Your Connection to Canada’s Volunteering Community

Technology Driving Change in Volunteering

By Volunteer Canada at 3:47 pm Wednesday, Mar, 13 2013 • 0 Comments

By Dorothy Engelman
Senior Partner, Q Media Solutions

At Q Media Solutions, We Tell Stories, and the way we’ve been telling stories for decades has mostly been on television. But back in 2007, we noticed huge changes happening around us – storytellers were exploring new ways of sharing stories, mixing TV, print and the web. Sharing stories via social media wasn’t on anyone’s radar. The term “social media” hadn’t even been coined yet. Facebook was just three years old, YouTube was only 2 years old and Twitter was just a glimmer in the eye of a coding genius. So, we decided that we needed to explore how these new technologies could engage people with our stories and the issues we care about in a deeper way: and that was the birth of Getinvolved.ca.

We wanted Getinvolved.ca to feature stories about people changing our world, with the idea that the stories would form the inspiration, and the web would help translate that into real world action. It was also the beginning of our ongoing relationship with Volunteer Canada.

It started with a conversation around how we could use technology to engage volunteers and support the organizations that rely on them. We spoke with President and CEO, Ruth MacKenzie, about the idea of volunteers as engaged citizens and realized we were on the same page. We all believed in the power of storytelling, the web and technology to help move the conversation along. Our relationship has taken many twists and turns along the way as social media and technology have dramatically altered the world around us.

In 2010, our first big collaboration with Volunteer Canada was Power of the Hour, a year-long campaign with Volunteer Canada’s Corporate Council on Volunteering and our broadcast partner TVO. Power of the Hour is an online tool for people to track their volunteer hours, and for organizations to engage and recognize their volunteers. Our goal was to get people thinking about how they give their time and talent, how they engage as citizens. We were looking for Canadians to pledge two million hours online. The Corporate Council pledged 800,000 hours, and three months later we were at 3.4 million hours and counting.

The success of that partnership led to the re-imagining of Getinvolved.ca in 2011. Volunteer Canada had just completed a powerful research report, Bridging the Gap. The research showed that volunteers wanted to engage in new ways, like virtual volunteering that could be supported through technology. Another challenge was that volunteers wanted to use and build their skills, but the research showed that almost 40 per cent of them didn’t know where to start. Working with Volunteer Canada and Manulife Financial, we looked at how Getinvolved.ca could help build bridges to support volunteers and the organizations that depend on them. GetMatched – a tool to help people find their volunteer match based on their passion and skills – was born!

Thanks to our ongoing partnership with TVO, Volunteer Canada and now Manulife Financial, Getinvolved.ca membership has grown by over 400 per cent over the past 18 months.

With almost 6,000 volunteer opportunities from 2,400 organizations, we are currently working on new technology that will help to link volunteer centres across the country to our growing network and back out to communities across Canada and throughout the world.

We’ve got lots of exciting plans moving forward for continuing the conversation on how the power of technology can better serve volunteers and organizations. Hopefully we’ll be able to inspire even more Canadians to find their volunteer match and get involved!