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Skill-based Volunteering

How can we structure volunteer opportunities in a way to enhance youth skills and increase employability? I share my experience with a Toronto-based non-profit called Endeavor.

Photo of Hima Batavia
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In 2008, when I was in the early days of building my career, I joined a Toronto-based non-profit, called Endeavor, that was just getting off the ground.

Volunteering has always been an important part of my life -- from soup kitchens, to park clean-ups, I liked to get involved in the community. However, at the time, I was looking for a longer-term volunteer engagement that would a) help me strengthen and/or learn a new skill, b) introduce me to new ideas and industries and c) build a network outside of my day job. 

Endeavor launched with the focus of providing management consulting to non-profits that could not otherwise afford professional consulting. Young professionals from all walks of life were placed with various non-profits to enage in specific 6-month projects, with key goals and deliverables. Non-profits were chosen by Endeavor through an application and interview process to find the right fit between volunteer skill-sets and non-profit needs.

During my time there, I had the opportunity to learn how to structure a consulting engagement, build a scope of work, and begin to understand how to manage expectations with clients. Further, I worked on developing a marketing/launch plan for a non-profit starting a Toronto chapter, building out a social enterprise within an existing non-profit, and defining the vision, mission and objectives of a new non-profit. These engagements achieved all my objectives - I learned new skills since I had never worked in management consulting before, I learned more about the non-profit sector, and various initiatives within the non-profit sector, and extended my network. 

Endeavor is an excellent model illustrating how structured and engaged volunteering can be used as a channel for training to increase employability. 

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Photo of Megan Morrison

Hi Hima, thanks for sharing this. I too have found volunteering to be a great way to build my professional toolbox while helping my community. As Khin points out below- the unpaid nature of volunteerism tends to limit these opportunities to youth that have other financial means and can afford to give away their time for free. I'd be interested in learning about models that allow youth to access the valuable skills, training and network building that working with non-profits and charities offers while simultaneously letting them begin to build towards a sustainable financial future too. No small task with limited financial resources, I know. There are city government programs that aim to do this - but I wonder what other types of models are out there too. Thanks again for your post!

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