiP intern work with the program team to help plan our activities for National Volunteer Week has given us a fresh perspective on one of Volunteer Alberta’s core programs. We’re continually on the lookout for other opportunities to bring interns into our programs as an essential component of our program planning.

Lisa Michetti
Member Engagement Manager

Edmonton Sun – Province launches volunteer-based bursaries

By Tanara McLean,Edmonton Sun

There’s a new $1,000 incentive for post-secondary students to volunteer.

The government of Alberta, in collaboration with Volunteer Alberta, has launched the Serving Communities Internship Program (SCiP), that will award $1,000 bursaries to post-secondary students who complete internships with any non-profit or volunteer organization.

“This is so much more than painting fences or cleaning up parks,” says Karen Lynch, executive director of Volunteer Alberta.

In the first year, 500 bursaries will be distributed throughout the SCiP pilot project, with up to 1,000 available by year three of the program.

Eligible students include anyone enrolled in a certificate, diploma, undergraduate, graduate or PhD program at one of Alberta’s 26 public post-secondary institutions.

The idea for the program was hatched by Timothy Jobs, chair of the Alberta Student’ Executive Council (ASEC) and his fellow council members.

“The idea came from the clear need to find innovative solutions to increase the affordability of our post secondary system,” says Jobs, adding that this project will “create a program to reward students for using their skills to benefit their communities.”

For Kirsten Poon, 20, the bursary program isn’t so much an incentive, but a bonus for her years of volunteering. The University of Alberta science student is chair of the City of Edmonton youth council and a board director for Literacy Without Borders.

“I’m excited to be exposed to these new experiences,” says Poon. “Doing a meaningful internship in the non-profit sector and learning new things. Hopefully it will inspire a lot of students.”

Lynch says although students may be driven to choose organizations based on their future careers, they aren’t limited in which non-profit they intern with to earn the bursary.

“We know that the real world doesn’t fit into faculties and descriptions of their objectives,” says Lynch.

In Alberta there are 19,000 charities and non-profit organizations that support 2.5 million volunteers. Almost 58% of Albertans volunteer, according to information gathered by Volunteer Edmonton.

The bursary funds are distributed throughout the Advanced Education and Technology ministry.

Premier Ed Stelmach says the program is an opportunity for students to “sharpen their skills” while making a bit of money. Stelmach also called the program “innovative,” saying it will “put Alberta ahead in so many jurisdictions when it comes to this sector.”

tanara.mclean@sunmedia.ca

 

National Study Finds Pitfalls and Opportunities in Changing Volunteer Landscape

Organizations Urged to Strengthen Strategies to Improve Volunteer Satisfaction

 A new national study shows that while Canada’s voluntary sector is the second largest in the world after the Netherlands, a significant number of volunteers report an experience that is less than satisfying.   The latest data on the changing culture of Canada’s voluntary sector was released today by Volunteer Canada, the national leader on volunteerism, in partnership with Manulife Financial.

The study found that 62 percent of Canadians who volunteer on a regular basis indicated they had at least one ‘negative experience’ either due to perceived organizational politics, the belief that their skills were not being put to  best use, feeling like they were not making a difference, or frustration with lack of support related to the volunteer activity.

The national research study gathered practical information for use by organizations to attract and retain skilled, dedicated volunteers.  The study revealed there are significant gaps between the opportunities organizations are providing and the meaningful experiences today’s volunteers are seeking.

“The primary gaps include the fact that many Canadians are looking for group or short-term activities but few organizations have the capacity to offer them or prefer a longer-term commitment,” said Ruth MacKenzie, President & CEO of Volunteer Canada. “In addition, many of those with professional skills are looking for volunteer tasks that involve something different from their work life.  While organizations are expected to clearly define the roles and boundaries of volunteers, many Canadians want to create their own volunteer opportunity,” she said.

Other respondents indicated that they would like to achieve some personal goals through volunteer work while at the same time help meet the needs of the organization.

Engaging volunteers in strategic roles in organizations will help nonprofit/voluntary sector organizations advance their mandates, and will create opportunities for individuals choosing to apply their skills sets to make a bigger difference in their communities,” said Karen Lynch, Executive Director of Volunteer Alberta. “We provide a number of programs, services and resources (through the Resource Centre for Voluntary Organizations at Volunteer Alberta) that will assist nonprofit/voluntary organizations across Alberta implement some of the ideas and trends captured in this study.”

Unlike earlier surveys that emphasized overall participation rates, this new research captured what Canadians want in their volunteer experiences, how easy it is for them to find satisfying volunteer roles, and what organizations can do to enhance their volunteer base and ultimately build stronger communities.

“Advances in technology, shifting demographics and increased resource pressures mean today’s organizations must re-evaluate all facets of their volunteer policies and practices, and ultimately embrace different approaches,” added MacKenzie.   “The findings suggest the optimal formula for engaging volunteers is one where organizations are well organized but not too bureaucratic and open to letting volunteers determine the scope of what they can offer.”

“The results also clearly indicate that it’s important to match a volunteer’s skills to the needs of the organization but not assume that the volunteer wants to use the skills specifically related to their profession, trade, or education,” she said.

Conducted on behalf of Volunteer Canada in the summer of 2010 by the Centre for Voluntary Sector Research & Development at Carleton University and Harris/Decima, the study provides the most current national data about the changing culture of Canada’s voluntary sector and the perspectives of four key groups:  youth, baby boomers, families, and employer-supported volunteers.

Respondents in these four groups revealed that the volunteer experiences individuals are looking for change significantly as Canadians move through the different stages of their lives.  The results also pointed to an increasing number of recent immigrants of boomer age, who could play a pivotal volunteer role in helping to integrate and support new immigrants into Canadian society, thanks to their unique cultural and linguistic skills.

Compounding the need for new approaches is the fact that Canadians are not necessarily following in the footsteps of Canada’s ‘uber volunteers’ who are getting older.  These uber volunteers represent about seven per cent of Canadians who contribute approximately 78 per cent of the volunteer time in Canada.

The research study results offer practical information that Canadian organizations can use to improve the way they involve volunteers by exploring the characteristics, motivations, and experiences of current volunteers, past volunteers, and those who have yet to try volunteering.

Overall, respondents indicated that organizations could improve the volunteer experience by: getting to know volunteers’ unique needs and talents; using a human resources approach that integrates both paid employees and volunteers; being flexible and accommodating to recognize volunteers’ other time commitments; respecting volunteers’ gender, culture, language and age differences; as well as providing more online volunteer opportunities.

“As Canada marks 10 years since we celebrated the United Nations International Year of Volunteers in 2001, applying the lessons learned from this research can help bridge the gap to more meaningful volunteer engagement in the future, and solidify volunteerism not just as a fundamental value of a civil society but as a true act of Canadian citizenship,” said Rosemary Byrne, Board Chair of Volunteer Canada.

The study was conducted on behalf of Volunteer Canada and in partnership with corporate leader in the sector Manulife Financial.  The research initiative is part of a multi-year program Manulife Financial is implementing to strengthen volunteerism in Canada in order to help build strong and sustainable communities for Canadians.

See the full study: Bridging the Gap

 

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