TAVA Member Spotlight


Name: Denise Smith

Organization: The LIFE Institute

Role: Manager, Volunteer Services

Working in the Volunteer Engagement Sector for: over 12 years

Been a part of TAVA for: 10 years 


"My advice to someone looking to take the next step is to be ready for an exciting, challenging, humorous, and rewarding experience. "

As someone working in Volunteer Engagement, how does TAVA help you?

TAVA helps with breaking down silos that volunteer engagement professionals tend to find ourselves in. It's a wonderful opportunity to network, debrief and engage with other people in the field. Aside from the workshops that are provided, TAVA has created a community of like-minded people who are all willing to support each other.

Would you please explain the professional success you're most proud of and how you implemented it?

While working at my previous employment I was able to implement and educate our staff and volunteers on the Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement. This Code is so important when it comes to supporting, engaging, celebrating and evaluating volunteers and your program.

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge to working in Volunteer Engagement?

The biggest challenge I find while working in this field is the lack of appreciation and understanding of volunteer engagement. Granted, we do what we do because we love it. However, educating and having others understand what we do each day can be challenging. If you say you're a Volunteer Coordinator people assume you coordinate something without being paid. Just the title alone can lack the impact of what we do. Therefore, people aren't clear on what our role accomplishes.

What advice would you give to someone looking to take the next step in their Volunteer Engagement career?

This job isn't for everyone. Some of us fall into it because of job changes or restructuring. Some of us search it out from the beginning and make that conscious decision to work in this field. My advice to someone looking to take the next step is to be ready for an exciting, challenging, humorous, and rewarding experience. And remember that you are not alone, whether you're building a volunteer program from the ground up, or stepping into a developed program.

When you're not working, how do you like to spend your time?

When I'm not working I love spending time with my family - especially my son. I love being a mom and enjoying all the experiences and first times with him. I gain energy by having amazing friends and focusing on self care. I also like spending time running, reading and watching scary horror movies.

Published: October 2018
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