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  • May 12, 2022 12:35 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In the midst of COVID’s sixth wave, Canada’s nonprofit sector continues to struggle with uncertainty and increased demand on services. While we don’t have exact percentages on how many volunteer engagement (VE) professionals (often referred to as Managers or Coordinators of Volunteers) were laid off, we can only surmise that between the reduction in volunteer engagement and reduction in nonprofit staffing in general, VE professionals were likely hard hit either through layoffs or redeployment. In fact, according to this blog piece by Volunteer Toronto, potentially 1 in 2 employed volunteer managers were dismissed or reassigned. With this reduced capacity to engage volunteers and a burgeoning interest from the public in grassroots and community involvement, established nonprofits may struggle to rebuild the volunteer base necessary to meet service demand as we enter the “new normal” of the endemic phase of COVID-19.

    Beyond the effective management of volunteers and volunteer programs, the lack of dedicated VE staff can impact organizations in a number of ways, some of which may not be apparent to those of us outside the profession. A number of US studies have shown the connection between volunteering and giving and I would expect a similar correlation in Canada. Having a dedicated VE professional on staff enhances the organization’s capacity to translate volunteer engagement into financial contributions. Beyond this purely transactional opportunity, I believe VE staff have an undervalued and oversized contribution to building social capital both within and outside the organization.

    As our article Why Hire a Volunteer Engagement Professional? Top 10 Reasons suggests, one of the benefits of having dedicated VE professionals on staff is that they can help increase organizational cross-functionality. In our capacity of engaging the community to best serve the mission, we are in communication with just about every department and/or program area of the organization, including fundraising, frontline programs, marketing, and communications. VE staff cannot do their jobs without having a strong understanding of both the organization as a whole and the goals and needs of the individual departments within the organization and the people who work in them. We tend to act as informal connectors, enhancing the flow of information through the organization. As this Harvard Business Review article explains ”connectors, who link most people in an informal network with one another….aren’t usually the formal leaders within a unit or department, but they know who can provide critical information or expertise that the entire network draws on to get work done.” At the same time, connectors “…are often invisible to senior managers. Because senior executives rely on gut feel, gossip, or formal reporting structures for their information about their managers and employees, they often misunderstand the links between people, especially in large organizations.” 

    Layer on a crisis like a pandemic and it is easy to see why VE professionals are either first on the chopping block or likely to be redeployed. Many of my colleagues who kept their jobs expressed considerable concern about going back to their VE responsibilities while still juggling the work they were assigned during the height of the pandemic (see The Volunteer Lens of COVID 19: Fall Survey 2020).

    Externally, as Volunteer Canada notes, “volunteer management opens an organization to the community and allows citizens to get involved.” This is not just individual citizens, but includes all types of other organizations, from businesses to schools to clubs and grassroots organizations. As a VE professional, I’ve been on the receiving end of calls from newcomers looking to build their resumes through volunteering, as well as professionals looking to provide pro bono services or serve on a board or committee. Calls about in-kind donations also are typically directed to VE staff, as are calls from businesses offering free services to clients. When you list a Coordinator or Manager of Volunteers on your About Us page, you signal to the broader community that the organization is “open for business” and is as focused on connecting with external constituents as on internal ones. In addition, the rapport built with these valuable external contacts often travels with the VE professionals when they leave the organization.

    There is a considerable opportunity cost on the social capital side of the ledger if we do not fully re-engage (or not engage at all) VE professionals. It’s also important to note that the complex and diverse skill sets that VE professionals bring to the table are not necessarily going to magically appear if VE responsibilities are simply hoisted onto another staff person. Volunteer engagement is a growing profession, with a clearly defined occupational profile (see the National Occupation Standards), an internationally recognized credential offered by the Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration (CCVA) and the associated ethical standards that are key to the profession. The provincial professional association that I serve with, PAVRO, recently voted to partner with the CCVA in offering the CVA exam to our members while at the same time, continuing to recertify our members that hold our own certification, the Certificate in Volunteer Resources Management, which we established over 20 years ago in the absence of a commonly recognized credential. Our profession has come a long way indeed.

    Ethical decision-making will be a central theme to PAVRO’s annual conference this year and we invite both VE and non-VE staff to join us for Deeply Rooted in Ethical Leadership: Integrity to Do the Right Thing on May 17th and 19th.

    As an association, we strongly believe that VE professionals are key to helping the Canadian nonprofit sector recover from the pandemic and leverage the enormous goodwill and enthusiasm that Canadians have demonstrated to each other during these challenging times. As the theme of this year’s National Volunteer Week says, volunteering is truly empathy in action but the action depends on dedicated work behind the scenes provided by the often unsung heroes of volunteerism, the VE professional.

    Aleksandra Vasic, CVA (She/her) is the President of PAVRO and the Director of Volunteerism of Volunteer Success, a Canadian not-for-profit organization committed to improving community volunteerism through a digital platform that connects volunteers to meaningful opportunities offered by a wide range of organizations from different sectors. Connect with her through LinkedIn.


  • October 13, 2020 8:56 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In this incredible year of crisis and change, and in honour of International Volunteer Managers’ Day (IVMD) on November 5th, I wanted to send my personal thanks to all of my colleagues working in the field of volunteer engagement for their tremendous contribution. 

    Thank you to you, your profession, your organizations and society as a whole!

    The theme of this year’s IVM Day is “What’s Next?” and I can’t imagine a more fitting theme. As noted on the 
    IVMD website“the pandemic has created challenges on many levels and those of us leading volunteer efforts have found ourselves in positions we never imagined. It’s our hope that… we will continue to have time to reflect on the lessons, challenges and most importantly opportunities that confront us.”

    PAVRO has certainly faced its share of challenges this year, including the postponement of our annual conference. But one wonderful possibility has opened up with this delay, it is the opportunity to present our Awards Ceremony virtually this year on November 5th. 

    I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate International Volunteer Managers Day than to announce this year’s winners of the 
    Linda Buchanan Award and the newly renamed Alison Caird Young Leader Award. Please stay tuned for more details on joining us for this virtual celebration. 

    In the day-to-day trenches of our work, we often forget that what we do has such a far-reaching impact, on volunteers, on those served by our organizations, and on our communities. Thank you once again for your dedication and commitment.

    In advance, I wish you all a Happy International Volunteer Managers Day on November 5th!

    Aleksandra Vasic, PAVRO President

  • July 14, 2020 10:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The PAVRO Annual General Meeting (AGM), for 2019, held on June 18th 2020 was an unforgettable one for me, for so many reasons. Firstly is that it was held virtually for the first time ever. Secondly, it was my first time running PAVRO’s AGM. Thank you to Past President Kathleen Douglass for her guidance in helping me navigate the learning curve. And finally, the level of positive engagement we received in the chat feature was incredibly affirming to all of us. PAVRO Members are truly amazing and graciously patient with the inevitable small technical glitches we encountered running the polling feature in Zoom. And to cap it all off, we got hacked! Next time we will follow member Kristen Loblaw’s advice to use the waiting room feature.

    We had well over 50 people on the Zoom: 53 members in attendance along with our two amazing independent contractors, Johanne Deschamps and Sharon Jones supporting the process. Nine members submitted proxies. We easily made our quorum of 10% of current membership, which currently stands at 231. In order to entice members to what the Board members thought would be a dull business meeting, we offered up a $25 Starbucks gift card to all members who attended and sent in proxies. Congratulations to Member Rodigo Konigs for having his name drawn at random!

    You can find the annual report slide deck and financial pages here: (you will be required to log in). The year 2019 ended very positively for us financially. We finished with just over $25,000 in surplus from a combination of a successful conference in Ottawa, offering our Standardized Volunteer Opinion Survey, and tightening up on general administrative costs. 

    The second major order of business was to introduce a by-law change in the number of directors required for our Board. The Board recommended that we reduce the number of Board directors from a minimum of nine to seven members and a maximum of nine from fourteen. Our rationale for this change reflects the trend of smaller not-for-profit boards and it acknowledges the challenge of recruiting leaders. We felt that this change would also contribute to a more efficient governance system and to enhance our decision-making process. In fact, this past spring we had some serious concerns about recruiting the minimum nine Board members our by-laws require. 

    Members voted overwhelmingly for this motion, and it was carried, with much positive feedback from our members. A number noted that the motion was a very good move. And some felt that PAVRO’s challenge in recruiting leadership was reflected in their experience at the local AVA level.

    The final order of business was to elect the new slate of directors again to much support and appreciation from the membership. At this point, we have all but one Director position that of Vice President. Sadly for us, VP Kari Astles had to step down after one year in her role. Like  the majority of our Board members, Kari works for a hospital and, as many of our colleagues working in the hospital and healthcare sector, she was  redeployed and found her  workload overwhelming, to the point that she was  unable to fulfil her Board commitment. Our Secretary and 2019 Conference Co-Chair Sherri Daly also left her position earlier this year, in March. 

    It was under these difficult circumstances that we reached out to our list of Past Presidents seeking to fill a couple of vacancies: Past President and Vice President. Fortunately for us, Past President Kathleen Douglass stepped up to serve for one year as Past President once again! Our members were excited by the new Board composition, given that our new Board members come from a variety of organizations. The new Board looks forward to working together and in the process appointing a new Vice President within the next year.

    After the election, we thanked our outgoing Board members: Helena Finn-Vickers who is stepping down as Past President (and now assumes the role of Honorary Lifetime Member), Kari Astles and Sherri Daly, as mentioned previously, and Gillian Brunning and Vanessa Martinez as Directors of Communications and Marketing. 

    We also took advantage of this opportunity to thank the committees that served in both 2019 and 2020. Most of our services could not take place without the work of our essential committee members. 

    One omission that I would like to now redress: thank you to our long-served AVA Liaison Network Coordinator, Christine Rushton. Her name has now been added to the Annual Report found on this page:

    We wrapped up the meeting by reviewing some of the highlights outlined in the Annual Report itself. 

    Helena Finn-Vickers then took a break from her role as the Motion and Chat Moderator to announce some tantalizing details about our fall 2020 virtual conference Creating Connections. While Helena is stepping down as VP, she has generously agreed to stay active as a Conference Co-Chair. More information about this innovative two half-day conference on October 1st and 8th is coming your way! 

    As I mentioned in my opening paragraph, PAVRO members were incredibly engaged and encouraging throughout the whole AGM, and provided us with lots of great comments and questions. We were so thrilled with the interaction, that we collected the questions and created a Q&A document and posted it online. Thank you so much for your enthusiastic support! We want to keep the dialogue going during these challenging times for our society as a whole and in particular for our profession. 

    Please stay in touch and email me at with your ideas, comments and questions. 

    Take care and stay safe!


  • April 13, 2020 7:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    There is a surreal atmosphere surrounding COVID19.

    Up till now, nations, corporations and organizations have believed that their institutions can foresee and manage calamity, arrest its impact and restore stability.  When the pandemic has passed, many institutions will be perceived as having failed. Fair or not, this perception is irrelevant. The reality is that the world, governments, institutions, civil-society and for-profit and non-profit organizations will never be the same after COVID19. 

    Reacting to the current emergency and arguing about the past will only make it harder to do what needs to be done. 

    So far, the COVID19 crisis has mainly been dealt with on a state/provincial or national basis. But the virus' society-dissolving do not respect borders, corporate structures or social constructs. While the assault on human health will – hopefully – be temporary, the political, economic and social impact could last for generations.

    There is a social theory called “Wicked-Problems." The term ‘wicked problem’ arises from the responses to significant human problems, such as the AIDS crisis, homelessness, poverty, when traditional answers seemed incapable of providing solutions … and if a 'solution' was found, it often made the original problem worse. Imagine the children’s song, ‘There was an old lady who swallowed a spider …’

    The challenge of using traditional problem solving to implement complex change is enormous. 'Change' is full of uncertainty and ambiguity. Therefore, we must learn to manage uncertainty rather than attempt to remove it.

    I was once given a lesson through a story by a Nakoda Elder, and I share it now with you.

    When the prairies were natural grasslands and full of life from the smallest creatures to the great Bison, the land would, from time to time, be whipped by massive storms. As the storm approached, most animals would flee in front of the crisis; they ran in the same direction the storm was moving.

    The Bison would not flee. They would turn headfirst into the storm, move against and through the winds and out the other side quickly. For the Bison, the storm would be over far more rapidly than for those who ran ahead. Those who ran to exhaustion trying to stay ahead of the wind and inevitably overtaken.

    The good news is that we will come through the pandemic. The choice you have is: will you try to outrun the storm or turn into it and prepare for coming out on the other side.

    Similarly, COVID19 will irrevocably change society. It will irrevocably change you as a leader and your organization. You may have lost people to the disease; systems, programs, business models may have proven themselves instantly outdates, people will expect to work from home and buildings, and facility space may seem redundant or surplus.

    When the pandemic is over, there is no way that you will be able to maintain yourself or business as you once were: You will survive, or you will have been run into exhaustion.

    To survive, you must:

    ·      Stop reacting to the day to day issues that the pandemic brings to your organizations. (appoint an operations manager to deal with these issues)

    ·      Start envisioning and planning what your organization may or could look like after the pandemic passes

    ·      Double down on developing your team and people to be ready to come out the other side

    ·      Replicate the best of how your team functions and stop focusing on efficiency and invest in being effective

    We must get back to basics and start considering simple, straightforward, grounded advice and answers and here are some things I am happy to do for you:

    ·     Facilitate a 1-hour Zoom exercise to build team cohesiveness

    ·     Help you develop a team rallying cry

    ·     An ear for coaching, problem-solving or to listen

    If you need more, we can discuss a couple of options that could include organizational coaching as you manage the COVID response and to consider your strategic positioning as you come through and out the other side of the pandemic.

    Steve A

    Steven D Armstrong

    Struggling with how best to lead your team during the COVID19 pandemic?
    Click To Access the latest information on COVID-19
    Click To Access A Curated List of My Articles On Crisis Leadership
    Visit for the latest links & information.

  • March 31, 2020 1:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear Colleagues,

    As I sit down to write to you for this month’s ePowerline, I struggle with where to begin. The extent of global interdependence and interconnection is both a blessing and a curse, allowing this virus to spread at an unimaginable and relentless rate. To be depressed and anxious is frankly a rational response to what we are all experiencing.

    I am, at the same time, an optimist by nature, and much of what I’ve seen and read recently has fed the optimistic side of my mind. A crisis of these proportions throws everything that we have taken for granted into sharp relief and that insight creates possibilities for the way we might reconstruct our world post-pandemic. I can now really appreciate all those things that were practically invisible to all of us a few short weeks ago. Beyond having a robust healthcare system that is prepared to deal with a pandemic, I also see how important it is that we listen to our scientists and doctors, that we elect leaders who make decisions guided by evidence and not ideology. That governments, and government spending, matters. That the people working in our essential services matter, including those working in the grocery stores, or those gig workers we rely on to deliver online purchases to our doors. We need to thank them every time we purchase something; perhaps leave a note at the door if you are expecting a delivery. I truly hope that as a society we are starting to understand that precarious employment means a precarious economy when so many people get thrown out of work without access to income. 

    And of course, of particular interest to us, is that as a society we will all get to see what a world without formal volunteers looks like. A few years ago, PAVRO member and mentor (and all-around champion of our field), Faiza Venzant initiated a video project to demonstrate what a world without volunteers looks like. Unfortunately, it could not be completed but in many ways, we are now living out that thought experiment, as many of you have told us that your operations and volunteer programs, other than those deemed essential, have been shut down. So my other hope is that as a society we really do begin to appreciate how indispensable volunteers, and those of us working to engage them, are to a thriving civil society.

    The thing that gives me hope most of all is witnessing how all of us as individuals are stepping up and “volunteering” to do the right thing during this crisis in order to protect our most vulnerable, largely by staying home and physically distancing ourselves from each other, despite the enormous economic cost to society. Beyond staying home and distancing, we are all staying socially close through remote means and safely helping out those in our community who need it. I hear about people in neighbourhoods, condo buildings and online groups rallying to serve and help others in need; my vote for word of the year is “caremongering”. Such examples show us that the drive to help others is an innate human need, whether we call it volunteering or not, whether or not we formally engage, screen, onboard and recognize it. Along those lines, I am also incredibly grateful for the technology which allows us to stay socially close while physically apart.

    Finally, this crisis also makes me see how much our associations matter, especially now when we are all working solo in our home offices (and kitchens, in my case) and trying to understand the implications of this crisis on our volunteer programs, our organizations and ultimately, our jobs. The PAVRO board is committed to ensuring that we keep everyone connected, and we are doing that by creating online networking opportunities in the weeks and months to come. Our Webinar Committee is currently exploring ideas, and reaching out to potential speakers and we hope to make some announcements very soon.

    Stay tuned for dates announcing the online AGM and professional development/networking opportunity.  This will be a first for PAVRO, and I suspect we won’t be the only organization to host an online AGM.

    Finally we have rescheduled our in-person conference for October 8th and 9th and we are keeping registration open until March 31st in case you would like to spend your professional development dollars in this current fiscal year. Being able to host this event in-person would represent an enormous celebration for us - because it would mean that we’ve moved beyond the pandemic peak and beyond the need for physical distancing. I look forward to shaking your hands and even (gasp!) hugging some of you - yet other simple pleasures that we have all taken for granted.

    I will never take conversations with my peers and colleagues for granted. Contact me at and let me know what is on your mind, and what you would like to see from us as an association. I’m always open for a phone call and we welcome your ideas and questions.

    Stay in touch. Thank you for all that you do, both personally and professionally, and virtual hugs to all of you!

    Aleksandra Vasic

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