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The secret to volunteering is finding that ‘stickiness’

Written by: Mio Senzaki

Date: March 16, 2022

Meet #EverydayHero Truman:

During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Truman embarked on a meaningful adventure to help out his community’s non-profit and charitable organizations. Many of these organizations still had to keep moving along and continue to serve the most vulnerable sectors, despite the limitations set by the pandemic. During a time when most people reduced their volunteering activities, Truman decided to do the complete opposite. He witnessed that many organizations either lost entire volunteer teams or felt the negative

impacts of a steep decline in volunteer rates. With support from his corporate company, he participated in a challenge to volunteer 365 hours in 365 days. He achieved this goal, and then some.

Even though the pandemic is (slowly) wrapping up these days, Truman continues to lend a helping hand. Truman, who has a regular full-time job at a bank, still takes advantage of the flexibility of remote work. He works from 6 am to 2 pm, and dedicates the rest of his time and weekends to volunteering. Amongst many of the organizations that he has volunteered at, this story is about his involvement with Employ to Empower, an organization that works to empower the aspiring entrepreneurs living in the Downtown Eastside. He began as a volunteer facilitator, but now is the Head of Development Programs at the organization.

What drives Truman to volunteer and makes him keep going?

Simply, Truman enjoys volunteering and observing the positive social impact that it creates from the bottom of his heart. He enjoys meeting people who are like-minded, allowing him to build a positive chain of networking opportunities.

Truman believes that volunteering can add a lot of richness to anyone’s life.

He says that it is “an enriching aspect of life that too many neglect”.

Truman really sees value in volunteering as it provides a lot of learning opportunities. It does not matter what stage you are in your life, but anyone can always start and keep learning something new anytime. “Why wait?” he insists. He says that you can make volunteering a priority in your life, just like going to the gym or cooking.

With his dedicated commitment to volunteering, it’s no surprise that he’s truly inspired those around him to also try to get out into their communities and do their part to make a difference. This has resulted in people asking him how to get more involved. He often gives them this incredibly thoughtful reply:

“The same question I always ask them is twofold. Number one, it's the skills based angle: What skills do you have? Or what skills do you want to learn? For instance, do you want to either learn or use your marketing skills? The second question I ask is cause-based: What cause is important to you? Is it cancer? Is it the Downtown Eastside? Is it literacy? I always frame it that way because I think the most robust, engaging, and ‘sticky’ volunteer opportunities are when those two aspects converge... because I could be really good at marketing and I really want to beef up my marketing skills. But, if I'm not passionate about the cause, it's not going to be that ‘sticky.’”

According to Truman, volunteer conversion is as simple as:

“Stickiness" + a good volunteer experience = volunteer retention

If you are inspired by this story and are someone who is looking to give back to their community, why not try to reflect on your interests, skills, and time management? Let’s get volunteering!


Meet Employ to Empower:

Employ to Empower is an organization that aims to support the Downtown East Side community by providing aspiring entrepreneurs with developmental and entrepreneurial tools. The organization focuses on empowering residents in the DTES through a business development workshop. The 10-week workshop helps participants with a variety of business tasks, from creating a business plan to articulating their brilliant business story into a crisp, clean, and compelling pitch. At the conclusion of the program, the entrepreneurs/participants are provided with the opportunity to share their business stories in public settings where established business entrepreneurs also attend.

Truman say that the organization has observed positive social impact as individuals have felt more confident to share their business stories, plans, and ideas. Then, such confidence-building mechanisms are reinforced over time. From having doubts in oneself to being able to share their business stories with strangers - that sure sounds like a big change!

The organization has many success stories so far. Artists and craftspeople who have worked on business development models learned how to sell and promote their own printed designs, from printed T-shirts to tote bags. An aspiring life coach gained the confidence needed to bring her business to life. An Indigenous author is working to publish her writings. Lastly, there even is an individual who is learning how to open his own hotdog shop! This is just a short selection of stories that embody Employ to Empower’s value of providing a hand up, rather than just a hand out.

Truman shares what makes him believe in the work of Employ to Empower. By employing a stigma-sensitive approach, the organization tackles overcoming the underlying systematic challenges/barriers, and strives to bring a deeper change by empowering individuals and setting them up for success. That way, he is able to observe the positive social impact at a greater level.

Find out more about Employ to Empower here:

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