Volunteering in a support role can really make a difference

How to be a hero

Have you ever wanted to be a hero, someone who goes out and saves people’s lives?

Unfortunately, many of us (and I include myself) simply don’t have the time or the physical ability to be on the front lines of firefighting, medical emergencies or rescue teams. But that doesn’t need to stop you.

I’ve worked with the Kamloops Search and Rescue Society (KSAR). According to its website, in 2022 its rescue teams conducted 69 searches. Its volunteers donated close to 10,000 volunteer hours, less than half of which were actually spent in the field.

Many volunteer organizations rely on a variety of positions to support the front-line workers who directly interact with the people they serve. These behind the scenes roles include administrative tasks, fundraising, marketing, and logistics, among others. They are essential for the smooth functioning and success of the organization, and they help to ensure front-line workers have the resources and support they need to make their work manageable and effective.

In other words, the front-line workers wouldn’t be able to save lives without them.

Having served in a multitude of organizations, I’ve seen first hand how neglecting support roles hamper the effectiveness of the services offered. If no one provides mental health supports to a volunteer after a distressing shift, that volunteer may not come back. If there isn’t anyone to do maintenance, life-saving equipment won’t be available when it’s needed. And so on.I’ve also seen how a strong support system makes everything else seem that much easier.

Thanks to good communications, the public learns about safety measures so there are fewer incidents. Thanks to fundraisers, organizations have the financial ability to replace or upgrade vital machinery or purchase needed supplies.

Volunteering is good for the volunteer, too.

All volunteer opportunities give you a chance to learn and grow. You can gain new skills and put your current skills to work for your community. If you’re just getting into the workforce, volunteering can provide you with work experience and references. If you’re just leaving it, it gives you a chance to learn about a new field, or use the valuable skills you already have to help society.

Volunteering can give you a greater sense of community and belonging, allowing for social interaction, networking, and new friendships. All wrapped up in the knowledge that you’re making a real difference.

As I mentioned above, KSAR and other organizations need as many volunteers working behind the scenes as they do on the front lines. That leaves a lot of room for people to contribute in significant ways other than the physically demanding and time-consuming training and work often required by the teams in the field. And you would still be saving lives.

You can be as much of a hero by being a member of a board of directors, or interacting on social media for an organization as you can by being in a line of searchers. The one can’t work without the other.

With the new year upon us, KSAR finds itself with a few openings for key volunteer positions. Openings such as board members, membership coordinators, and public relations people are just some examples of the opportunities to contribute and be a part of the Kamloops’ vital search and rescue team.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out its current listings at https://www.ksar.ca/join/.

If you have you ever wanted to be a hero here’s, your chance.

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

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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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