Volunteer Vancouver isn’t looking for your money. These days, they’re after your time, using the first annual Timeraiser event to encourage young professionals to get more involved in the volunteer community.
Held on Thursday, September 25th, the Timeraiser combined a silent art auction with a volunteer fair aiming to recruit eager 20 to 30-year-olds to work with the city’s non-profit organizations. The artwork came from emerging local artists. Instead of bidding with money, attendees could bid on items with pledged volunteer hours.
“The original idea was dreamed up by a bunch of guys in Toronto who were talking about the fact that their peers were socially minded but not necessarily active in the community,” said Lynda Gerty, Manager of Marketing and Communications for Volunteer Vancouver. Her organization provides services and leadership to other non-profits in the Lower Mainland.
This year’s event was a joint effort by the local group and Toronto’s Framework Foundation, which has hosted similar events in other Canadian cities for the past five years.
Gerty explained that her Executive Director, Colleen Kelly, had attended a Timeraiser in Calgary and thought the unique idea would work well in Vancouver. This is the first time that the Framework Foundation has collaborated with an organization like Volunteer Vancouver, but it has proved to be a valuable relationship.
“They have the idea and structure…and we have more knowledge of the organizations in Vancouver and what volunteerism looks like here,” Gerty said.
The Timeraiser’s main target is young professionals – a demographic that is considered difficult to lure into the volunteer sector. According to Gerty, statistics show that individuals in their 20s and early 30s tend not to volunteer.
“They’re the least likely to be involved in the community, although they’re really passionate about the community they live in and about causes,” she noted. “There’s a lot going on. People are developing their careers, getting married…they’re just super strapped for time.”
To address this issue, Volunteer Vancouver helps other volunteer organizations to create different jobs that accommodate a young professional’s schedule or lifestyle.
“We’ve been working with organizations to develop roles that work for that demographic, that are maybe more project-based than some traditional volunteer roles have been,” Gerty explained. These new roles will incorporate specific skills the volunteers can offer, including expertise in fields like information technology and human resources.
Debbie Salmonsen, of the Deafblind Services Society of BC, said that one of her organization’s main goals at the Timeraiser was to acquire a volunteer to develop their new website. Salmonsen thought the Timeraiser was a very beneficial experience for the organization, as it “opened up a whole new audience” and gave them access to skilled individuals who are typically difficult to engage.
Greg FitzGerald, one of the event’s “young professional” attendees, got what he was looking for as well – new, meaningful opportunities to contribute to his community. FitzGerald recently moved here from Tillsonburg, Ontario to work for Deloitte.
“I’m new to Vancouver as of two months ago, and I just graduated university so extra-curriculars are a big part of my life,” FitzGerald explained. “I thought, what better way to meet people in a new city and fill that void than to come out to an event like this which gives you broad access to all sorts of organizations.”
FitzGerald didn’t win any of the artworks up for auction but he still hopes to volunteer at one of the organizations he connected with at the event.
The goal of this year’s Timeraiser was to get 5,000 hours of volunteer commitment. The organizers were happy to announce that by the end of the night they had surpassed their goal, hitting 6,080 hours.
The Framework Foundation has raised 44,000 volunteer hours at Timeraiser events across Canada. They have helped recruit almost 2,500 volunteers and worked with 200 different non-profit organizations.