EPISODE 13: NURTURING A DYNAMIC VOLUNTEER COMMUNITY: THE POWER OF PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT
Crossroads International | Carrefour International
Seynabou Gaye is the Volunteer Engagement Officer at Crossroads International. Her experience and contributions to the sector include program development and youth public engagement, resulting in improved sustainability, girls access to education and building more welcoming communities.
Listen to the podcast interview with the author;
NURTURING A DYNAMIC VOLUNTEER COMMUNITY:THE POWER OF PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT
"Public engagement is the act of informing and educating the public, acting as a conduit for the voices of southern partners, and debunking myths and misconceptions around international development, aid and trade, all the while inspiring people to take action."
Each year at Crossroads International, we mobilise more than 100 volunteers and experienced professionals, in Canada and the Global South to leverage their expertise and respond to urgent global development issues. As an integral aspect of our organisational mission, we are committed to achieving specific targets aimed at informing the Canadian public about our projects and activities, facilitated by the dedicated efforts of our volunteers. In pursuit of this objective, we use what we refer to as ‘Public Engagement’. Public engagement is the act of informing and educating the public, acting as a conduit for the voices of southern partners, and debunking myths and misconceptions around international development, aid and trade, all the while inspiring people to take action. In this blog post, we will explore the importance of public engagement in the context of volunteer management and retention within NGOs. We will delve into effective strategies, best practices and innovative approaches that organisations can employ to engage and retain volunteers through public engagement.
Involving volunteers in the fundraising process
For volunteers, the journey of making a difference begins even before starting their volunteer mandate. By engaging volunteers in fundraising at the initial stage of their journey, we not only empower volunteers to actively contribute to our mission but also instill in them a deep sense of ownership and connection to the cause.
To ensure volunteers are well-equipped for fundraising, we provide them with a comprehensive set of tools and resources. Through training sessions, educational materials and personalised support, volunteers gain the confidence and expertise to articulate the impact of their efforts and effectively communicate how these resources contribute directly to our programs and projects. Our volunteers continuously play an important role in leveraging their networks and communities, simultaneously raising awareness about Crossroads International and our impactful initiatives.
Proactively raising awareness during their mandates
During their mandates, our volunteers become active agents of change by proactively raising awareness about their work. They work closely with local partner organisations, utilising their specific areas of expertise while often engaging in initiatives such as training sessions, interviews, event planning, directly with community members supported by our partner organisations. They document their activities and share their stories with us, enabling us to relay their impactful work to the Canadian public and amplify their efforts. Their stories are shared through social media, our website, newsletter and more.
Retaining and engaging volunteers after their mandates
At Crossroads International, we believe in the continued engagement of our volunteers beyond their mandates. We provide a wide range of opportunities for volunteers to stay connected and involved, ensuring their contributions have a lasting impact. Through post-mandate debrief sessions, training and ongoing communication, we offer support and resources to help volunteers reflect on their experiences, further develop their skills, and stay connected with the organisation and fellow volunteers. They can engage in our conferences and participate in our meaningful ‘Equality Matters; conversations. These conversations serve as a dynamic initiative undertaken by Crossroads, where volunteers and partners can come together to engage in discussions surrounding projects related to gender equality. They explain why their work is important to the Canadian public and show how their work can affect communities.
‘The transition from volunteer to employee status has strengthened my commitment to Crossroads International by enabling me to become more involved in the various fields of action thanks to a better understanding of the organisation and greater involvement in its mission. This transition has also given me new opportunities to make a more significant contribution to the organisation’s initiatives and projects, thereby strengthening my dedication to its cause.’ – Larios Affewé Ayénan, Alum & Communications Officer, DAMCAM
Volunteers are encouraged to actively engage in our organisation’s mission by joining internal committees focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). They offer their unique perspectives and expertise to help drive meaningful change. Additionally, we offer various opportunities for volunteers to get involved, such as organising events using our Gender Equality fund, sharing their stories on social media, writing blog posts, or participating as speakers or panelists at our events. Our Gender Equality fund provides financial support to alumni to organise events that promote gender equality, allowing them to apply for grants of up to $500 to fund initiatives after their mandate. Additionally, we encourage alumni to align their efforts with important international development dates, such as our International Day of the Girl breakfast event. This event is a significant occasion that brings together various stakeholders to raise awareness and funds for gender equality. It’s an event where alumni, as vital contributors, can showcase their dedication to advancing gender equality initiatives, amplifying their impact on this special day. They can also continue their fundraising efforts, participate in surveys for reporting, and actively contribute to the ongoing growth and development of our organisation. These examples demonstrate how volunteers’ impact extends beyond their active service. Even after they complete their volunteering, they continue to make a difference by advocating for positive changes and nurturing a more informed and engaged society through their dedication to raising awareness.
"Even after they complete their volunteering, they continue to make a difference by advocating for positive changes and nurturing a more informed and engaged society through their dedication to raising awareness."
To conclude, by embracing Public Engagement, NGOs can cultivate a vibrant volunteer base that not only amplifies their impact but also ensures a sustainable future for their mission. Let’s embark on this journey to uncover the transformative potential of public engagement in nurturing a dynamic and committed volunteer community. Together, we can unlock the full power of collective action and create lasting change that resonates far beyond the limits of our organisations.
Watch the video interview below as the author unpacks the topic;