Book Review: The Abundant Non Profit

Volunteering trends vary greatly across the world and what may be true for most other nations is not always true in Canada; like the idea that there is a shortage of volunteers. Canada has the 2nd largest voluntary sector in the world – after the Netherlands – and with more than 12 million volunteers across the country we do not have a shortage of willing participants.

Vantage Point (Vancouver’s Volunteer Centre) has long advocated for the fact that in this continued environment of resource scarcity non profits have to think and behave differently. They believe so strongly in the idea that non profits need to shift our primary focus from allocating financial assets to developing human assets that staff members Colleen Kelly and Lynda Gerty put pen to paper (sorry, fingers to the keyboard) to write their book “The Abundant Non Profit.”  

The book is scattered with wise words and good ideas but if reading non profit management books is not top of your summer ‘to-do’ list, then here are some of the paraphrased highlights.  

  • Non profits cannot always wait for funding to start or finish key projects. Vantage Point believes we must expand our circle of experienced volunteers who can help by breaking down projects into bite sized chunks and getting the work done.
  • While all volunteers are created equal in terms of their value to an organization, some volunteer work is valued at a higher rate of return than others. For example: the value difference between using volunteers to copy newsletters or to build a new website.
  • All volunteers need to have work that meets their learning and engagement needs. Create project options with varying levels of complexity.
  • Create an annual plan for volunteer led and managed projects (and connect them to your strategic goals.) 
  • Integrate volunteers into every level of the organization
  • Turn project and program managers into people managers. One manager can only complete a limited number of projects or program objectives, but a people manager with 40 to 60 volunteers can increase their productivity exponentially.

You can purchase “The Abundant Non Profit” directly through the Vantage Point website or member agencies can sign the book out of the Volunteer Victoria library.

Saluting All Volunteers

Have you every heard that old saying about the weather in March? “In like a lion, out like a lamb.”  Sadly for our neighbours across Northern and Southern Alberta last week  June came “in like a lamb but went out like a lion.” 

While the cost of the flood damage will be calculated in terms of lives lost and impacted, the value of property damage, and confidence shaken, there are also many stories emerging this week that help illuminate, quantify, and qualify the generosity of humans and the resilience of people and communities, the power of volunteers to make a difference, and the need to have volunteer services and infrastructure in place – so that when a call to action is issued volunteers know where to go and how to help.

Municipalities across Greater Victoria have robust emergency response programs that operate quietly behind the scenes year round – making sure that they are ready to respond to any and all types of small and large scale emergencies, to provide training to community members and businesses, and to recruit and train volunteers. Volunteer Victoria and the City of Victoria have a formal plan in place should a volunteer centre be needed in the case of a large scale local emergency. 

In many emergencies, however, the scope of need grows beyond those vital services provided by first responders. Once lives and essential services are safely secured in those early hours and days after an emergency, volunteers are often called upon long-term to help rebuild public spaces and assets. In Calgary more than 2,500 volunteers will be needed over the next two weeks to help revitalize the Calgary Stampede grounds. In Fort McMurray dozens of volunteers worked this last weekend to salvage 1000’s of paper documents and artifacts from their flooded Heritage Park.

In the weeks after an emergency volunteers are often recruited to feed and house families and animals, remove debris, help replant parks and public gardens, support those who have suffered loss, and help rebuild lives and gathering spaces, community and civic centres, and those places that are vital to our culture, our memory making, our economy, and our wellness.

Volunteer Victoria salutes all first responder and community building volunteers this week. Thank you for stepping up to help your neighbours.

If you want to learn more about emergency planning or volunteer opportunities, please contact your local municipal emergency response program. 

Where Can Volunteering Take You?

Today’s blog post is contributed by Angela Vincent, a volunteer at the Victoria General Hospital. Angie’s story is a great example of how someone can discover their passion while volunteering! Read on…

Hello everyone! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Angie. I am a mother of two beautiful children: Keegan who is seven & Kenzie who is three! I would like to share a small story with you. It’s about my volunteer experience and where it has taken me – I think I should begin with how it all started.

Previously I worked in the retail industry for over eleven years. I enjoyed what I did but towards the end went through a difficult stage of feeling lost in life (a whole other story in itself :-)). I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do or how to do something about not knowing what to do… if you catch my drift. At the time I remember my mom saying to me, “Try volunteering at a hospital, it’ll be good for you”. I have to admit, I felt nervous even thinking about doing so. Up until that point I had not spent much time in a hospital environment; let alone done any volunteering!

With that said, I bit the bullet and went for it. Before I knew it, I was in a “meet & greet” with Petra Slaughter, the Coordinator of Volunteer Resources at the Victoria General Hospital (VGH). Petra immediately took my nervousness down a notch. I told her exactly how I felt and that it was time I tried new things. Petra’s support and encouragement (not just for me, but for the entire volunteer team), was noticeably infectious. She wanted me to find my right fit just as much as I was hoping to find it – and so it began, I started off in the Medical Imaging Department as an on-call volunteer.

While waiting for a more permanent position (the waitlist was quite extensive and still exists to this day), I began volunteering in the office area with Petra; more so to pass time. Now if there is one thing I quickly realized: what you expect something to be like isn’t always how it turns out (Petra told me this once)… and how true! I found I really enjoyed the office area. Since starting in June 2010, I have worked my way from general office duties to conducting intakes with new volunteers and have since started training volunteer team leaders to conduct intakes themselves.

My time in the office has given me a great deal of satisfaction. I have the opportunity of meeting a variety of self-giving people all with different backgrounds and stories to share. It has been and still continues to this day, a magnificent learning opportunity and has provided me with a valuable skill set that in my eyes was nonexistent before.

Soon after, I realized my passion was with people and it was Petra who suggested I consider a career in Human Resources. After some research and digging around, here I am – currently a full-time student at Camosun College enrolled in the Advanced Diploma in Human Resources Management. I can honestly admit that my volunteer experience thus far, along with Petra’s mentorship, has given my life direction – who knows where I would find myself today if I chose not take my mom’s advice.

As I say to my son, ‘you are your own person’ – decisions are to be made; dreams are to be followed. Looking back… my time spent at VGH has been stepping stones to the big goal – a goal I never knew I had until volunteering! (Thanks Petra!)

Reconnecting with Passion

Clare O’Kelly, President of the Administrators of Volunteer Resources British Columbia (AVRBC), wrote this positive and passionate article to all AVRBC members – individuals who coordinate volunteers at BC nonprofit and public organizations – a couple of weeks ago. I believe it’s a must-read for all of us who work with volunteers, so with her permission we’ve reposted it here. For more information about the South Island chapter of AVRBC, please visit the AVRBC website or contact me at Volunteer Victoria.

I’ve always found September to be an exhilarating time of year. For many years I worked at a post-secondary institute and September was the time when we welcomed brand new students embarking on a whole new life experience. There was an excitement and a feeling of great potential and possibility as new classes started, and the hallways once again thronged with anxious young people. The less exciting part was noticing that each year the new students looked younger and I felt older! I feel a bit that way in my current career. Each year I see new practitioners at AVRBC meetings and events, and yet, as I move into my 17th year as an administrator of volunteers I continue to be passionate and energized by the profession and the day-to-day work that I do.

But it’s not always easy! Over 17 years I’ve probably conducted nearly 2,500 interviews; and led close to 170 orientation sessions, not to mention other training events. I’ve organized at least 17 large scale recognition events, and presented countless staff education sessions. Despite what is unfortunately often a revolving door of new professionals in our field (due to low wages, lack of career paths, etc.) there are many other long-term managers of volunteer resources who can no doubt relate to the challenge of harnessing the energy to conduct that 2,501st interview or lead that 171st orientation session with the same passion and engagement that was abundant 17 years ago.

In an online newsletter, “Free-range Thinking” at newsletter/, the article “Once More With Feeling” told about an interviewer asking Tony Bennett how, after numerous years, he continued to be able to sing his signature song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” with such gusto. Bennett admitted this was a challenge and proceeded to explain that before singing this particular song at any performance, he took a moment to reflect on the good things that the song had brought him. It had opened doors for him to sing before ‘kings and queens’, ‘presidents and prime ministers’, and played a big part in the opportunity to sing around the world to sold-out crowds. By reflecting on the positive things that the song had provided in his life, he was able to connect to the song and the audience with passion, feeling and gratitude.

The work we do is of great importance. It’s the bricks and mortar work of civic engagement. Through our efforts myriad services are provided to people around the world in every community. The privilege we have of working every day with people who really do want to give back to their communities, who want to do good, and contribute in a positive way to the world, is something many careers do not offer. By reflecting on this privilege, it really does make it easier to connect to the passion and energy that make an orientation session not only effective, but also fun! It makes it possible to conduct an interview with warmth and sincere interest.

Connecting with this passion, and recognizing the positive purpose of the jobs we do also spurs me to want to be involved in promoting our profession and the positive impact we can have in our communities and organizations. This is why I continue to be involved in AVRBC at the leadership level. Involvement with others who share the passion, who recognize what we have to offer, and recognize the value of the work we do, helps keep me focused on the positive outcomes. It also provides the opportunity to help shape the way volunteerism and our profession are viewed. I consider it a privilege to be able to be part of these efforts.

As you prepare for another influx of new volunteers, additional requests for development of new programs, and as you face the necessity to engage and educate staff one more time, I encourage you to think about the big picture – the importance of the work that you do and its value to your community and to the larger society. Reconnect with that passion, and help shape the future of volunteerism in your world.

Pat Robertson – Valued Volunteer with Broadmead Care Society

The following guest blog post was written by Kelly Sprackett, Coordinator of Volunteer Services at Broadmead Care Society, in praise of one of their long-time volunteers.  Thank you Kelly, for recognizing and sharing Pat’s impact on your organization!


Pat Robertson

Pat Robertson - one of Broadmead Care Society's valued volunteers.

We are proud to say that Pat Robertson has been a volunteer with Broadmead Care Society (and before that, our predecessor Tillicum and Veterans Care Society) since 1975. 

Pat continues to lead the sing along for elderly residents of The Lodge at Broadmead that she began at Tillicum Lodge 36 years ago – and shows no signs of stopping!

 Pat is remarkably dedicated, a natural leader with a quiet and gentle manner.  She lives to connect with others through music.  Her commitment and passion for volunteerism is evident in all that she does.  She also leads a community choir and has volunteered in the school system and at Swan Lake among other organizations too numerous to mention. Pat also served as a founding member of the Board of Tillicum and Veterans Care Society.

Pat does not volunteer for the recognition and is, in fact, rather uncomfortable with being in the spot light.  She is a great inspiration, a leader, and a friend to other volunteers who enjoy helping residents to participate in the sing along program.  She views her volunteering as a team effort, and she always brings out the best in residents and volunteers alike.

Pat is a great ambassador for Broadmead Care Society and has always approached her leadership from the perspective that she is part of a team where everyone has an important role to play. 

Volunteers with Broadmead Care Society make every moment matter.  With Pat Robertson, moments matter in the most honest and heart felt ways. Thank you Pat for all you do and have done for us!

If you would like to learn more and/or volunteer with Broadmead Care Society contact Kelly Sprackett ( or call Kelly at 250-658-0311.

How Coordinators of Volunteers Can Help in Times of Disaster

Today I’d like to introduce guest blogger Sara Walsh, Deputy Emergency Coordinator at the Victoria Emergency Management Agency (VEMA). We are pleased to highlight that Volunteer Victoria and VEMA have had a partnership for many years around emergency preparedness. Sara goes into detail below about how you can help:

Thank you so much to Volunteer Victoria for allowing me to blog about the great work happening in the area of emergency preparedness.

Late last year, the Victoria Emergency Management Agency with the support of Volunteer Victoria launched an innovative new project to help plan for the use of “convergent volunteers” during a large scale emergency or disaster.

Harnessing the energy and spirit of volunteers who are looking for ways to help in a community wide emergency or disaster is a crucial part of any disaster response. The majority of volunteers that assist in a disaster are without specific emergency training but bring a variety of skills to the job. In emergency management, we refer to these volunteers as convergent volunteers. In the event of a large scale damaging earthquake in Victoria, convergent volunteers will arrive and look for meaningful ways to help in the community.

The role of experienced and qualified coordinators of volunteers is an often untapped skill set during community wide disasters. Ensuring that convergent volunteers are utilized in the best way possible is a challenging prospect for emergency management planners and one that needs some advanced planning and preparation. To this end, a call was put out for coordinators of volunteers to register with Volunteer Victoria and attend an information meeting hosted by the Victoria Emergency Management Agency.

The initial response was terrific. I was blown away by the enthusiasm of the participants. The initial idea was to have professional coordinators of volunteers sign up and keep their name on a roster to be called when the time comes. But many who have joined have expressed interest in helping with the plan development and even want to exercise the plan.

The group has now met twice and provided invaluable feedback on the development of the plan. Work is now underway to finalize the draft so that coordinators can run through a small exercise of the plan in November!

We are always looking for participants. If you coordinate volunteers and are interested in helping out in a larger scale emergency or disaster consider joining our group. Our next meeting is on September 29th from 4:30-6:00 pm. Contact me for more details, or call 250-920-3377.

New Regional Rep for AVRBC

I’d like to announce that Tina Lowery of the BC Cancer Agency has stepped in to share the Regional Representative position with me for our local Administrators of Volunteer Resources British Columbia (AVRBC) chapter.  Tina replaces Nancy Martens (more on Nancy below) in this shared position as of this summer, just in time to start off our new meeting year in September.  Tina is the Coordinator of Volunteer Services at the Vancouver Island Cancer Centre and, in her words, “works with and in support of the most amazing, talented and dedicated volunteers.”

If you haven’t heard of AVRBC before, please let me tell you about this wonderful organization.  AVRBC is BC’s provincial network for people who are involved in the administration/coordination/management of volunteers.  (Yes, this actually is a profession in our sector!) All over British Columbia groups of professionals are meeting regularly to talk about how to engage volunteers effectively in our organizations, and in our South Island region we have a particularly amazing chapter.

Our members in South Island meet from September to June on the third Thursday of every month over the noon hour. Sometimes we bring in a guest speaker, sometimes we participate in round-table sharing sessions amongst members, and sometimes we teach each other things that we are doing in our own organizations.  Whatever we’re up to each month, it is sure to be an engaging, fun and friendly atmosphere.  I have been proud to be co-leading this group here in Victoria for the last five years.

As mentioned above, Tina replaces Nancy Martens in the co-Regional Rep position.  Nancy works at the Queen Alexandra Centre for Children’s Health and has contributed many wonderful years of service to AVRBC in this position.  Her energy and positive attitude have always made our meetings a success.  Even though Nancy will no longer be a Regional Representative, we are lucky that she will continue to grace us with her presence at meetings by remaining as a member of AVRBC.

Nancy, thank you for all you’ve done in this leadership role! And Tina, I look forward to working with you to create a shared vision for what this chapter will accomplish from this point forward. I know many more good times are ahead!

Creating Enticing Volunteer Positions

For many years, Volunteer Victoria has had a strong partnership with the Administrators of Volunteer Resources British Columbia (AVRBC), BC’s professional group for people involved in the administration of volunteers.  Every month between September and June on the third Thursday of the month, local coordinators of volunteers gather in Victoria at AVRBC meetings to learn about topics in volunteer management. 

AVRBC South Island’s most recent meeting, held on June 16th, featured a panel of presenters speaking on the topic of Creating Enticing Volunteer Positions.  Panelists Kelly Sprackett, Nancy Martens, and Christine Foster led an informative and interactive presentation.  In this first post of a two-part series, I’ll outline for you some of the beginning steps to creating attractive and enticing volunteer positions that these panelists discussed during their presentations.

First presenter Kelly Sprackett, responsible for managing volunteers at the Broadmead Care Society, reminded us that volunteer position descriptions (alternatively called role descriptions or other various terms) are the key documents that we need to recruit volunteers.  In part, she encouraged us to consider the following in creating them:

  1. Examine the mission, vision and philosophy of your organization before you create the volunteer position.  Any position you create needs to fit with these elements of your organization.
  2. Consider how you can promote organizational change and culture through the design of each volunteer role.
  3. Make sure that the volunteer position description is  consistent with your organization’s policies and procedures.  Check for clear and consistent language between all documents.  A clear role description will help you to both reduce risk and maintain good volunteer/staff relations in your organization.
  4. Build some flexibility into the role description to allow you to keep it interesting and motivational for the volunteer(s) who will perform that role.  Remember, creating volunteer roles is just as much about serving the needs of the volunteer as serving the needs of the organization.  Sometimes it will be appropriate to even create a volunteer position description for a particular person,  sometimes not.  (Re-read #1 in this list before you do this…i.e. will the new position fit your mission?)
  5. The volunteer position description serves as a measure for future supervision and evaluation of the volunteer; it’s a guideline for the volunteer and their supervisor to follow.
  6. Regular check-ins with the volunteer(s) performing the role may lead to changes in the role description, based on changing needs of the organization.
  7. Training for the volunteer extends from the role description; they must complement each other.
  8. The more clear and meaningful you make the volunteer’s role description, the easier it will also be to appreciate and recognize the volunteer performing that role. 

Stay tuned for my next blog post to learn what Nancy Martens and Christine Foster had to share during this worthwhile discussion about creating enticing volunteer position descriptions.

Training for Coordinators of Volunteers

Since 2000, Volunteer Victoria has been offering an Overview of Volunteer Management course once a year for those involved (or wanting to be) in the administration of volunteers.  In the course, participants learn all the basics they need to know about managing volunteers and we’ve graduated over 250 individuals from this course over the past eleven years. 

We’re currently planning for our 2011 offering, and this year we have something else exciting to announce other than just the new course dates for 2011.  Our course has been accepted for credit towards the first course – “Working with Volunteers” – in Red River College’s Volunteer Management program.

Now coordinators of volunteers who take our Overview of Volunteer Management course can use it as a basis for going on for further study at this Manitoba-based college. Red River College’s Volunteer Management program can be completed entirely at a distance, a useful thing for those of us who live in British Columbia and don’t have access to other volunteer management-related certificate programs at our local colleges or universities.

This year, Volunteer Victoria’s Overview of Volunteer Management course will be held in-person over four non-consecutive Saturdays in October and November.  Save the following dates in your calendar, and let us know if you’d like to be contacted when registration is open to save your spot.  This year’s course will be held over October 15, October 22, November 5 and November 19.

To read a previous participant’s experience in this course, please click here.

AGM Awards

Volunteer Victoria welcomed over 80 guests (funders, supporters, member agencies, Coordinators of Volunteers, etc) to celebrate our35th Annual General Meeting on June 24th. The agenda consisted of a delicious breakfast, guest speakers, agency awards and ended with a brief meeting. The theme for the day was Embracing the Future – Leading for Change.      

Sandra Richardson (Victoria Foundation) presented Val Green (Volunteer Victoria) with a plaque recognizing our accomplishments over the past 35 years and thanking Volunteer Victoria for ‘giving heart to our community for 35 years’.      

Each year our Youth Program Coordinator and Access Program Coordinator present Agency Awards to dedicated leaders working with our member agencies. These leaders are chosen for their continuous demonstration of excellence in communication, leadership and accommodation through excellence in volunteer management.      

The following are this year’s outstanding awardees:

Brian Del Raye – Recreation Therapist, Selkirk Place (presented by Lornna Olson, Access Program Coordinator)

It is Brian’s job as the Recreation Therapist to find volunteers to help with the many programs available for the seniors that reside at Selkirk Place. Already working with a high needs population, Brian is open to accommodating volunteers that may require some extra guidance. He is always timely to respond to inquires about volunteering, and always willing to give a tour of the facilities to potential volunteers. Volunteers from our Youth ProgramAccess Program and Employer Supported Volunteer Program have all been welcomed and supported under Brian’s direction. Brian works with a pool of approximately 25 volunteers and 8 recreational therapy staff to service the 250 seniors living at Selkirk Place. 

Lornna presents Certificate of Excellence to Brian.
Recently Brian was willing to take a second look at a potential volunteer from the Access program who was dealing with a misunderstood circumstance that was making it difficult for her to be placed as a volunteer.  Because of Brian’s understanding this volunteer has had the opportunity to prove herself and this connection has been a very important part of her recovery. 

Catriona Campbell – Coordinator of Volunteers, James Bay Community Project (presented by Lornna Olson, Access Program Coordinator)       

This is the second time Catriona has been honored with this award in the 15 years that she has been connected with James Bay Community Project (3 years on the board prior to 12 years as Coordinator of Volunteers). This community health care centre serves approximately 350 people a day. Catriona organises 250 volunteers, 50 of them being  community living volunteers. Last year her volunteers worked a total of 18,800 volunteer hours.    We can count on Catriona’s openness and acceptance of all types of volunteers. She is always very clear about her volunteer needs and always willing to give an interview.   If the position in question has already been filled, or if she feels that the fit might not work, Catriona is able to think outside the box to tailor a potential position that might fit more within the volunteer’s abilities.    

Recently a client of Volunteer Victoria’s Access Program expressed interest in a pruning position at the project, but due to anxiety didn’t think that he wanted to be around crowds. Catriona suggested that this client come to prune the trees when the project was closed –to avoid having to be around people. Eventually the volunteer felt welcome enough that he could be comfortable inside the building and eventually expressed interest in volunteering directly with members of the project.       

Gillian Rowan – Recreation Services Team Leader, Burnside Gorge Community Association (presented by Tara MacDonald, Youth Program Coordinator)

Gillian has been working at Burnside Gorge Community Association, as the Team Leader in Recreation Services for the past 2 years. She runs about 30 recreation activities and also coordinates the numerous special events hosted by BGCA. Last year, Gillian organized 5 special events and managed over 700 volunteers. Gillian demonstrates excellence in leadership, communication and accommodation as she welcomes volunteers of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.  She encourages youth to get involved and she genuinely appreciates the energy and positive attitude they bring to the events. She also encourages families, people with special needs and new Canadians to come and get involved in their community through volunteering. Gillian recognizes the great value a diverse pool of volunteers can add to an event.

  Tara presents Certificate of Excellence award to Gillian  

Gillian also recruits non-event volunteers to support her work at the centre. When she needs help with something, and may not have the expertise or the time to do it, she will create a volunteer posting seeking help.  For example, when Gillian needed to create promotional materials, she recruited a graphic designer. When she needs office support, she recruits an administration volunteer and when she required help with her website, she recruited a webmaster who works for a local tech company and is delighted to offer her skills in a volunteer capacity.Volunteers who work with Gillian are welcomed with a warm smile and enjoy a meaningful and positive volunteer experience. 

To all our supporters, funders, Coordinators of Volunteers and members, past and present, the staff at Volunteer Victoria thank you for your support over the past 35 years.

Val Green, Lornna Olson, Tara MacDonald, Beth Cougler-Blom, Liz Belsten, Lori Elder, Bonnie Van Volkenburg. Missing: Louise Keith

(Photos by Snap Victoria)

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