Learning Exchange: Project Based Volunteering

June 4, 2013 – Volunteer Toronto

“There is great value in this network of associations there are people who are happy to volunteer. Post your opportunities in other networks and exchange skills because you may not have all the skills you need    – Participant

Building on the December 2012 learning exchange – the fundamentals of volunteer engagement, PINs association leaders and partners gathered on June 4, 2013 at Volunteer Toronto for a workshop on how to approach volunteer management from a project-based perspective.

A case study provided by the Latin American MBA Alumni Network (LAMBA) helped more than 20 individuals understand how they could engage their members in their work with this new approach that uses a results oriented plan and enables volunteers to have more flexibility and autonomy. Volunteers are a key part of professional immigrant networks, therefore understanding how to engage, manage and lead a team of volunteers is essential to running any organization.

Guest speakers:

Marisa Gelfusa – Director, Training and Professional Development, Volunteer Toronto

Victor Olvera – PINs association leader, LAMBA


‘When someone says they don’t volunteer it’s usually because they do not think they have enough time.’ This was Marisa’s first statement to a packed room of participants learning about how to engage volunteers using a project based approach. The project based volunteering model is well suited for busy people like PINs association leaders and partners.

In this approach, volunteers with a particular skill set are assigned to specific goals that will be completed in a certain time frame. Volunteers are given the opportunity to start and finish something that is useful and this successful experience can be a step towards longer term projects and a stronger relationship between the association and their volunteers.

Victor Olvera has seen LAMBA grow from over the past three years and is currently working with over 75 volunteers. Using LAMBA as a case study, Victor emphasized that it all starts with a plan. After sharing a detailed spreadsheet that tracked all the objectives and activities of LAMBA, it is clear that creating a plan is the ‘magic glue’ that provides guidance to volunteers, and ensures that all projects are in line with the association’s goals.

Following the presentations, participants completed worksheets to see how and where their associations could implement project based volunteering. PINs leader, Sean Park expressed “I can picture how using this approach will solve some of our association’s challenges. Giving a time limit will make it much easier for people to get involved with our association JoinTheLeaders”.


  • Project based volunteering is like a date rather than a marriage, volunteers can have a ‘bite-sized’ experience in an association
  • Sharpen the Saw’ means associations preserve and enhance the greatest asset they have—their volunteers
  • A well designed plan that is recorded (i.e. using an excel spreadsheet or project management tool)  is similar to the dashboard of a car – it will let you know if you are driving too fast (missing your goals) or if you need more fuel (need more volunteers)