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2023 AGM - June 12, 2024

Published: Apr 9, 2024 @ 9:07 AM

Our 2023 AGM is coming up on June 12, 2024. Join us as it will include:

  • A brief business meeting
  • A presentation of the year in review
  • A discussion on how to use our/your data to support volunteer recruitment to your cause

See you all there: REGISTER

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Creativity for a Cause

Published: Apr 3, 2024 @ 12:00 PM

This week we welcome guest writer Pallavi Paul. Pallavi moved to Vancouver to complete an MBA and now calls it home. She has an intense interest in digital marketing and creating content. When not pursuing that interest, she can be found hiking, swimming, dancing and exploring the outdoors. 

I've always wanted to help those who require direction and inspiration to live their lives and see the bright side of any situation. In my previous role as a volunteer in social media marketing at Low Entropy, I had the chance to use my creative side to enhance online platforms while also bringing attention to mental health issues. I was a student at that time when I joined Low entropy so my focus was more on studies and working in a volunteering organization where I would learn to hone my marketing skills in social media platforms.

As this was my first-time volunteering, I realized how crucial it is to address certain issues in a community and work on it for a greater purpose.

 A few points I would like to highlight in my volunteer journey, even though it was a short one, I cherished the learnings I have acquired from it.

1.      Confidence: I gained a lot of confidence in working independently. It’s an essential skill that will help me in a work environment as I don’t have to rely on someone to give me the instructions. It takes time to develop confidence and volunteering is a great place to start with.

2.      Time management: I was always attentive to my time management skill and juggling between studies, part time work and volunteering helped me to stay focused. My ability to be organized and productive at work also helped.

3.      Attentive to audience needs: The best part that happened to me is I became more aware of the audience while writing content or posting in social media. It’s a great way to showcase my creativity and think from people’s perspective instead of focusing on myself. 

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Never Enough- Five Years of Meals on Wheels Volunteer Shortages

Published: Mar 27, 2024 @ 6:00 AM

Volunteer Toronto has launched their much-anticipated Research Report: Never Enough, Five Years of Meals on Wheels Volunteer Shortages. Huge congratulations to Kasandra and the whole team at Volunteer Toronto for putting this together such enormous energy and effort to produce!

You should read the whole report, we wanted to highlight some things we thought were interesting. 

This report is such a cool discussion on intersectionality. The first layer being the humans requiring the services of Meals on Wheels and the various identities that they hold in our community. The labour that we put on these humans to access the supports they need to have quality of life is wild and undoubtedly exhausting. The other layer of intersectionality we found interesting was the weaving of the broad issue of food security, the world event of the Covid-19 pandemic and how those two issues collide with grassroots organizing, mutual aid and formal existing non-profits. There is such a layered story there and it is cool to examine how it has looked in a particular place at a particular time. 

Another aspect of the report that stuck out to us was using demographic data to potentially identify the “Ideal” Meals on Wheels volunteer and concluding that does not exist at the quantity needed to fill the need in community. It is cool to think about organizations applying this process when thinking about their own volunteer engagement and formulating opportunities. Furthermore, using that lens when deciding how reasonable it is to continue struggling in their volunteer recruitment. It seems like another strategy to tackle the shift in volunteerism. 

Finally, very helpful to return to a story five years later. We often see data come and go, highlights or trending topics pop up. Volunteer Toronto initially studied Meals on Wheels volunteer recruitment struggles in 2018, tried some interventions and supports and now in 2024 are revisiting. Certainly, gives weight to the recommendations that Volunteer Toronto has laid out. 

Thanks again for all your awesome work in the land of volunteerism Volunteer Toronto! 

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Give Them Something to Talk About

Published: Mar 19, 2024 @ 12:00 PM

“I had the best time!”, I learned so much”, “I met some cool people”. We have been hosting guest writers on our blog for a couple years now and one thing is for certain when people have a positive experience volunteering with an organization, they want to talk about it. These experiences have ranged from one-time events to longer relationships with an organization. We do not have data around the ripple that this causes for an organization or community, but it sure does make a person curious. Does this positive experience cause a person to donate? Does this cause other in their network to volunteer for the same organization or cause? Does it open the door for someone’s own volunteering story? Does it create a sense of community belonging that then shows up in other spaces? The data shows that word of mouth has significant impact on people’s behaviour in terms of consumerism so it does not seem like a far reach to think it can also impact an organization volunteer program. If we take the advice from the product and brand world and try to apply it to volunteerism here are some tips to utilize word of mouth in promoting volunteerism.

-Make sure volunteers feel connected. This can be through whatever means works for the culture of the organization- text, WhatsApp, Email, newsletter, live human moments etc. Listen to what they have to say. 

-Ensure volunteers are in the loop about all the things the organization is up to. The special events, the fundraisers, the meetings, the accomplishments. 

-Let people know when you are looking to engage more humans in your organization. Encourage them to share all the things with the people in their lives. 

-Give all the humans who are engaging with your organization a fantastic reason to talk about the their experience by making it a good one. 

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National Volunteer Week 2024

Published: Mar 13, 2024 @ 12:00 PM

Volunteer Canada has launched their 2024 National Volunteer Week Toolkit. Hooray!

 The theme of the week is #EveryMomentMatters. It contains free resources, social media images and all the things! There is a zoom background and some editable canva pieces as well which could be helpful for your organization. They have also shared a bunch of printable things like cards and certificates. You can check it all out here on the Volunteer Canada site. 

If you are looking for some additional support around recognition we are happy to chat, we also created this little gem last year Volunteer Celebration Worksheet to help capture the thoughts and feeling of the humans who are giving their time to your organization. 

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Pink Shirt Day

Published: Mar 6, 2024 @ 12:00 PM

In honour of Pink Shirt Day last week, we thought it apt to discuss some ideas on ways to be engaged in advocacy in your community. The action that goes along with wearing the pink shirt! To extrapolate from this George W. Bush quote “America needs more than taxpayers, spectators, and occasional voters. America needs full-time citizens.” (Commencement address at Ohio State University, June 2002). The same is true for the communities across Canada voting is great but so is collective action, political involvement, community service and social change. These do not need to be extraordinary acts, in fact they probably should be the opposite, small actions that influence others to take similar small actions. In doing so we create sustainable shifts, stronger understanding and more empathy. Malcolm Gladwell has a great podcast episode about this very thing, where he breaks down that great feats of humanity are not singular heroic actions but small acts of grace that add together. 

Here are a couple small things that will take less than ten minutes to make our communities better spaces for everyone: 

Sign a petition. 

Donate to a cause you care about (the charitable sector is responsible for so much in our society, they appreciate it)

Interrogate the things that have always been done (if you hold space on a board much of the systems were probably not designed for the humans on the outer circles of the wheel of privilege)

Say nice things to people (our brains are programed to need to hear the good stuff 10x more for it to stick)

Write a letter to the editor (in support of something or in objection to something you’ve read)

Amplify something on social media (use your sphere of influence to stand for a cause)

Say the quiet thing out loud (keep yourself safe but it is hugely powerful when we call on our fellow humans to be accountable). 

Be a good neighbour (you know what that means for you)

Buy a meal or beverage for a person who needs it 

Wear your advocacy (choose clothing that has a message, have a sticker on your water bottle that demonstrates your beliefs. You never know who might see it and feel seen.) 

Write to your elected officials about all the things (you might get a form response but just learned these humans must keep account of their correspondences so many interactions on the same topic matters come election time.) 

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Evaluating Goals: Setting up your 2024 for Success Pt 2

Published: Feb 28, 2024 @ 1:42 PM

Part 2: Accomplishing Goals in Volunteering

Welcome back! Hopefully, you have read the first article and identified your goals for volunteering in 2024 that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based (S.M.A.R.T). Setting goals is great, but it is only the first step. The second and perhaps the most daunting step is figuring out how to achieve them. It can be hard to know what steps to take or how to develop good habits around achieving goals. I don’t consider myself an expert, but I will gladly share what I have learned to help you along your journey.

Be Thorough

If the S.M.A.R.T. acronym illuminates anything, it’s that goals take work. Life is busy for everyone, and adding in an extra thing, such as volunteering, can be challenging. When setting goals, be as thorough as possible. Think about what you want, investigate what it will take to accomplish them, and then map it out. Here are three things to remember when mapping out a plan for volunteering in 2024.

Self-reflection

Have you tried to volunteer before? To move forward with success, it is essential to take some time and think about the past and previous goals. Reflect on the goals you had and identify three things.

  1. Boosts - What helped me accomplish the goals I achieved?
  2. Barriers - What kept me from the goals I didn’t achieve?
  3. Desires - What do I want moving forward?

These three questions will help you reflect on your progress from the year before and set or reframe new goals for the upcoming one. Identifying boosts, barriers, and desires can inform how you set and achieve your goals in volunteerism.

Research

You might fall into two camps when it comes to goals and volunteering. The first camp needs to know where to start or what they want; the second needs to know the next steps. Researching will help you further define a plan and understand how to volunteer. An essential part of that preparation is people. There are three types of people you can watch out for on your journey.

  1. The Experts - Look for experts in the fields you are passionate about. How can you help? Where do the needs lie? There are many free resources online that can provide helpful tips and guidance. The latest news section on Volunteer Connector contains articles written by people with lots of volunteerism experience.
  2. The Encouragers - Find those around you who have volunteered, specifically in areas you are interested in. The key is trusted individuals who know you; you can allow them to speak into your life. Surround yourself with positive energy, and in turn, that energy can be funneled to achieving your goals.
  3. The Knockoffs and Nay-sayers - Beware the “social media gurus,” there are a lot of lies and half-truths out there; don’t fall for clout chasers. Most of the good done in the world happens off-camera. In the same vein, it might be time to cut out certain people from your life who only bring negative energy and attitude towards you and your goals.

We live in a world with much information at our fingertips, and sifting through it can be challenging. This is why Volunteer Connector exists: to ensure the opportunities you seek are only a click away. The more knowledge you gain, the more you can apply to your goals. Be encouraged that you aren’t alone; many people have been where you are and wanted the same things out of life.

Strategize

If your goals are indeed S.M.A.R.T., it will be easier to map them out. Break down your goals into levels of importance and the amount of effort it will take, and write down steps you need to take to achieve them. Give yourself a boost by having some easy wins early to build on.

  1. Take Time - Schedule a day at the beginning of the year specifically dedicated to your goals and mapping them out, then create a series of check-ins throughout the year to gauge progress and reflect. Your check-ins can be a great place to evaluate if your volunteering goals were achievable and accurately time-based. When looking at volunteering, this is the most crucial step. Set yourself up for success by getting your research in early.
  2. Set reminders - Use one of the many apps on your phone or create physical reminders with sticky notes on the fridge. Reminders can make a huge difference early on before you develop the habits you’re looking for. If you are comfortable, engage your spouse or a trusted friend to keep you accountable.
  3. Celebrate - ‘Treat yourself’ might not be the best term, especially if it’s counterintuitive to a goal like losing weight or saving money. But I've said it a few times already: set smaller goals early to boost your confidence. As you continue through the year, find ways to celebrate big or small victories. When volunteering, consider stopping for your favorite frozen treat or pint of beer on your way home. This can be extremely helpful in habit building.

The more you invest in your goals, the more you will get out of them. The more time, effort, and planning you can put into how you want to volunteer, the more likely you will make it a regular part of your life. As an adult, I am far more organized than I was when I was young. Organization and strategic thinking were skills I had to develop, and now I have systems to keep my life and goals organized. There is hope for all of us.

Be Silent

To conclude this two-part article series, I wanted to share one of my favorite pieces of research— and you can do with it what you wish. Regardless of what they are, keeping your goals to yourself could be crucial to achieving them. New York University professor of psychology Peter M. Gollwitzer has extensively researched the self-regulation of goal pursuit. One thing that came out of his research is that when we share our goals with others and receive a positive reaction, we get the same positive reinforcement as if we accomplished them, and consequently, we are less likely to achieve those goals. Seek out encouragers in your life, but wait until you have set the goals and are in progress before sharing.

After reading this series, I hope you are motivated to take your first steps toward active volunteerism. So cheers to the new year and the new you!

 

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Excavating A Volunteer Opportunity

Published: Feb 22, 2024 @ 1:29 PM

We recently facilitated a session around what engaging volunteers looks like in 2024, it occurred to me mid conversation that perhaps there needs to be more of an explicit conversation around what first needs to be dissolved, unlearned, let go of. It is hard to build something new on the foundations of an old existence. It feels impossible with the pace of charitable sector life to take time to consider what needs to be stripped away. This is not a novel take to say there needs to be shift a bit away from doing, always doing to thinking and sitting. Unless people who engage other humans in making their communities thriving places take a good hard look in the mirror about how they’ve been doing what they are doing we will be in the same place in a decade that we are now. We have written previous blogs about how the oldest and long-standing organizations will have the hardest time navigating the shift in volunteerism that is playing out in live time. There seems to be a sense out there of a magical “thing” that will encourage more people to engage with a cause. Perhaps it is less about adding components and shiny recognition items and more about excavating the current opportunities for new growth. Here are maybe some helpful questions to ask when considering deconstructing a volunteer opportunity. 

Why do we meet when we meet? 

Do we need to meet this often?

Could this work be delegated differently? 

How could technology be utilized to help support this work?

Do our current volunteers speak positively about us in the community? 

How would be like to be thought of?

Is there a financial burden to this role?

Is the time commitment a reasonable ask? 

Who is being excluded from doing this role?

How is this role directly connected to helping the community?

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Infectious Energy

Published: Feb 14, 2024 @ 12:00 PM

This week we welcome guest blog writer Kathy Enrique-Nyguyen. Kathy is a freelance writer just starting out with a huge love for One Piece and an even bigger heart for cats – she would die for her cat or any cat. Scribbling stories and chilling with her cat is her purrfect day. To connect with Kathy or read more of her work check out her blog.

When I first signed up to volunteer at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo back in 2007, I’ll admit, I was skeptical. The thought of giving up my time for free made me question my decision. However, I wanted to leave my comfort zone and do something different. I’m glad I did because the experience changed my view on volunteering entirely. 

Back then, the Expo was just a small local convention compared to how they are today. I’ve always had a love for comic books and pop culture. However, it was my first volunteer experience, and as excited as I was, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was assigned to a team responsible for assisting exhibitors and vendors, and initially, I thought, “How could this possibly be fun?”

Oh, how wrong I was! The energy of the event was infectious. Being an attendee was fun, but getting to volunteer, you get to see all the backend things that happen. The team I joined was more than just a group of volunteers; they were super fun to hang out with once we got past the awkwardness. We connected over shared interests and the thrill of being part of something bigger than ourselves. 

Assisting the exhibitors and vendors turned out to be incredibly rewarding. I learned about the hard work behind the scenes and the joy of making someone’s day a little easier. The energy and the smiles we received made it all worthwhile.

The experience was so much fun that I volunteered at the Expo for two more years. It wasn’t about the event but the connections I built and the community I became a part of. I even ran into Brent Spiner wandering around by himself and saying hello to everyone! This newfound love for volunteering led me to other volunteer opportunities, including the Calgary Drop-In Centre.  

To anyone who feels like volunteering might seem like giving your time away for free, it’s so much more. Unlike work, you can volunteer to do things you love and care about. It’s about connecting with your community, discovering new passions and learning about yourself. It’s a chance for you to step out of your comfort zone, and I encourage everyone to volunteer at least once in their lifetime. 

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Evaluating Goals: Setting up your 2024 for Success

Published: Feb 7, 2024 @ 3:08 PM

Part 1: Defining Goals

A new year is underway. Some of us have made goals, and some may have already given up. If you have fallen into the latter category, fear not. There is plenty of time left in the year, and I have discovered some tips to help you reframe your goals and pick them back up again. Whether your goal is better physical fitness, a new career trajectory, increasing time with friends and family, or volunteering, this two-part article series will encourage you and help set you up for success!

Be S.M.A.R.T.

I recall being in primary school and receiving an agenda each year. If this is new to you, an agenda is a day planner for students with room for schedules, assignment planning, and goals. It's a mandatory $10 purchase that most students never use. One thing that has stuck with me all these years is an acronym on each agenda's first page. S.M.A.R.T. is a guide on how to set and keep goals, and it still rings true to this day. While this rubric can be helpful regardless of your goal, let’s look at how it can be beneficial within the scope of volunteerism.

Specific – Broad goals can be harder to achieve. The more details you can include, the better you can picture and plan for it. Consider narrowing your focus. Instead of simply saying you wish to volunteer or volunteer more, think about how or where you want to volunteer. What values, skills, and passions do you have? Are you social and want to volunteer directly with people? Do you enjoy laborious activities?  Narrow down a couple of places using Volunteer Connector before you set the goal!

Measurable – Analyze your goal and determine if you can quantify the steps you must achieve to get you there. If it’s not measurable, consider reframing in a way you can track. If your goal is to find a place to volunteer or to increase the amount you want to serve your community, consider how many days a week or month you want to spend doing so. Consider that the time you need to volunteer must come from somewhere. Try to break it down even further by hours. This way, you can track your progress, adjust your schedule, and measure your success.

Achievable – Let's be honest: not all goals are realistic. Determine whether your goal is reasonable enough for the year or whatever timeline seems appropriate. As someone whose goal last year was to lose weight, I was propelled to further success by achieving an attainable goal. After that, I was encouraged to keep going, sustain good habits, and set new goals. While volunteering can be a realistic goal for anyone, don’t be afraid to set the bar slightly lower and then exceed the goal rather than aim too high and get discouraged. If you have never volunteered before, I would encourage small steps. Try it once a month to start, check a few different organizations, use some trial and error, and adjust your goals accordingly.

Relevant – If a particular goal is entirely outside your lifestyle, values, or long-term goals, it can be much harder to achieve. This can be especially true when volunteering. Volunteering within your life ecosystem will lend some ease to attaining this goal. Find out if your work, place of worship, or community association has volunteer initiatives you can participate in. Volunteering at your children’s school can be great if your work hours allow it. Consider places with a short commute time and remove the excuse of driving across town. If you have friends also interested in volunteering, try doing it together. Volunteering as a social activity is a great way to add it to a busy schedule. Changing your life to accomplish specific goals can be difficult and ultimately unfeasible, but fitting them into your life will help immensely.

Time-based – If you are setting goals for the year, map them out. Set smaller goals or steps for the weeks and months; this will help you prioritize tasks and get a much-needed boost when you accomplish these targets. Planning it out can help avoid the excuses of “I’ll do it in the summer when I have more time.” Never be afraid to dream big and further into the future. Long-term goals and planning are also important. Start immediately; schedule one volunteer experience and adjust your timeline after you get a feel for it.

The S.M.A.R.T. system is simple and effective. It's a tool designed to help you assess and achieve goals. Once you learn how to analyze and break down your goals through this process, this will equip you to succeed. If you are interested in volunteering or if that is one of your goals for the year, I encourage you to browse the opportunities listed on our site and use this rubric to develop and evaluate how you want to achieve that. Stay tuned for part two of the article, where I will provide plenty of practical advice on achieving your goals!

 

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