Town councillor hoping to kick-start Volunteer Dufferin portal

August 12, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

An Orangeville councillor is doing her part trying to establish a nearly decade-old web-based portal to assist local residents in identifying volunteer opportunities throughout the community. 

Volunteer Dufferin was launched back in 2010. The brainchild of six local non-profit entities, the online system was designed to match those interested in volunteering in the community with organizations and opportunities that match their interests. In the nine years since its launch, the portal has been moderately successful, with over 100 organizations and 1,300 individuals registering. But Coun. Lisa Post says the system could be doing much better. 

“The more I go around and talk to people, the more I realize that people have absolutely no idea that Volunteer Dufferin exists,” said Ms. Post, who joined Volunteer Dufferin in a coordinator position three months ago. “This truly is an incredible tool that is all about bringing the community together. It’s a great way to introduce not-for-profits in the area with those interesting in volunteering, and vice versa.”

Ms. Post was introduced to Volunteer Dufferin in 2017, when she was working on putting together the first Celebrate Your Awesome event in Orangeville. After signing up, she was able to find five volunteers, who each contributed in their own way to making that first annual event an incredible success. 

Describing how Volunteer Dufferin works, Ms. Post noted it’s an “extremely easy” system to navigate.

“Individuals have the opportunity to build themselves a profile online after they log-in to the website. The website then takes that information, takes information from the organizations that have signed up, and the hope is our program will match people with organizations that are a good fit,” Ms. Post said. 

“It’s a great way to introduce people to some not-for-profit agencies that they may not have known about, and it’s a great way for some of those smaller organizations to get out there, get known and find volunteers.”

While the portal itself is almost 10 years old, it underwent something of a transformation in 2017. Struggling without any real guidance or leadership, Volunteer Dufferin was assumed by Headwaters Communities in Action (HCIA). Formed in late 2004, HCIA proclaims itself as “a convener of community conversations”. 

“We provide citizens with information about emerging issues and opportunities and also support the start-up of collaborative projects that enhance community well-being”, the HCIA website reads. The organization is involved in several projects locally, including DC Moves, Headwaters Food and Farming Alliance and Citizens of Headwaters for Active Transportation Team.

Ms. Post described HCIA and Volunteer Dufferin as a “perfect match”. Now well into her new coordinating position, Lisa said she’s already starting to come up with ideas to boost Volunteer Dufferin’s profile in the local community. 

She is planning to reach out to both late elementary and high school students in an effort to maximize exposure, as well as potentially introducing a whole new generation to the benefits of volunteering.

“Students are mandated to do 40 hours of community service before they graduate. I find it’s sometimes a challenge for that many students to find that many hours doing something they love,” Ms. Post said. “My goal going forward is to work closely with the schools and work closely with the boards of education to find a way to identify what positions are appropriate for students, so they can go one-stop shopping, so they can use the technology they’re already using and really try to grow that.

She added, “I would love to have these students come out of their 40 hour volunteer positions and want to become volunteers in their community, rather than just being glad it’s all over. If we can link them to organizations they’re passionate about, and positions they have an interest in, then I think there’s real potential to instil a new mindset about volunteering amongst our students.”

With a population of 60,000 in Dufferin County to tap into, Ms. Post said, in the next two years, she’d like to see Volunteer Dufferin grow to having more than 2,000 members locally. 

“It’s a really neat tool. I just want to let people know that it’s out there, that you don’t have to rely on what you see on Facebook to find great volunteer opportunities. We have 227 opportunities available (as of July 30),” she said. “It’s important, to me, to build a strong network of volunteers. I volunteer a lot because it’s something I love to do, but one thing I’ve noticed is that, at least here in Dufferin, 90 percent of volunteer opportunities are filled by 10 percent of our volunteer base. You notice, when you go from event to event, organization to organization that it’s many of the same people, because it’s the same people volunteering all the time.”

She added, “I have a definite vision for this thing. I think it’s a fantastic tool that could be used more than it is right now. We have an opportunity to create something huge here for our community.”

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