Leadership Development – Volunteer Engagement: The Fundamentals

December 4, 2012 – Toronto 2015 Pan Am/ParaPan Games

“Excellent presentation! Marisa was very engaging and knowledgeable” – Participant

Engaging volunteers is more than just getting people involved, it’s about understanding what keeps them involved and creating and maintaining effective processes. Professional immigrant associations are volunteer-run organizations, therefore understanding how to engage, manage and lead the team of volunteers is integral to their success.

On December 4, 2012 TRIEC held a Leadership Development workshop for association leaders and program partners to learn more about the volunteer engagement cycle and the roles of an effective leader in volunteer management.  At this evening session hosted at the Toronto 2015 Pan/ParaPan American Games offices, 10 individuals from seven associations learned about the fundamentals in volunteer engagement.

Guest speaker:  Marisa Gelfusa – Director, Training and Professional Development, Volunteer Toronto



Marisa began the session by asking participants to reflect on why they’re passionate about their work. Identifying passions is key to engaging volunteers. Organizations want to meet their needs and find the best people to help them achieve their goals. Understanding what people are passionate about will help place volunteers in the right role to do meaningful work, and the organization ends up with amazing volunteers to work with.

Marisa went over the entire volunteer engagement cycle and provided examples of how associations could assess their own volunteer programs. Tools and resources such as position descriptions, guidelines/policies, interview grids, regular orientation and training events, learning aids, mutual feedback mechanisms and recognition events are all important instruments in maintaining and motivating your volunteers (see below for more resources).

Thank you to our presenters, participants and venue sponsor Toronto Pan/Parapan American Games.  A big thank you to our hosts Doug Spooner, Naki Oustei and Ian Troop for the opportunity to meet and discuss volunteerism with the PINs community.


  • Manage the balance: Connecting the needs of the volunteer and the need of the association is essential.
  • Volunteers are the lungs of the agency. Keep them engaged and inspired.
  • Know how to use volunteer’s skills in the best areas of your organization.
  • Recognition happens throughout the cycle not just at the end (i.e. a training opportunity or celebration).