When I started my career in volunteer management at the Volunteer Centre of Toronto many years ago, a volunteer centre was the mecca of knowledge on volunteerism, volunteer management, recruitment, recognition, and retention. In those days, there were multiple physical sites across Toronto focussed on the communities that they were located. This was where non-profits went for guidance, knowledge, and recruitment.
Volunteer centres were where leaders of volunteers leaned on for expertise, for “what’s new in the world of volunteerism”, where you collectively recruited volunteers.
Fast forward to 2022, we now have apps to find volunteers, social media to talk about volunteering, volunteer management database companies offering training for administrators of volunteers and a new breed of volunteers whose motivation is very different than pre-covid.
Where do the volunteer centres fit in now? How can they be seen as the knowledge centre, the hub for excellence, the place organizations can go to get help or just to support each other? What is their role?
Is volunteer management taking steps back during these unsettled times? We need to ensure that it does not happen. We need to have a collective voice about what is happening in volunteerism. We need to have a collective voice on ensuring that we are educated in volunteer management in best practices that reflect now, not twenty years ago.
We need a common vision about what volunteerism and volunteer management should look like in the next 3 to 5 years.
So, who drives that?
Should it be the volunteer centres that take a lead collectively? Is one strong voice louder than many small voices saying many different things?
Here are some areas that I think volunteer centres could focus on if they are not already.
Education of both volunteers and administrators of volunteers.
If the colleges are not willing to teach volunteer management as a profession, then volunteer centres could be offering a program that fills this huge gap. This would be a great form of collaboration for volunteer centres to band together.
As someone who teaches thousands of leaders and administrators of volunteers, I know that the foundations of volunteer management, strategic planning and many other topics need to to be taught at not just a the beginner level but also at the leadership level so that volunteer management has a voice and a seat at the table and respected as a profession.
Volunteer centres should be engaging in building partnerships amongst organizations, communities, and the private sector.
There is so much potential if organizations and local businesses could find ways to collaborate through volunteer engagement, fundraising and awareness so that local communities can continue to thrive. I think Volunteer Centres could be the head of this brain trust.
There is a push in other genres that have been successful in these types of collaboration. The music industry has recognized the value in the economic potential of bringing local neighbourhoods, local business associations and music together for a win, win, win…. why can’t we look at doing that for non-profits?
Finally, volunteer centres should be creative and proactively engaging in communities to show the value of not just volunteerism but also about volunteer programs lead by professionals especially after so many program cuts during the pandemic and the economic uncertainty.
I believe that volunteer centre should be the cutting edge of creativity, resource and learning and a voice for local government. As the name states, volunteer centre should be the centre of knowledge, collaboration, volunteer recruitment, volunteerism awareness…I could go on forever.
I have seen some wonderful work and collaborations from many volunteer centres across Canada and around the world and look forward to seeing what is coming down the pipeline.
For more information or a chat feel free to reach out.
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