Breaking Barriers to Volunteering: Tips for Canadian Nonprofits

by Danielle Bloom

2 min read

Canadians volunteer over a billion hours per year — the equivalent of over 1.1 million full-time jobs. Approximately, 13 million Canadian residents serve as volunteers, but engagement could be even higher if nonprofits could eliminate some of the barriers that prevent people from volunteering.In particular, potential volunteers report lack of time, inability to make a long-term commitment, and not knowing how to get involved as reasons for not volunteering more. If you run a nonprofit, it’s important to address these issues directly as you reach out to prospective volunteers.

Create Opportunities That Don’t Require a Long-Term Commitment

Nonprofits and charities thrive in the hands of long-term volunteers, but many people simply don’t have the time to play that significant of a role. Still, these individuals can still be useful to your organization — you just need to create opportunities that work for them. When making lists of the volunteer projects that you need done, break up big tasks into small, manageable to-do lists. Then, identify which items need the least amount of training. That way, when you find volunteers who only have a bit of time, you can plug them into tasks that take an hour or less to complete. You may even want to develop a list of tasks that can be done from home such as phone banking or putting together toiletry kits for the homeless. If you cut out travel time, that helps to free up extra time for potential volunteers.

Create Incentives for Volunteers

Short, easy-to-complete volunteer opportunities can help draw volunteers who don’t have a lot of time, but you may also want to look for ways to make volunteering more valuable for participants. In particular, consider crafting volunteer opportunities that have an educational component or creating internships for aspiring professionals. When your volunteers are getting something back for their efforts, it makes them more likely to prioritize these opportunities and find time for your organization.

Make It Easier for People to Get Involved

A lot of people want to give, and they have plenty of time. They’re just not sure where to start. To get past this barrier, make sure that volunteer information is clearly displayed on your website. When people reach your site, they should see a volunteer option in the main menu on the home page. Ideally, that should direct to a page with a list of opportunities or a contact form that lets them request more details. To make it even easier to sign up for volunteer opportunities, you may want to consider developing an app or purchasing volunteer management software. The right scheduling app can allow you to list volunteer times and opportunities. Then, you can assign volunteers to time slots, let individuals choose their own schedules, and facilitate things like swapping volunteer shifts. You can even customize which volunteers in your database can sign up for certain shifts or add fun features such as ping notifications that alert volunteers when you need someone quickly. Also, remember to use social media to alert people about volunteer opportunities. Volunteering is part of the Canadian spirit, but even with a generous heart, there can be obstacles. As a nonprofit, your organization needs to find innovative ways to get past these barriers, attract volunteers and make the most of their skills. Being creative about finding and organizing your volunteers can be essential to helping your organization to move forward successfully.

References & Resources

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