Exploring Volunteering among Aboriginal
Peoples and Ways of Encouraging and
Sustaining Engagement in Volunteerism: Key
Informant Interview and Survey Findings
Teresa Edwards March 2012
Overview
 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
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Overview continued…
 Routes of Volunteerism
 Where Aboriginal Peoples Volunteer
 Recruitment Challenges and Best Practices
 Retention Challenges and Best Practices
 Questions
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Introduction
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
Methodology
 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
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Perception of Volunteering
 Volunteering among Aboriginal Peoples is:
• Understood as an inherent part of Aboriginal
culture
• 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
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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.
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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
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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
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Social Outcomes of Informal and
Formal Volunteering
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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
sentencing
Makes communities safer, and more connected
Enhances health and well-being
Strengthens urban Aboriginal communities
Creates a sense of community and belonging
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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
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Routes of Volunteerism
 School employment programs
 Media (internet, newspapers, radio, social
media)
 Word of mouth
 Outreach by organizations – contacting
Aboriginal communities
 Recruiting previous volunteers so that they
can in turn recruit new volunteers from their
community
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Where Aboriginal Peoples Volunteer
Organizations where
Aboriginal Peoples Volunteer
Activities performed by
Volunteers
• Senior organizations on reserves,
the Senior home and within
Senior Clubs;
• Sporting events and
organizations;
•School councils;
• Organizations for improved
health, Medical Centres;
• Aboriginal events;
• Aboriginal Community
Organizations;
• 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
time;
• Assisting Seniors;
• Helping with powwows,
prayers, openings in events and
blessings ceremonies;
• Giving teachings, dancing,
drumming and singing; and
• Etc.
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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
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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
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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
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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.
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Retention Challenges
Retention is directly linked to recruitment
challenges.
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
volunteering.
Lack of commitment: the informal volunteers
tend to lack commitment unless the tasks are
enjoyable.
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Retention Best Practices
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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
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Retention Best Practices
 Organizations can offer cultural communication
methods and conflict resolution solutions.
 Organizations should offer an interesting volunteer
environment.
 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
participate!
 Questions?
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Wela’lioq! Thank You! Merci!
Teresa Edwards
[email protected]
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