By: Barbi Lazarus
Donor and Volunteer Resources Coordinator, Toronto Vegetarian Association
It's hard to believe (and a little bit shameful) that it's been almost two years since I first began doing an audit of our volunteer program so that we could adopt the Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement. I attended two workshops at Volunteer Toronto about the Code and ran back to the office excited and eager to complete the audit, make any improvements necessary to our program and officially adopt the Code.
Work started quickly, but alas, things got in the way. Every summer as we prepare for our Vegetarian Food Festival, additional projects get put on the backburner. Sometimes when the festival is over, we forget those projects and don't get back to them as eagerly as before.
Completing the CCVI audit itself was relatively quick and easy. I soon presented our Board of Directors with a summary of where we were shining as an organization with respect to volunteer recruitment, orientation, management and retention, and where we needed to improve. I was surprised at how well we were doing.
There was one area in particular however where we really needed to make some improvements: orientation and screening.
Orientation and screening were difficult areas for us, especially because we are a volunteer, grassroots organization that requires the efforts of many people. Consequently we sometimes can let our screening and orientation processes slide in order to get people on the ground and running.
It took some clever advice from board members as well as some time, but we came up with some creative solutions to address the issue of screening and orienting new volunteers in a timely manner - especially where in person meet and greets may not always be possible. First, we trained some of our experienced core volunteers as on-site mentors. Mentors assist volunteers who have never received in person training, during their first shift. Mentors also assist by phoning new volunteers both before and after their first shifts.
Engaging volunteers to be part of the training process helped us improve our score in the areas of volunteer retention, volunteer accountability and ownership. Playing a role in this process shows them how valuable they are to the organization.
We are very happy to have now adopted the Code! It was well worth the effort and time. Because it took us so long, we may be ready to do another audit to see how we measure up with some of the new changes that have been made to the Code since that first workshop.