Stand Up for our Profession

Susan Ellis is one of only a handful of internationally recognized speakers in the field of volunteer management. And, thanks to AVRBC, she was in Victoria last week to help inspire administrators of volunteer resources from across the province.  

As you might expect from an expert practitioner, author, researcher, and advocate with more than 30 years experience in the voluntary sector Ellis’s presentation was crammed with nuggets of wisdom and skilled intention. Her straight to the point messages about the importance and power of volunteerism hit the proverbial nails on the head.

Ellis’s presentation was not, however, a gentle walk down memory lane. She challenges all coordinators, managers, and advocates of volunteers to revisit our personal and organizational assumptions about how we articulate and recognize the value of volunteerism and asks us to address any complacency that weakens the impact of our profession and collective work. Her point is that if volunteer management professionals don’t determine the future of our sector, who will?

Here are just a few Ellis inspired questions to contemplate:

– How do we inspire more emerging professionals to choose volunteer management as an intentional career path?
– There are very few accredited Volunteer Management Training programs in Canada and trends suggest that established programs across the world are closing. How do we sustain and share research about volunteer management related issues and advocate for volunteer management training as a priority for our sector?
– How do we ensure that volunteerism is identified as an essential service  (like IT or HR) across the entire organization and is not viewed as just an isolated program function?
– What steps will we personally take to ensure that volunteer managers have the tools and resources we need to respond to emerging trends and increasing demands for volunteer services from both the non-profit and public sector?
– How will we share best practices and learnings with each other?

The questions may be simple, but the solutions are complex and far reaching.

Volunteer Victoria, and our colleagues and peers at AVRBC, Volunteer BC, and Volunteer Canada welcome you to share your ideas and experiences in volunteer management. Visit our websites to find out how you can get connected and thanks for choosing this profession!

Volunteer Victoria’s Youth Team Recognizes Nicole Liu

This post is written by Julena Breel , Youth Placement Support Worker at Volunteer Victoria

National Volunteer Week, this year spanning from April 21st – April 27th, is all about volunteer recognition. It’s a celebration of the commitment, dedication and passion volunteers give our country and communities daily.

In 1943 this week was created to celebrate Canadian women who gave tremendous and imperative war-related efforts from the home-front. 71 years later the reasons to say thanks are vaster than ever. From campaigners to graphic designers to board members, volunteer positions encompass them all. In 2010 Stats Canada estimated that over half of Canadians volunteer their time yearly. That’s over 17 million people generously giving back to charities and causes they believe in! Pat yourself on the back Canada, that’s phenomenal.

Here at Volunteer Victoria we are extremely lucky to be surrounded by a group of volunteers whose time is vital for our organization and whose positive demeanors uplift our office daily. National Volunteer Week is important,  so the Youth Volunteer Connections Program, on behalf of Volunteer Victoria, wishes to use this opportunity to express gratitude to one of their extraordinary volunteers: Nicole Liu.

Nicole is going on her third year volunteering at Volunteer Victoria and in doing so has become a critical team player in the office. Nicole  started volunteering with the Youth Volunteer Connections Program in 2010 doing data entry and short term project support. Throughout the years she has provided invaluable feedback to the program by participating in a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of YVCP, generating surveys, and interviewing new staff hires.

Nicole speaks with enthusiasm regarding her growth within the agency saying, “I have developed skills that include increased responsibility, multi-tasking, working independently and written and oral communication”. It speaks to Nicole’s organizational strength and time management skill set that she took on additional volunteer capacities during the transition of Volunteer Victoria’s Manager of Training and Outreach.

Nicole will be graduating this year from Mount Douglas Secondary and has decided to pursue her studies with the University of Victoria starting in September. Although the career field is ripe with opportunity Nicole wants to take this time to learn about as many routes as possible before declaring a major. Here at Volunteer Victoria we’re not only thrilled she’s doing what makes her happy but we’re ecstatic that this so happens to be in Victoria! She’s a one of a kind lady, filled with creative ideas, a supportive attitude and a desire to constantly learn and be challenged.

According to Victoria Foundation’s Youth 2012 Vital Signs, Nicole joins the 53% of youth aged 15-24 who volunteer in our community. Those youth, alongside the adult volunteers who also give their time tirelessly, are what make Victoria one of the greatest places to call home. It’s truly the people who give back as much as they get from the capital of BC that make our city shine.

On behalf of Volunteer Victoria, to all of those who give their time locally and globally, thank you. We appreciate and value you tremendously. An unknown author once said, “There is no “I” in team but we sure are glad there is “U” in our volunteers.” We couldn’t agree more.


Learning Outside the Volunteer Management Box

We’d like to introduce guest contributor Charlene Dishaw, currently the Manager of Volunteer Resources at Delta Hospital in Ladner, BC.

After over 10 years of working in the field of Volunteer Management I was having a “heard that, seen them” feeling. I was looking for education that would elevate my work another level. The Vancouver Board of Trade brought in the Disney Leadership workshop and my passion for working with people was renewed. What did it for me? The thrill of hearing what big business has the time and money to research. And the research can be directly applied to our sector. Since that workshop I have attended speakers who spoke to marketing and future planning, read dozens of books and taken a course at Simon Fraser University on Organizational Behaviour.

What does corporate marketing have to do with volunteers? One of our challenges is retention. What makes you go to Starbucks as a customer despite the cost of coffee? It is Starbucks’ excellent marketing. The venues smell great, they are inviting to visit. How do we entice volunteers to “come in?” What does your volunteer lounge look like? Do you have a lounge? If there is no lounge, how do you make the volunteers feel welcome and want to come back each week? Did you know that Disney purposely pumps the smells of cinnamon and other tasty fragrances in the air as you go down Main Street? This is not a coincidence, it is done on purpose to make you want to be there and spend some money. What can you “pump” into your venue to make the volunteer’s or employee’s day?

One of the biggest things that opened my eyes in all this training was what can you do to make someone’s day. This just isn’t a work philosophy, it is a life philosophy. We have such a great influence on other’s lives. How can we individually “make the day” of our colleagues, volunteers, spouses, families? We wield a mighty magical wand by really doing so little. “Thank you for coming in to volunteer today, I heard the staff say how wonderful it has been to have you on the unit.” Corporations are about saving money for greater profit, but they still need good employees with little turn over. Corporations have lots of tips for low or no cost recognition. These are valuable resources for those in the not for profit sector.

If you are interested and looking for a place to start, the latest book I just read was Lee Cockerell’s book, “Creating Magic – 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies From A Life At Disney.” The book is a compilation of many of the best practices in the field of research in working with people. This is a great story of management and leadership from the storytelling company.

For more information about “for profit leadership” contact your local college or university for courses. I am also available for workshops to share how corporation research can enrich our field.

Charlene Dishaw has been coordinating volunteers since 1992. She completed the Certificate in Volunteer Management at Vancouver Community College, is a graduate of Simon Fraser University and Past President of the Administrators of Volunteer Resources British Columbia. Charlene can be reached at dishaw [ at ] alumni [ dot ] sfu [ dot ] ca.

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.

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!

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.

How to Turn Your Organization into a Volunteer Magnet

In early May we held a workshop taught by facilitator Martin J. Cowling, CEO of People First – Total Solutions and an expert in volunteer management.  Martin hails from Australia; we first welcomed him to Victoria three years ago when he taught two half-day workshops for us on topics related to managing volunteers.

Since Martin was very well received here in 2007, (his first time training in Canada!) we asked him to come back this year.  He delivered a full-day workshop entitled “How to Turn Your Organization into a Volunteer Magnet” to 37 participants, who all have roles managing volunteers at their organizations.

The workshop is based on a free e-book of the same name, a resource to which Cowling and other experts in volunteer management have contributed.  It’s full of dozens of articles organized around the themes of volunteer program administration, recruiting volunteers, supporting and retaining volunteers, attracting diverse volunteers, and being “magnetically imaginative.”  It is a great read for anyone involved in managing a volunteer program.

At the workshop – and drawing on the analogy of a magnet – Martin took participants through a host of information and exercises designed to make us analyze our own volunteer programs.  For example:  magnets attract, so how do we attract volunteers to our programs?  How could we unknowingly be repelling them?  Once we have attracted volunteers, how do we hold them fast and keep them motivated?  How do we produce “electricity” in our volunteer program and encourage brilliance?

Learning how organizations could unknowingly be repelling potential volunteers was very eye-opening.  Martin quoted a 1999 U.S. study carried out by Hobson & Malec in which 500 charitable organizations in Chicago were called by researchers posing as potential volunteers.  The researchers found the following:

  • Only 49.3% of the callers received an offer of assistance (e.g. “May I help you?”)
  • 69.3% did not receive the name of the staff person answering the phone
  • 26.4% were not referred to the appropriate contact person
  • When the contact person was not available, only 48.7% were asked for their name and phone number
  • Only 30% actually received callbacks
  • In 16.1% of the phone calls, prospective volunteers were not thanked for calling the agency*


What do these results mean for today’s volunteer-driven organizations?  They highlight the fact that organizations have to be constantly aware of how they present themselves to potential volunteers.  They need to consider how best to attract volunteers to their agencies and how not to turn them away.

Learning how volunteers are attracted or repelled, held or “electrified” is crucial to enhancing an organization’s volunteer program and ultimately the organization itself.  Martin J. Cowling helped workshop participants start to make changes in this direction.  One participant from the workshop said it all:  “Great, useful, practical information.  We left feeling like we were ready to change our organizations.  Thank you!”

For more tips on responding to potential volunteers consult the Colleague Connections section of Volunteer Victoria’s Winter 2008 newsletter.

*Source: Steve McCurley article “Reverse Polarity and the Volunteer Magnet”, located in e-book mentioned above.

Celebrating Volunteerism

This post first appeared in Volunteer Victoria’s E-Link newsletter. Sign up for E-Link and keep current with news and information from Volunteer Victoria. We welcome your feedback and suggestions.

This week, all across Canada, organizations are celebrating National Volunteer Week. Here in Victoria, we are also recognizing the very significant contribution that volunteers make to our community. 

Along with this celebration of volunteerism, Volunteer Victoria is also celebrating 35 years of service to our community. As we reflect on the changes that have taken place over the past 35 years, we are very much aware of the way volunteer roles have changed and evolved.

When VV first opened its doors, much of the work that volunteers did in our community was very hands-on. Today, while direct service continues to be a significant and greatly valued role, the scope and diversity of volunteer opportunities has expanded hugely.

Many of the activities that volunteers carry out today could not even have been imagined 35 years ago. 

Developments in technology have generated an entirely new category of volunteers in our community. First there were the volunteers who developed websites and databases. Now volunteers are creating social networking sites, managing blogs and developing videos for YouTube.

Who knew VV would have a 13 year old photographer compiling a digital photo archive for our Youth Program. Wow! 

Today, volunteers can also support our organizations from 2 miles down the road or 2,000 miles across the country. Like many other organizations, Volunteer Victoria is fortunate to have a “virtual” volunteer. Our wonderful graphic designer produces brochures and flyers – without ever crossing the pond.

As Boomers retire, many organizations have benefited from the wealth of skills and expertise that these talented individuals have to share. For resource strapped non-profits seeking assistance with HR, accounting or marketing, this volunteer expertise is truly a gift. We think our REALnet volunteer team is a very big gift.

There are young professionals who share their cutting edge IT skills, youth volunteers who know more about video production than most of us will ever learn, and workplace teams that give their all to paint a shelter on the weekend.

Volunteers support local festivals, their church, youth soccer, their elderly neighbour and human rights. They serve on boards, conserve our greenspace and Tweet our stories to the community.

They are youth, new Canadians, busy moms, Boomers and your neighbour down the street. They are you and 138,000 others in Victoria. The difference they make to our community is absolutely astounding.

And this week we say thank you.  Thank You Volunteers! 

by Val Green, Executive Director
Volunteer Victoria

Join the conversation! Stay connected here (and through our online newsletter E-Link ) for the latest news.

Overview of Volunteer Management Course: A Participant’s Experience

Today I’d like to welcome Yasmin Rampuri from the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria who has written the following guest blog post for us about her experiences taking our recent Overview of Volunteer Management certificate course.  Congratulations to all 23 of our 2009 course graduates! 

Over four Saturdays in October and November I had the great pleasure of attending Volunteer Victoria’s excellent Overview of Volunteer Management Course.  The course was facilitated by two engaging and very experienced leaders in the Volunteer Management field, Diane Kirby and Theresa Vogel.  Each of them led two of the Saturdays, and brought their different styles to bear on the information presented. 
Topics covered included: planning and designing a volunteer program; recruitment and retention of volunteers; dealing with difficult situations in volunteer management; evaluation of volunteer programs and the place of volunteers within an organization; and innovative ways of recognizing volunteers. 
There was some homework, but it was all very applicable to our actual work as volunteer coordinators and many of us were able to use this effort to great benefit in our offices.  The considered feedback of our facilitators gave us the ability to improve our outputs in a way we would not get if we had just done these projects at work since many of us are the only ones who do what we do where we work.  We also worked on case studies garnered from real life examples of the class participants, carefully made anonymous, and this proved to be very helpful in providing solutions to some challenges we’ve faced, or may face in the future.
Meeting the other participants was also a very positive offshoot of attending the course.  It presented a great networking opportunity and was also a fantastic way of getting to know about many other organizations who work with volunteers in Greater Victoria, and what a difference these organizations make in the community.  We also had chances to do commercials for both personal and professional events.
At the conclusion of the course, a graduation ceremony was held, and certificates were presented to all the members of the Class of 2009.  Both Diane and Theresa were in attendance as well as Beth Cougler Blom of Volunteer Victoria and Nancy Martens of VIHA in their roles as the South Island co-reps of the Administrators of Volunteer Resources BC.  We all had the chance to “give ourselves a clap!”.  I would highly recommend this course to anyone who works with volunteers!

2009 Overview of Volunteer Management course graduates

2009 Overview of Volunteer Management course graduates, along with facilitators Theresa Vogel and Diane Kirby

Book an appointment with Personnel Calendar using SetMore