Part 6 - Volunteers and Board of Directors


What are the barriers to participating as a volunteer? You’ve spoken to some people outside your own organization to get their perspective. As you examine your organization, consider the issues they’ve brought up and how your practices may be limiting the people you could attract:

  • Potential volunteers are not aware of your company – are you promoting your needs directly to them and making it clear how you can support their goals?
    • If you’ve relied in the past on word of mouth, it may be the time to advertise in newsletters, post in social media (Facebook or Twitter) or let volunteer centres, newcomer centres or literacy groups know about available volunteer positions. Or you might want to target particular community groups with special information sessions.
    • A program in partnership with a social service agency that shares your goals and values could improve your visibility with their clients or their own pool of volunteers; together you can provide complementary resources and training.
    • Placing stories and interviews with ethnic and community-based media outlets can personalize what you do and make explicit your need for volunteers.
  • Are you flexible about the skills volunteers bring that can be utilized?
    • Not just what you think you need, are there actually new roles that could be filled by new volunteers or are there ways to adapt existing roles to the skills of new volunteers?
    • Could you give people a ‘taste’ of a volunteer job to encourage their involvement?
  • Concerns about English fluency – If you and your volunteers are concerned about English intelligibility and fluency, there are ways to address this while still offering meaningful volunteer work.
    • Identify tasks where English communication skills may not be as important; volunteers can work at these while improving their language comfort and getting to know new people, networks and activities.
    • ‘Plain language’ volunteer job descriptions or postings and simple application forms might be more appealing to people whose English skills are more limited.
    • Info sessions or one-on-one interviews might ease concerns about people’s language abilities but still allow you to assess the support that might be needed.
  • Potential volunteers may be limited by not having a driver’s license or child care. Think about facilitating carpooling or offering tasks that can be done from home, or even online.
  • Lacking Canadian experience - Volunteers such as youth or newcomers may be looking for Canadian experience or work experience – how do you let them know that you could support their goals?
    • The volunteer job descriptions could outline the skills volunteers can learn.
    • What about offering volunteer service credits?
    • Make the benefits of volunteering (i.e. career/skills development, opportunities to make new friends, making a difference to your community) clear in promotional materials, role descriptions, and at outreach sessions
  • Requirements for accommodation – Is your organization ready to make the particular accommodations that certain groups or individuals may require?
  • Protocols for reaching out – Get to know leaders in communities you want to engage with. Their guidance on the specific conventions or practices in their community will help you engage respectfully with a group.
  • Some potential volunteers may find specific requirements a barrier to volunteering. For example, the requirement for a vulnerable sector screening and police check for a volunteer role that works with young children could intimidate people. Assurances that these are normal requirements that everyone must adhere to may alleviate their concerns.  


Communicating Effectively

Recruitment materials and events speak volumes about your commitment to diversity and inclusion. Positive inclusive messaging and images of diversity make clear that you open to everyone.

Celebrate your volunteers by gathering and sharing their stories within and outside the organization. These stories are two-way streets: celebrate what their volunteering experience has done for volunteers, but also what they’ve brought to your organization. Their positive experiences could persuade someone who’s considering volunteering in the future.

Illustrate your commitment to diversity, accessibility and inclusion through the photos and videos on your website or in your written materials. A statement about welcoming “inquiries from the local community, regardless of background or experience” demonstrates your openness. Also be clear about accessible space and any needed accommodations.

Communication is not just about getting your message out. It is also about communicating with and hearing from your volunteers. Prepare staff and volunteer leaders through cross-cultural skills training that could strengthen relationships. Learning techniques such as active listening can give people more confidence in working together.


Dig Deeper

Indigenous Wisdom, A Protocols Guide - StepUp BC, a non-profit that provides resources, services and support for development of the human resources BC, developed this set of tips for working with the aboriginal community in the province.

Resource and Advice Sheets – Free sheets from Arts Access Australia that cover a wide range of communication and planning opportunities and requirements for artists and audiences with disabilities.