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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 Khin Tye

I used to run volunteering programmes myself and had done surveys that showed that volunteers do develop skills. So I'm totally for volunteering. One social aspect about young people volunteering, especially those in deprived economies is that companies must take care not to take advantage of young people volunteering to put those skills on their CV. Foryoung people who are seriously economically poor, they need the money, besides the skills; and (in their minds) would value themselves based on the money they earn, not given away for free in volunteering. Perhaps an idea of awarding skills badges eg Mozilla Open Badge system can help to monitor the skills building volunteering. Another way is to have apprenticeships so that there is some pay and skills learned. Another possibility is paid work placement with volunteering opportunities that would build skills not offered in the work placement.

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Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on this post being today's Featured Contribution!

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Photo of Meena Kadri

Fab share & insights, Hima!