Effective volunteers are trained and supported

Thank you to the hundreds of Volunteers of Doors Open Toronto. This past weekend my city hosted this annual event that celebrates the architecture and culture of Toronto. About 150 buildings participate including museums, government buildings, churches, universities, corporate buildings and more. Public and private spaces open their doors and allow locals and tourists alike to explore.

It’s a large undertaking for both the city and each participant. Preparing for unknown flocks of folks through your doors, balancing safety with accessibility, and creating an experience for all visitors is a big task. Considerable planning and preparation needs to be done for an event hosted on a weekend, when many buildings are normally closed.

The role of volunteers

I was mindful of the role of volunteers during this massive undertaking. Volunteer employees and general volunteers were working collectively to deliver the experience.

Going from one location to another, it was interesting to compare the preparedness, the richness of the experience. From the spunky youthful story telling by the beer company, to the hesitant but knowledgeable expert in green roof gardening at New City Hall, to the eager volunteer at the train station and the senior staff of the insurance company who showed their pride and love of history as they shared snippets of what to look for during a short elevator ride.

A treasure unlocked

The most memorable volunteer was at old city hall. The doors where open and you were encouraged to walk around but there was no signage, no structured tours and no one really guiding. Such a waste for this historic building. And so we approached a middle aged woman with a Doors Open t-shirt, who was unobtrusively standing in the hall, and asked if there was a tour or more to see. She seemed to be delighted to be asked and shared with us a good 10 minutes of great history and stories and then encouraged us to see a key chamber before it closed for the day.

Bottom line

If you like history or architecture, this is a great type of event to volunteer for. It puts you in touch with hundreds of other folks that have similar interests.

To the hosts and coordinators I’d say the difference between a waste of time and a great experience lies in the volunteers’ ability to convey the stories, guide the flow and provide classic customer service. That requires a good plan and a solid prep program for your volunteers.

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