Muskoka’s communities are made more vibrant by the wealth of volunteers who are dedicated to our local organizations and events. But those people who so selflessly give their time and energy need support, too. That’s where Volunteer Muskoka comes in.
Coordinated by the Town of Huntsville and the Huntsville Lake of Bays Chamber of Commerce, Volunteer Muskoka is a partnership between six municipalities – Huntsville, Lake of Bays, Muskoka Lakes, Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, and Georgian Bay – that aims to strengthen our volunteer sector.
“Many of the initiatives in small communities are 90 per cent volunteer driven,” says Scott Ovell, Community Development Officer for the Town of Huntsville. “If we don’t have a strong volunteer base and organizations that feel they are supported, many local events and initiatives won’t happen. Volunteer Muskoka wants to ensure they have the resources they need to recruit and retain volunteers, and strategically approach fundraising and sponsorships.”
In order to do that, Volunteer Muskoka first needed to understand what local volunteer organizations need. Initial community conversations led to a series of workshops last fall to train both local volunteers and the organizations they help, an offering that was well received.
Based on feedback from those sessions and requests to go deeper into some topics, a new schedule of workshops will begin in Huntsville, Bracebridge and Gravenhurst starting February 24. A series of four workshops have been created to focus on volunteer recruitment and management topics, highlighting new ideas for attracting volunteers, how to make the most of the volunteers you have, how to retain volunteers and create succession plans, and how to develop team leadership and conflict resolution skills within your organization. A second series focused on fundraising will be held at the end of March, including where to start, how to make the most of your fundraising, how to plan for corporate sponsorships and fundraising events, how to approach individuals for personal donations or gifts, and tips for understanding grants and how to apply for them. Click here to view the workshop schedule (PDF).
Community-based round table conversations will also continue to ensure local volunteers and organizations are getting what they need from the program. “It’s important for us to reach out every 12 to 18 months to get feedback and reinforce our plan and mandate,” says Ovell. “There is a definite need for support for organizations that are struggling both to raise funds and to find volunteers.” The next set of community conversations will take place this spring and will include training on the new Volunteer Muskoka website portal to be launched in February which will make it easier to connect volunteers with organizations.
“Groups with limited resources could utilize the website portal as a volunteer database,” says Ovell. “Volunteers will be able to register and select the types of events, programs or initiatives they want to volunteer for and they’ll be notified when an organization adds something that matches.”
Volunteer Muskoka will also work to recognize the efforts of Muskoka’s many volunteers. A daylong event is in the works that will connect volunteers with organizations during the day, followed by an evening networking and appreciation social.
Volunteer Muskoka was launched with the help of a $355,000 Ontario Trillium Foundation grant. Its advisory committee is comprised of representatives from the six municipalities, plus five from local organizations that rely heavily on volunteers like Big Brothers Big Sisters of Muskoka and One Kids Place.
“We are here to support all volunteer and volunteer-driven organizations across Muskoka to ensure they are strong and can move forward,” says Ovell. “The growth of our communities will depend on engaged and committed volunteers who make each community a better place.”
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