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Family Volunteering - Right here, right now
Right HERE, Right NOW!

Volunteer MBC has its collective ears to the ground when it comes to trends in the volunteering sector. Trends arise for all sorts of reasons, and occasionally there’s an ebb and flow as to what has caught on and is genuinely here to stay. For budget considerations alone, a not-for-profit cannot rely on the ‘flavour of the month’. Rarely are we in a position to afford to bet on anything that isn’t a ‘sure thing’.

There’s a certain irony, having regard to the above, when it comes to the topic of ‘volunteering as a family’. Most of us would agree that ‘family volunteering’ (as it’s commonly referred to) is a sound, even desirable goal in volunteer engagement for many charities. It feels good, looks right, and has potential to be a magnet for community awareness, networking, support, and as part of our ongoing efforts to attract great volunteers.

That we should pursue family volunteering is pretty settled (in 2002, Volunteer Canada wrote a discussion paper that pointed in that direction). And in 2018, preservation of the family as a ‘lifestyle’ has community leaders looking to volunteerism as the means to hold, even bring, families together. In principle and in theory, again, it sounds so right! And it’s a trend that Volunteer MBC sees, wants to define, and ideally further. The key, though is sustaining the trend to translate principle and theory into practice, that is, having regard to volunteering sector capabilities.

While this ‘look in’ via the ‘V-News’ is far from exhaustive, in terms of the ‘How’ … to establish family volunteering more as the rule, as opposed to an undefined exception, we can provide food for thought to those organizations that have potential and the logistics for bringing family volunteering into their available options.

Adapting or enlarging your catchment and activities base is a project in itself. Why not, then, put a call out for an older volunteer who is equipped to analyze the situation and provide recommendations? That exercise alone reflects another hopeful trend towards project-oriented contributions by older volunteers. Such a project could see a partnership with community engagement co-op students, both bringing the benefit of ‘looking from the outside in’. With suitable cooperation, these volunteers could even develop ‘pilots’, which have 2 purposes: viability of ‘family volunteering’ in the organization and identification of structural/procedural adjustments that should be made. After all, quite a number of volunteer management professionals know what to do, but not specifically how to do it.

If the above comes across as a ‘main course’, we can’t forget the ‘appetizer’ , which could plant an ‘attract’ in the communities we serve. Shortly stated, we’re talking about focused volunteering projects aimed directly at families in order to promote possibility, mindset, and vital ‘networking’. Family units are essentially their own volunteering centre, with the welcome feature that parents are invested in seeing their children participate and succeed and grow. A mother and a father do our engagement for us, provided that we engage them.

More ‘food for thought’: Where’s the ‘dessert’? It likely comes in the form of sweet support from stakeholders and community leaders who will want to join in, in that way. Say that word gets around in the neighbourhood (a somewhat bigger ‘family unit’) that your organization is actively reaching out to families, offering something definite to volunteer in, whatever the scale.

It might just start with tea and sandwiches, yet a meal is what you make it. So, in the words of a classic egg marketing board commercial, go into your organization’s ‘kitchen’, and ‘get crackin’…!

Written by Robert Ma
Robert is Volunteer MBC's Referral Services Consultant