International Volunteer Managers Day 2023

      International Volunteer Managers Day, November 5th

Volunteer Waterloo Region had the opportunity to take time to talk to some of these dedicated volunteer managers about what their role means to them, the challenges they face, and why they decided on this profession. We would also like to thank our volunteer, Chelsea Miller for her assitance in writing these stories. Here are some of their stories:



Family and Children's Services of Waterloo Region

Bonnie has been working with volunteers for over 20 years. She started at Our Place, having volunteer management be an additional part of her role that she managed along with her other duties. After Our Place closed, she found herself joining Family and Children’s Services of Waterloo Region in a dedicated volunteer manager role. This was a big shift from what she was used to doing, and really took the reins in her new role.

When Bonnie joined FACS in 2022, they were going through a volunteer program evaluation with the help of Volunteer Waterloo Region. With VWR’s support, and her experience in the field, she helped to restructure, assess and steer the volunteering program towards where it is heading today. This is just one part of what volunteer managers do that often goes unseen.

“I love where I am now. I love the colleagues I can reach out to,” she says, as she believes that the people that you work with are such an important part of being a good volunteer manager. “Find your people. Find those that you have a common threads with. If that doesn’t exist…step in and create what you need, because if you need it, others need it, too.” For her, Volunteer Waterloo Region has been a great source for finding her people. She has been able to see them grow, change roles, and be a part of the community that VWR helps facilitate. 

Bonnie wants other volunteer managers to know that you should always be able to talk to each other. She remembers how when she was new in the field, it was the world around her that was able to raise her up. Now that she has some experience, she feels like she has started to take up a mentorship role, and is willing to support new volunteer managers with their journeys as well.



City of Waterloo

Volunteer Managers play a unique role in any organization. Not only are they there to build relationships and manage human resources, they are also working diligently to build up the foundations of volunteer practices. “It is busy because you wear many hats from recruitment, to screening, to training, to following legislation and making policies,” says Christine from the City of Waterloo.

Christine has been with the City’s Volunteer Services department for 9 years, but has been in the field for over 20. In that time, she loves just how she gets to interact with the community. Getting positive feedback from clients and volunteers alike gives a sense of accomplishment that you cannot really get from anywhere else. Even just helping an applicant find more opportunities around them can bring a sense of satisfaction in her day.

The relationship with Volunteer Waterloo Region has been going strong since 2004; VWR has been supporting the City in her time there with promotion, connection with other opportunities in the region, and a place to network and connect with peers in the volunteer management field. She believes that building a network is an indispensable part of growing at an organization, as well as becoming a better volunteer manager overall.

Christine would like to thank every volunteer for sharing their time and talents. “Whether you volunteer weekly or on an occasional basis, every contribution is appreciated and supports the Waterloo Community.” She is able to see these contributions in the form of driving, outdoor activities, special events and helping out at museums and parks. “This truly helps build community!”

Kitchener Public Library

Sherry’s journey as a volunteer manager at the Kitchener Public Library actually starts at Volunteer Waterloo Region. She was a volunteer with the marketing committee, helping out with volunteer fairs and promotion. From this experience, she was able to join the KPL for her astounding 34 year long career as their volunteer manager. In this time, she has seen the number of volunteers go from around 45 to over 275 in recent years.

In her time as a volunteer manager, one task has always shown up as a challenge: managing change. In recent years this has involved not only providing appreciation and organization of volunteers, but also overseeing others in the interviewing and recruitment process for volunteers. On top of this, the entirety of the volunteer climate has begun a major change due to the Pandemic and the economic landscape. 

“I love it, and I love what I do.I like the people that I meet and the various projects that I get to work on,” Sherry remarks. To her the ability to introduce people to each other, and to a place as welcoming as the KPL, is a great inspiration and joy for why she loves her role.

One thing that Sherry would like to leave with everyone is how a volunteer manager's role of connecting and networking helps build a positive ecosystem in an organization. “I think the key piece of my job is connecting volunteers and staff and working together on projects. It is so rewarding!”

City of Cambridge

Lisa is the Special Event and Volunteer Coordinator for the City of Cambridge. She has been working in her volunteer manager role since she came to Cambridge 15 years ago. Although she loves her role and finds it incredibly rewarding, she points out that it does come without its own set of challenges. “Volunteers are very busy, especially these days,” she says. “...being able to find a time for volunteers to be able to volunteer has been a bit challenging and difficult.”

Volunteer managers have a lot on their plate. They recruit and interview new volunteers, find placements for them, teach them about their new roles, and help address any concerns they may have throughout their time with the organization. Often an overlooked role, volunteer managers undertake their fair share of tasks to ensure their volunteers and the community are happy. Lisa says that Volunteer Waterloo Region has been great to work with and she has learned a lot from them over the years.

Lisa appreciates the volunteers she works with, and says that the most rewarding part of her job is working with people who feel like they have made a difference in the lives of others. She encourages those who are interested in volunteering to not be afraid to reach out to an organization they’re interested in, and to get their name out there. She also has a message to other volunteer managers out there: “We’re in this together.”

Written by Chelsea Miller, BScN, RN

Habitat for Humanity Waterloo Region

Debbie has been in her role for 7 years. Prior to that, she was Director of Volunteers for the 2016-2017 Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival. Tying into her love of thrifting, she first started out working as a volunteer for her local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. 

When asked about what it’s like to be a volunteer manager, she chuckled, “That’s a pandora’s box of adjectives.” In her very complex role, she deals with an array of challenges. Debbie says the field of volunteering is always changing. She spends a lot of time juggling, paperwork, scheduling, recruiting, talking to people, and celebrating the successes of the volunteer community.

While Debbie points out that her job can be lonely at times, she says that she feels a lot less alone knowing that Volunteer Waterloo Region is there when she needs them. Volunteer Waterloo Region helps Debbie connect to others, and provides information or steers her in the right direction when she encounters an issue not easily resolved. They keep her informed about events, webinars, conferences, and resources that are available to help her in her busy role.

Being a volunteer manager is not an easy job, but Debbie cheerfully reflects on the rewarding part of her role. “The impact that you see,” is what she loves most, and she is joyed when she sees her volunteers doing what they sought out to do. “At the heart of it, [volunteers] also want to see an impact.” She encourages volunteers to bring forth their ideas, and let them know what can be changed to make a more positive impact on the community and the organization as a whole. As for other volunteer managers, “Persevere,” she says. “It can be…frustrating and overwhelming, but in the end, it is rewarding. It is so rewarding.” 

Written by Chelsea Miller, BScN, RN

Seeing the impact of volunteers in our community is always very plain. You can see them in action helping keep our neighbourhoods clean, run programs for seniors and youth alike, and supporting the world around them in so many different ways. It is easy to forget that one of the reasons that we can see such a strong a coordinated effort to build a stronger community comes from behind the scenes. Volunteer Managers work tirelessly to make sure that the energy and positivity brought by volunteers are directed towards effective community engagement. While their roles are not always seen at the forefront, their impact on community is seen continually through the volunteers that they support and guide.

That is why we celebrate International Volunteer Managers Day every year on November 5.

It is important to let those professionals know that the spirit of volunteerism is enhanced and enabled by them, and to thank them. In whatever role you have, regardless of the organization, we urge you to take a moment and thank a volunteer manager for helping you support the people and causes that you beleive in. International Volunteer Managers Day is a great time to reflect on what these Volunteer Managers do for our community all year round.

THANKS to ALL the Volunteer Managers AND supporting organizations who help bring to life in our community!

Volunteer Manager Professionals of Canada     PAVRO        Volunteer Canada        Volunteer Waterloo Region


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