New ‘social enterprise’ volunteer program introduced

A new program to find and attract volunteers has been introduced on the Sunshine Coast.

On Jan. 23, the Community Resource Centre launched Volunteer Sunshine Coast at the shíshálh Nation band hall, drawing a crowd of approximately 100 people to the event, which aimed to entice individuals and non-profits to sign up as members.

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The program is still being developed, but as the resource centre’s program manager Christabelle Kux-Kardos told the audience, “It is a shift from what a traditional volunteer centre may have looked like.”

The membership program is intended to connect non-profits with volunteers on the Sunshine Coast and to create a network that would allow people to share their knowledge and skills in workshops and other events. “We are trying to be a central organization, Coast-wide, that can support volunteerism and that can support non-profits to succeed, and we are putting ourselves forward as the lead agency to help others to support them,” said Kux-Kardos.

The backbone of the program is an online network called govolunteer.ca that connects individuals to organizations seeking volunteers. Kux-Kardos told the audience that getting the approximately 400 non-profits on the Sunshine Coast to register with the site, which is operated by Vantage Point, is “the only way that is going to be successful.”

By building its membership, Volunteer Sunshine Coast will build a pool of “knowledge philanthropists” – people with specialized skills willing to volunteer their expertise to non-profit organizations through workshops, events, consulting and mentoring services.

The program’s development was supported by one-time grants from the Sunshine Coast Community Foundation, the District of Sechelt and New Horizons for Seniors Program, but going forward, Kux-Kardos said they will be relying on membership fees, sponsorships, workshops and events, and knowledge philanthropists to sustain it.

During her presentation, Kux-Kardos said they are shifting to a “social enterprise” model to maintain the sustainability of the program rather than relying on grant money, though what those revenue streams will look like are still being worked out. “There will be costs involved and that all needs to be built,” she said.

The resource centre is also planning an annual volunteer fair, with the first planned for April.

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