Wrapping up a successful year during COVID-19 at our AGM

  • June 17, 2021

    Posted by: Jackie Hunt

    This past year has not gone according to plan, for any of us, and we have seen the impact this pandemic has had on the non-profit sector and volunteerism. But we have also seen the resilience of the human spirit, and how communities have come together to support each other during a year no one could have predicted.

    Volunteer Manitoba began the year by shifting our programs and services for what we thought would be a short-term period, but it was not long before we realized that the COVID-19 pandemic was going to go on longer than expected and we would have to make some permanent decisions moving forward. Thanks to the support of our funders and partners, we have been able to create opportunities out of the challenges.

    In 2020-21, we moved to a complete work-from-home model and learned that we could still do almost all our work without being in the same physical space. We wrapped up the MB 150 Youth Ambassador program with an incredible showcase of each project, which we celebrated virtually. We delivered all of our training remotely and online, and discovered that participants could still be engaged and learn in this format. We went virtual with our annual volunteer awards celebration, and created a beautiful video tapestry of the recipients in their home communities, sharing their reasons for giving back. And, after the pandemic highlighted the need for the service provided by 211 Manitoba, additional funding meant Manitobans were provided a centralized information and referral service that could be accessed from anywhere in the province by calling 2-1-1.

    Our priority was pivoting our training department to online delivery. One of the most impacted programs due to the pandemic, our training department never lost focus for one moment. When we realized it was unknown how long it would be until we could offer our training in-person, we successfully converted all our in-house workshops to an online format.

    Within the first month of the pandemic, we offered a series of pandemic-related webinars to support the sector and created a special section of our website dedicated to pandemic resources. By June, we were once again offering those workshops we had deferred at the start of the pandemic, only now they were online.Link to pdf of Annual Report 2020-2021

    Though training was impacted by COVID, the amazing work of the training department meant we offered meaningful and relevant training and webinars AND our reach was widened as people from across Manitoba, and Canada, were able to participate in our courses thanks to technology.

    To capitalize on this momentum in training we created a series of resources and supports in board governance, capacity building, and volunteer management. These tools are now available for purchase on our website, and have been invaluable to the sector.

    Shortly after the initial onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, InterGroup Consultants Ltd. reached out to Volunteer Manitoba to get a better understanding of the needs of non-profit organizations and volunteers during the pandemic. Through facilitated online discussions over the course of four weeks in the summer of 2020, InterGroup and Volunteer Manitoba brought together volunteer administrators and volunteers from various organizations to discuss what volunteering looked like pre-pandemic and the issues and gaps that have occurred within their organizations since the start of the pandemic.

    These discussions led to the creation of the Volunteering Now! Volunteerism in Manitoba during a Pandemic survey. The survey went out during the fall of 2020 and you can learn more about the results on page 9 of this report.

    The pandemic has had the greatest impact on older adult volunteers, and most of these volunteers are largely concerned over the inability to return to their previous in-person volunteering. Older adults are also a vulnerable population for COVID-19 exposure. These two things combined meant a large decrease in volunteer numbers for seniors. This is not something Volunteer Manitoba has ever needed to worry about in the past, with most volunteer hours always being donated by those over 65. But again, the pandemic has changed that, and we are now working closely with several organizations to increase our support for older volunteers, and identify ways we can help them get back to the work they love doing.

    Our Youth Program was also drastically impacted this past year, and though we were not able to deliver classroom presentations or participate in community outreach, we were still able to participate in virtual events that gave us an opportunity to connect with young people about volunteering. We continued to offer our volunteer referral service online and over the phone, and we piloted a virtual student recruitment fair in the fall which was very successful and received a lot of positive feedback.

    We would like to give a special thank you to Canada Life, the Winnipeg Foundation and RBC Foundation for your continued support of our youth programming.

    As the pandemic continued, 211 Manitoba saw a huge spike in requests for information and that led to an injection of federal funding that allowed for the shift from a web-based service to a full-service call centre. However, housing this program under one organization's umbrella would ensure its long-term success, so the decision was made to move the program over to United Way of Winnipeg, ending the decades long partnership over 211 Manitoba. This transition also meant that we said farewell to two of our staff members, Philip Wolfart and Alanna Palmer, who moved over to the United Way and continue the work of bringing information and referrals to Manitobans. We miss them both so much, but we are thrilled to see this growth happening for both, and 211 Manitoba.

    This, and so much more was accomplished this past year, and you can read all about it in this annual report. We want to take a moment to thank our board, and the dedicated staff at Volunteer Manitoba, for the unwavering belief in the work we do. We cannot wait until we can all gather again together in person.

    Annual Report 2020-2021

    Until then, be well.


    Rob Albo

    Executive Director

    Jackie Hunt


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