Each month, Volunteer Calgary chats with a manager of volunteers with one of our non-profit member organizations to share their personal success stories and best practices in the field of Volunteer Management.
DAN ST. YVES
Public Programs & Services, Volunteer Coordinator
Dan St. Yves is passionate about the work of the Canadian Diabetes Association, so much so that after several years as an active and engaged volunteer, he decided to take on a full time staff role.
In his position as Volunteer Coordinator for the national organization, he works with volunteers based in Southern Alberta. They engage a variety of volunteers including those with highly specialized skills, like health care workers, university medical students, dieticians and nutritionists, to those who simply have a personal connection to the disease and want to help however they can.
“Like any not-for-profit, we are able to expand our programs exponentially with dedicated volunteers,” said St. Yves.
“As a national organization, each part of Canada can offer slight variations on what we hope brings education and awareness to anyone affected by diabetes – or at risk for becoming affected,” he said.
With the help of volunteers, the organization provides Learning Series presentations, essentially a group of progressively informative PowerPoint slides on diabetes. They also put on various events to create awareness, such as Team Diabetes runs, golf tournaments, health fair displays, and more, none of which could be possible without a passionate team of volunteers.
St. Yves ensures that volunteers are actively engaged with the organization. According to him, he benefits greatly from being part of a national organization that has updated their volunteer practices regularly over the years.
“I was just in Toronto earlier this year for the launch of another upgrade,” he said. “We have a wealth of materials that we make available to potential volunteers, and that is followed up by a well-developed orientation and training system. “
Further to orientation, St. Yves encourages new volunteers to come out and attend a presentation or display in advance, to see if it really is of interest to them. “After training, I attend the first presentation to make sure that they are confident and comfortable,” he said. “I’m always just a phone call or an email away.”
Volunteer contributions are acknowledged through a comprehensive recognition program. At an annual event, one volunteer in particular is awarded a plaque as the Southern Alberta Regional Volunteer of the Year.
“I also incorporate ongoing smaller recognition during busy times, like a gift card from time to time when a volunteer has gone above and beyond,” he said.
St. Yves recommends the following for volunteer management professionals:
Be adaptive. “The volunteer force is experiencing a seismic shift right now, as more corporations encourage their employees to volunteer within work hours. So if a company adopts a major cause, it can make the volunteer pool more shallow, as an employee previously may have decided to take on something near and dear to their own heart instead.”
Be educated. “I’ve been fortunate in the short time that I’ve been in my role to attend the annual Vitalize conference, the CDA’s recent volunteer management training, as well as the Calgary Foundation’s eye-opening Community Knowledge Centre. I would be remiss to not mention Volunteer Calgary’s exceptional ‘Elements Of Volunteer Engagement’. “
Be realistic. “Ensure that you have your feet planted firmly on the ground. You will be buffeted around by so many different factors in a volunteer management position. By the nature of the non-profit industry, you will often wear many hats. Depending on the demands of the role, and the size of your organization, you will constantly have to try and make the best decision as to what needs the most immediate attention in your role.”
Check out the Volunteer Calgary website to find volunteer opportunities with Canadian Diabetes Assocation.