“Hours away” from Graduation? How to make the most of your 40 hours.

Sonya Friesen

We’ve all heard of it, dreaded it and eventually will complete it; it’s the illusive, mandatory 40 hours of community service needed for current high school students to graduate university.

For most of us, the number 40 doesn’t seem like a lot…unless you’re an upcoming high school graduate preparing to leave high school and looking to fill those necessary 40 hours. It can be hard to devote your time, gather the energy and finally commit to a volunteer project, but volunteering doesn’t need to be boring.

To be honest, high schools are doing exactly what they should be doing – preparing students to enter a world where they will need to become involved and active in the community in order to meet friends, network with potential co-workers, and become successful. In a world that is built around financial gain and business, high schools have incorporated a way of highlighting the importance of giving back to the community into the graduate requirements.

For all of you reading this who are currently trying to fill your hours and wishing that they were nonexistent, take it from a fairly recent high school graduate, I wish I had taken the volunteering requirements more seriously because, simply, volunteering will open so many new doors for you.

So how can you make the most of your 40 hours? Follow these simple suggestions; you will fill your hours and, I know you will even have fun doing it.

  1. Get your friends together.

It’s your last year of high school which means that you and your friends will be heading in different directions come fall. Take this as an opportunity to get in some last minute bonding time with the people you’ve shared your life with for the last four years. Get your friends together and organize a community ball hockey tournament, sign up with a group of friends to help out at a local organization. When you’re with your friends, you can find a way to make anything fun.

  1. Volunteer for an organization that interests you.

Do you like animals? Why not reach out the Ottawa Humane Society. Do you like art? Why not volunteer at a local art gallery. Volunteering doesn’t need to be boring. Everyone has something that interests them, and there are many opportunities that would allow you to do something you love, and fill those hours at the same time. Trust me, when you find an organization you enjoy working with, those 40 hours will fly by and before you know it, 40 hours will have turned into 60 or even a year-long adventure.

  1. Use your connections.

A network is a group or system of interconnected people or things. You may not realize it, but you have already started building your own network. Do you play on a hockey team? Why not ask if you can work the 50/50 raffle during the upcoming tournament. Do your friend’s parents volunteer on a board or for a local charity? Ask them if there are any opportunities that they think might interest you. You have your own connections – learn to use them!

  1. Go in with a positive mind.

In life, you get out the equivalent of what you are willing to give. We get it – you have five hours of math homework, dance class, and test in one week; the last thing you want to do is take up even more of your limited free time with a volunteering commitment. Many people head into volunteering with one thing in mind – getting it over with. The problem is that you have already created a constructed idea of what volunteering will be like, and I’m willing to bet, you aren’t planning on putting too much effort into it. Going into volunteering with an open mind about what it could potentially lead to or ready for a new experience, is the best view you can have on it. It is time consuming, yes, but it is a fantastic way to meet new people, become engaged in the community and feel like you are making a difference. What’s the point of being miserable? Go into volunteering with a positive mindset; you will enjoy it more than you expected to.

  1. Think ahead.

One of the words that you will get tired of hearing by the time you graduate university is the word ‘networking’. You can never know enough people, be involved in enough extra curricular activities, or participate in enough events. The more people you know, the larger your network becomes. Networking will become one of the building blocks of your future career. Luckily for you, you get to start early! Volunteering offers an incredible opportunity to meet people in all stages of life, introducing you to people who can offer you opportunities and experiences that you would not have been able to get otherwise. Volunteering may be unpaid – but it doesn’t mean you can’t get something out of it. Volunteering is an amazing way to meet new people and network. Trust us, your future self will thank you.

  1. Keep it up!

Community involvement doesn’t end at 40 hours. New volunteer opportunities are popping up every day and the need for volunteers is constant. You may be done your high school requirement, but there are so many more reasons to continue to be involved in the community. Volunteering is a stepping-stone to success – it’s up to you how you approach it.

If you are looking for volunteering opportunities, check out the ChangeTheWorld Campaign – a campaign dedicated to helping high school students make a difference in the community, while giving them the opportunity to meet their 40-hour community service requirement. Check it out here, http://volunteerottawa.ca/youth/ 

Appealing to Volunteers: How to Make Your Organization Stand Out in a Sea of Not-For-Profits

by Sonya Friesen

As a not-for-profit, sometimes the hardest part about survival is not about finding the funds to continue to support your organization, but finding the right people to volunteer to fill the right roles. It seems as though everywhere you look there is a new organization vying for your attention, a new charity looking for volunteers, or a new association needing help in their fundraising department. As a volunteer, it can be incredibly daunting trying to choose the right organization for you – a place where you will feel comfortable, fit and work towards a mutual goal. In fact, there are some organizations that seem to dominate the volunteer market. Not only do these organizations have no problem finding full-time volunteers, but volunteers seem to flock to them, producing a, dare I say it, overflow of people looking to help.

 What is it about these organizations that attract so many volunteers and what can your not-for-profit do to stand out? What is it that these organizations are doing that your organization is not? It comes down to about five simple principles. Grab a pen; you’re going to want to write these down!

  1. Make your organization “sexy”.

How can an organization be ‘sexy’, and what does that have to do with gaining volunteers? Well, as it turns out, it has just about everything to do with recruiting help. No, I don’t mean ‘sexy’ in the traditional sense – by no means do I encourage you to have all your employees wear their bikinis to work everyday or channel their inner “Ryan Gosling” (although, that may help). The simple answer is to create a visual appeal that will attract volunteers and make sure your organization is integrating itself into the media, social media and just about every forum it can. Get the message out there and consistently use your visual aid. The more volunteers are exposed to your organization, and the more they associate your organization with an ethos trigger – something that appeals to their emotions like animals and children – the more enthused they will to contribute there own time and resources. People like to know that they are making a difference – if they have a visual concept of that difference, they will flock to your organization. Trust me.

  1. Showcase all the successful things you’ve been able to accomplish through volunteers. 

Volunteers want to know that they are making a difference. Showcasing your organization’s accomplishments, but not crediting any efforts of your current volunteers, won’t do your organization any good. Showcase the accomplishments your volunteers have had, everything you couldn’t have done without them, and how important they are to the overall function of the organization. Have a “volunteer of the month” profile, or a forum for volunteers to interact with one another. The minute people realize that they will be making a difference, the minute they want to be a part of it.

  1. Appreciate your volunteers

What do all these big charity organizations have in common? They have monthly, yearly volunteer appreciation evenings and recognition awards. An organization should never take advantage of its volunteers. Volunteers are giving away their time for the success of the organization – it is important to recognize and reward this. Provide a weekly lunch; offer a monthly networking dinner, or a yearly recognition ceremony, even a simple thank you note can go a long way. People want to know that their efforts and work will be valued. It is important to showcase your appreciation if you want to even consider increasing your volunteer count.

  1. Create a clear mission – and stay true to it!

Chances are, your organization has already established a clear mission – but if you’re fluctuating from it in any way, you are risking your chance at establishing a long-term team of volunteers. Volunteers align themselves with organizations because they feel strongly about the overall mission or have a passion for the cause. The more an organization deviates from its mission, the less these already-established volunteers will want to be a part of it, and the less likely they are to encourage there like-minded friends to join. Is your organization dedicated to helping abused animals? Make sure that everything you do is in light of this concept. The more you establish yourself as a leader in one particular cause, the more likely volunteers will want to be a part of it.

  1. Make it fun!

Volunteering has a horrible reputation for being ‘boring’ and ‘pointless’, deterring people from wanting to involve themselves. What can your organization do to deviate itself from this stigma? Make volunteering fun! This can be hard, depending on what you require from volunteers. Making an office-based opportunity exciting is difficult, but if you find ways to make it more interactive and fun, people will be encouraged to join. Don’t forget to focus on the bigger picture! The more fun you make your organization, the more people will want to be a part of that!

How Social Media is Revolutionizing Volunteerism

A must read for anyone who has yet to jump on the Twitter bandwagon.

by Sonya Friesen

It happened in the blink of an eye. Everyone, everything was going about there business as per usual when it suddenly appeared. Nothing was safe from its insurmountable influence; no one could escape its grasp. The day social media appeared was the day everything changed.

 That may sound like the beginning of a horror movie or a Stephen King novel, but the reality is far from dismal. While social media may have been an unexpected societal influence, it has allowed for a new type of progression. Social media has played a huge part in revolutionizing how businesses run.  It has provided corporations the means to interact with customers and partners and it gives ordinary people the power to make an extra-ordinary difference. A presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn can elevate corporations and people to new heights, allowing them to maximize on the trend of two-way communication and, thankfully let go of the tired one-way communication model that has defined many industries for years.

 So what does this have to with volunteering? The simple answer – everything. Social media has allowed for volunteers, and for organizations like Volunteer Ottawa, to accomplish something that was very difficult for them to accomplish for many years – the ability to actually volunteer. Full stop, Sonya. Isn’t that the whole point of volunteering, to volunteer? Shouldn’t these organizations have had a hold on this before the evolution of social media?

 In today’s digital age, think about how easy it is to access news. From CNN breaking news, to CBC, we wake up and a day’s worth of news is at our fingertips and in 140 characters or less. Unlike the news, which has always had media outlets and television at its mercy, pre-social media volunteering relied on word-of-mouth, online interactions via corporate websites, or even posters and bulletins (…shudder).

 Twitter and Facebook allow for volunteer organizations to reach out to thousands of individuals with the simple click of a button. What does this mean? This means volunteering opportunities are reaching more people then ever before; this means Volunteer Ottawa social platforms can become a hub of volunteerism; this means that you can plan your next volunteering event without even leaving the couch. Most importantly, this means that Volunteer Ottawa and organizations like it can continue to produce results.

 Social media also allows for smaller not-for-profit organizations that may have not stood a chance against larger corporate charities, to have a voice and to generate attention to their own particular causes. There are so many amazing groups and organizations that need volunteers (which you can check out at the Volunteer Ottawa website, http://volunteerottawa.ca/index.php/volunteer/community-organizations ), social media allows for these groups to compete and to ultimately, function as a not-for-profit.

 How can your organization maximize on social media to increase your number of volunteers? The simple solution – along with becoming a member of Volunteer Ottawa, of course – is to tweet about it! Build up your social media platforms, follow people, interact with people and most of all maintain a presence! Twitter especially, has produced a massive network of people who thrive on new information. This network can be intimidating, but when used to an organizations advantage, can produce results faster, more effectively and easier then ever before. Social media also allows you to become a leader in the industry! Tweet links that are relevant to your cause or links that volunteers might find useful. The more you position yourself as an innovator, the more people will see you as a leading organization.

 How can you amplify your social media presence as a volunteer? Not-for-profits and charities are always looking for help – use social media, specifically Twitter to network with them. The perfect volunteering opportunity won’t usually come and find you, you have to have a presence where that volunteering opportunity will come up. New opportunities are being made available everyday and these opportunities are, quite literally, right at your fingertips.

 Social media may be big. Social media may be constantly changing. Social media may be intimidating. But, if you learn to grow alongside social media and use it to your advantage, you will see it for the incredibly advantageous, innovation that it is. We want to hear what you think – tweet us, Facebook us and let us know how you are using social media platforms to better serve your volunteering needs.



Did You Know…? Fun Facts About Volunteering That Will Blow Your Mind!

by Sonya Friesen

How likely are you to volunteer? Was volunteering engrained in you from a young age? Does where you live play a factor in whether you’ll volunteer or not? A 2010 study by Statistics Canada revealed some surprising facts about volunteering – along with the answer to all these questions! These volunteering facts will blow your mind!

1. Racing to athletics: Sports and Recreation bring in the highest amount of volunteer support!

Do you have a love for the great game of hockey? Football? Rugby? Dance? Well, according to Statistics Canada, so does everybody else! Studies showed that sports and recreation received 19 per cent of volunteer support, followed by social services at 18 per cent. That’s what we call a hole-in-one!

2. There’s definitely no “I” in team: those who participated in a team sport are found more likely to volunteer!

It is widely known that being on a sports team teaches kids and students valuable life lessons, including the value of teamwork and working as a unit as oppose to an individual. Whether you played on a hockey team, football team, or danced, of those who spent their days in an activity-based extracurricular, 53 per cent volunteered compared to 40 per cent of those who were not.

3. Hats off to Top Volunteers: “Top Volunteers” make up 161 hours, EACH!

A Top Volunteer is basically the Sydney Crosby of volunteering. Before the survey was taken, each Top volunteer had completed over 161 hours of volunteering in the 12 months prior. That equals out to three hours of volunteering every single week. Top volunteers make up 12 per cent of Canada’s total volunteers. Basically, the superstars of the volunteering world! Looking to meet some top volunteers? Check out Volunteer Ottawa’s VOscar awards ceremony this September 2014, which will recognize some of Ottawa’s top volunteers. You can nominate a deserving volunteer today – http://volunteerottawa.ca/index.php/voscars-2014/submit-a-nomination-today

4. Waiting to walk down the aisle? Single, unmarried Canadians are the most likely group to volunteer!

The study showed that single Canadians who had never been previously married were the most likely group to volunteer. There could be many reasons for this; volunteering is a great way to meet people (perhaps even the “one”), and it also offers you a way to keep busy and productive.

5. A+ for volunteering: University graduates are more likely to volunteer then high school graduates.

When surveyed, 58 per cent of university graduates had participated in a volunteering activity versus 43 per cent of high school graduates and only 37 per cent of those who don’t have a high school diploma. Likely accredited to the high support volunteerism receives from professors, councilors and program coordinators, it’s nearly impossible to leave university without volunteering at some point.

6. Fields, farms and…volunteers? Saskatchewan has the highest rate of volunteers in Canada.

Travelling out to the prairies? Stats Canada says you have a better chance of meeting a volunteer in Saskatchewan than anywhere else in Canada! According to the survey, 58 per cent of adults 15 and over spend time volunteering.

7. Neighbourly love: Volunteering is higher in rural areas then urban areas

It seems like nothing beats a tight knit community. Stats Canada shows that volunteering is higher in rural townships then urban areas. We guess the city-life isn’t for everyone!

 8. Sparks proven to spark the volunteering flame: Those who were involved in girl guides, choir and scouts found more likely to volunteer.

Remember this, “I promise to share and be a friend” – the Sparks mantra that every young girl probably quoted close to a hundred times as they grew up. Well, it turns out these mantras really do stick. Statistics Canada found that the more involved in the community you were growing up, the more likely you were to involve yourself in volunteering later in life. How much more likely? Well, 53 per cent of those who had participated in an organized youth group volunteered versus only 40 per cent of those who weren’t.

Looking to learn more? You can find even more fun facts and information by checking out the Statistic Canada article itself. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2012001/article/11638-eng.htm#a17