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Engaging New Volunteers: 2 Trends to Tap Into

Here at Volunteer Alberta, we keep our finger on the pulse of volunteer trends in Alberta and across the country. Two strong trends we have noticed over the past couple years: skilled volunteerism and student involvement.

Skilled Volunteerism

Skilled volunteers share unique skills or talents. Volunteers may share professional skills (accountants, lawyers, veterinarians, or photographers), or they may bring a personal talent or hobby (coaches, home cooks, face painters, or podcasters). Skilled volunteers can also be trained specifically for roles by your organization.

CoachSome examples of amazing skilled volunteers include:

  • an event photographer with an eye for storytelling through pictures
  • a lawyer providing legal advice or assistance
  • translators for newcomers
  • a soccer coach with an understanding of the game
  • web developers creating or enhancing a website

I’ve had some wonderful skilled volunteer experiences. I volunteer as a yoga teacher offering both professional skills and a hobby I enjoy – I am an accredited yoga teacher, and yoga is a personal passion.

I also volunteer as a Distress Line Listener with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), offering support over the phone for people in crisis. I am not a therapist, but this is still a skilled role that required 64 hours of training at CMHA and lots of ongoing development once I started on the lines.

What skills do you have that you might consider contributing to a cause you believe in?

The Window of Work is a great way to identify what skills or talents you may have to share.

Student Involvement

smiling-woman2In many ways, the trend of student involvement at nonprofit organizations is an extension of skilled volunteerism.

Students may volunteer for the opportunity to build their portfolios or gain professional experience. This includes offering newly acquired skills in areas like communications, medicine, counselling, or business planning. Nonprofits also provide real world experience for classroom concepts through programs like Community Service Learning (CSL). CSL is offered as a required placement in some postsecondary courses such as Human Ecology, Native Studies, Public Health, and Languages.

Serving Communities Internship Program

Volunteer Alberta’s Serving Communities Internship Program (SCiP) is another way students can offer their skills and learn new ones in Alberta nonprofit organizations. Launched in 2011, SCiP supports nonprofits to create skilled, part-time internships for post-secondary students. Organizations access talent, skills, and added human capacity, and students build their resumes, networks, and work experience while earning a $1000 award from the Government of Alberta. Over the past five years, SCiP has filled 4000 internships at 500 organizations in 50 Alberta communities. For the 2016/17 program year, SCiP has already filled over 400 of our available 1000 internship positions.

SCiP is successful because it offers mutual benefit for students and nonprofits, as well as for the communities they serve. In the long term, SCiP is also strengthening communities by developing sector advocates, supporters, and successors.

The great thing is that none of these benefits are limited to the Serving Communities Internship Program – by tapping into skilled volunteerism and student involvement, these outcomes are available to the whole nonprofit sector far beyond SCiP’s yearly capacity for internships.

Skilled Volunteerism & Student Engagement beyond SCiP

To begin engaging volunteers in skilled positions at your organization, start asking questions:

  • How can we engage people based on their skills, passion, and unique gifts?
  • How can we use volunteerism and community involvement as a tool for education? As a means of promoting our sector?
  • How does our approach to volunteerism change when we fill skilled position or engage students? What are the concerns and the opportunities?

It’s likely your answers will be slightly different than other nonprofits – but, no matter what your answers are, they will open up new pathways for volunteer involvement in your organization.

Does your nonprofit already strive to involve skilled volunteers and students to meet your mission? Tell us about your tips and successes in the comments!

Keep reading about skilled volunteerism on our website or learn more about SCiP.  

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

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Celebrate the people power behind volunteers on Volunteer Managers Day

 “Managers of volunteers work hard to make sure volunteer programs run smoothly. They care about keeping volunteers fulfilled and engaged.

And volunteers who feel fulfilled in their roles are more likely to stick to their volunteer commitments.

That’s something worth celebrating.”

-Volunteer Canada


ivmday16November 5 is International Volunteer Managers Day – an opportunity to recognize the people who make volunteering happen in Alberta and around the world.

About 2 million Albertans volunteer. That energy and commitment to our communities is astounding, and it’s important to acknowledge the Volunteer Managers who engage and lead Alberta’s volunteers to success.

Volunteer managers, by that title or another, are crucial to our nonprofit organizations. They are critical to events like charity runs, music festivals, and soccer tournaments. They ensure that food banks, hospital programs, and animal shelters run smoothly. They show young people how to get involved, connect newcomers, and keep seniors active in their communities.

Some celebration events coming up this week:

Volunteer Lethbridge is holding a Volunteer Managers’ Luncheon on November 4. All Volunteer Managers, Coordinators, and Supervisors are invited to attend, meet their peers, have a delicious meal, and enjoy some recognition for their important work!

Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organization’s (ECVO) is celebrating with an International Volunteer Managers Day Reception on November 4. Volunteer Managers, Coordinators, and those who engage volunteers in their professional role are invited to attend, feel appreciated, make new connections, and delve into the topic of balancing many roles within one job.

International Volunteer Managers Day was founded in 1999 in the United States, and was first celebrated on November 5 in 2008. As the day’s popularity grows, we hope an understanding and appreciation of the hard (not to mention necessary) work of Volunteer Managers grows too.

Find more on the day’s history and purpose on the International Volunteer Managers Day website.

How are you celebrating Volunteer Managers at your organization and in your community? We’d love to hear about your plans in the comments!

 

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

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Guest Post: The New Volunteer

This article originally appeared in FuseSocial‘s September 27, 2016 newsletter.


Organizations need volunteers more then ever, and the good news is; people want to volunteer!

But volunteerism has changed and volunteer expectations have evolved. It’s no longer enough to just put out a generic “call for volunteers” and then treat them all alike when they show up. Today’s volunteers have an expectation to receive something in return for their time, talents and skills they offer.  A study from JoinInUK.org sums up perfectly what volunteers are looking for in their volunteers roles.

  • planG: Personal growth and well-being
  • I:  Increased sense of purpose, such as knowing just how they make a difference
  • V: Voice regarding how volunteers are asked to give their time
  • E: Easy to sign up, to get there, and to get the job done
  • R: Recognition. Being thanked, appreciated, and celebrated
  • S: Social opportunities like making new friends and working in a team

In ten very straight forward steps your organization can work all these expectations into your volunteer programs.

smiling-woman2Volunteers want and expect:

  1. you to be prepared for them
  2. to feel welcome
  3. good training
  4. to do interesting work
  5. to know up front the duration of their shift
  6. to be appreciated
  7. you to clearly communicate with them and often
  8. to know what they are helping is making the community a better place
  9. to be socially connected 
  10. to learn something new

For more information on using volunteers to strengthen your organization please visit www.NGOConnect.NET

FuseSocial

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Alberta is Strong – Do We Also Have Endurance?

In May, Alberta experienced an unprecedented natural disaster. The entire city of Fort McMurray, along with nearby communities, were deeply impacted by wildfires. People were evacuated, homes and neighbourhoods were lost, families were separated, and jobs were interrupted, some indefinitely.

alberta-strongAlberta Strong was our province’s response to the wildfires. People across Alberta in all sectors stepped up and demonstrated our shared strength. As residents began to return to the Wood Buffalo area to reconcile, reclaim, and rebuild, they too showed the world that Wood Buffalo is strong.

Nonprofit organizations in Wood Buffalo’s social profit sector have been in the middle of it all; responding to the wildfire, assisting with the evacuation, and the re-entry. These organizations have experienced both sides of this disaster – helping those affected and being deeply impacted themselves.

FuseSocial, Wood Buffalo’s nonprofit backbone organization, shared an update from the sector in August:

We are now nearing the end of month three of post-fire re-entry and even though an astounding amount of work and progress has taken place within our community, there is still a considerable amount of work to be done.

This is especially evident within the Social Profit sector in Wood Buffalo. Agencies are working tirelessly to get back to capacity and to continue their vital work in our community.

As a result of the wildfire, many of these organizations are faced with incredible challenges including funding issues, staffing vacancies, compromised infrastructure and even the challenge of not knowing what the future will hold. 

As part of their support and monitoring of the sector over this time, FuseSocial conducted a Social Profit Sector Wildfire Impact Survey.

The survey indicated that, as of July, 57% of nonprofits were fully operating. Returning to normal has been a slow process, with some organizations facing more barriers and delays than others, including relocation, lack of services, or limited human resource capacity.

People pulled together to help with the crises in May and now, nearly five months later, it is becoming a question of endurance for social profit organizations and their staff and volunteers. Survey results indicate that:

  • 75% of organizations have been negatively impacted by losses of board, staff, and volunteers.
    • 50% of organizations lost staff since the wildfire
    • 50% of organizations are unsure if volunteers will return
  • 1 in 3 organizations experienced building damage, 1 in 5 organizations experienced equipment damage, and 1 in 10 organizations lost data, including client and historical files.

Together

These concerns, expressed by participating organizations in July, are not short-term issues. Alberta was strong when disaster hit, but support from all sectors is needed for many months to come. Let’s continue to be strong together, and offer our ongoing support to continue to help Wood Buffalo as they need it!

For more information, visit FuseSocial’s website.

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

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Alberta – Let’s Put Our Volunteers in the Spotlight!

“Volunteers want to be thanked and shown how they have made a difference – they want to know the impact of their contributions.”
so-happy-2013 Volunteer Recognition Study, by Volunteer Canada

As nonprofit organizations, we all rely on volunteers to meet our missions. With 24,800 nonprofit organization in Alberta, it is clear that the spirit of volunteerism is deeply rooted in our communities.

There are lots of different ways to recognize our amazing volunteers, but making sure volunteers are thanked and rewarded for their efforts is a critical part of fostering future and continued volunteer engagement. Our future depends on all of us working together and inspiring others to do the same, so communities will continue to prosper! Volunteer recognition is key to sharing this story and promoting volunteerism in Alberta.

The Government of Alberta hosts Stars of Alberta, Alberta’s most prestigious volunteer awards. The Stars of Alberta Volunteer Awards recognize extraordinary Albertans whose volunteer efforts have contributed to the well-being of their community and fellow community members. Six awards – two youth, adult, and senior – are presented annually, on or around International Volunteer Day, December 5. Nominations for the awards close September 20.

The Awards receive many nominations from Alberta’s major cities and in the adult and senior categories; however, we know Alberta is home to passionate, dedicated, and inspiring youth volunteers. We also know that Alberta’s rural communities are fantastic places to live because of local spirit of volunteerism and the contributions of the people who care about their community.

This year, nominate a youth volunteer, or volunteers from rural Alberta and help bring attention and shine a light on their incredible contributions!

Lethbridge, Warburg, Cochrane, Blackfalds, Fort McMurray, and Grand Prairie are a few of the communities across the province already celebrating youth volunteering through youth volunteer awards and Leaders of Tomorrow. Lethbridge drew a record number of nominees this year for their Leaders of Tomorrow event, and had over 300 people attend the celebration. The passion, interest, and dedication is alive and well.

We know that every Albertan community thrives because of the contributions of volunteers of all ages. Recognize an Albertan volunteer and thank them for all that they do so that the magic of volunteerism stays front and center, and our communities remain strong and connected as they grow.

Nominate a shining star before September 20!

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