Don’t Discount the Volunteers in Your Community!

It’s no secret that we are a nonprofit society and relied on the labor of volunteers who could see the vision to carry the project forward.  We did in less than 1000 days and there are lessons to be learned from this experience. Don’t discount your volunteers!

As we busily went about going from a concept to raising money from development stage to launch it was, and continues to be a tough road and here is why:

We busted out of the woodwork with myself leading the charge. Scott Astle, Tech Lead, was typing his fingers off behind the scenes helping to develop the app concept and put it out to bid for the app developers. Other volunteers were gathering lists, being sounding boards and typing up Points of Interest – basically doing what they could to help the project move forward.

Sheila Willis researching for History Check at the Provincial Archives of Alberta.

Volunteers have found a cause they believe in, see the value of, and as such they are willing to give of their time to further that cause. They may not be able to give donations, but they can certainly stuff envelopes, send emails, and share social media posts to further the cause.

We, like other non-profits, have our backing of volunteers and appreciate ever single one of them – but the question is – if you do, or will, benefit from their efforts – do you?

I have, in a variety of scenarios, waited my turn to present the History Check app project, and, as I waited listened to other groups present their case why funding is needed. I have seen these requests approved and rejected – often based on the quality of the presentation.

I will freely admit that while my speaking skills have greatly improved, the ask is not always easy, especially when you are in the concept stages of a development plan that takes money to move forward.

Likewise, I never intended to be a public speaker. I stumbled into therefore my skills may not be as polished as some – like every other volunteer that steps up in front of a group of people and tries to sell them on the concept that money should be given to their cause. Volunteers without great speaking skills are often discounted.

One of my biggest downfalls is that I am a giving person, like most volunteers, and have this concept that if we all work together – everyone benefits. As such I often forget that unless people see the immediate value for them – they aren’t interesting in 2 years down the road. Volunteers with vision are often discounted.

Perhaps you have received a letter or an email that is sent by a group, and the grammar is off. The person who wrote may have few writing skills but they are ready to put it out there, which takes courage to go out of their comfort zone.

Instead of focusing on the skill level in which it was written – focus on the idea or cause they are supporting. Don’t discount the volunteer if they do not possess a skill set that does not relate to the cause they are furthering

Many presentations I have done were unsuccessful, at least in the short-term financial picture. If there is a vision, and a plan, even if loosely formed, look at the long-term scope of the project.

No project is complete until after the fundraising is done. You can’t build a playground without money to pay for the equipment or a thousand other projects that require funding.

I think the most baffling part of our process is that many grants out there require matching funding.   I understand that – it speaks to commitment and long-term success, but in some cases, while volunteer hours far exceeded the value of the request, there should be a way to overcome this. Don’t discount the volunteer because of the lack of financial support – you might even be the first request.

Cliques are also a challenge to the volunteer. Fundraising should be based on the merits of the project, not friendships. Don’t discount the volunteer because of personal relationships.

As you all know we have recently launched the History Check mobile app to promote heritage exploration in northern Alberta. It is an expansive project that literally maps sites or Points of Interest from the Edmonton region north to all borders.

Communities & Regions on History Check. Each opens to show the community attractions and services.  Volunteers continue to add content.

We still rely on the labor of those who believe in this project and what it can do not only in terms of preserving and promoting our history, but in bringing more than 5 to 7% of Alberta’s tourism revenue into the region. This is potentially millions of dollars.

We have been launched for close to a month and have exceeded 250 downloads of History Check. From concept to launch took less than 1000 days, which, we have been told by multiple people from the industry, is truly remarkable.

We hope that gives you an idea of our dedication and influences your decision to support this project. It is not a question of if History Check will be successful but when.

Don’t wait for us to prove ourselves – we already did when we launched against all odds. Become involved.

Let us know what Points of Interest are out there. We will find them – you can just speed up the process – which in turn ramps up the success of the app.

For less than a dollar day –  Advertise Your Business. You are not just advertising but supporting a project that supports your community and other nonprofit groups – very much like buying a coffee for the next in line at your local coffee shop. Your advertisement will go a long way towards hiring staff to fully populate the map.

This team of volunteers has gone a long ways to giving northern Alberta something that no other region has. Don’t ignore it and move on, because in doing so you will be discounting the volunteer.

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