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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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Halton, Ontario to Edmonton, Alberta Volunteerism Across the Land!

Published: Feb 7, 2024 @ 12:37 PM

We love seeing what our friends across the country are up to. The work they are doing and open to sharing- 

Volunteer Halton published their ‘Our Halton’ report which brings together their own data along with tons of other research to tell the story of volunteerism in Halton Region. Check out the footnotes for so many brilliant other points of interesting reads, including research from the University of Waterloo are on engaging youth in philanthropy. 

Our friends in Edmonton at ECVO published a lovely story featuring Turlough from the Winspear Centre (Edmonton Symphony Orchestra) and how we took an opportunity to shift the culture of a volunteer program. Turlough was a speaker at our Symposium in the Fall and we also enjoy his perspective. 

CBC’s show Now or Never featured a whole episode on people stepping up in their community to respond to need. You can listen to that episode here!

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Africa Centre Launches Black Leadership Development Program

Published: Jan 31, 2024 @ 12:00 PM

If you are an organization based in Calgary, you have an awesome opportunity to work with The Africa Centre as they launch Ujima Fellowship Program. "The Ujima Fellowship is a leadership development program that aims to address structural racism and inequity by creating opportunities for diverse representation within policy-making entities. The purpose of the fellowship is to support young Black leaders between the ages of 18 - 35 who demonstrate a willingness to develop their leadership skills and want to serve within advisory or policy- making entities."

Africa Centre is looking for organizations to host mentors for board placements. If you are interested please contact them here.

If you are a young leader interested in participating in this fellowship opportunity you can find more information here. 

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Serving Sandwiches, Disarming Anxiety: My Eye-Opening Volunteer Experience

Published: Jan 26, 2024 @ 9:24 AM

We welcome guest blog writer Josie Simon. Josie is a freelance writer with a BA in Political Science from the University of Calgary and a steadfast believer in the power of volunteering. Her journey has taken her from the vibrant lecture halls of the University of Calgary to the heart of our community, serving in roles like the Humour and Opinions Assistant for the Gauntlet Publications Society, the Director of Education and Outreach for the Women in Politics Club, and a student volunteer with the SU Campus Food Bank. These roles have deepened her conviction in service and advocacy, reinforcing the significant impact we can have through commitment and action.

Growing up, I was plagued by extreme shyness and self-doubt. Being in social situations terrified me, and the fear of making mistakes held me back in every aspect of life. Transitioning into adulthood as a first-year student at the University of Calgary only exacerbated my struggles, as I found it incredibly difficult to form new connections and make friends.

Desperate for a change, I volunteered for the 2019 Alternative Spring Break program with SU (Students Union) Volunteer Services. This program allowed undergraduate students like me to lend a helping hand to various non-profit organizations in Calgary over Reading Week.

One of the places I had the opportunity to volunteer with was the Calgary Drop-In Centre. There, my group and I were responsible for making sandwiches for individuals experiencing homelessness. To say I was nervous would be an understatement. But it was not because of the people we were serving or my fellow volunteers but rather the voice inside my head whispering that I would inevitably mess up or ruin the sandwiches.

However, as the hours ticked by and the sandwiches were successfully prepared, I experienced a transformative realization. Engaging in light-hearted conversations with the other volunteers, I began to feel a sense of confidence growing within me. This experience was not a miraculous overnight transformation, but it marked a significant starting point in my journey toward overcoming my crippling social anxiety and self-doubt.

Fast forward to the present, and I am now a graduate with countless hours of volunteer work under my belt. Although I still occasionally battle with anxiety, it no longer paralyzes me as it once did. Volunteering has become a catalyst for personal growth and empowerment, allowing me to develop confidence in my abilities. It is funny how we often view volunteering as solely a means of helping others. However, I have come to realize that the power of community extends far beyond that. Volunteering has the incredible ability to transform and shape us into better versions of ourselves.

To all those struggling with anxiety and low self-confidence, I implore you to seize the opportunity to volunteer. It may seem daunting at first, but through the act of giving back, you will discover strengths and capabilities you never knew existed within you. Sign up and volunteer today and watch as your perspective on life begins to change.

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Reason, Season or Life?

Published: Jan 18, 2024 @ 12:00 PM

In our part of the country, we have just come out of an arctic chill, a whack of snow and what has felt like months of grey cloudy skies. The sun and blue sky have reappeared and thus it is feeling more like a time to set new goals and intentions than that post-holiday haze. If becoming more engaged in your community or meeting new people or trying out something new is on your list for 2024 then we would invite you to have a peruse here on VolunteerConnector. With a couple things to keep in mind…

Volunteering is all on your own terms. You get to decide when, where, what and for how long! It can sometimes feel like you need to commit to something for a lifetime and let this be your permission to commit for a reason or season! Volunteering for a reason can be wanting to practice a specific skill, meet some new people, deepen relationships, share a skill set that you have or feel good about the energy you are putting out. A season of volunteering is acknowledging the realities of ebb and flow in everyone’s life. It might be you have one free weekend in the next 6 months or that summer is a time where you have less on your job plate, so you have more capacity. All the choices are ok! Depending on where life is for you engaging with an organization might not be for you this year, that is ok too. You can still get all the wonderful brain chemicals from volunteering by being mindful of your community. Pick up an extra loaf of bread and drop it off in your community pantry, take someone else’s kids for an hour, shovel a neighbour’s walk, check in on someone you love, take notice of something that would make your community better and do it! 

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Practices for Non-Profits and Corporations

Published: Jan 10, 2024 @ 12:00 PM

In the past 30 days the conversation around corporate volunteer groups has come up a lot. It is this season that puts a magnifying glass on what can be a tough experience for both organizations and the humans inside a company, all to the tune of a lovely holiday jingle. 

Volunteering should always feel meaningful for both parties. Volunteer Canada has put together this helpful resource for organizations and corporations in thinking about engaging in a mutually beneficial relationship. Volunteer Canada (2023, November 14). Different Ways to Engage with Your Local Business Community [PowerPoint Slides]. Centerville Network Forum – November 2023, Volunteer Canada.

If you are looking to work with an organization in your area, have a look on VolunteerConnector and start next year off with a conversation. 

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Dear Elected Officials, It is 2024!

Published: Jan 3, 2024 @ 6:00 PM

Happy 2024! We made it! From us to you, we wish you all the best in the coming year. We wanted to kick our year off here at VolunteerConnector with a note to the humans who serve in government. This blog was inspired by the awesome team at Volunteer Ottawa. You can check their posts here.

So yes, the first blog of 2024 goes out the people who make up the 338 Members of Parliament, the 751 people serving as elected officials in provincial and territorial legislatures and the thousands more who hold positions of mayor, councillors in municipalities and regions across the country. Thanks for your service and energy as you look forward to the next year, we have some thoughts;

Volunteerism contributes to thriving communities and creating places where people feel like they belong. Not going to say that is priceless but it is certainly worth far more than 56 billion dollars, not that our brains can even understand that number. Think about all the interactions everyone in your community has every day with space and places that would not exist without volunteers.

Connect with the societies, non-profits, charities and grassroots humans in your areas. Learn about them, provide connection, funding and most importantly gratitude for their vital work. 

Use your platform to talk about volunteering, civic engagement, mutual aid. It all matters, it all counts. 

Make it easy for people to find volunteer opportunities in your area. That can be a link to your local volunteer centre/capacity builder, your own featured suggestion list or of course VolunteerConnector

Have questions? Want to talk more? We are happy to help

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'Tis the season for saying thank YOU

Published: Dec 27, 2023 @ 12:00 PM

We want to take the time and space to profoundly thank those volunteers who do not take a break over this time. So much continues to happen in our communities and it is all thanks to people who give their time and energy. The people who keep on making and delivering meals, taking people to appointments, shovelling sidewalks, coaching kids in sports, checking on the food cupboards, participating on boards, responding to emergencies, visiting people who need it. There are seriously to many things to list. So if this is you -Thank you. You make our communities great places to live and exist in. You make sure that people feel seen no matter what time of year and what else is going in the world. 

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Cupcakes Challenge

Published: Dec 20, 2023 @ 12:00 PM

This week’s guest blog is from Wati Z

“Sometimes, you just need to ask, and let's see from there what door you might open.” This is a direct quote from one of My friends who is probably a champion of volunteer work, she would help with a lot of School volunteering work such as fundraising committees of any kind; she is an active member of the PTA; she does a lot of carpooling driving for struggling parents. So, when she comes to me and asks me to help, I try my best not to disappoint her in any way possible. 

That is when the cupcakes challenge came to me and several more challenges such as sending to school foods from the country of origin for International Day or helping in the afternoon fun for kids where the school rents a lot of kids’ games from bouncy castle, basketball hoop, and many more games just after Covid 19 ease off. This time she is fundraising money to buy children's books. The destination will be decided by grades five and six during their library reading time and the theme is “International World Literacy.” 

This cupcake volunteering to provide ten yummy cupcakes was a fun challenge for me because instead of ten I challenged myself to make 100 cupcakes for a good cause. I love to cook in general and sometimes, I would invite many friends over to my house to have lunch together, so that was why they know that I do have a good recipe for cupcakes. I made all 100 cupcakes that evening before, and on the following day, I had to deliver them to school at 11 a.m., I prepared all the boxes and iced them one by one. As I never made that many cupcakes, it took longer to ice them than it should. 

I remember, those cupcakes were all gone less than 15 minutes started from the recess bell rang. Big and small kids bought almost all those treats from cupcakes, cookies, cakes, popcorn, veggies cut, and so on. Kids are so open to the idea of giving and lending a helping hand to others. 

As I challenged myself, I believe those kids also do the very same things. Eager to contribute and to help. This simple act rewards you with satisfaction and truly makes you feel good to give. 

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