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Recognize your Volunteers: Enter to Win!

National Volunteer Week is quickly approaching, and it’s all about volunteer recognition! National Volunteer Week runs April 12-18, 2015 and is a wonderful celebration of the AMAZING volunteers we have in Canada.  After all, here in Alberta more than 50% of Albertans volunteer their time and skills to nonprofit organizations in their communities! So, during National Volunteer Week how are you going to celebrate volunteerism and a volunteer?

Last year, Tim wrote a blog on Volunteer Canada’s Volunteer Recognition Tool. If you have the time, read it again – it is full of good information. One of the messages in the blog is that recognizing and thanking your organization’s volunteers doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. National Volunteer Week is all about volunteer recognition, so this is great news!

Volunteer Canada also highlights that what volunteers really want is to see how their work helps the community. One inexpensive way to show volunteers their impact is by using www.volunteerville.ca.

volunteerville

Volunteerville is an interactive way to visually celebrate the contributions of volunteers through social media. It’s easy! Share volunteer photos and stories using #volunteerville on Twitter and Instagram or upload them directly to www.volunteerville.ca, then watch your posts show alongside many more at www.volunteerville.ca!

This year, during National Volunteer Week we have put together a contest for Volunteerville. Join in on the Volunteerville Contest April 12-18, 2015 for your chance to win! We have a free ticket to Vitalize 2015 for 2 lucky organizations!


Every time you or a volunteer mentions your organization while using #volunteerville on Twitter or Instagram your organization is entered to win a free ticket to Vitalize 2015!  Or upload your images and stories to www.volunteerville.ca during National Volunteer Week (April 12-18, 2015). It’s a great opportunity to acknowledge and thank your volunteers while promoting your organization at the same time!

How to enter? It’s easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Take a picture of your volunteers! (they can be ‘in-action’ or a profile photo)
  2. Post it to Twitter/Instagram using #volunteerville or to www.volunteerville.ca during National Volunteer Week.
  3. Show everyone and your volunteers their impact makes a difference!

Organizations, don’t forget to encourage your volunteers to share their experiences with #volunteerville. Remind them to include your social media handle or add your organization’s name to their personal posts too, and their posts will count as entries for our prizes!

Volunteers, use #volunteerville to SHOW what moves you!

 

Volunteer Recognition: Good & Cheap

Volunteer-HandshakeIn order for volunteer-run nonprofit organizations to be sustainable they often need to retain volunteers. The most important retention strategy (aside from safe working conditions) is volunteer recognition. Over the past few years the sector has begun to really stress the importance of volunteer recognition; not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because organizations likely stand to benefit from making their volunteers feel appreciated.

Last week, Volunteer Canada released their Volunteer Recognition Tool.  It is a 9-question survey for volunteers to identify how they prefer to be recognized. Volunteer managers can use this information to recognize their hard working volunteers in ways meaningful to those volunteers. Survey data published in Volunteer Canada’s 2013 Volunteer Recognition Study indicates an overwhelming 80% of volunteers simply want to know how their efforts have made a difference.

Here are a few observations we had about this statistic:

  • It is incredibly obvious. Research by Imagine Canada indicates that 95% of people chose “believe in the cause” as a primary motivation for volunteering. Of course, they want to see how their efforts made a difference – That’s why they volunteered in the first place!
  • This is good news. It’s good news because of all the ways to recognize volunteers this is among the least costly. For nonprofit organizations that often face funding challenges, it means they can adequately recognize volunteers without breaking the bank.

The Volunteer Recognition Study results are encouraging because it means volunteers generally prefer volunteer recognition methods that happen to be cheaper than others. Alberta’s nonprofits might not all have big budgets, but it’s safe to say they have lots of heart. A sincere heartfelt ‘thank-you’, whether in the form of a cup of coffee, phone call, letter, post-it note, or Volunteerville post, might be just what they are looking for.

Please keep in mind that volunteer appreciation events do have value and some people enjoy being recognized publicly. But, the survey results show that volunteers don’t necessarily volunteer their time expecting a public thank you along with a free burger. National Volunteer Week is an important opportunity for our sector to recognize volunteers. NVW Enhancement Funding, which is available to Volunteer Alberta members, can go a long way in helping communities rally around their volunteers without stretching their budgets. But volunteer recognition is a year-round activity and different approaches, whether formal or informal, are valuable. The important thing is that recognition efforts are personal and help connect the volunteer with the value of their role.

How do your volunteers prefer to be recognized? Have them use the Volunteer Recognition Tool and find out!

 

Tim Henderson, Program and Communications Coordinator

The Art of Volunteering

Slow - Marcia Harris

Slow – Marcia Harris

In November, I will become the proud new owner of the beautiful painting ‘Slow’ by Alberta artist Marcia Harris, all because I volunteered for 100 hrs this year!

Let me explain. In November 2013, I attended the 5th annual Edmonton Timeraiser, an innovative event with a unique approach to volunteer recruitment. Timeraiser is a volunteer fair and art auction combined into one fantastic night out – the twist is that participants bid on the artwork with volunteer hours, not money.

The event creates a win-win-win scenario:

  • Art is purchased for market value from local emerging artists, and put on display to a crowd of art lovers
  • Nonprofit organizations are able to meet with a captive audience of potential volunteers
  • Participants enjoy a great evening of art, company, and food as well as access to a wide range of volunteer opportunities. Winning a piece of art is an added bonus!

While this sounds wonderful, looking at Timeraiser simply in terms of dollars, it may beg the question of why volunteers are being paid so well (beautiful art at market value doesn’t come cheaply) when volunteering is supposed to come from the heart. But there is much more happening.

Through Timeraiser people are brought together around art and community, connecting with organizations in need of helping hands (and minds) while enjoying art they may never have seen otherwise. Through these connections an emerging artist may gain new admirers and an organization can share their cause with potential volunteers. Most participants will make a connection with an organization that leads to a rewarding experience, offering the volunteers knowledge, skills, community, and fulfillment. Participants might also win a piece of art that they may not have been able to afford in dollars but will enjoy as much as any art collector.

While this was the first year I won art, I have found volunteer opportunities through Timeraiser many times now! After placing a winning bid this year I started volunteering with two of the organizations I met at the event, helping to achieve the ultimate goal of Timeraiser – creating volunteer impact in my community. For me, the art piece was a catalyst. While I will certainly be thrilled to get it on my wall, the real benefit was in the value of volunteering, both personally and for my community.

So far, Timeraiser has been a huge success. They have opened the door to innovative volunteer recruitment, adding elements of community building, and appreciation for arts and culture, proving sometimes all it takes to make an impact is an innovative idea.

Edmonton’s 6th Timeraiser is on November 8th. Nonprofit applications are now closed, however tickets are still available – enjoy a fancy night out surrounded by art and awesome volunteer opportunities!

Sam Kriviak, Program Coordinator

Guest Blog: Volunteers as Staff: Where Labels and Titles Collide

volunteer staffIn 2010 alone, 47% of Canadians volunteered 2 billion hours, the equivalent of 1.1 million full-time work positions. Volunteers, who freely offer their services, have become an essential component of our communities and the modern workforce. In the nonprofit sector, we know all too well the benefit volunteers bring to our organizations. For many of us, they are indeed a necessity. But having volunteers work for our organizations can and does expose us to potential risks.

With the important part volunteers play, should we as agencies recruit, screen, and manage them, as we would staff? Or do they require something different?

This may sound like a daunting question. How would we even begin to tackle this? My initial strategy was to ask as many people as possible, so I asked volunteers, managers, and those in-between, this very question. I found there were just as many points of view as there were individuals who held them:

• Some agencies I spoke with (such as Distress Centre Calgary) identified having worked towards an integrated Human Resources model. Their rational was that many volunteers provide a front line service and need similar training, time, support, and supervision as employees. “Volunteers do not get the financial benefits. However, the volunteer is here to do a job, shows up, and does it to the best of their ability. Volunteers represent the agency just as much as staff, and expectations around service seem the same for both volunteers and staff”.

• A few volunteers stated they enjoy being on an equal footing with staff. This made them feel respected and important; a peer in the organization. Others felt a sense of safety being separate from paid workers, feeling almost exempt from punishment over mistakes or errors in procedure. “I feel volunteers are lower in the hierarchy overall, and that there’s less responsibility on the volunteer when being directed in my role.”

• A surprising number of respondents worried of a volunteer/staff “synergy.” When asked to clarify, these individuals said the treatment of some nonprofit staff leaves something to be desired and worry about comparisons being made between the kinds of support given to volunteers and to staff. “Essentially, volunteers are held in a place of esteem while staff is often not. All too often staff does not get the same support to the same degree.”

• Others found an already organic union blurring of the lines between staff and volunteers. “I volunteered for a program essentially run by volunteers. With some volunteer roles, you are doing the same tasks as a staff anyways.”

With such a wide range of experiences and opinions, what’s a nonprofit to do? Do we work actively towards formalizing the volunteer position? Do we establish rigid screening and feedback processes? Or do we play it by ear depending on the volunteer role and/or specific individual? Much to my chagrin, it looks like there is no definitive answer.

However, there are a plethora of references and materials out there for agencies wanting to take a stab at formalizing the volunteer role. They make a strong case that it’s in our best interest, as nonprofit organizations, to put volunteers and staff on a similar plane. Authors such as Judith Wilson, Michelle Gislason, and Linda Graff highlight that as the risk for the agency or the volunteer increases, so does the need for formalized processes. Conveniently, you can find these and many other resources on the Volunteer Alberta Resource Centre, or why not ask other nonprofits (such as Distress Centre Calgary) what is working for them.

Chloé McBean, Contact Centre Volunteer Team Lead
Distress Centre Calgary

 

 

Gratitude

Nonprofit Experiences: It’s Personal

reuse centreOur experiences with nonprofits are varied: we may work or volunteer in the sector, or donate to our favourite organizations. Some of us find a sense of community through cultural and religious expression, or enjoy sports, arts, and entertainment through the sector. Our education is often provided by the sector. Perhaps most importantly, the sector offers support, health, wellness, and relief for those of us struggling or in need of care. Regardless, the nonprofit sector is central to many of our lives.

With so many means of interacting with the sector, it is hard to capture all of the ways nonprofit organizations impact and shape each of us on a personal level. For this reason, I wanted to share five nonprofit organizations that are important in my life:

  1. The Edmonton Humane Society is where my partner and I found our good friend (and housecat), Gulliver. I am so grateful for the work the volunteers and staff do to provide shelter, care, and love to animals in need. EHS also provided us with information, vet connections, and appropriate screening before we took our kitten home. My pet is my family and we wouldn’t have found him without this amazing organization!
  2. Volunteering is where I find community and purpose, and my favourite volunteer experience so far has been at CJSR, Edmonton’s campus and community radio station. Like other community radio stations across the country, CJSR is volunteer-made radio. For me, it is where I discovered a deep love for working on radio, developed a whole new skillset, and met many like-minded friends.
  3. As an avid crafter, the Reuse Centre has been an affordable and environmentally-friendly way for me to stockpile everything from fabric to old magazines. The Centre collects unused home, office, and craft materials, and for only five dollars, people are welcome to take as much as they want. The Centre offers me a great way to support my hobby, while keeping unused supplies out of the landfill and my money in my community.
  4. Following the death of a friend, The Support Network provided free Suicide Bereavement Support Services to those of us who knew her. The Support Network staff offered compassion, care, and information, as well as an opportunity to build community around tragedy. The Support Network services were a crucial part of a healthy healing process for me, as well as a starting point for new friendships.
  5. Santas Anonymous is my absolute favourite organization to donate to, because I have so much fun doing it. Usually I donate because I think it is important to put my money to good use; however, buying toys every Christmas for Santas Anonymous goes far beyond good intentions. The little kid inside me thinks picking out whatever I want at a toy store is pretty much the best thing ever!

These five organizations are only a few of the many nonprofits that are important in my life – after all, the nonprofit sector also includes my workplace (Volunteer Alberta!), my university, and the hospital where I was born. What organizations mean a lot to you? Please share in the comments!

Sam Kriviak, Program Coordinator

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