By Sean Meyer
For more than four decades, the London and Area Association for Volunteer Administration (LAVA) has supported people whose community building efforts have been backed up by those willing to donate their time.
Thankfully, at least as far as LAVA president Mike Couture is concerned, the Forest City has a proven track record of volunteerism to rely upon.
“There is new engagement with people in the community. I can’t speak for other members, but I think it’s pretty consistent across the board,” Mike said. “Everybody needs volunteers at some point — and there are day-to-day challenges with that — but I think for the most part, London is a great community for volunteers.”
LAVA currently has a membership representing some 50 organizations with a mandate dedicated to growing the profession, as well as increasing the supports and advocacy of volunteer management as a recognized occupation.
Mike, who is also special events co-ordinator with Salvation Army Ontario Great Lakes Division, has been working in some capacity of volunteer management for 25 years, largely as a volunteer. Professionally, he has been heavily involved since coming on board with the Salvation Army in 2010.
Over the course of his career, Mike said he has seen volunteer management recognized within organizations and companies, but not necessarily as an actual role.
Instead, the tasks associated with that position are often placed under “one of the hats HR uses.”
Even so, when staff reductions happen, he finds those official positions are often among the first to go.
And that, he is quick to add, can create a whole new set of problems.
“I don’t know if it is seen as one of those disposable positions, but if the role is eliminated in an organization that uses volunteers, it is quickly realized that who is going to do this?” Mike said. “This is the challenge we’re advocating for, volunteer management as a profession. At Salvation Army, we know we rely on volunteers big time.”
LAVA gets together on a monthly basis with the first part of the meeting focused on regular business. After that, the meeting turns into a forum for the membership where specific topics are brought forward and discussed.
In addition, LAVA brings in guest speakers — people in the industry or who are closely affiliated to it — to discuss topics helpful to volunteer professionals.
Of course, these events need a place to happen from, which recently brought LAVA into Innovation Works.
LAVA has been a co-tenant since September (as part of a six-month pilot project) and Mike is quick to laud Innovation Works for everything it offers, including meeting spaces and an abundance of networking opportunities.
The goal of coming into the space was to help more organizations with their volunteer management, but also to grow LAVA. The more members within the organizations, Mike explained, the more resources they have to provide the supports local organizations are looking to have.
While Innovation Works offers a home to “groups that have like-minded goals, ambitions,” Mike said he is looking forward to personally becoming more involved.
“I will be coming here in January, sitting down and saying to folks, let’s have a chat, let’s talk about volunteer management,” he said. “I want to take that little ball of snow, which typically we can have in January, and get this snowball rolling. We needed a home, so it’s a win all around. We just have to figure out how to take advantage of the opportunity we have.”
For more information, visit https://londonava.wordpress.com.
Want to work alongside incredible humans like Mike and the LAVA team? Consider joining us at Innovation Work!
And don't forget to check out upcoming events happening at the space