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How to Use Volunterville

1.       Volunteer!

There are many ways to do this and there are many ways to find a place to volunteer in your community. Here are a few options:

Visit Govolunteer.ca

Visit Getinvolved.ca

Contact your local Volunteer Centre

Or directly contact an organization that has a mission you connect with. There are different ways to volunteer, like being a Big Sister, serving on a board, or helping rescue animals find their forever home.

2.       Capture and Tell!

While you’re volunteering, take a picture! It can be of yourself volunteering or of the people you’re helping. Or take a picture of the great ways your organization is recognizing your hard work: thank them for providing that piping hot Timmy’s coffee and donuts.

If you don’t want to take a picture, you can compose a tweet. Use those 140 characters wisely, though, they go quickly.

Not a fan of social media? Write your story down. That’s part of Volunteerville too! Next up…

3.       Share!

Throw your picture up on Instagram, use the hashtag #volunteerville and voila: your photo will now appear on Volunteerville.ca! Tweets with the hashtag #volunteerville will also show up on our website.

If you don’t like Twitter or Instagram and aren’t sure what a hashtag is, you can visit Volunteerville.ca and upload your photo and your story. Or just your photo…or just your story! It’s up to you how you want to share your experience.

Sharing your story builds your community.  We create our story by doing the things we love and spending time with friends and family, and that includes volunteering.

4.       Inspire!

When your picture, tweet or story shows up on Volunteerville.ca, you’ll be inspiring people across Alberta to get involved too.  For many of us, volunteering is a part of our lives that we often forget to talk about and celebrate. Volunteerville is your chance to share your volunteer experiences with the world.

What happens after Step 4? You can do it all over again! You can participate in Volunteerville as frequently as you like. We’ll be throwing in some fun giveaways and contests throughout the year to thank you for being a citizen of Volunteerville. Browse volunteerville.ca right now, and start liking photos, or even share them on your own social media.

Let’s make volunteering go viral!

Make sure to follow @volunteerville on Twitter and Instagram! For more information about Volunteerville, email Lisa at lmichetti@volunteeralberta.ab.ca.

Lisa Michetti, Member Engagement Manager

What DO Volunteers Want?

CCI-Lex Cultural Connections EDITED (2)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.

The 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 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, please visit their Guidelines and Helpful Hints for Volunteer Recognition. You can also visit Volunteer Alberta’s Resource Centre (VARC) for books and articles on the subject.

Sam Kriviak, Program Coordinator

Guest Blog: Stepping Up and Stepping Into Challenges

stepping upI was recently faced with the challenge of developing a workshop for a group of volunteers. Even though I don’t wear a cape or Wonder Woman bracelets, the client was anticipating I would be able to address the long list of needs identified in their stakeholder survey. In a mere two hours, they expected me to provide participants with solutions and tools to help engage more citizens, and to address a declining volunteer base. It wasn’t an easy workshop to design and one that in some ways I had been dreading.

While I felt a longer session would be required to address the issues and challenges in a meaningful way, there was only so much time. And not only were we short on time, but participants attending the workshop were stretched pretty thin, bearing out the Statistics Canada survey results showing that 10% of volunteers account for 53% of all volunteer hours dedicated to nonprofit/voluntary organizations. It wasn’t my first rodeo, so I dug deep and thought back to what I had learned, taught and applied over the years that really had an impact when it came to engaging citizens, and recruiting and retaining volunteers.

While it was a lot of work, it was all worth it when one of the participants spoke to me after the workshop and thanked me for what she had learned and for ‘talking her off the ledge’. When I asked her what she meant by ‘talking her off the ledge’, she explained that coming into the workshop she had been planning to quit her volunteer position. As a result of the workshop she decided to stay on as a volunteer.

That result in itself made it all worthwhile.

I left feeling happy that I was able to address a tough challenge and see results. It turns out that author Rosabeth Moss Kanter has come to a similar conclusion. She suggests that the happiest people are those dedicated to dealing with the most difficult problems. Many of these people are working or volunteering to make our communities healthier, safer, and more vibrant places to live, work, and play. They face tough challenges and are willing to serve others. In her book, Evolve!, Moss Kanter identifies three primary sources of motivation: mastery, membership(belonging) and meaning. Another M, money, turns out to be a distant fourth. As she puts it, money is a form of measurement, but it doesn’t necessarily get people excited about getting up in the morning, or leave them with a sense of fulfillment at the end of the day.

While it’s common these days to encourage people to find their purpose and passion, Moss Kanter suggests that regardless of our paid work, we each need to embrace a sense of responsibility for changing the world in one small way.

While Charlie Brown said that happiness is a warm blanket, maybe it’s more about stepping up and stepping into a challenge to try to make a difference.

Brenda Herchmer

CEO of Campus for Communities of the Future
Owner of Grassroots Enterprises


If you are interested in contributing to the VA blog as a Guest Blogger, please contact Tim at thenderson@volunteeralberta.ab.ca

Coffee Donations A Reminder of Alberta’s Generous Nature

coffeeLast week’s random mass coffee donations that started in Alberta (and quickly spread across the country) said something great about our province. It demonstrated the genuine and selfless generosity of people in Alberta. Now, of course, that money may have made a greater impact had it gone to a worthy nonprofit organization, but that doesn’t make the gestures any less generous. These anonymous coffee donations serve as a reminder that while there is always more to be done and room for improvement, Albertans are a giving people – whether it is a cash (or in kind) donation or contribution of volunteer hours.

According to the 2010 CSGVP, Albertans contributed an average of 140 volunteer hours and $562 in donations in 2010. Those are positive numbers, but the really encouraging trend is the steady increase in the rate of volunteerism among Albertans from 2004 (48%) to 2007 (52%) to 2010 (55%). Alberta’s population currently sits at 4 million people, with the provincial government projecting that it will swell to 6 or 7 million by 2041. That means demand will certainly rise for services provided by Alberta’s nonprofits, but if the promising upward trend in volunteerism continues we will meet the challenge.

A donation of 500 cups of coffee doesn’t directly address any of the social problems the nonprofit/voluntary sector is currently focused on. However, it serves as a reminder that Albertans care about one another and that the people of Alberta possess a powerful spirit of giving. This spirit of giving will be tested in the coming years, but there is reason for optimism for Alberta, its nonprofit sector and its most vulnerable citizens.


Tim Henderson, Office and Communications Coordinator

VA Staff Volunteer Experiences

Throughout National Volunteer Week the VA blog will be featuring the volunteer experiences of the Volunteer Alberta staff. Volunteerism comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and so does volunteer recognition. We encourage you to share with us your experiences in volunteerism – Tell us where you have volunteered and how you were recognized!


During the 2010 Edmonton Municipal Election, I volunteered for Don Iveson’s City Council re-election campaign. Councillor Iveson put an emphasis on ensuring that the volunteer experience was not only a positive one, but also downright fun. During the final week of the campaign he held volunteer events with food provided by the Eva Sweets waffle truck in the morning and Elm Café sandwiches in the afternoon. Every volunteer was invited to the election night party, which was great, but volunteer recognition was a focus throughout the whole campaign. Volunteers were also given t-shirts emblazoned with the proposed future LRT map. Don took the time to individually thank each member of his large and enthusiastic group of volunteers; and in the end, that was the best form of recognition – a sincere ‘thank you’.


I spent a day volunteering for the cross-country phase of a June event put on by the Clearwater Valley Pony Club in Beaumont.  It was a cold and dark morning when the alarm went off; thankfully I can always hop out of bed for a horse related event.  My 5 year old daughter and I were looking forward to the day.  We showed up to a well-organized and friendly crew with free hot coffee and breakfast.  It didn’t take long for me to receive good instructions, answers to my questions and supplies (pre-packed snacks, a radio and a lawn chair).  My daughter instantly connected with the crew of kids whom she hadn’t met previously and set off aboard an ATV, smiles plastered on their faces.  After hiking out to my allotted jumps for the day, I set up camp and nestled in.  What a joy to get a front row seat to all the horse jumping action and to be involved in judging the competition. It was also a treat to learn more about running an event and to hear the discussion on the radio between the officials.  Occasionally the ATV full of children would fly by, and refill my coffee cup and ask if I needed anything.  We were very well looked after and what was a long day on the clock flew by too fast.  My daughter was given the opportunity to be a part of the group and made many new friends in the process.  I can’t wait to volunteer at the event again, it was a great group people and a wonderful experience for my daughter and I.


I was one of 1100 volunteers for this year’s Tim Hortons Brier. The sea of blue (our jackets) was apparent everywhere you looked.  50-50 volunteers were the largest division – as there were usually 50+ people per draw. Some days had 3 draws so I’m sure the logistics were crazy!

As a 50-50 volunteer, I had different shifts, either selling tickets or helping in the count room. Selling was fun – got to walk about, chat with people, provide information, and mingle with other volunteers. In the count room, we had to quickly and efficiently file all the sellers through once the draw closed so the winner could be chosen in a timely manner.  I even got to pull a couple of the winning tickets! Chatting with the other volunteers was great fun and we even discussed how volunteering might be a great way to see the event when another city hosts it.

Overall it was a great experience. It was a long time to volunteer for – I was there for seven out of the events 10 days, including one day I did a double shift. However, we worked with super staff and the volunteer coordinators were very appreciative.

We got to show how fantastic the volunteers are in Edmonton and Alberta. Can’t complain.


My fondest volunteer experience by far was a three year stint with the radio show Adamant Eve on the campus and community radio station CJSR. I started working on the show through a Community-Service Learning (CSL) placement for a university course, but I fell in love with it and asked to stay on, eventually becoming the producer of the show a year and a half later. I can’t pinpoint what made my time there so great – I have a hard time narrowing it down. I had great mentors. I had room to be creative, to grow and advance. I got to research things that interested me, interview people that inspired me, and use my writing skills to put together scripts. I had freedom and support simultaneously. I worked with friends on live show nights, and fulfilled my introverted, perfectionist tendencies putting together our pre-recorded shows. It was the perfect mix of flexibility and challenge with a huge dose of discovery and ownership.

Usually ‘volunteer recognition’ means free cupcakes, reference letters, or parties. While I would never turn down a free cupcake, for me all of the factors that made my time at Adamant Eve amazing were volunteer recognition in and of themselves. After all, what better way to keep a volunteer than to make them happy in a fulfilling role!


Last year, I volunteered for the 2012 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. As a hockey fan since birth, I was thrilled to help out. There were two specific highlights for me. As a Ceremonies volunteer, one of my duties was to help pass out a large Canadian flag for excited fans to pass it around the arena! Our volunteer team sprinted around the upper bowl of Rexall Place to keep up with the flag, to ensure it didn’t touch the ground and that it was quickly wrapped up at the end. The other major highlight was distributing the Player of the Game awards on New Year’s Eve, when Team Canada beat the United States. Being on the ice, in the middle of Rexall Place hearing the crowd drown out the Canadian anthem played was certainly something I’ll remember forever. I couldn’t believe that I got to do all these great things as a volunteer!

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