KCR: Volunteer managers discuss corporate volunteering

These columns are contributed by the KCR Community Resources

Once a month KCR Community Resources hosts the Nourishing Volunteer Managers series, funded by Valley First, a division of First West Credit Union, where those who manage volunteers can get together to connect and talk about their work and also benefit from key speakers who share information on relevant topics to the sector. Coming up March 28, we are thrilled to welcome Susan Byrom, Executive Director of First West Foundation, to host a community conversation about how to best engage corporate volunteers that is both intentional and meaningful for the organization and the corporate volunteer.

“Community leadership is very important to all of us at Valley First, a division of First West Credit Union,” explains Susan. “Volunteering in the community is one component of our Social Vision—which is called “Lead Well”—to foster community engagement and service through volunteering. All employees receive three paid days per year to volunteer in their community with a cause that matters to them. Our goal is that every Valley First employee finds their community passion and gives back this time!”

Susan is a super advocate for the community lens that Valley First and First West Credit Union have and is a leader in implementing Trust-based Philanthropy to the Foundation’s charitable giving programs. She also recognizes that having large corporate team of volunteers descend on a non-profit may not always be the best way to provide meaningful service. It is wonderful to have her lead a conversation about this topic to find opportunities that are a win-win-win, serving first the community and then also the corporation, the non-profit and the volunteer.

“There are so many different ways to volunteer,” enthuses Susan. “A recent team activity we participated in was baking and decorating spring cookies. Over 233 packages of cookies were made and attached to each one was a kindness note. These were then delivered to the hospital for resident seniors and auxiliary volunteers. The activity was a warm and fun experience for the volunteers and we hope each person receiving a cookie and note felt that warmth and know that there are members of the community thinking of them. We deliver smiles and that’s impact to be proud of!”

“Volunteering doesn’t have to be complicated and simple activities make me happy, explains Susan, who also volunteers on her own time. “Three years ago, my friend and I ‘adopted’ a local senior’s long-term care home and each holiday we delivered a small handmade gift or treat to 156 seniors. Crocheted Easter Rabbits, holiday trees and stars, little orange carrot holders each with a chocolate! Last August we visited and made ice cream floats! Orange Crush and Root Beer were the favourites!

“At the beginning of the COVID pandemic, Valley First was searching for opportunities to keep connected to colleagues across the organization. To support our community, we created a team activity, ‘Blanket Buddies’. Employees across the region knit, sew, and crochet baby blankets for donation to community partners. Since March 2020, over 400 hours and more than 50 blankets have been donated. My needles are ready for the next one,” laughs Susan.

“I often think volunteering comes to us in one of two ways—we’re asked to join an experience or we have a personal connection pulling us in” continues Susan. “We give back through our time and talent to make a difference and it’s a wonderful feeling. When you’ve found your ‘what’, grab it! Staying motivated when you have found your passion is easier than you may think.”

Volunteering continues to evolve—we learned this through the pandemic. Be bold—ask ‘what do you need?’ and you’ll be pleased to learn how you can help,” encourages Susan. “Volunteering welcomes everyone!”

Dorothee Birker is the communications and development coordinator for KCR Community Resources. If you are interested in sharing your volunteer or organizational news, please contact Dorothee at dorothee@kcr.ca.

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