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Working with Volunteers


According to a 1997 report produced by Volunteer Vancouver entitled "The Voluntary Sector - Trends, Challenges and Opportunities for the New Millennium":

· Canada's not-for-profit sector encompasses over 75,000 registered charities and an estimated 100,000 additional nonprofit organizations.

· The revenues for this sector for 1994 are estimated to be $90.5 billion.

· Canadian registered charities employed about 1.3 million people in 1993, or 9% of the entire labour force.

· It is estimated that over three times as many people volunteer their services to charitable organizations as are employed by them.

· According to the last comprehensive government survey performed in 1987, the entire voluntary sector engages the services of 5.3 million volunteers annually and these volunteers donate over one billion hours of service - the equivalent of 617,000 full time jobs.

All this serves to reinforce what is apparent in our communities every day: the voluntary sector, which is often referred to as the "third

sector" (behind corporate and public), is huge and is a significant partner in efforts of all kind.

Partnerships at various levels, which blend the three sectors, have the potential to do great things in whatever field their efforts are

directed at. However, there can be challenges as well, as the players begin to understand the different ways of work within these three

systems. Increasingly, volunteers are becoming an integral part of planning and delivering health promotion programs in Ontario. This

might be through community coalitions such as FOCUS or Heart Health groups, through setting-based program delivery such as Breakfast Programs or peer-led smoking cessation programs, or through advocacy efforts directed at policy or social issues such as homelessness or violence prevention. The information contained here is designed to assist staff who are working with volunteers in any of these, and many other, contexts.


Highlights of the "1997 Canadian National Survey on Giving, Volunteering and Participating" identify that:

· Almost one in three Canadians volunteer their time

· One in two Canadians are members of community organizations

· The volunteer participation rate has risen from 26.8% in 1987 to 31.4% in 1997.

· Over the last 10 years, there has been a noticeable increase in volunteering with an organization among individuals aged 15-24 years of age.

· The participation rate among Canadian youth has almost doubled in 10 years.

· Men contribute an average of 160 hours per year compared to 140 hours per year for women.

· People with a religious affiliation volunteer at a slightly higher rate than those without. This becomes more pronounced for those who

attend religious services at least once per week.

· Volunteers are more likely to be:

· aged 45-54

· married

· university educated

· involved in more than one volunteer activity

· providing assistance to their neighbours and relatives

· a member of an organization

· voters.

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(i) The Ontario government recognizes the voluntary sector's valuable contribution to the province's social and economic well-being.

"Volunteer", managed by Ontario's Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, funds voluntary organizations wishing to work in partnership with businesses and others in the community to enhance their own work and the effectiveness of the sector through the use of Internet technology and the World Wide Web. It is the belief that, by expanding its technological capabilities, a self-reliant voluntary sector can improve services vital to Ontario's prosperous and caring communities.

" Volunteer" is one of a number of initiatives undertaken by the Government of Ontario, as part of its five year commitment to strengthen the volunteer sector. Other initiatives include the Volunteer Service Awards and Outstanding Achievement Awards programs to recognize voluntary efforts in all areas of society, the creation of the Ontario Medal for Young Volunteers to recognize exceptional voluntary efforts by young persons, a provincially-funded forum on voluntarism held in June, and the Premier's recent announcement of a Round Table on Voluntary Action, which he will chair in the Fall. For more information about the supports available through this program and an Application, visit

(ii) Ontario offers additional support to volunteers and staff, who are in positions of management within organizations, as part of the national "SKILLS Program for Management Volunteers."

The Skills Program is a partnership of the federal, provincial/territorial governments which produces materials and tools to assist not-for-profit boards of directors and core organizing groups to lead their organizations/teams more effectively. Modules available as workbooks and workshops include:

· Resource Generation

· Time Management

· Long and Short Term Planning

· Effective Organizations: A Consultant's Resource

· Leadership

· Volunteers Working Together

· Marketing

· Financial Management

· Six Self-Help Modules:

· Orientation

· Developing the Organization

· Meeting with Results

· Recruiting Volunteers and Staff

· Managing Volunteers and Staff

· Fundraising for Results

For more information on the manuals, or hosting a workshop, contact Grace Lung at the Sports Alliance of Ontario (formerly the Ontario Sports and Recreation Centre) at 416-426-7018 or on-line at where some materials can be ordered electronically.

(iii) The Ontario Prevention Clearinghouse, as part of Ontario's health promotion resource system, offers assistance to health promotion practitioners.

In addition to co-managing the OHPE, with The Health Communication Unit, OPC's core function is to provide a consultation service to individuals and organizations involved in prevention, health promotion and/or community development work. Specific to the topic of this OHPE Feature, OPC:

- has materials on Volunteer Development that will soon be mounted on the OPC website;

- offers a full-day workshop as part of regional workshops, depending on demand and availability of staff; and

- is able to provide assistance to people by helping them find information, program examples and effective strategies regarding Volunteer Development.

OPC health promotion consultants work with volunteer groups and organizations, although in the context of HP strategies development, not project development. When calling to request support or consultation, you can expect the Consultant to discuss with you aspects of your issue, suggest approaches, and gather information, make contacts, review materials and put together a comprehensive overview.

OPC can be reached at:

180 Dundas St.W. Suite 1900

Toronto, Ontario Canada M5G 1Z8

(416) 408-2249 x200 0r 1-800-263-2846;

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(i) The Words:

There are many models that outline the elements of a Volunteer Program. The practice is also known by various names: Management, Development, Coordination. It is suggested that volunteers may not feel comfortable feeling "managed" but "coordinated" or "developed" seem to sit better. Furthermore, it is recommended that we not refer to "using" volunteers in our programs, but rather that we "involve" or "work with" volunteers. Lastly, when referring to the human resources within your organization, think about listing them in the order of "volunteers and staff" and not vice versa.

(ii) The Model and Related Tips:

The elements or stages in a typical Volunteer Development model are outlined below and some ideas related to each:


· Forecast the Future - What are the tasks? Where and when do volunteers "fit into" the program? What talents are needed to carry out the program? When, where and who to recruit? Who will recruit? Who orients and trains the volunteers? Who supervises, supports their activity?

· Describe the Placement (like a job description) or provide a Terms of Reference if involvement is on a committee.


· The following reasons, not in any rank order, are most often cited as to why folks volunteer. When recruiting, try "pitching" the task in one or more of these lights.

· To get out of the house.

· To get to know people in their community.

· To establish a "track record".

· To test the water before making a career change.

· To make new friends.

· To be with friends who volunteer at the same place.

· To develop new or maintain existing skills.

· To gain knowledge about problems in a community.

· To impress a current employer.

· To gain status.

· To escape boredom.

· To feel needed or part of a group.

· To try something new.

· To take on a new challenge.

· To gain increased responsibility.

· To gain recognition for accomplishments.

When recruiting an individual, ensure that there is clear benefit to them to become involved. This may mean finding out a little about them

in advance to determine what is relevant. As well, ensure that the messenger who is asking for their involvement is credible and, if at all

possible, known and liked by the potential volunteer.


In selecting individuals for a particular task, there may need to be a screening process in place. Volunteer Canada offers a "Screening

Handbook" at

Training / Orientation:

A Volunteer Policy and Procedure Manual will be of use here. A sample can be found at (in Chapter 1 of the book) or in "By Definition: Policies for Volunteer Programs" by Linda Graaf, which is available through Volunteer Ontario

Basically, volunteers need:

· To know what to do.

· To know how to do it.

· To be able to do it.

· To agree to the task.

· To have support when needed.

Recognition / Motivation:

There are many different ways to recognize the wonderful contributions of a volunteer. One theory (McLelland and Atkinson), recommends a mix of three strategies to ensure that at least one method is effective for everyone:

- "Affiliators" like social activities and recognition where everyone receives the same thing (eg. A T-shirt, a party).

- "Achievers" like to be recognized for their individual participation and contribution that resulted in a particular outcome (eg. A

certificate acknowledging their contribution, a private word or phone call of thanks).

- "Prestige or Power People" appreciate public recognition that sets them apart from others as having accomplished something unique (e.g. Publish their name in the paper or include them on a plaque in a public place).


Periodically, both the organization and the volunteer should re-examine their commitment with an eye to maintenance, a change to another task or perhaps retirement. If a change or retirement is the result, consider an "exit interview" with the volunteer to gain valuable insights into their perceptions and suggestions for your program. If tracking and keeping records of volunteer contributions is important, check out these software programs: or

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Volunteers bring a richness to an organization that cannot be underestimated. However, effective practices in working with them will

enhance the experience for all concerned. The resources and supports identified here should assist in this. Consider as well, planning

something extra-special for 2001 as the United Nations has designated it as the "Year of the Volunteer".