May 12, 2011; Source: Canadian Business | The terms “cameo,” “groupie,” “juggler,” and “rookie” might not be the first descriptors that come to mind when one thinks of volunteers, but Volunteer Canada wants to change that. With the launch of a new Facebook page, an accompanying app, and a new interactive website last week Volunteer Canada added a youthful edge to its ongoing work strengthening citizen engagement and voluntary action.

The result of a 2010 study titled Bridging the Gap (PDF) which revealed a gap between the kinds of experiences volunteers were looking for and those that organizations were providing, the purpose of the effort is to help nonprofits to be responsive to emerging trends and to boost the overall engagement of volunteers.

A key finding from Bridging the Gap, based on results from the 208 nonprofit and voluntary organizations that participated in the study, is that volunteers to charitable organizations are getting younger and they want opportunities that are flexible and responsive to changes in their lives. The study also reveals that the majority of organizations are not equipped with “tools, training, and strategies in place to engage youth, families, baby-boomers, and employer-supported volunteers.”

Commenting on these results, Volunteer Canada’s president and CEO, Ruth MacKenzie, noted, "Today's volunteers are more goal-oriented, autonomous, tech-savvy, and mobile.” She added, "It's essential that organizations recognize the changes that technology brings and adapt to meet the needs of the next generation of volunteers."

The newest digital tool offered by Volunteer Canada is the Volunteer Quiz. By way of 13 short questions such as, “Who would be your ideal dinner companions?” the quiz invites potential volunteers to find out which of six possible ideal volunteer types they are: a Cameo, a Groupie, a Juggler, a Rookie, a Roving Consultant, or a Type A. As a final step, the online tool then provides a list of available opportunities that match the interests of the potential volunteer.

Volunteer Canada partnered with financial firm, Manulife, on the launch of this tool and expects to continue to roll out additional tools and resources throughout the year.—Anne Eigeman