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Buy locally made art with volunteer hours at Timeraiser

By Lee Pepper on October 3, 2014

A Canadian organization is working to help non-profits make their limited resources go further and to motivate busy people to connect with their communities through volunteering.

Timeraiser events were conceived in 2001 by Simon Foster and Anil Patel of Framework as a way to address these challenges in a fun, engaging way. Timeraiser hosts annual events in cities across Canada that offer volunteers a chance to win art by volunteering with local non-profits. The 7th Ottawa Timeraiser will take place November 8th at the Canadian Museum of History.

Timeraiser engineers a symbiotic relationship whereby artists get money, volunteers get art, and non-profits get volunteers.  Here’s how it works: Timeraiser purchases art from local artists, and attendees bid on the art by pledging to undertake a certain number of volunteer hours in the following year. The person who pledges the most hours gets their piece of art once they complete their volunteer committment.  Local non-profit organizations table at the event to attract volunteers.

And it seems to be working.  Since 2003, Timeraiser has purchased $913,000 worth of art at an average cost of $530 per piece, and generated over 138,000 volunteer hours.

I spoke to Shonagh McCrindle, who pledged 110 hours of volunteer time to win “Slide”, an acrylic painting by Ottawa artist Larry Williams at the 2011 Ottawa Timeraiser.  A Masters of Health Administration student at the University of Ottawa, she completed her volunteer hours at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health, helping out with the centre’s drum circle and their workshops and crafts.  McCrindle found her volunteering experience both personally and professionally rewarding: she learned songs, beading, drumming, drum-making, heard more about Aboriginal cultures in Ottawa and attended a symposium on mental health and addictions. She found that her volunteer committment gave her a sense of community: if she missed a week, people would ask after her.

McCrindle recommends Timeraiser as a fun, inexpensive way to meet people and gain a deeper sense of community.

Timeraiser isn’t the only prong in Framework’s mission to make non-profits more effective: they have also developed Sharesies, a platform by which non-profits can share information about things like planning and forecasting, budgeting, and performance management.

In a 2011 interview with the Globe and Mail, Simon Foster, Timeraiser’s co-founder, commented that “the not-for-profit sector is too competitive and we have to reduce that. Framework foundation is working to facilitate a change in attitude through the act of sharing.”

For those who have some time to share, or who are interested in learning more about non-profits in Ottawa, the 7th Ottawa Timeraiser will take place Saturday November 8th, 2014, from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM, at The Canadian Museum of History (100 Laurier St.).  Early bird tickets are $10 and available through Eventbrite.