Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Genealogy volunteers needed, and rewarded

According to a Statistics Canada publication just released almost 12.5 million Canadians or 46% of the population aged 15 and over volunteer in some capacity. Canadians volunteered almost 2.1 billion hours in 2007 – the equivalent of close to 1.1 million full-time jobs.

Those individuals who contribute the most hours are more likely to be seniors, to have higher levels of education, lower household incomes, no children in the household. People volunteer to make a contribution to the community, to use and expand skills and experiences, help an organization in which they have a personal interest, to network with or meet people, or because friends volunteered.

Asked what kept them from volunteering more people cited the lack of time as a barrier
and over half reported that they were unable to make a long-term commitment to volunteering. Many individuals indicated that they did not volunteer more or volunteer at all because they were not asked. Other barriers included not knowing how to become involved and the financial costs associated with volunteering.

Every genealogy society relies on and is for ever appealing for volunteers. I heard that last evening at the OGS Ottawa Branch AGM, and last Saturday at the BIFHSGO AGM. Each event mentioned Board positions that remained vacant. Multiple tasks, some not very time consuming, were looking for willing minds and hands.

Both those AGMs also recognized volunteers by mention, and by presentation for people who have made especially significant contributions. Prior to last evening's OGS meeting a City of Ottawa committee on which I serve recommended a long-time volunteer for provincial recognition.

According to Volunteer Canada recognition programs that typically work are those which:

  • Base rewards on an appreciation of the individual volunteer as a unique person and which addresses individual needs.
  • Are based on individual jobs or tasks.
  • Have consistent reward policies, resulting in a sense of trust that effort will receive the proper reward.
  • Recognize longevity and special contributions frequently.
  • Offer rewards which can be shared by teams of volunteers or the entire organization.
On the latter point I was interested to learn of a genealogy society in the UK that rewards their volunteers by an invitation to an exclusive genealogy lecture.

How does your genealogy or family history society recognize its volunteers? Have you gone beyond the certificate, pin or plaque?

1 comment:

Paul Jones said...

Interesting item, John, and timely too. Just last Saturday, OGS Toronto Branch hosted an exclusive event for our volunteers at the City of Toronto Archives, a fascinating facility that surprisingly many experienced researchers had never visited. Thanks to the generosity of Archives management, our volunteers were able to take private, behind-the-scenes tours of the Archives. Approximately 45 people attended.

Pins, plaques and the like do have their place. Fraser Dunford and OGS are to be commended for encouraging Branches to participate in the Ontario Volunteer Service Awards. The fact that these Awards are conferred by society at large seems to make them more meaningful to recipients than narrow recognition by the genealogical community. Over the course of the past four years, Toronto Branch has systematically nominated every volunteer identified as having made significant contributions spanning a decade or more.

Finally for the past couple of years, we have published a "Volunteer Appreciation" column in most issues of our Branch newsletter, Toronto Tree. Each item focuses on one volunteer, his or her life experience, genealogical interests and volunteering history. All things being equal, we favour coverage of the "average" volunteer rather than Branch insiders--although that can't be a hard-and-fast rule.

I wish I could say that recruiting volunteers has become easier as a result of these efforts. Maybe it's less hard. Either way, it's the right thing to do.

I for one would be very interested in learning what other groups are doing to recruit, encourage and recognize volunteers.

Paul Jones
Past Chair, OGS Toronto Branch
pauljones@rogers.com