Where would we be without the time, dedication and generosity of volunteers? Here at Business & Arts NL, we’ve witnessed the tremendous impact that our amazing volunteers have had in helping support and strengthen the creative community in this province through things like our Business Volunteers for the Arts program. And all across the country, volunteers (about 24 million of them in 2018, according to Statistics Canada) are making their mark, contributing to the economy and the well-being of their communities.
But how do you find and keep volunteers? And how do you create meaningful opportunities that fit with their needs and lifestyles?
On June 22, we’re bringing in Bettina Ford, Voluntary Resources Coordinator for the Community Sector Council of NL and Deputy Mayor of the Town of Gander, for the first workshop in a four-part series which will look at the many facets of volunteerism. (This session is free to attend and will be hosted online via Zoom.)
We recently caught up with Bettina to talk about the importance of volunteers, their incredible impact, and what people can expect from her upcoming sessions.
Business & Arts NL: Just how critical are the contributions of volunteers in terms of growing and sustaining the non-profit sector here in NL?
Bettina Ford: Vital. I would invite people to imagine their lives without the contribution of volunteers. Think about healthcare, recreation, education, faith, inclusion. Consider the gaps in services where the private sector is unable to profit or where government either cannot or chooses not to invest, and you will likely discover that the community-based, non-profit sector is filling a gap under the leadership of volunteers. The power of this unpaid workforce in NL is enormous. There are almost 4,000 organizations registered in NL as incorporated non-profits and around half of those have at least one employee. The thousands of volunteers are vital to the social and economic well being of our province.
Just for fun, think about a typical week in your life and how you and those you care about are impacted by volunteers. Perhaps it’s the volunteer at your child’s daycare or your aging parent’s care home, at a blood donor clinic, or in a community park picking up litter. A volunteer with a lunch program at your teenager’s school, helping to complete taxes for your great aunt, teaching English as a second language to your co-worker’s partner. A music festival where volunteers secured financial sponsorship, sold tickets, set up tents, donated their talent to perform all to raise money to do good for someone else. There are oodles of examples to acknowledge around you. Volunteers are vital to our daily lives.
Business & Arts NL: What are some of the major barriers that might prohibit someone from volunteering their time to a cause/organization they care about?
BF: Surveys generally cite four consistent reasons. People will say that they don’t have enough time, that they gave money instead, that it’s too great of a commitment and surprisingly to some, people say they haven’t been asked. We will be addressing these and other reasons in the upcoming workshop for Business & Arts NL in the fall. Part of running a successful volunteer program is being able to identify barriers and remove them to better engage people. For example, if you would like parents to volunteer, how are you accommodating their need for childcare while they volunteer or, better yet, perhaps there are ways to incorporate family volunteerism into your program?
Business & Arts NL: In your experience, what are some of the best ways to reach, and also retain, potential volunteers?
BF: Think small and introductory. Often we have a big ask of first-time volunteers. It might be a big task or a big commitment. In one of our workshops we liken volunteer recruitment to dating, or more like “courting” back in the day… introductions first, then a coffee, only then dinner or a movie before meeting the rest of the family and popping a big question! That’s one approach. To keep volunteers we have to figure out what motivates them and ensure we are meeting that motivation. If someone volunteers to socialize and meet new people, it’s on us as an organization to make that happen. The right fit, where the individual volunteer is benefitting along with the organization, is what we need to strive for.
Business & Arts NL: Can you offer a bit of an idea/rundown of what you’ll be covering in your first workshop on June 22?
BF: This first session will set the stage for the series in the fall. We will look at the sector more broadly, who is volunteering, where, what sort of roles people are taking on. I also plan to showcase some volunteer programs that exist within arts organizations to get our minds in a good space going forward.
Workshop: Grow Your Impact with Volunteers (the 1st workshop in a 4-part series)
Date/Time: Wednesday, June 22 from 1-2:30pm
Location: Online via Zoom
Registration: Click here