October 31, 2013

All in the (very scary) Community



An ode to Bishop's University - where Halloween is a national holiday! 

Even outside of political campaigns, not for profit groups can play an important role in shaping public policy, as well as provide services in areas ignored by governments and businesses. In order to provide this community volunteer perspective, I conducted a Q&A session with fellow Bishop's University grad and fellow Toronto resident, Emma Stainton - a National Accounts Relationship Manager with RBC Global Asset Management.



Which community organizations are you involved with and which roles did you focus on?







I have been on the board of trustees for the Textile Museum of Canada for two years, where I have been part of the development committee and helped organize an event called Redesign. I have also been the sponsorship chair of Booby Ball for Rethink Breast Cancer and Freehand Art Auction for War Child. In the past, I have been part of committees for The Autists (Geneva Centre for Autism), the Sistering homeless shelter, Dress For Success, RBC United Way Fundraising, and the development committee for the Tennessee William Project, a theatre project.



Rob Z: You consistently mentioned your involvement with development and event planning. What lead you to participate in these functions?

Emma: I focused on development and fundraising, given the difficulty not for profit groups experience in recruiting and raising funds. Event planning is something I enjoyed since Bishop’s University.

Rob Z: What were some of the challenges you experienced while on the board of trustees for the Textile Museum?

Emma: Events are fresh. Boards have history and scope; thus requiring a long term focus. Boards have to deal with competing political agendas and age differences. It is also easier to measure success with events, where it is measured by the amount raised and the work is mostly done by volunteers. Boards, on the other hand, need to deal with sustainability and paid employees.



In terms of political agendas, where else would they come from aside from age differences?






 



You will find people who are more academically inclined and those who look at things from a business perspective. There is also the issue of different viewpoints in general.







Rob Z: For new residents arriving in Toronto, what would you recommend for them to start getting involved?

Emma: Working at registration tables and grant writing are great ways to become acquainted with not for profit groups. As for how to select opportunities, you can consult volunteering job boards (e.g. Charity Village, GetInvolved.ca, BoardMatch), attend networking sessions, and even start your own initiative if the opportunity arises.

Rob Z: Why do you feel it is important to volunteer?

Emma: I feel we in Canada are considered to be privileged and there are numerous great causes to volunteer for. Volunteering is a great place to network, show your creativity, and improve problem solving and other skills.




Would you have any final thoughts on volunteering?









Personally, I found it difficult to find volunteering opportunities in Toronto at first. However, it is important to never give up and to find something that is of interest to you.










Regardless of whether your interests lie with politics, business, or not for profit groups, volunteering is a key part of Canadian society. Per the 2010 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering,and Participating, almost half of Canadians volunteered that year and the average time works out to three hours per week. Coincidentally, that’s the same time commitment political campaigns will normally ask of canvassers (1). 

If you currently are not volunteering, I recommend that you ask your networks, check out the volunteer boards mentioned earlier, or even start your own initiative. After all, three hours per week can go a long way in shaping the future of your community.

Stay involved!
Rob Z (e-mail)

 
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(1) Calculated as 2.07 billion hours/year ÷ 13.3 million volunteers ÷ 52 weeks/year = 2.993
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And now -just to make you smile - a special presentation in honour of Halloween at Bishop's University...


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