CNIB’s Philosophy on Volunteering

“Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.”

- Helen Keller

No matter how skilled and dedicated our paid employees are, CNIB recognizes that the people we serve require and deserve a wide variety of service options, resources and approaches that cannot be offered by the staff alone. We see volunteers as a huge community talent pool – with diverse backgrounds and limitless potential to contribute varied talents to expand opportunities for people who are blind and partially sighted. Volunteers are time donors (and often financial donors, too) who serve side-by-side with paid staff, and who can connect with people in a unique way. In many cases, it is the fact that they are not paid that resonates so profoundly with community members.

To be successful, we must treat every volunteer as a valued partner. Because volunteers choose to partner with us, we are able to serve larger numbers of people. But more than that, the generous natures of volunteers and their gifts are deeply appreciated by the people we serve, as well as by our staff and other partners. We know that volunteers bring their unique points of view that have resulted from their personal experiences, relationships and values. Many of our time volunteers have been recipients of our services. Others have been money donors and want to find an additional way to give. They bring scope, depth, knowledge, connections and more. In other words, they enrich and expand our thinking, not just our reach.

Our philosophy of volunteerism is also very much influenced by our dedication to breaking down barriers and building inclusive communities – both within CNIB, as well as in the towns and cities where we live. It is important to us to provide an accessible workplace and to include people with vision loss and other disabilities on our staff and among our volunteers and other partners.

We know that being a good partner requires attention and care. Our first priority is to be welcoming, to listen to each potential volunteer, honour their level of commitment and ensure they have the training and support they require once they have been accepted.

We respect that volunteers need to do their research to be sure we are the right fit for them – that our values (passion, empowerment, respect, innovation, professionalism and dedication) align with theirs and the environment and culture we have created allows them to achieve their personal goals. And once they make the choice to join us, we do our best to find the volunteer roles that suit them. We endeavour to present them with many opportunities and ways to make their precious gifts.

We understand that after a volunteer has joined us, they need to feel their time spent with us is worthwhile. Volunteer engagement is a core competency for our staff, ensuring volunteers feel comfortable and respected at CNIB. Evaluation is built into every program and role description because we know how important it is to regularly tell time volunteers (and staff and financial donors, too) how their investment has had an impact. We all need to see the link from our contribution to the achievement of our mission. And we all have a need to know we have been heard. Volunteers must also have the opportunity to provide us with feedback on their experience during their time with the organization. That feedback, whether positive or negative, is another valuable gift that helps us continually improve.

We need volunteers who understand our mission and are willing to make a firm commitment. Our first priority is to provide excellent service. We need volunteers who share that view.

The years have taught us to accept that even though a person may be volunteering with us now, that might change. In the future, they might want to take on more responsibility or be less involved, or give in a different way.

What matters to us is that their experience with us is one they will remember proudly and fondly – that they will feel they were valued and they made a positive difference in people's lives.

Every volunteer is an ambassador for CNIB, whether formal or not. We hope our volunteers will share their impressions with the people in their lives. Who knows? Maybe someone they talk to about their experience will decide to partner with us as well, as a volunteer, or a donor, or a client or a member of our staff. And our work will continue.