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Building Strong Communities through Informal and Formal Volunteering

Volunteer AirdrieHappy National Volunteer Week!

This year for National Volunteer Week, Volunteer Airdrie is celebrating with a Red Carpet Event. As Melanie Taylor, Vice Chair of Volunteer Airdrie, explained: “We are rolling out the red carpet for our volunteers, providing free movie tickets and concession as a thank you for all they do to make our community great.”

To make the event even more unique, and as inspiration for continued volunteerism in Airdrie, volunteers won their tickets to the event by completing formal or informal volunteer activities and sharing their volunteering stories with Volunteer Airdrie.  Find more information about how Volunteer Airdrie is celebrating National Volunteer Week here.

Melanie explained: “Informal volunteering opportunities are all around us. Helping a fellow Airdrie resident, family, friend, or neighbour directly [is informal volunteering]. Formal volunteering includes activities where you volunteer your time with social/nonprofit organizations, service clubs, community associations, and so on.

Here are some ideas to inspire you to take informal or formal action in your community:

Informal volunteering:

  • Shovel your neighbours walk
  • Pick up garbage in your neighbourhood
  • Run a carpool
  • Babysit for free
  • Help a newcomer practice their English
  • Drive a senior to their appointment
Formal volunteering:

  • Volunteer at a casino fundraiser
  • Coach minor hockey
  • Sit on a nonprofit board
  • Become a peer-to-peer counselor
  • Sort donations at a food bank or thrift store
  • Walk dogs at a shelter

 

Volunteer Airdrie’s campaign for informal or formal volunteering was a huge success!.

“We received more than 100 stories and they were all amazing examples of Airdrie’s community culture and spirit,” said Melanie, “By contributing time, energy, and skills to our community, people gain a greater sense of belonging and connection. They are more likely to care for their environments and the people around them; imagine less graffiti, more local shopping, less crime, more block parties, and increasing community pride. This is especially important in a rapidly growing city like Airdrie, where we are seeing the strains of growth and the current economy.”

And Airdrie volunteers seem to be enjoying the red carpet treatment as well – just look at them!

Airdrie3 Airdrie1 Airdrie2

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

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Creating vibrant communities starts with you

Promovo Community - Biking TogetherBuilding vibrant communities is complicated work. It relies on cooperation, participation, inclusion, and diversity. This means people from all walks of life, in all areas including business, government, community, and nonprofit organizations, must work together.

Volunteerism, in particular, has the power to transform your life, the lives of others, and entire communities. As nonprofit professionals, we know volunteers are the roots of our communities and our work depends on them!

When people, like you, come together, at home, in your job, or as a volunteer, positive impact can be made. Volunteerism creates vibrant communities.

Next week is National Volunteer Week (April 10-16), and, to celebrate, Volunteer Alberta has created a short, informative video. This video not only tells the story of how a single person makes a difference, it also introduces some complex ideas that we are exploring about system change through combined and collective efforts.

Last fall Volunteer Alberta explored these idea when we hosted, interCHANGE, a unique one-day conference (learn more about it here). We brought dynamic players from government, business, and nonprofit sectors together to explore how to tackle complex challenges that affect people’s quality-of-life.

interCHANGE was a step forward in a collective attempt to answer the question: “What relationships need to exist in order to create the conditions to make a positive impact in Alberta’s communities?”.

Together we explored how boundaries between sectors and service delivery are blurring. If we embrace these areas of overlap, we can create opportunities for dynamic collaborations and social innovation.

We learned challenges in today’s society require adaptive responses in order to have positive results – and that adaptive responses have three components:

  • Participatory – you have to be involved to make changes
  • Systemic – the issues and solutions are interconnected
  • Experimental – we need to be willing to try different and new approaches

(Did you know: We regularly post articles on systems change like this one on systems thinking, and this one on systems learning, and we’ll continue to dive deeper into our findings from interCHANGE in the future.)

CoachLet’s consider participatory action and look at it through the lens of volunteerism.

Volunteerism provides an opportunity for us to get involved, experiment in our community, and learn about the experiences of different people who lead different lives, aka. the ‘other’. Volunteering provides the opportunity for everyone involved to develop newfound understanding and empathy for the ‘other’.

The video, Vibrant Communities and You, highlights the role volunteers play in creating vibrant communities and is our gift to you for National Volunteer Week. Please share it on social media, pass it along, or even play it at your National Volunteer Week event.

You can find the video on our website to watch or download, or share/embed it via YouTube and Vimeo.

Volunteer Alberta supports community-service learning, when students gain experience and develop their skills by contributing to nonprofits. We are proud to have worked with the students and faculty at Pixel Blue College to create the animation in this video and grateful for their hard work.

 

Katherine Topolniski
Volunteer Alberta

Microvolunteer

Microvolunteering: the benefits and drawbacks

National Volunteer Weekvolunteer-lethbridge is right around the corner. Communities across the country are celebrating volunteerism during April 10-16th , inspiring people and thanking volunteers for their invaluable contributions.

As part of their National Volunteer Week Celebrations, Volunteer Lethbridge is promoting Microvolunteering Day on Friday, April 15th.

From the Microvolunteering Day website:

“Microvolunteering is bite-sized, on-demand, no commitment actions that benefit a worthy cause.”

Some examples of microvolunteering include:

  • Tweeting about an organization or event
  • Baking a cake, knitting a hat, or writing a card for a cause
  • Picking up garbage in your community
  • Participating in a survey or research project
  • Signing a petition
  • Helping a senior with their groceries or yard work

I talked to Chelsea Sherbut, Volunteer Lethbridge’s Development Coordinator, to learn more about microvolunteering and what Volunteer Lethbridge has planned for the day.

Sam Kriviak: How is microvolunteering different from traditional volunteering? What are the benefits and drawbacks of microvolunteering?

Chelsea Sherbut: Unlike most normal volunteer opportunities, there is no application process, no screening, and no real commitment with microvolunteering. Usually you don’t have to go to a specific place to do it. It can often be done for home on your own time. You can see that there can be a lot of benefits!

Some drawbacks are that volunteers might miss out on making some of the “real life” connections that you get with traditional volunteering, and it’s not the kind of volunteer opportunity that improves your résumé. It still can be tremendously impactful, though, and is a fantastic option for people who feel like they are too busy to volunteer.

SK: What about for volunteer-engaging organizations?

CS: For organizations, microvolunteering offers a way to create more engagement and an easy platform for people to get to know your organization better. It’s a good opportunity to expose people to your mission and slowly build an ambassador for your work!

iphone 4It can also be a lot easier to attract volunteers for these kind of opportunities. We often talk about eliminating barriers to volunteering and this is one great way. If you can create an opportunity that requires as few barriers as possible you’ve made it almost impossible for a prospective volunteer to say no!

Creating microvolunteering opportunities isn’t without challenges, but if you are creative, there are a lot of potential ways to use volunteers on a micro-scale: research and data collection, citizen science, online petitions, donations of specific items, brainstorming (i.e. naming your new exhibit/campaign), social media marketing, clean ups, etc.!

SK: Along with many other community celebrations, Volunteer Lethbridge is recognizing Microvolunteering Day as part of National Volunteer Week. What are your plans for the day?

CS: Yes we have a very busy week, so this one is a bit low key. Our main plans are:

  • to highlight a different microvolunteering opportunity each hour throughout the day on social media;
  • to complete some microvolunteering actions in our office.

SK: Why did you feel it was important to celebrate Microvolunteering Day? How does microvolunteering benefit Lethbridge?

CS: We want everyone in Lethbridge to consider themselves a volunteer. Microvolunteering is one super simple, super fast way to get involved that EVERYONE has time for. We’d also like to start building an awareness of how agencies can be creative when they are coming up with ways to engage more volunteers.

SK: If people are interested in microvolunteering, where can they go for more information or to get involved?

CS: For people outside of Lethbridge, check out the Microvolunteering Day website. In Lethbridge, check out our Facebook page on Friday, April 15th for a ton of great ideas and opportunities all day long! We would love to hear what micro-actions others in the province are doing too!


Thank you so much to Chelsea from Volunteer Lethbridge for sharing with us!

Do you have plans or ideas for Microvolunteering Day? Let us know in the comments! Places to find out more:

For more information on what else Lethbridge has planned for National Volunteer Week, and to browse other Alberta communities’ National Volunteer Week celebrations, visit our National Volunteer Week event page.

Silhouette Woman

3 ways being privacy conscious can improve your organization’s reputation

Typing Woman smallIn the twenty-first century, data and information are everywhere. Collecting information is truly foundational to everything we do in our daily work. Online activities that collect personal information, fundraising efforts, volunteer screening, and social media put a responsibility on nonprofits to consciously manage people’s privacy, information, and other data.

By being privacy conscious you can help strengthen your organization’s reputation, enhance the trust in your staff, and even increase the loyalty of donors, participants, and volunteers.

If you want to maintain a positive perception of your organization and the important work you do, a solid practice is to have processes in place for managing information and personal records.

Here are a few simple ideas and actions your organization can take to be more privacy conscious and protect the personal information and privacy of those people who interact with your nonprofit.

Enhance your organization’s reputation

Protecting privacy and personal information can improve your organization’s reputation.

In general, nonprofits that manage personal information in accordance with privacy legislation (like PIPA or FOIP) are seen as more accountable and trustworthy, by clients, volunteers, donors, and potential partners.

An improved reputation may mean that other agencies will find opportunities to work together with your nonprofit more attractive, especially if operating joint programs or if a partnership requires information sharing.

By simply reviewing how your organization currently manages personal information, you can begin to establish more formalized processes.

A simple review of your current practices may provide other benefits like;

  • assist you in making better decisions about what information is reasonable to collect and only collecting what you need
  • guide you to use the information you collect more effectively and intentionally
  • improve how you protect the privacy of those people who are important to you

Trust in your staff

Not having good personal information protections in place could hurt how your staff are perceived and trusted by your donors, volunteers, and clients.

Simply because a few standardized processes are lacking in their work, your staff may not be perceived to have the same level of responsibility and accountability as people working in businesses.

While initially it may seem like added work, you can help improve the level of trust your donors, volunteers, and clients have in your staff by involving staff in the process of protecting personal information.

Simple ways your staff can be seen as part of protecting privacy while collecting information include;

  • staff being transparent about how a person’s personal information will be used, providing those people an opportunity to ask questions or make requests that help them feel their information is respected
  • staff explaining how information will be stored and/or destroyed, demonstrating a professional level of accountability in the staff person and helping to develop a relationship of trust between the individual and staff at your organization

Loyalty from your donors, participants, and volunteers

GlassesPeople are asked to share their personal information many times a day, from entering an email address, to sharing a postal code at a store check-out, to signing into social media websites. Personal information is increasingly valuable in today’s world.

People are concerned about what data is requested of them, how much of the requested information is required for the service they want to use, and how their data is eventually used. While they may have differing thoughts and feelings about their expected privacy when it comes to their own information, one thing often rings true, people generally place more trust and respect in those who work to protect their privacy.

People who your organization counts on to volunteer or donate are not only important to your work, but also champions who will share the experiences they have with your organizations with others. It is a good idea to be transparent with those people about the steps you have in place to protect and respect their privacy.

Some simple solutions that you can incorporate;

  • a “privacy practices and policy” notice on all donation forms or receipts
  • be upfront about the personal information that is required for volunteer screening processes (ex. is a police information check required, references, or employment history?)
  • set clear expectations during volunteer interviews or orientation about how their personal information will be used, stored, and destroyed

If your organization is already taking some of these steps for privacy protection – great work! Please keep it up and share any tips you might have about your processes in the comments.

Smile

From the Vault: What DO Volunteers Want?

NVW2016_WebBanner editNational Volunteer Week is just around the corner! From April 10-16, join the country in recognizing and celebrating volunteerism in our communities. Learn more about National Volunteer Week and how to take part in the celebration.

In this blog, we share some volunteer recognition tips you can use during National Volunteer Week and year round.

Originally published November 12, 2013.

Volunteer Canada just released their 2013 Volunteer Recognition Study, and I highly recommend it to anyone who works with volunteers! It’s an easy and enlightening read. Best of all, there some big surprises that will (hopefully) improve how the sector works with and recognizes our volunteers.

To give you a taste, here are some of the biggest gaps the study identified between what our organizations think our volunteers want and what they truly appreciate:

1. In the study, volunteers said that their least preferred forms of recognition included formal gatherings (ex. banquets) and public acknowledgment (ex. radio ads or newspaper columns). These methods are common for many organizations, with 60% using banquets and formal gatherings, and 50% using public acknowledgement as their recognition strategies. Instead, volunteers indicated that they would prefer to be recognized through hearing about how their work has made a difference, and by being thanked in person on an ongoing, informal basis.

2. Over 80% of organizations said a lack of money was the most common barrier to volunteer recognition. Since the study shows that volunteers prefer personal ‘thank-you’s and being shown the value of their work over a costly banquet or a public advertisement, funds need not get in the way of good recognition!

3. Volunteers said that the volunteer activities they are least interested in are manual labour, crafts, cooking, and fundraising. According to the 2010 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (CSGVP), fundraising is the most common activity in which organizations engage volunteers. Instead, volunteers said that their preference is to work directly with people benefiting from their volunteering, or in opportunities where they can apply professional or technological skills.

These findings ring true in my own experiences as a volunteer. I really appreciate it when I am told I did a good job, or that a client made special mention of my work – it shows me that giving my time truly made a difference, which is the reason I volunteer in the first place. Conversely, I tend to avoid going to volunteer appreciation parties or awards ceremonies. My dislike for big social events is a personal preference (I’d much rather stay home with my cats!), but even the most outgoing and social volunteers are likely busy just like me.  It is very difficult to schedule an event that every volunteer can come to, and, if that is the only time made for recognition, then a lot of volunteers won’t receive any at all.

VolunteersThe good news is that while our sector may at times drop the ball on volunteer recognition, the changes recommended by the 2013 Volunteer Recognition Study are very attainable. We already know the value of our volunteers – now we just have to remember to communicate that to them! Read the whole study for more straightforward tips and ideas on how to step up your organization’s volunteer recognition.

For more from Volunteer Canada on volunteer recognition, check out their other resources.

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

 

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