Exploring Volunteering among Aboriginal
Peoples and Ways of Encouraging and
Sustaining Engagement in Volunteerism: Key
Informant Interview and Survey Findings
Teresa Edwards March 2012
 Introduction
 Methodology
 Perception of Volunteering
 Informal and Formal Volunteering
 Benefits of Informal Volunteerism
 Benefits of Formal Volunteerism
 Social and Personal Outcomes of Informal
and Formal Volunteering
Teresa Edwards March 2012
Overview continued…
 Routes of Volunteerism
 Where Aboriginal Peoples Volunteer
 Recruitment Challenges and Best Practices
 Retention Challenges and Best Practices
 Questions
Teresa Edwards March 2012
Native Women’s Association of Canada
Aboriginal Peoples – History and Statistics
Project explored routes and barriers to
volunteerism, recruitment and retention
challenges, organizational supports needed,
anecdotal impressions and participant views
while working with Aboriginal Peoples
 A literature review was conducted to assess what has already been established on the
subject matter.
 A total of 65 people participants took part in the project at several sessions and
meetings, primarily made up of First Nations (on and off reserve) and Métis.
 Participants from other equality-seeking human rights organizations were able to
participate; one Inuit specific session was held to obtain the views and challenges that
are faced by Inuit Peoples when dealing with the issue of volunteering.
 An Inuit specific project would be best in the future to address challenges encountered.
 The information gathered was analyzed and trends were identified.
Quick Profile of Participants:
 40 participants completed the survey/questionnaire
 25 Interviews were conducted
 57 participants self-identified as Aboriginal
 8 participants identified as non-Aboriginal
 50 of the 65 turned out to be women ranging from 20-60 years of ages
Teresa Edwards March 2012
Perception of Volunteering
 Volunteering among Aboriginal Peoples is:
• Understood as an inherent part of Aboriginal
• Helping out
• A selfless duty
• A tradition that has been passed on through family
and cultural living
• A social and spiritual connection and responsibility
to the Creator, your Nation, other Nations, your
community, and your family
Teresa Edwards March 2012
Informal vs. Formal Volunteering
Quick Facts
 Informal volunteerism is more frequent in Aboriginal communities.
Aboriginal volunteers tend to volunteer within their community, by
performing any task that is required.
 More women than men volunteer.
 Volunteer activities performed by women and men are often genderspecific.
 Young people are expected to volunteer within the culture.
 Adults volunteer when they want to be involved and/or support change in
their communities.
 Seniors often volunteer on a regular basis- they have stronger link to their
traditional values.
 More people are likely to volunteer within their community then when
living off reserve or a settlement, or for an Aboriginal specific organization
within urban centres.
Teresa Edwards March 2012
Benefits of Informal Volunteerism
 Allows Aboriginal Peoples to take on a variety of
tasks in a more comfortable work structure
 Removes any discomfort Aboriginal Peoples may
have with mainstream hierarchical infrastructure
 Volunteers have the ability to select events,
venues and tasks that they want to help do
Allows Aboriginal Peoples the flexibility to
participate when they can given multiple
commitments and barriers
Teresa Edwards March 2012
Benefits of Formal Volunteerism
 Strengthens local economies
 Volunteer fundraising events also help
generate value to the community’s profile
 Organizations can provide services to the
community that they otherwise would not be
able to provide due to financial limitations
Teresa Edwards March 2012
Social Outcomes of Informal and
Formal Volunteering
Brings the communities together
Offers new perspectives and awareness
Builds stronger relationships between members of the community
Builds mutual respect and social cohesion between Canada’s
Aboriginal Peoples and non-Aboriginal populations
Offers Restorative Justice alternatives to the justice system – circle
Makes communities safer, and more connected
Enhances health and well-being
Strengthens urban Aboriginal communities
Creates a sense of community and belonging
Teresa Edwards March 2012
Personal Outcomes of Informal and
Formal Volunteering
 Human connection
 Sense of belonging
 Interpersonal skills, communication skills and
organizational skills
 Increased knowledge of issues related to their
volunteer experience
 Develop job skills
 Develop a network
 Helps with finding employment
Teresa Edwards March 2012
Routes of Volunteerism
 School employment programs
 Media (internet, newspapers, radio, social
 Word of mouth
 Outreach by organizations – contacting
Aboriginal communities
 Recruiting previous volunteers so that they
can in turn recruit new volunteers from their
Teresa Edwards March 2012
Where Aboriginal Peoples Volunteer
Organizations where
Aboriginal Peoples Volunteer
Activities performed by
• Senior organizations on reserves,
the Senior home and within
Senior Clubs;
• Sporting events and
•School councils;
• Organizations for improved
health, Medical Centres;
• Aboriginal events;
• Aboriginal Community
• Friendship Centres;
•Cultural School and Community
Events; and
• Etc.
• Cooking;
• Cleaning;
• Recreational activities such as
Youth sports: hockey, wrestling,
and lacrosse are favorite
volunteering situations for
people with money but little
• Assisting Seniors;
• Helping with powwows,
prayers, openings in events and
blessings ceremonies;
• Giving teachings, dancing,
drumming and singing; and
• Etc.
Teresa Edwards March 2012
Recruitment Challenges
 Lack of transportation and poor economic conditions
 Absence of support
 Systemic barriers, including racism, cultural
insensitivity, and lack of relationships between
Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people
 Mainstream hierarchical titles (such as President)
conflicting with community values
 Lack of self-esteem and feeling of purpose
 Family status: single mothers and caregivers for Elders,
family and extended family crises, such as poverty,
crime, incarceration, and substance abuse
Teresa Edwards March 2012
Recruitment Challenges Continued…
 Time-constraints
 Employment status
 Legalities: The requirements of formal
volunteerism can be too demanding – require
signing waivers, filling out documents, etc.
 High rate of turn-over: it is difficult to retain
volunteers due to the lack of pecuniary payment
to the individuals for their time and services
 Lack of skills required: Some volunteer positions
require particular skills that come volunteers may
not have, and training is not offered
Teresa Edwards March 2012
Recruitment Best Practices
 Link volunteerism with the notion of “helping
out” as understood in Aboriginal culture
 Aboriginal representation within the
organization’s staff
Targeted recruitment – Aboriginal staff to recruit
 Simple and clear recruitment process
 Having a positive reputation/relationship in
Aboriginal communities
 Organizations should be transparent and credible
Teresa Edwards March 2012
Recruitment Best Practices
 Organizations should have good financial supports.
 Organizations should offer and advertise great
experiences such as travel opportunities and
professional training.
 Organizations should make sure to really advertise
their volunteer positions.
 Organizations can recruit a volunteer coordinator in
order to establish the processes required to better
attract, engage, and enable Aboriginal volunteerism.
 Non-Aboriginal organizations should familiarize
themselves with Aboriginal culture and protocols.
Teresa Edwards March 2012
Retention Challenges
Retention is directly linked to recruitment
Time constraints – Aboriginal Peoples may have
responsibility for children and Elder parents, etc.
Repetition: There is a tendency for the same
people to volunteering all the time. They risk
being overwhelmed and eventually stop
Lack of commitment: the informal volunteers
tend to lack commitment unless the tasks are
Teresa Edwards March 2012
Retention Best Practices
Providing training to volunteers helps them feel prepared
Providing ongoing supervision and support
Providing feedback to the volunteer
Encouraging family volunteering, and providing care
Appreciation for volunteers – praise, recognition, gifts,
meals provided
 Providing unstructured volunteer opportunities
 Creating a comfortable and inclusive environment
 Providing proper culturally relevant mechanisms to deal
with difficult situations, such as conflict resolution
 Building relationships with organizations and communities
 Offering support and encouragement
Teresa Edwards March 2012
Retention Best Practices
 Organizations can offer cultural communication
methods and conflict resolution solutions.
 Organizations should offer an interesting volunteer
 Organizations should encourage its volunteers to
participate in the activities that are most geared
toward their interests.
 Organizations should be upfront with the volunteers
about the commitment that is expected of them.
 Organizations should make it fun for volunteers to
 Questions?
Teresa Edwards March 2012
Wela’lioq! Thank You! Merci!
Teresa Edwards
[email protected]
Teresa Edwards March 2012

Exploring Volunteering among Aboriginal Peoples and Ways of