Creating strong volunteer programs

Volunteers matter

Castanet presents our newest regular columnist, Karen Knight, who will focus on volunteer issues.

Volunteering is a huge part of Canadian culture.

According to Stats Canada in 2019, 79% of Canadians had volunteered in the previous year. That’s one of the highest rates in the world. Therefore, most of us know the world of volunteering – from that perspective.

But there is more to an effective volunteer program than just having people show up to help. If you’ve ever offered to volunteer and found the program chaotic and disorganized, you know what I mean.

Effectively recruiting, training, managing and, most importantly, acknowledging your volunteer workforce are what allow organizations in the community to make the differences that they do. It’s important a volunteer program be organized and strategic.

There are many simple tips and techniques an organization’s leader of volunteers can use to make everything run more effectively.

Tips on finding the right people for your program. How to prioritize that seemingly never-ending list of tasks. Ways to strategically involve volunteers to create the greatest impact. Techniques to keep you and your volunteers organized and on track.

In this weekly column, I will provide some of those tips and techniques. Each article will discuss a common issue that leaders of volunteers face, and I will provide ways in which you can help your organization make an even bigger difference. I will also share some of the resources I have collected and created over the years.

Along with the odd rant or two (there’s some really bad advice out there), I will provide easy to implement tips on everything from increasing diversity on your team (or your board) to protecting the mental health of your volunteers—from how to improve your training to innovative ways to show appreciation.

Who am I? I started volunteering when I was 11 years old, calling bingo at my grandmother’s care home, and I have been leading volunteers for more than 25 years. I have served on the boards of numerous not-for-profits and am an avid student of the non-profit sector.

I am a regular guest on sector-specific podcasts around the world and am a guest writer for an international online volunteer management magazine, Engage Journal. I also do presentations and workshops on the subject.

All that just means that I’ve seen the good, the bad and the really, really weird.

With National Volunteer Week starting on April 24, now is the perfect time to start focusing attention on your volunteer program, and those amazing people who lend you their support, skills and enthusiasm.

I am looking forward to the opportunity of sharing with you, and the causes that you care for, ideas and skills to help you leverage your volunteer workforce strategically and efficiently.

Next week, I will start off by about ways to attract younger volunteers. With many of our older helpers “aging out” of the volunteer workforce, organizations need to start attracting youth. I will provide five tips you can use to attract younger volunteers.

If anyone has any specific topics that they would like me to cover in future columns, feel free to contact me at [email protected].

Here’s to making a difference in the world – together!

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More Volunteer Matters articles

About the Author

Karen Knight has provided volunteer recruitment, engagement and training for not-for-profit organizations for more than 25 years.

Her professional life has spanned many industries, working in both the private and public sectors in various leadership positions.

Through her passion for making a difference in the world, she has gained decades of experience in not-for-profits as a leader and a board member.

Karen served in Toastmasters International for more than 25 years, in various roles up to district director, where she was responsible for one of the largest Toastmasters districts in the world.

She oversaw a budget of $250,000 and 300 individual clubs with more than 5,000 members. She had 20 leaders reporting directly to her and another 80 reporting to them—all volunteers.

Karen currently serves as vice-president of the board of directors for the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association.

After many years working and volunteering with not-for-profits, she found many leaders in the sector have difficulty with aspects of volunteer programs, whether in recruiting the right people, assigning those people to roles that both support the organization’s mission and in keeping volunteers enthusiastic.

Using hands-on experience, combined with extensive study and research, she helps solve challenges such as volunteer recruitment, engagement and training for not-for-profit organizations.

Karen Knight can be contacted at [email protected], or through her website at https://karenknight.ca/.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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