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We’re Jon Burns and Kevan Osmond, two recent University of Waterloo graduates. While our careers took us to different paths after graduation, we always maintained one thing in common: our enthusiasm for volunteering. Like many other Canadians, our busy schedules often limited us from being as active as we’d like in the volunteer sector. We’ve now joined forces in Toronto to work towards improving the state of volunteering in Canada. Our mission is to get more people ‘up on their feet’ doing good work for great organizations!
Good People, Great Organizations
Have you ever wanted to use some of your free time to volunteer but encountered barriers, such as confusing application processes or time commitments that didn’t work with your schedule? The 2007 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (CSGVP) reported non-volunteers’ top barriers, despite being interested in involvement, were: long-term commitments (62%), not knowing how to get involved (24%), and financial costs associated with volunteering (18%).
Canada has over 161,000 volunteer organizations. With volunteer help, these organizations provide significant contributions to society and are an anchor to community, health and well-being. Regrettably, the National Survey of Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations informs us that 57% of volunteer organizations report difficulty recruiting volunteers and 49% have difficulties retaining them. Current practices are often messy, time consuming, and lead to missed opportunities.
Good people want to help out, but most don’t. Great organizations need volunteer help, but have difficulty attracting and maintaining them. There is a clear disconnect between these two sides. Our goal is to leverage modernized technology to bring down the barriers to volunteering, connect volunteers with the organizations that need their help, and capitalize on this missed goodwill potential.
We’re creating Kindness Connect, a modernized web platform with two goals: (1) empower volunteers by eliminating the barriers to volunteering and (2) empower organizations with an easy to use suite of tools to better attract, organize, schedule, and communicate with their volunteers. Free of disconnected processes.
We want to make it as easy as possible to help out and volunteer. Volunteers will be able to find, and apply directly to opportunities that match their interests and skills or even filter for opportunities with barrier-removing perks such as carpooling and family friendly environments. If their busy schedule doesn’t allow for long-term commitments, they can still become involved by applying to specific dates that work with their schedules. Achievements are earned along the way to track volunteer progress.
Removing these barriers is particularly important for youth. “The likelihood of volunteering in later life appears to be linked to a number of early life experiences during one’s primary or secondary schooling. Those who had these prior life experiences were more likely than other Canadians to volunteer” (CSGVP). With a better system, youth can be empowered with an easy, engaging, and fun way to find positions of interest that help plant the seeds for community development in Canada and across the world.
Empowering Volunteer Organizations
Volunteer organizations begin by creating a profile to promote their vision. A volunteer team is developed by importing existing volunteer contacts and attracting new volunteers through opportunity posts. To save organizations time and resources we’ll provide tools for record management, automated scheduling, and effective communication with volunteers. Following an opportunity, volunteer connections can be developed and not lost; analytics, recommendations, appreciation scores, and direct messaging will help evolve relationships.
Developing and running a web platform incurs server costs on a monthly basis. Without a server, a web platform cannot exist. Thanks to the generous support of YCI, Kindness Connect will have server costs covered for a full year. This allows us to finish development and get the platform out to great volunteer organizations and interested volunteers like yourselves. We’re excited about releasing Kindness Connect to the public, and we’ll be working hard to make sure you enjoy it.
- Jon and Kevan
PS – We’re social and we’d love to hear from you! Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have a question, comment, feedback, or would simply like to chat:
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter – @KindnessToronto https://twitter.com/kindnesstoronto
Facebook – www.facebook.com/KindnessConnect
Website – www.kindnessconnect.com
As an individual who just recently graduated from university, I had put little thought into what I wanted to do down the road – in 10 years time; 5 years time; or even what I wanted to do next month! I had completed one of the toughest and most character-building chapters of my life, and all I wanted to do was live up the time I finally had to myself.
Only after a summer of light travelling, working, and relaxing did I started thinking about that eventuality known as the future. It was then that I realized I didn’t have a game plan; no road lay before me. I knew it was all up to me – I had long ago grown out of the age when other people planned my life for me, and I needed to do something about it.
I thought back on my interests that I focused on while in school, and realized that a pattern began to emerge in my last few semesters of my undergrad. I, unlike many of my peers, did not know what I wanted to be “when I grew up” and so my undergraduate degree began to look like a mosaic; I took courses that I thought were interesting, thought-provoking, challenging, diverse, and fun. I realized that I had developed a strong interest in international development, gender, human rights, and the issues that surround these when they become intertwined. With that in mind, I began the process of asking myself what I wanted to do with this knowledge.
I decided on applying to graduate school and looking for meaningful work and volunteer experience. The work experience I was lucky to attain: that is where Youth Challenge International comes in! I am currently learning so much about what it takes to be a part of a development organization, and what kind of role I eventually want to take in this diverse field. For school, I decided on graduate programs related to international development – specifically those that tie in many comprehensive courses and faculty so that I can continue to keep my education diverse and creative. I realized after my time off from university (which was much needed!) that I enjoy the learning process, I enjoy the challenge that school provides, and I thrive on research and discovery. Plus, with my love of travel and curiosity for people and places the world over, this path seems like a step toward being able to one day live and make a place for myself outside of Canada.
I am also looking for ways to make myself useful as a volunteer. Anyone can tell you that a strong education is a great asset, but without meaningful experience, you haven’t got a leg to stand on. As the only member of the YCI team who has yet to go on a volunteer trip, I am looking to try my hand at some volunteer experiences right here in Canada – after all, you need to know where you’ve been before you can know where you’re going!
- Sarah Tuckey, Administrative Assistant
If you’re interested in graduate programs in International Development, check out these select links:
For more information on volunteer experiences in Canada and abroad, check out: