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What Is Going On With Volunteerism?

Published: Jul 26, 2022 @ 9:27 AM

As a team we have been seeing the stories in the news- ‘volunteer numbers down!’ ‘Festival desperate for volunteers!’ ‘Organization closing due to lack of volunteers!’ so we thought we would take a moment and share some things we are observing. 

We are not seeing a decline or an unusual spike in volunteer postings in any of our regions served. Instead, what we are seeing is a fast shift in volunteer interest - opportunities that are rooted in social justice or environment fill nearly instantly. Most opportunities take 2 weeks to fill but there is far more demand for social justice/environmental than there are opportunities out there. 

We can attribute these changes to a couple things:

  • Demographic shift- >30 years old is our largest user group, and we have seen a reduction in the over 65 folks. This has been an ongoing shift since 2019.
  • Increase in grassroots postings. The growth in volunteer postings from these types of organizations is up 30%. 

Our musings are that boomers are potentially relying on existing community connections for their volunteerism. Volunteers seem to have also shifted towards choosing roles that align with their interest and values rather than skills. Ultimately belonging is what volunteers are craving and the opportunities/organizations that are meeting that need that look different today than they did in 2019. 

 

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Don't Be Scared Of Volunteers

Published: Jul 19, 2022 @ 9:38 AM

This summer marks the return of lots of events, very exciting!

The Tall Ships Festival is back in Brockville (https://www.tallshipsbrockville.com),

Outhouse Races are back in Cochrane (https://www.cochranetimes.com/entertainment/local-arts/outhouse-races-set-for-late-summer-return-after-two-year-hiatus),

And ... everything else seems to be returning to towns and cities across the country. The commonality in these events that we all get to enjoy going back to is - volunteers. They are organized by volunteers, facilitated by volunteers and taken down by volunteers. There is often one volunteer or a committee of them tasked with organizing all the other volunteers- what an awesome role! Here are some things to keep in mind:

People are craving community - our latest research says people are looking for quality time together with other people so it's more about that than maybe fulfilling a specific role or sharing a skill set. This season of volunteerism is about reconnecting with the world not just about the job that needs to get done. Something to consider when you get to the perks of volunteering section of your posting. 

Your community is full of prospective volunteers - the past couple of years has seen tremendous change and transition. Many people have made physical moves into new and smaller communities, many others have made the transition into less commute time. Bottom line - a whole bunch of prospective people who have never been involved before. We know people move into new places and google - "volunteer in ______" so if you have an opportunity to be the place that shows up for people desiring to belonging seems like that would be a great plan! Plus it prevents burn out for those people who have been involved year after year, and means you don't have to call in favours with friends for that last minute shift.

We are always happy to help - if you are struggling to recruit volunteers for your event send us an email! We will happily review your posting and offer our insights info@volunteerconnector.org 

 

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Ready? Set? Go! Ahem. Go! Umm… Go? - Guest Blog (3 of 3)

Published: Jul 11, 2022 @ 3:50 PM

Following on from last week's Guest Blog - Part 2 of 3, here is the continuation in Part 3 of 3 ... 

 

STEP 2 – Get Set. Start looking.

Finding volunteer opportunities that will be a good fit for you is the next step. Of course, you can go directly to an organization’s website and see their list of opportunities. As well there are excellent databases (such as VolunteerConnector) where you can see a substantial number of opportunities listed all in one place! I caution you to keep focused (see Step 1-A) because it can be easy to drift down the volunteer opportunity rabbit hole only to emerge exhausted hours later and to walk away from your phone or computer thinking, “I’ll just look more later”, only to never come back (remember, we humans are impulsive!)

Many post secondary institutes have their own listings, so don’t forget about those if you want to increase your chance of volunteering with other students. More and more, businesses exercise corporate social responsibility and provide their staff with opportunities to volunteer as a group, so keep an eye out for notices from HR. Talk to friends or colleagues about where they happily volunteer for ideas.

STEP 3 – Go!

All that self reflection, answering all those questions, pouring over databases, and talking to other people has paid off – you have found an organization with whom you want to work. Now you just have to connect with them. Apply. Ask questions. Go to the interview. Attend the training. And get ready for a great experience!

Amanda Sokol from https://www.goosetroop.com

 

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Ready? Set? Go! Ahem. Go! Umm… Go? - Guest Blog (2 of 3)

Published: Jun 29, 2022 @ 10:01 AM

Following on from last week's Guest Blog - Part 1 of 3, here is the continuation in Part 2 of 3 ... 

 

Step 1 - Continued

How much time can you commit? Are you interested in a longer-term or ongoing role or are you better suited to episodic (one-off) roles, such as events?

How this helps: You must be able to fully commit to the role. It’s important to be honest here. Choosing a role that you will struggle to honour will make you feel bad, and likely result in you leaving before you’ve completed your tasks and believe me, will do no favours for the organization and the people who are relying on you. Set yourself up for success by being realistic. You can always add more time or change roles if you find you’re able to commit more later.

Think about logistics – will you drive to your shift or take public transit? Is it important to be home before dark? If you’re volunteering virtually, do you have the necessary tech requirements to do so (adequate Wi-Fi, for example)? Are there any costs associated with volunteering that you’re expected to cover (for example, parking)?

How this helps: Quite simply, knowing this information can immediately narrow down your search. If you’re not willing or able to travel, then looking at volunteer opportunities for an organization across the city doesn’t make sense.

Why do you want to volunteer? Are you looking for career or resume experience? Perhaps you’re looking to make new friends or are really jazzed about the perks (free t-shirt, backstage access, etc.)? Maybe it’s mandatory (for a school or work program).

How this helps: Knowing your motivation to volunteer is one of the most important considerations because this allows you to match your expectations with reality and can help you to measure if you’ve been successful in your role. For example, you may be looking for a leadership role for career development and think a role on the Board of Directors would be perfect. However, you cannot make the 2-year commitment and might have to find a leadership role that’s more compatible with your availability, such as a committee volunteer. Even if you feel you’ve been voluntold, you can still think about what you hope to gain by doing so – because there are many benefits to volunteering!

Amanda Sokol from https://www.goosetroop.com

Part 2 of 3 ... to be continued ...

 

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Went to a Conference - Collision

Published: Jun 27, 2022 @ 10:18 AM

Last week I went to Collision Conference in Toronto. Why you ask? Well it's a great place to hear from people doing and thinking about the future of technology. There are so many startups in early stages, one was only 2 days old, to get a window into what people think will improve the world. As an added bonus there is lots of discussion about the state of funding in the private sectpr which typically is a leading indicator of what the charitable sector will face.

With that said, here are a few quotes from speakers I heard (5 stages running simultaneously with 20 min slots so can't take it all in):

  • Privacy is our default
  • We are a startup that isn't making any money so we can start over if we want
  • 2-3 years ago it was hard to get staff now it's funding
  • We don't know what fundraising will look like over the next 6 months so I would wait until the new year (a second panelist suggested avoiding fundraising for the next 24 months due to the effort to get very little over the 'correction period')
  • Product development should remain in house as much as possible as that will be a competitive advantage
  • Growth and revenue are not the same thing, don't hinge those two together
  • Growth will be stuck for those that have not built with sustainability in mind
  • Only 8% of all startup funding goes to women and minorities
  • There is a window of uprising due to the bloodshed like George Floyd, the window won't last so we need to act now
  • What is your exit plan? What if it isn't to sell but rather to give it to community . . . there is a range of possibilities

Finally, people I enjoyed meeting the most included:

As I discovered the last time attended (pre-pandemic, you remember those days right?), there are very few non-profits/charities at the largest tech conference in North America. We hope that will change as our sector seeks to create societal change and uses technology to support that. Of course, that will require a shifting mindset of funders and deep commitment of boards and . . . anyway, if you are interested in our journey then a coffee is warranted or a walk and talk as I did with our friends at Volunteer Toronto while there.

Doug

 

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Ready? Set? Go! Ahem. Go! Umm… Go? - Guest Blog (1 of 3)

Published: Jun 22, 2022 @ 7:58 AM

I believe that people genuinely want to help others, and I also know that we humans like instant gratification. Sometimes volunteering can be a quick and straightforward process and other times it takes some work and some patience. If you’ve been interested in volunteering but are feeling stuck and overwhelmed, here are some steps to take for you to get started, really get started as a volunteer!

STEP 1 – Get Ready. Be reflective and inquisitive with yourself.

What are you most passionate about? Consider the causes that matter to you (be specific) and pick your top three. Google is your friend - research organizations in your area that do the work that you’re passionate about.

How this helps: There are endless great causes and opportunities to volunteer – it’s important to give this some careful thought because it not only narrows down your search but also will connect you to an area that really matters to you, you will be far more likely to be really engaged and fulfilled in your volunteer work.

What kind of volunteer work would you like to do? Are you a front line/hands-on kind of person or more behind the scenes? Do you work best in a group or are you better on your own?

How this helps: If you know where you are at your best, you’re already set up to succeed. For example, in my case, I am passionate about helping animals but know that I do not have the fortitude required to see an animal suffering, so I can’t be the volunteer who rescues animals, but I am great at marketing or fundraising events for animal rescue organizations.

Amanda Sokol from https://www.goosetroop.com

Part 1 of 3 ... to be continued ...

 

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Where In The World Is New Volunteerism Research?

Published: Jun 8, 2022 @ 1:00 PM

If you are like us you get very excited about all things volunteerism, no matter where in the world that is! Our friends at Volunteer Scotland and Volunteer Australia have both released some research in the past couple months. 

Volunteer Scotland has reflected on their country's response to Covid-19 - The Road To Recovery.

Volunteer Australia is in the early stages of developing a National Strategy for Volunteering

Abundantly clear in both is that people are coming together to do good in their communities. Sometimes that is under the umbrella of an established organization. More frequently, it is falling under that 'mutual aid', 'informal' or 'being a good human responsive to the unique needs of our community' umbrella. So that seems like a win for all of us.

 

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What's In A Name?

Published: Jun 1, 2022 @ 3:00 PM

What's in a name? Well, it turns out a whole lot! For those familiar with our journey you will know much of the story. For those new to the journey with us here is a statement from our Board of Directors. Simply, we are retiring a name that's been in use for 9 years and continuing to focus on VolunteerConnector which really reflects for us . . . Who We Are!

Message from Board of Directors

Growing our services in the digital space over the last few years is uncharted territory for our organization. But the team was able to navigate this successfully because, as they know too well, we’ve evolved before and it just made us stronger and more sustainable.

Since our inception in 1955, the volunteer needs of our community have driven these changes, and VolunteerConnecter was another evolution to reflect what the staff fortunately anticipated as a growing demand coming our way, which was: a digitized volunteer centre. And now the Volunteer Centre of Calgary is effectively serving a much wider geographical range in 2022 than it ever has before.

It was only a few years ago, we were serving Calgary and region with a few outlier clients in other parts of Alberta. In just this short amount of time, we saw a significant increase in the percentage of Albertan clients outside of Calgary, and soon after, we saw a dramatic increase of users and clients across the nation.

With no other digital tool like ours, the VolunteerConnector has grown over the last four years from serving over 400 organizations in a year to over 4000 this past year; which translated to serving about 30,000 volunteers per year to 500,000 this past year!

A huge part of this growth success is because we also went from having zero regional partners to 37 across the nation!!! Each of which are working hard to empower volunteers in their communities through the VolunteerConnector.  

The pandemic over the last two years, and the BC floods over the last year, demonstrated for us how effective our digital tool is in a time of crisis. And in times of crisis, we learned quickly: we don't have the opportunity to explain what Propellus does for those who don't know us – we only have time to connect the need with the help, and the help with the need. Learning from our users in these instances taught us that the digital tool’s name – VolunteerConnector – was easy for them to spread the word. Wanna help? Go to VolunteerConnector.org Need help? Go to VolunteerConnector.org It was quickly adopted as a resource for communities to share, Emergency Operating Centres to utilize, and disaster relief teams to recruit.

The clarity in the name VolunteerConnector taught us that it really connects with individuals in it’s literal meaning, and we want to continue to foster a community of belonging as we recruit and engage with volunteers seeking purposeful work. As well, it really connects with grassroots organizations – anything from small impact efforts to major societal movements that depend on fellow citizens showing up, and volunteering their time and voice. 

So effectively, and organically, VolunteerConnector has become the beacon that this organization proudly shines its mission through.

With such monumental outcomes from the great work done by the staff, funders and our regional partners, and with volunteers at the center of every decision we make, I’m excited to share with you that the board made a motion at our last meeting and it passed unanimously: Volunteer Centre of Calgary, operating as Propellus, will now be known as Volunteer Centre of Calgary, operating as VolunteerConnector.

Congratulations to the hard working team behind the scenes who worked together to achieve this great success. We are all excited for the continued growth ahead.

- VolunteerConnector Board of Directors - 

 

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What's Been Getting Us Through

Published: May 26, 2022 @ 2:04 PM

We talk to lots of people across the country and sector, and there seems to be a general energy of fatigue and burn out so here are some things that have been getting us through: 

 

Podcasts: this is an awesome listen from for the wildALOK on Unruly Beauty

 

MusicHarry StylesEmeli Sandé and Florence and the Machine have new albums out. Spotify or Apple Music should have you sorted there. 

 

Nature: birds are laying eggs. Things are growing. Check out Brecks if you are in the market for bulbs.

 

ReadingHannah Gadsby's book Ten Steps to Nanette is amazing. 

 

Take care out there! 

 

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If I Don't Do It, Who Else Will?

Published: May 18, 2022 @ 2:15 PM

the galaxy of starsThis was overheard in a coffee shop recently, someone lamenting their position of treasurer on a board of an organization. It is a reality of volunteerism, we all get tired, burnt out and we stay out of obligation or guilt or whatever we tell ourselves. We stay out of a feeling that it might all fall apart if it were not for us. 

If you are considering signing on for another term for a board but it is not because you are super jazzed about what they are doing in this world maybe take this as a sign that it is ok not to. You can say no. Your fellow board members might be sad, they might miss you but everyone will ok, the organization will be ok. Someone else will find the space there and take on the work you were doing in their own way.

Life shifts for all of us, many us will have 12 different volunteer experiences in our lifetimes. You can take some space and time, when you are rested and ready there are tons of opportunities out there on volunteerconnector.org. Maybe in a couple years you might be overheard at a coffee shop sharing the awesome work the organization is doing! Until then; take a break!

 

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