What is a community group with a tight budget in need of professional services to do? For the last nine years Spark, a service of the Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNet), has been providing an answer to that question.
The idea is simple. Community groups and organizations identify a need within their organization and contact Spark. A Spark representative works with the organization to assess their capacity to take on new projects, and helps create an action plan that maps out the skilled resources necessary to fill the identified gap. Spark then searches for a skilled, passionate volunteer with the time to help. Next the organization and volunteer meet with Spark to define the scope and details of the project. Once the work has started, Spark checks in with both sides occasionally to make sure the project is on track.
The average match is 20 hours over two or three months, and volunteers work with the knowledge that the community organization is ready to pick up where they leave off.
Assiniboine’s Kim Champion Taylor saw the effectiveness of the program when she was recruited for a volunteer match.
For 10 hours over two months, Kim worked with Lois Coleman Neufeld, the Executive Director of Mediation Services. Together they redeveloped the compensation plan for Mediation Services, a non-profit organization that works with individuals and groups to find solutions to conflict.
“It was easy. Spark had already worked with Lois to get a clear idea of what Mediation Services needed, and there was a contract prepared that added to the professional nature of the commitment,” Kim reflects.
“The duration of their ‘ask’ was short and the definite endpoint to the project made it easier for me to commit. Plus it was work I like to do, but in a different environment than I’m used to.”
Would she recommend Spark to others?
“Absolutely. You go in thinking that you’ll help someone else, but you discover that you learn and get as much as you give.”
It’s a Win-Win
It really is a win-win situation. Volunteers gain experience in their field and deepen their understanding of community issues and organizations. Organizations strengthen their capacity and impact in the community. Spark works with all levels in many different disciplines: from students to professionals who have been in their field for decades; and from well-established community groups to start-ups.
Want to help build a stronger community? Visit Spark to sign up for a match today!