National Volunteer Week: The Four C's of Volunteering

For countless Canadian charitable, not-for-profit, and government services associated with volunteering, April 15 to 21, 2018, will be a lot like the Holidays in December, as we celebrate our nation’s annual National Volunteer Week, ‘From Sea to Sea’.

Volunteer MBC wholly supports and mirrors the 2018 theme for National Volunteer Week: Celebrate the Value of Volunteering – building confidence, competence, connections and community. Let’s have a closer look at those 4 ‘c’s, in the context of volunteering:


There’s clear consensus that ‘confidence’ looms large in our incredibly competitive 21st century. We’re expected to ‘sell’ our capabilities, skills, experience, and virtually ‘personal brand’ ourselves in whatever we do, while brimming with confidence.

For some, confidence comes easily. For a student on the way to graduate to the workplace or on a career path, this necessary quality may need bolstering. The same can be said for a newcomer to Canada, who seeks to adapt personal qualifications and experience to Canadian expectations, standards and practices.

For these people, and for many others, volunteering is an inexpensive, rewarding means to build needed and necessary confidence so as to be able to find fulfilling roles in our economy and an equally important presence in our communities.


Volunteering builds ‘competence’, in volunteers, and as the volunteer management profession happily has grown to realize, in not-for-profits themselves, and in certain instances, in those being helped. That is building.

The classic attract to volunteers has often included the invitation to “join us and learn valuable skills”. Recent ‘circular’ (in contrast to ‘vertical’) management models that feature collaboration with volunteers as stakeholders in operations and outcomes have gone so far as to look for volunteers with high degrees of competence in particular areas. Consider the recent graduate with an extremely current, relevant skill set and fresh perspective. Consider, too, an early retiree whose career success leaves him or her with competence and experience that are there for the asking. A bonus? Volunteers feel empowered, especially by reciprocity, and that promotes loyalty and continuity.


It’s been said many times. Volunteering is people. Organizations and their volunteers connect with the communities and people who are served. What should not be forgotten, however, is the existence of volunteering connections and networks that exist for volunteers themselves, and for not-for-profit leadership and professionals.

‘Connections’ build and sustain relationships. Connections (for example, through Volunteer MBC’s ‘Learning Centre’) bring people together for education, a sharing of experiences, deliberations about ‘best practices’, what’s trending now and on the horizon, reflections about volunteering philosophies, and the essential, all important passion.


Living in Canada is witness to, and participation in, truly exciting times. Many hold the view that ‘The 21st century is Canada’s Century’.

Certainly in respect of diversity and inclusivity, both as a nation and society, Canada has demonstrated its pride on the world stage, now clearly and justifiably at the forefront of progress towards goals and living standards that embrace a vast spectrum of backgrounds, including gender recognition. Canada may not have anywhere near the largest population, yet its human ‘community’ is enormous.

Bearing this in mind, volunteers and organizations that support them are in a unique position to practise, promote, and build upon the values that are inherent in sustaining and enhancing Canada’s diversity and inclusiveness. Volunteer MBC’s ‘Pride IN Volunteering’ program, launched in March, is the first of its kind to address application and practice of LGBTQ+ inclusion in the volunteering sector.


Canada used to be rather modest about its place in the world, and about national achievements. Independence after 1967 has seen a gradual evolution of identity, politely cautious perhaps because Canada is a gathering of so many cultures and indeed ‘identities’. As such, self-recognition has not come naturally or easily.

Even in 2018, National Volunteer Week has not focused upon ‘self-recognition’, preferring to Celebrate the Value of Volunteering … . Most volunteer organizations and their management professionals know that volunteer recognition is extremely important. A 2013 survey in Canada found that 80% of its over 10 million volunteers wanted to be ‘thanked’ for their contributions (as well as being shown evidence of the impact in the community that their volunteering has made). It also is an accepted fact that volunteer recognition tends to result in volunteer retention.

Volunteer MBC in 2010 initiated formal recognition and celebration of volunteers for their outstanding achievements and contributions to Peel region, the largest celebration of its kind in the area.

The V-Oscars are held annually during National Volunteer Week at a gala within one of the communities that Volunteer MBC serves. A key feature of the awards program is that organizations who are members of Volunteer MBC are able to use the V-Oscars as a means of formal public recognition of volunteers without having to incur the cost of a similar occasion ‘in house’. The event has enjoyed wide popularity, with 2017’s gala being sold out.

For volunteers in Peel region, National Volunteer Week does feel almost as ‘festive’ as the Holidays in December, particularly when they attend the V-Oscars.

Recognition, let it be said, is also a key builder, building and affirming connections, relationships, retention, and loyalty; furthermore, promoting confidence and community, by recognizing competence. In essence, bringing everything and everyone together.