Alberta’s legions of volunteers mirror the depth, the
joy, the crisis, the creativity, the challenges, and the
victories of being human. Our province is a place of great
dichotomies. Sometimes we represent renegade nonconformity
and on other occasions we are wholeheartedly traditional.
Under our boundless blue skies, from our great Rockies, to
our sweeping prairies, to our glorious northern regions, there
is not one corner of Alberta that has not benefited from the
tremendous efforts of volunteers.
Our ever evolving and complex societies in the 21st
Century place extraordinary wants and needs on the voluntary
sector. Unlike the private and public sectors, the
nonprofit/voluntary sector is not driven by making money.
Regardless of the voluntary organization, their common
denominator is they all have respective goals of bettering a
situation, group, or a cause.
Increasingly, the voluntary sector is being pressured to
define itself and public policies using business management
practices. Over time, Alberta’s voluntary organizations and its
multitude of volunteers have proven that they are highly
resilient and adaptive. While the 1990s government cutbacks and
downloading onto the voluntary sector placed the word "burnout"
on the lips of many people, most volunteers and voluntary
organizations rose to the challenge. Forming creative
partnerships within the voluntary sector as well as with the
public and the private sectors helped alleviate the woes of many
cash strapped charities and nonprofit organizations.
Some of the issues and challenges facing the voluntary sector
are obtaining appropriate training and education for volunteers
and staff, best practice governance, evaluating and assessing
accreditation needs, recognizing the growing professionalism of
paid staff, and very import to the survival of voluntary
organizations, is the awareness of recruitment needs, retention
of staff and volunteers, and fundraising strategies.
Safeguarding the future health of the voluntary sector should
also entail taking a watchdog view of
trends in volunteerism.
No doubt, the 21st Century contains issues and challenges
that the voluntary sector must overcome — but what one learns
from studying the history and evolution of volunteerism in
Alberta — is that we are doers who do not hide from life.