Posted: 2 May 2018
Author: Val Rathjen, Community Learning Network
Found in: Tutors and Volunteers
Did you know that 12.7 million Canadians volunteer their time and energy each year? How fortunate we are to live in a country where people give so generously of their time, and recognize the need to invest in their communities. Canadians contribute roughly two billion hours of volunteer time per year – that works out to an average of 168 hours each (Volunteer Canada i. p., 2011). Amazing!
April 15-21 was National Volunteer Week and Wainwright Adult Learning held a Volunteer Appreciation luncheon honouring the people who have stepped forward to support their local CALP with their time and talents. These individuals are making a huge difference in the lives of learners and their community. As the staff shared about their event and the volunteers they were honouring, it hit me just how incredible this celebration was. Only a year or two ago the only volunteers working with this organization were on the Board. Fast forward 2 years and here they were celebrating 19 fabulous volunteers!
I had a chance to talk to Claudinei Saunders-Cruz, Program Director, about how they attracted new board members, tutors and volunteers in general. The list included many familiar approaches but also a couple of ideas that I hadn’t heard before.
This has proven to be a successful way to reach people whose main source of information comes from the internet. A Volunteer Canada study showed that youth, aged 15-24, “respond to innovative online communications and recruitment techniques.” (Volunteer Canada i. p., 2011). Why not provide the information and opportunity online – you never know who you might reach.
Volunteer Canada has an interesting document called, Bridging the Gap, Enriching the Volunteer Experience to build a better future for our communities, which you can download from https://volunteer.ca/vdemo/researchandresources_docs/Bridging%20the%20Gap%20Summary.pdf .
This document addresses what Canadians are looking for in volunteering, and also how organizations are engaging volunteers. It identifies some trends that are important for us to keep in mind when working with volunteers.
The primary gaps identified in the study were: (Volunteer Canada i. p., 2011)
Tips for engaging volunteers: (Volunteer Canada i. p., 2011)
I have heard from many organizations, that they take advantage of every chance they get to recruit new volunteers. One group that can sometimes be overlooked is the CALPs learners, both past and present. These individuals have already identified that they have learning needs that the CALP is meeting. A satisfied learner appreciates the value a CALP brings to a community. Why not consider them when you are looking for new volunteers. Having a learner on your board could bring valuable insight into the needs of your community. Giving a learner the chance to mentor or tutor someone else can speak to the growth you see in their lives and highlight that we all have talents and abilities to bring to the table.
Another secret weapon a CALP can use is - a learner story! Stories are powerful. They help people identify on a personal level and see the impact that their time and skills could make on another person’s life. We all want to make a difference and to be part of meaningful pursuits, and this is where Adult Learning organizations can shine brightest. Encourage learners to celebrate and share the journey they are on! Lac La Biche Community Learning encourages their learners to volunteer at events and activities that the CALP organizes for the community. This has provided newcomers with a chance to integrate and learn more about their new community. It has built awareness and fostered the importance of giving back. Learners have also been able share their journey and experiences with others.
I recognize that there are not a lot of “new” ideas here. In the end all we can do is share the opportunity and hope that others will catch our passion. I would suggest that recruitment is something that everyone in the organization should be a part of. Board members, current volunteers and learners can all be promoting the work of the CALP. We all have different circles of influence and the more people promoting the CALP the better!
One last thing: never forget to honour and appreciate the volunteers you currently have. Joining Wainwright Adult Learning’s Volunteer Appreciation event highlighted the importance of saying “thank you”. We can sometimes assume that people know how much we appreciate them, but the truth is that everyone needs to hear it from time to time. So, send your board members a card, invite your volunteers out for lunch, invest in training to build their skills, appreciate and honour them. Advanced Education recognizes the important role volunteers play in our programs and have allowed CALPs to designate grant funds to support the development and appreciation of these fine folks.
Volunteer Appreciation week may have come and gone, but today is a great day to thank the people that make your programs stick. Reach out and thank a volunteer today!
CLN Regional Support Staff