Youth Legacy Report

Volunteer Victoria is pleased to launch a new report on youth volunteerism in Victoria. 624 local youth between the ages of 15 and 25 responded to a survey between April 2014 and February 2015.

Funded by the United Way of Greater Victoria, the Youth Legacy Report 2015 explored motivations and barriers to volunteerism, and the ways that local youth connect with volunteer opportunities. The survey also identified local volunteering trends. Youth indicated that they:

  •  volunteer between 10 and 13 hours per month. Volunteers who  heard of Volunteer Victoria give on average 10% more time than those who have not
  • are motivated to give back to community, to develop skills, for personal satisfactions, to enhance resume, and to meet program requirements
  • are most interested in volunteering with youth/children, in health and wellness, with animals, arts and music, environment, and with people on a mental health or substance use journey. Youth were less interested in volunteering opportunity focused on social media and events
  • 44% of youth found out about events through media other than media – community notice boards, and school ranked highly

For more information in youth volunteerism contact Arianna Klus in the Volunteer Victoria YouthVolunteer Connections Program.

Turning Pie into Pi

You might occasionally note a Friday the 13th or remember March 15th (“Beware the Ides of March” the notorious date of the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC and the turning point in Roman history.) But, sandwiched between the two last week was International Pi Day. You know Pi, 3.141592653 … a numerical dream date.

In 1706, William Jones (a Welsh mathematician) realized that, “The exact proportion between the diameter and the circumference [of a circle] can never be expressed in numbers.”

Now what exactly does Pi have to do with anyone who works or volunteers in a non profit in BC in 2015?

Well, funders recently reminded non profits of their need to divide their financial Pies using very precise terms. In the case of Volunteer Centres across BC, provincial and municipal governments reminded us that they only fund programs and services that have a direct benefit to the public. They need to ensure that one organization is not giving benefit from public funds to another organization. In legislation, accountability, and in Pie theories it makes complete sense.

But, let’s compare the math according to three theories in play and let’s use Volunteer Victoria’s E-Newsletter as our demonstration product.

Approximately 1,800 people receive the E-Link newsletter every other week. It costs $350 to produce in sunk costs per issue.

If Volunteer Victoria was ‘more business like’ we would simply calculate and share the cost. You, as a subscriber would each pay $4.66 a year. As you do not all read all the issues we may need to implement a user-fee model so you will have to pay $18.66 for each issue you read. (Plus shipping and handling costs, and GST) We won’t have the resources to track the outcomes when you learn about jobs, changes in legislation, or participate in non profit specific events or learning, but no big deal. It’s just business. Where would you like us to send your invoice?

In the funder Pie model, it gets more complicated and the model changes every fiscal year depending on the funders and how much Volunteer Victoria receives in grants. The production costs are the same, but the administration to manage the E-newsletter is significantly higher and we need much more information from you all to track who pays which portion of the cost on a monthly basis. It is not an exact science but basically:

– If you currently volunteer with a non profit – then the organization you volunteer with benefits from your learning, so we will have to mail them an invoice and ask them to pay the cost. If you volunteer at more than one organization, please let us know. We need to split the invoice.
– If you are a high risk individual, unemployed, or in a life transition the United Way or Island Health might cover a portion of the cost on a sliding scale from 10 to 100% of the cost. Where shall we send the balance of your invoice?
– If you are a youth under the age of 25, Coast Capital Savings and the Victoria Foundation will pay for the cost of your learning. You will not receive an invoice. Please remember to thank them!
– If you are not currently volunteering, not working in the sector, and have no affiliation with any non profit organization then you need to thank the Provincial and/or municipal governments for picking up your share of the cost of the E-newsletter. You will need to tell us which municipality you live in though, because not all 13 local governments fund us. Please do not forget to send us a change of address card if you move.

Now there is the reality of Pi.

Millions of mathematicians cannot divide circles into whole and precise numbers.  And surely the goal of the non profit sector is not to produce more brilliant mathematicians or accountants.

There will always be individual, volunteer, and organizational overlap – especially since the demand for services has grown, conditions are more complex, and we all need to attract more volunteers, more ideas, and more engagement from the whole community to address community-based challenges.

The non profit sector can and does track costs and we are accountable. But our primary purpose is not to divide Pi, but to increase the impact of the circle. In the non profit sector the sum of the whole is far greater then the sum of the individual parts.

And, if any one is wondering, the entire cost of E-Link next fiscal year and the entire benefit of your learning is courtesy of the Victoria Foundation.

This article is written by Lisa Mort-Putland, Executive Director, Volunteer Victoria.

Social Media Camp

Social Media Camp is Canada’s largest social media conference, offering three days of world class education, networking and idea sharing in a fun environment.

People converge on Victoria for this annual event from across North America. Similar events happen in San Diego and New York, but cost well over $1000 to attend, not including travel. The local team at Social Media Camp has been committed to Victoria’s non-profit sector by providing the best discount available anywhere to employees and directors attending on behalf of their local non-profits. This year, if you sign up before April 1st, you can take part in this world class event for only $249 ($150 off the ticket price).

If somebody from your organization wants to take advantage of this opportunity, contact

Farewell Volweb

The day is finally on the horizon when we will be saying goodbye to VolWeb – the platform that our member agencies have used for some time to create their volunteer recruitment ads that then populate our website. Effective March 31st of 2015, Volunteer Victoria’s link to VolWeb will officially end. We/you will not have access to any data in VolWeb after this date. Agencies may still use VolWeb if you want to, but your postings and the platform will not be linked to our website or to anything connected to Volunteer Victoria after March 31st, 2015.

After March 31st, Volunteer Impact will be your platform for the creation & posting of volunteer recruitment ads (called Activities) that will then appear on the Volunteer Victoria website. Please direct your questions to George Colussi at 250-386-2269.

We Got Engaged – Building Workplaces with Intention

We Got Engaged – Building Workplaces with Intention
March 24, 2015 – 8:00 am to 4:30 pm
Victoria Marriott Inner Harbour

What if we.

  • created workplaces with intention?
  • developed organizations that were holistic – healthier, happier and more harmonious?
  • nurtured a more effective and supportive work environment?focused on creative, innovative and transformative solutions?
  • cultivated vibrancy, resiliency, and potential in ourselves and our work communities?

Spend a day, encouraged by industry peers, colleagues, and friends, who are supportive and collaborative, while enjoying speakers, participating, gleaning wisdom, and developing tools that resonate with you and your work.

Registration fee includes nutritional breaks and lunch.

Interested in showcasing your business at this event?  Contact Us

For the full line-up of speakers visit

Farewell Friend

As someone pointed out yesterday, 2015 started with a bang! After nearly a decade of stable service, the “much loved” and much used database VolWeb suffered a major technical breakdown.

We knew more than a year ago that VolWeb was facing increasing risks and health problems.  And we all knew the day would come when VolWeb would do more than just show its age – it would face an age-related malfunction that would require critical and intensive care. And more than just a light sniffle, this breakdown has rendered the system completely inaccessible and it will take more than a day or two of rest to bring it back to full strength.

“Much loved” is an exaggeration. A big one! Like all tools and systems we usually only love databases when they work exactly the way we want them to. VolWeb didn’t have lots of bells or whistles, menu bars, or fancy videos. It was not shiny and new, and it did not do every thing we wanted. We never yelled “We love VolWeb” across the office. But, now that VolWeb is gone, we realize just how much we used it, needed it, and how much we will miss it.

Volweb was a workhorse, a constant companion, and a useful tool for thousands of volunteers and volunteer managers. It was developed a decade ago to support volunteer recruitment efforts for the 2010 Olympic Games and was later adapted for use by volunteer centres across the province. Since 2010 it has been lovingly cared for by the staff at the BC Games Society – who deserve massive thanks and admiration for their tremendous service and ability to keep VolWeb functioning with the smallest of budgets and tightest of timelines.

Volunteer Victoria has been working on a new database system called Volunteer Impact for more than 6 months. We had planned to launch the new system in February once all the technical issues have been solved, the data is clean, and everything functions as it should. But with the demise of VolWeb our ‘perfect launch plan’ has been shelved.

Yesterday we brought Volunteer Impact online so that we can provide continuous service to our member agencies and to the public. The new system is not perfect – but it has lots of new functions and features, and things to enjoy. And we hope in the not too distant future, we will hear member agencies and volunteers claiming to “love that new system.”

Volunteers: Aging in Place

Did you know that James Bay is home to the largest concentration of seniors in the country?18.4% of the population in Victoria is a senior, meaning that not only does our community have a higher than average number of seniors, we also have a higher than average number of senior volunteers. And, as the large baby boom generation born between 1946 and 1965 reaches 65 years old we will have even more seniors volunteering.

For many years, the number of new seniors entering their retirement years and volunteering seemed to keep pace with the number of senior volunteers ‘downsizing’ their volunteer commitments. But, times have changed and seniors are healthier than ever before, living longer, and staying engaged in their communities and in their volunteer work. For the first time, we have an increasingly large number of volunteers aging in place and community agencies are now working with up to 4 generations of senior volunteers.

Organizations and volunteer managers recognize that while we often use the same term for people between the age of 65 and 105, individual senior volunteers have very different needs and very different reasons for volunteering and we cannot use the same management principles and set of expectations for every demographic group. Best practice says we have to anticipate the needs of our volunteers and our volunteer programs and adjust our practices to serve both.

After volunteering for 1, 10, 20, 30, or even 40 years, senior volunteers experience a wide range of feelings and choices regarding their volunteer work. Most seniors continue to volunteer because they know they contribute in meaningful ways and volunteering adds value to the community and their lives. When asked, senior volunteers also share their fears about aging in place – some have concerns that if they leave they can not be replaced and they worry about the consequences to the organization, others are concerned that volunteering adds stress and impacts their health, or organizational needs change and they no longer feel like they can keep up. Organizations also struggle to evolve volunteer positions filled by senior volunteers – often because they are afraid of the impact on volunteers who do not easily embrace change.

In the best cases, organizations have embraced the opportunity to ask senior volunteers what they want and need, what they need to learn, and how they will evolve their roles to meet their own emerging needs  and the needs of the organization. The most successful senior volunteer stories include elements of respect, good communication, a shared vision, and a plan for when and how change will happen.

Social Enterprise

Question: How do you make a small fortune in business? Answer: Start with a large fortune and work your way down. OK, so this is an old joke and not a very good joke but the question of how a non-profit might make money is a very good question and really rather timely.

On May 30th, A Social Enterprise Day of Learning is being held at Royal Roads University. The cost of an entire day of learning (with lunch) is a steal of a deal at just $50. The value of spending a day with skilled people who have started social enterprises and succeeded at business is priceless.

If the idea of starting a social enterprise leaves your head spinning and your heart racing, you are in good company. This event if for organizations considering a social enterprise or just entering the start-up phase, and for individuals managing social enterprises who are looking for tips and tools to grow their business. Most importantly, this event welcomes small non profits with big ideas and big non-profits with even larger dreams.

For more information or to register please visit

Looking for a healthy hobby? Volunteering at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Victoria could be for you!

This blog post is written by Julia-Anne Morris, Volunteer Victoria’s Youth Programs Manager

What do you think of when you hear the word volunteer? Do you think of making a difference? Developing your own skills? Being happier? According to researcher Allen Klein, “research has shown that people who volunteer live longer.” So, while you are setting your goals, plans, or resolutions for 2014, why not think about your health and how volunteering can support a long and happy life?

At Volunteer Victoria, we have many wonderful non-profit member agencies that have an incredibly wide and diverse pool of volunteer opportunities just waiting for someone like you to find one that suits your needs, goals, and interests. One agency in particular is hoping that you can be the difference in a child’s life, and improve your own life at the same time.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Victoria (BBBSV) is an agency “that has been providing support to local families and helping children in our area reach their full potential for nearly 40 years. Our programs are preventative in nature and rely on the simple principle that each time we pair a child with a mentor, we start something incredible – a life-changing relationship built on friendship, trust and empowerment.” You might have heard of BBBSV, but did you know that they have an In School Mentoring program? I personally didn’t until I started my third year practicum with them. Instantly, I knew that this program was one of the best for a broad spectrum of people wanting to volunteer.

The In School program is a great option for the beginner or experienced volunteer. The volunteer, Big, and elementary school student, Little, spend one hour each week together during the school year. Bigs and Littles spend time on school grounds doing an endless number of fun activities including arts and crafts, reading, sports, baking, games, puzzles, and just chatting. The Littles are referred by their school to the program, ensuring that those kindergartners to grade six students who can truly benefit from the program aren’t missed.

The positive feedback and success stories from both Bigs and Littles who have participated in the In School Mentoring program is endless. One grade three student was matched with a Big Sister after her mother passed away. They met weekly during her elementary years, and then became a community match when she graduated to her next school. Today, the Little is in her 20’s and is still in touch with her Big! The Little says that her Big supported her through school, foster care, university applications and scholarships, and many other aspects of growing up. She told our colleagues at BBBSV that, “My Big Sister has known me longer than any other adults in my life –she truly is like family to me.”

So whether you believe in resolutions or not, now is a great time to jump on the wagon of re-assessing what keeps you healthy, and how you can Start Something Big by volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Engaging Our Youth

Written by: Julena Breel, Youth Programmer

Recently the Clayoquot Sound Conservation Alliance held a panel event called “Clayoquot Conversations: The Legacy and Future of Clayoquot Sound” at Alix Goolden Performance Hall. Lead by Elizabeth May speakers included veteran environmentalists, reporters and representatives from Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Band Council. During one of the responses a panel member was quoted as saying, “I have come to hate parks; in my opinion they represent what is wrong in society. You see something so blatantly beautiful and you make it into a National Park as to protect it. National Parks are just proof our civilization not only doesn’t trust itself but can’t control itself.” Having never thought of this before it resonated deeply. Why is it that we can’t just see nature and understand it to be sacred, why do we need a wooden sign displaying “BC Parks” for us to leave it untouched? To me if the leaders of today see it as important then who do they not trust? A look around the room gave one potential answer – our future generations, our future leaders, our youth. There was not a soul to be seen under the age of 25, leaving myself and a few scattered emerging professionals in the room the youngest in attendance.

Given the Clayoquot Sound protest occurred in 1993 when the majority of whom we define as ‘youth’ in BC were either not born or still potty-training it is not surprising that the auditorium was not packed with Twitter-pro’s and selfie-gurus. However, it does leave the question, where are they? Is it that they are simply uninterested in such things, do they not know it is happening or is the event format one that does not appeal to them?

Youth face challenges that can be similar no matter what the generation – body image, job security, and struggle for independence – however passion is not one of them. Youth are some of the most driven, self-motivated and zealous people in Greater Victoria. The Youth Team just recently received an email from one of our clients who has been having a tough time finding work lately. He even is coming up against some barriers in the volunteer sector. Because of such he thought he would put his energy into something he enjoyed and so, created a small aquaponic system. In laymen’s terms this is an aquarium/vegetable hybrid; you grow veggies on top and as you water them the liquid is filtered into the aquarium below. It’s gorgeous and labor-intensive. If that is not appreciation for the environment and our personal carbon footprint then what is?

It is not passion that hinders youth from attending and gaining new tools and expertise to step into the future with – they care, and their hearts are in it. So what prevents the physical presence?

Well, unfortunately this generation has been raised in a flashy, quick, visually appealing era. If you can’t catch their eyes with signs and facts, it can be even harder to catch their hearts. Leaving the auditorium it was clear that while rich in content and knowledge the presentation didn’t leave one carrying many tangible take-aways out the door. Although the purpose of the event was to shed light on the past in hopes of changing the future it seemed to get stuck in history and the shift to present-day came too late. For youth, that simply won’t cut it. Digestible history facts paired with attainable personal shifts works wonders for the generation that survives off 140 character messages and instant updates. #SadIKnow.

There is a wealth of information to be left for youth from previous generations and it asks a lot of them to change formats that feel comfortable and dependable to embrace ones whose foundations are rooted in quick and striking however the Youth Team argues is might be necessary to not only keep those inter generational lines of communication open but allow them to flourish. Our youth are passionate and keen and if we as a community can meet them where they are at the opportunities for our invested projects are endless.