VOLUNTEER: Some thoughts on hiring volunteers

Apr 16, 2016
Michaela Montaner

Pete, as you'll find him most days, diving in to his work at Pacific Wild.

We're proud to say that 100% of Pacific Wild staff, past and present, had a history of volunteering - either at PW or elsewhere - before joining our team as staff. (Speaking of - we're hiring!)

While we’ve only hired a fraction of the hundreds of people who have volunteered with us, we’re keen to do it whenever we can.

On the one hand, it's an acknowledgement of the time and effort people have already put into Pacific Wild. More importantly, however, it’s proven to be a sound recruitment tactic.

For example, when filling shorter-term contracts, it’s proven expedient to recruit from the talented people around us. Folks we know who can do the job, who are already familiar with the team, and – especially when it’s a field position – someone we are certain can handle lots of rain, no internet, and cramped quarters. (See Elissa’s story for an example of this type of hire.)

When filling staff positions, we’re looking for the best possible candidate skill-wise and – crucially – someone who knows what it is to work for a small, mission-driven NGO. Typically, even if someone hasn’t worked in the NGO realm before, people with a history of volunteering have had a pretty good sense of what they are getting into.

Speaking of knowing what they were getting into, Peter Thicke, who we introduce below turned out to be just that kind of recruit.  

On that note, we're currently recruiting a number of volunteer and paid positions. Check out the list here - we hope you'll apply if you see a fit.

Pete, on his first volunteer stint with Pacific Wild, working on the Great Bear LIVE camera network.

Meet Peter Thicke, volunteer-turned-staffer

When Pete - a self-described “product of coastal B.C.” - wrapped up a contract position back in 2014, he was on the lookout for a job where he could live out his commitment to the environment and his home. At the time, he couldn’t find anything that was a fit. After a season of surfing and adventure, he wound up at one of Ian’s presentations. Inspired by the presentation (and thanks to some cajoling from his girlfriend, Lindsay) he was moved to reach out and inquire about volunteering for us. A year and a half later, he’s taking the lead on installing our remote cameras and hydrophones – and much more – as our Great Bear LIVE field technician.

How did you come to be involved with Pacific Wild?

I was keen to become more actively involved in conservation, wanting to go from caring to active involvement. Although I managed to volunteer with some great local groups, steady work was hard to come by. I had been following Pacific Wild for some time and attended one of Ian's talks in Victoria. My girlfriend encouraged me to reach out and see if I could volunteer for them, and I spent a couple weeks helping out in the field some months later. Shortly after this stint I was offered a position working with the Great Bear LIVE project.

I hadn’t planned on an offer of employment - I had a few other things lined up, including a Master's program and some other opportunities - but I accepted after realizing it was a job I was interested in – and for more than the paycheque.

What advice would you give to people who are looking to work with an organization like Pacific Wild but don’t see any jobs posted?

If you can afford it, volunteer and show them how much they need you! Send an email or connect through social media, introduce yourself and explain why you want to work with them and what you can do. You'll often find there is room for you skills and experience even if you think it is irrelevant. Volunteering is also a great way for you to test the waters and make sure you enjoy being involved with the organization.

Roses and thorns of working with Pacific Wild – be honest!

I like working at Pacific Wild because we're working on unique projects - especially Great Bear LIVE. There isn't any other project I know about quite like it. It's exciting, but filled with challenges as we create a network of hydrophones and cameras in a remote area, on limited funding, with equipment usually designed for other purposes. We have to figure a lot of stuff out on our own - which is both the most rewarding and frustrating part of the job.

Pacific Wild won the lottery when your skills, amazing attitude and deep commitment to the coast fell in our lap. As a volunteer, what was in it for you?

As a volunteer, I got the opportunity to work with one of the most visible conservation groups on the coast, connect with numerous people passionate about similar ideas, and better understand the workings of an effective non-profit conservation organization. It has been rewarding in terms of the experience, as well as the knowledge that can be carried forward into future endeavours. They also started paying me eventually, which was a welcome perk!

Want to volunteer? Check out our current volunteer postings here.

Not seeing anything that’s a fit? Have your own idea of how you can help out? Make sure you’re on the list for the next time we post an opportunity to join the team. You can also send us a short note clearly outlining what you’re interested in doing and what support you would need from us to pull it off. We’re most inclined to opt-in to projects that are well thought out, mission-aligned, low-maintenance, and that target people or community that may not yet be familiar with Pacific Wild.

Donate. Your contributions help build our capacity to advocate effectively for the Great Bear Rainforest - and that includes recruiting, managing, and retaining a strong team of volunteers and staff. Please give generously here.

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