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An Interview With Our Executive Director
Interview with Carine Strong

Volunteer MBC has just held its Annual General Meeting last month. As Executive Director, let’s begin this interview with you providing a recap of the organization’s performance during 2017. 

We were incredibly busy, and I’m happy to attribute that to expansion on many fronts. In terms of the numbers, our most important statistic is a 10% increase in volunteer referrals from 2016, which is based on over 38,000 volunteer referrals of volunteering opportunities posted by our member not-for-profits to volunteers who use our services. It’s promising to see that of those referrals, 22,000 were youth. The ‘Online Volunteer Referral System’ through our website is our core facilitation for volunteers in Mississauga, Brampton, and Caledon.

You mentioned expansion on many fronts. Wish to add to that?

For Volunteer MBC, connectivity is key to success in offering our services, plus ensuring that volunteers and community service organizations use these as easily as possible. We fully recognize the utility and value of the Internet, in addition to our ‘open door’ policy at our locations. In 2017, we revamped our website, a process that continues to be a work-in-progress. Our presence in social media has increased, as well. Facebook saw 13% more ‘Likes’, Twitter, 7% more ‘followers’. And our communities in 2017 truly discovered the ‘Volunteer MBC’ channel on YouTube. We know that, because viewership increased an amazing 44%!

Beyond the Internet, were there other areas in 2017 in which Volunteer MBC undertook expansion?

Volunteer MBC always tries to look ahead, see trends, and hopefully set them. Our staff engages in constant analysis of the needs of those who volunteer, and what resources community service organizations in Peel require to fulfill their missions successfully. Our website and our Annual Report, online and accessible, have details, but I’m especially proud to point to our ‘Learning Centre’, and specifically the launch of ‘Vetch’, an online learning management system that delivers ‘just in time’ learning opportunities for Leaders of Volunteers, board directors, and volunteers.

You have referred to other programs. Have some of these been part of Volunteer MBC’s expansion last year?

Yes. The ‘StepUp’ program that provides for involvement of youth in volunteering awareness continues with new approaches. We added to our responsibility towards youth through the Youth LEaD Program, thankfully funded by the Trillium Foundation. Those programs were concerned with mid-teens mainly, but Volunteer MBC has seen the future by looking to expand the volunteering lifespan in our communities. In 2017, we laid the foundation for that.

In terms of expansion of the volunteering lifespan, would you give us some details?

Absolutely. For most projects, we plan well ahead in line with our strategic plan, from the conception stage to implementation. It has to be that way with not-for-profits, because proposals or funding applications take time, and these need to embrace our vision and define strategy about how we will make a program succeed effectively within budget. Laying the foundation is an essential, vital step, and in 2017, we did so with ‘Ovation’, a program designed to engage seniors, and with ‘Early Leaders in Volunteering’, an exploration about engaging early adolescents, 12 to 14, in the volunteering community that we believe has traction. We anticipate formally rolling out both initiatives during 2018.

Were there any other programs that you highlighted at Volunteer MBC’s AGM?

It’s perhaps fitting that this interview is happening in June, because communities all over the world are celebrating PRIDE this month. Volunteer MBC has always been sensitive to the need for diversity and inclusiveness in our communities, and in 2017 we partnered with Peel HIV/AIDS Network to establish and develop the ‘Pride in Volunteering’ program. Earlier this year, its introduction to volunteers, volunteer leaders, volunteer management professionals, and other stakeholders was met with high enthusiasm. We are delighted, particularly because of the potential to transform the volunteering sector. Wouldn’t it be nice to have it thought of as no longer leading edge? Or even necessary?!

Anything else in the works?

Volunteer MBC is a key player in putting together ‘The Peel Network’, to support Leaders of Volunteers, and a recent meeting at Community Door was proof that this association has enormous potential to be incredibly valuable. Anything that enhances communication, knowledge, sharing, and exchange of ideas is a bonus. We’re also drafting a ‘Peel Charter of Volunteering Rights’, another awareness initiative that will yield dividends for everyone.

Busy seems to be Volunteer MBC’s watchword, but was it all work and no play?

Oh, we make sure that we set aside time, especially to celebrate Peel volunteers! For volunteering in 2017, we did it in 2 ways. Canada’s Sesquicentennial saw us instituting the ‘Canada 150 Peel Cares’ campaign that culminated with a reception in December, when 101 volunteers were recognized. Each contributed a minimum of 150 hours, although when we put their totals together, we came up with an astounding 36,297 hours! In April earlier this year, Volunteer MBC held the third gala for its ‘V-Oscars’, an occasion that affords wide-ranging recognition of volunteers and organizations in Peel region. Everyone wins on that night, let me tell you!

Volunteer MBC will celebrate its 10th anniversary in September 2018. You’ve been there from inception, as its builder. Would you give us a brief look back about the beginnings?

Hard to believe that it was 2008. Time has flown by, with so much change. As I recall, around 500 volunteer referrals happened in the first 4 months, after crafting a business plan with lots of helping hands. Dare I repeat that we’re now at 38,000 as of last year? It’s been a wild ride at times, but the commitment and enthusiasm have never flagged, and I shout out our funders, donors, supporters, staff, volunteers, and member organizations for that.

Carine, in your capacity as Executive Director of Volunteer MBC, in September you’ll mark 10 years, too, of personal service to Peel region. What part of this experience stands out for you?

Changing from the corporate sector to not-for-profit was quite a transition for me, and I came to recognize the important differences plus a different mindset about how we measure results and value performance. I was determined to walk the talk and have averaged 50 hours of volunteering monthly throughout. And I found the value of running a not-for-profit from a people lens perspective, where volunteers have a way of turning into incredibly productive and supportive staff, a discovery that continues. And the challenges on many fronts that include social change and volunteering trends, especially with volunteer expectations - for example, less hours available but more impact desired personally and within the community, and how we deliver our services as we use the latest technology.

In your view, what are Volunteer MBC’s greatest challenges as it’s about to enter its second decade?

I’ve mentioned less volunteer availability in terms of hours, and this is based upon changes in the way many people participate in the labour force and in family life. We need to accommodate this, but that’s not all. Volunteers really want to know what’s in it for them and to see the results of their efforts, and not-for-profits must be prepared to supply answers. Our population is aging upward and we should respond to this fact right now with reference to volunteering and the services that are volunteered. I would like to see more group volunteering, especially from companies who need to put more emphasis on corporate social responsibility, and by families, in the latter instance a great way to spend quality time together in our time-starved society.

Leaders often have the ‘last word’. Be our guest ...

Volunteer MBC and its member organizations don’t exist without volunteers, leadership that includes dedicated board members, funders, sponsors, and general support from our communities. Thank you for your invaluable ongoing vision and commitment towards creating a united community through volunteerism that ensures a safe and healthy environment, and a society where people truly care for each other.

Written by MarComm
Written by MarComm