Tag Archives: Volunteer Edmonton

Retention Refresh: Recapping Our Last Think Tank Conversation

by Sharon Mvundura

Think Tank Conversations are bi-monthly meetups of those who manage, coordinate and engage volunteers in Edmonton. The space we’ve created is one of discussion, networking and working through the trends, challenges and success volunteer coordinators face in their roles. Our May session was the last one before a summer break. Read on for what Think Tankers had to say about volunteer retention.

Organizations are experiencing a variety of challenges when it comes to volunteer retention. Time was the buzzword of the morning and played an important role in the strain organizations feel. They’re experiencing high turnover rates, volunteers leaving for paid employment, and are investing in volunteer training and orientation only to have volunteers leave.

I thought the majority of the morning would be spent talking about challenges, but organizations were quickly producing questions and possible solutions to their volunteer retention woes. Some that came out of our framing conversation were:

  • Who is your audience?
  • How can we meet volunteers where they are?
  • How can we instill ownership and accountability in volunteers?

First: audience.

Volunteer managers admitted that in order to retain volunteers it is important to recruit the right volunteers first. It just doesn’t cut it to fill volunteer spots.

During the recruitment process, identify what type of volunteer your organization needs and wants. Ensure skill sets match the needs of the program and screen out unsuitable candidates. One volunteer manager shared their story of recruiting volunteers in a rush to fill spots only to reflect later that some of those volunteers just weren’t the right fit. It’s time to get strategic about the recruitment process.

Second: meeting volunteers where they’re at.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • How can your program and roles be more flexible?
  • What are the goals of your volunteers?
  • How can you help them fulfill or find their passion or purpose through your organization?
  •  Is there room for volunteers to grow in your organization?

You can explore those questions in the recruitment process with potential volunteers.  In this Think Tank, we used Volunteer Alberta’s handy “Window of Work” tool. This is a one page worksheet that can be used by organizations to discover volunteer’s motives, their intentions and non-negotiables when it comes to volunteer work. Try it! It got great response in the room.

But what about volunteers who have been in your organization for many years? It’s never too late to check in with them. Doing check-ins, one-on-one feedback sessions to gauge volunteer engagement is a great way to know where there’s room for improvement and how you can continue to provide a rewarding experience for all volunteers.

Lastly: ownership and accountability.

The truth is we’ll never get the volunteer retention thing down to a science. Volunteers will always leave at some point, but there are ways to increase buy-in and engagement. It starts with training and orientation, ensuring that they have what they need to be successful. Besides having volunteer appreciation events and methods, it’s important to nurture and build relationships. This might come in the form of increasing face to face interaction with your volunteers, or creating a buddy system, allowing shadow shifts at your organization or other formal ways for strong relationships to be the foundation of your volunteer program.

One aha! moment happened when one Think Tanker said “Our organization has changed, but we didn’t bring volunteers along with us.”

My biggest takeaway from the morning was: those who manage and coordinate volunteers are ready to make their programs engaging and inviting for volunteers.  They even all committed to one incremental change that they would make in their organization. Here are some of the commitments:

  • Explore other ways to collect feedback in my organization
  • Train staff on how to maintain positive relationships with volunteers
  • Find more opportunities to give face to face feedback with other volunteers
  • Check in with long term volunteers on their satisfaction
  • Pull together a focus group of volunteers to give feedback

We’ll be back in the fall with more Think Tanks and engaging mornings filled with learning and connection.

Read our other Think Tank recaps:

Volunteer Recruitment

Volunteer Recognition

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Stars of Alberta Volunteer Awards

Do you know an outstanding volunteer that deserves recognition? Nominate that person for a Stars of Alberta Volunteer Award! The awards are given to exemplary volunteers that have made a lasting impact on their communities. There are two awards presented in each category of: youth, adult and senior.  The ceremony takes place on Dec. 2017, which marks International Volunteer Day.

To nominate a volunteer, you will need:

  • Letter of Nomination submitted by the nominator
  • Completed Nomination Form signed by the nominee and the nominator
  • Completed Critical Information (see Nomination Form for details)
  • Completed list of references

Visit Alberta Culture and Tourism and fill out a nomination form. Forms are due September 15. 

#yegvolunteers

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Volunteering 101 – information for first-time volunteers

So you want to volunteer. That’s great! Have you decided how to launch yourself into the unknown world of volunteerism? Here are some tips to get you started.

Step 1: Self-reflect:

Take the time to answer these three easy questions.

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What skills do you have?
  • How much time do you have to commit?

After reflecting, your passion for animals and photography could lead you to volunteering as an event photographer for a local animal organization. Alternatively, your reflection could lead you to discover other skills you want develop and different causes to explore. Self-reflection is a great way to frame your volunteer search and help lead you in the right direction.

Step 2: Do some research:

Now that you know what might interest you, its time to find an organization that matches. You can skip to step three if you already know were you want to volunteer. If you’re not sure, search volunteer matching sites such as govolunteer.ca or do an internet search of the volunteer area you want to pursue in your city. There are many organizations looking for volunteers so you could be overwhelmed with the results. However taking the time to search “animal organizations Edmonton” could very well lead you to discovering an organization you did not know existed.

Step 3: Ask questions

Once you’ve found an organization you like, contact them about their available volunteer opportunities. Be sure to ask questions to understand what the volunteer role entails. Here are some basic questions to frame your conversation with the organization’s volunteer coordinator.

  • What activities will you be performing?
  • Is there an interview process?
  • What is the length of commitment to this organization?
  • What is the schedule you will be working?
  • What flexibility exists around doctor’s appointments, emergencies etc.?
  • Is there any additional training or an orientation session that you have to attend?

Just like any new commitment, choosing the right volunteer opportunity doesn’t happen by accident. Be patient. Know what you want to give and what you want to get from the experience. Your first volunteer experience may be the beginning of a wonderful adventure.

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