VBGA Volunteer Handbook

Volunteer Handbook

You can download a printable PDF version of the Volunteer handbook here.

Welcome to VanDusen Botanical Garden and Bloedel Conservatory.  We thank you for volunteering your time and talents.  The Garden and the Vancouver Botanical Gardens Association (VBGA) recognize the importance of volunteers in assisting in our many programs and activities. This handbook outlines the mission and history of the Gardens as well as information about volunteer activities and procedures.  At any time, you are welcome to contact the Volunteer Engagement & Operations team at volunteersupport@vandusen.org 604-257-8469 with additional questions and we will be happy to assist you. 

Volunteer Opportunities 

A wide range of volunteer opportunities are available with the Vancouver Botanical Gardens Association, both at VanDusen Botanical Garden and Bloedel Conservatory. Over 850 volunteers contribute their time and talents in education, visitor experience, special events, governance, administration, fundraising and special events. Volunteers are pivotal to our work and enhancing visitors’ learning and engagement experience; contributing to our mandate to connect people to plants and help them understand their role in Earth’s ecosystems.  For current volunteer opportunities, please visit our website https://vandusengarden.org/get-involved/volunteer/ 

The Gardens are jointly operated by the City of Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation and the Vancouver Botanical Gardens Association, the city’s charitable not-for-profit partner. Our two organizations have worked together for more than 40 years under a shared vision of making the Garden cherished locally and renowned internationally. 

Purpose 

We are here to connect people to plants AND to work with Park Board in achieving our (shared) vision.  

Vision 

To achieve our purpose, we want the Garden and the Conservatory to be cherished locally and renowned internationally.  

Mission 

To engage people of all ages and walks of life in the importance of biodiversity to our lives, and to foster a lifelong love of plants and gardens by virtue of their participation in our programs and services.  

General Information

Hours and Admission Rates 

VanDusen Garden and Bloedel Conservatory is open to the public every day of the year except Christmas Day.  Parts of the Garden may be closed due to special events.  Garden hours and admission rates can be found on our website https://vandusengarden.org/plan-your-visit/hours-admission/  

Membership  

Membership fees, categories and benefits information can be found on the VBGA website https://vandusengarden.org/get-involved/membership/.  Benefits as a member includes receipt of photo Membership Card, unlimited admission to VanDusen Garden and Bloedel Conservatory during regular open hours, discounted rates for special events and education programs including children’s camps, receipt by email of monthly Member News, receipt by mail of VBGA Clippings Newsletter, discounted purchases at the VanDusen Garden Shop as well as at garden centres and attractions throughout Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.  All members with current membership are eligible to vote at the Annual General Meeting. 

Education Programs 

Education programs with the VBGA aim to increase appreciation and understanding of the importance of plants to all life and foster environmental stewardship at the personal and community level. From Pre-School Storytime, to wellness classes for seniors, opportunities are presented for learners of all ages. Field trips for school children, led by trained volunteers, support BC’s education curriculum, while the very popular summer camp program engages kids in outdoor activities, lessons, gardening, games, crafts, and garden exploration. The adult continuing education programs offers 100+ classes, tours and workshops in horticulture, ecology, art and wellness.  

Contacts 

VanDusen Botanical Garden, 5251 Oak Street   604.878.9274 

Bloedel Conservatory, Off West 33rd Avenue, east of Cambie St., atop Queen Elizabeth Park   604-257-8584 

VanDusen Administration Office     604.257.8666 

Volunteer Engagement & Operations Team  604.257.8469   volunteersupport@vandusen.org  

Emergency and Safety Procedures  

Please familiarize yourself with emergency procedures for both Bloedel Conservatory and VanDusen Garden found at the end of this handbook. 

Assisting Guests with Mobility Impairments 

Safety is our highest priority for our guests, volunteers, and staff. Volunteers may not assist guests with mobility impairments, due to the risk of injury to both the guest and volunteer with walking aides, transfers or mobility assistance of any kind including getting in or out of our guided tour golf cart, wheelchair, or lending an arm to assist someone in standing. Guests requiring such support should be accompanied by someone able to assist them. Due to safety reasons, we are unable to accept bookings from long-term care facilities for guided tours. Anytime a volunteer feels a visitor needs extra support, they can always reach out to a Park Board staff and they can assess how best to assist.

VanDusen Botanical Garden

History 

This site was logged at the turn of the century and subsequently leased by the Shaughnessy Golf Club from 1911 until 1960 at which time, the CPR, owners of the site, proposed a subdivision. The VBGA was formed in 1966 by dedicated people who wanted to see a botanical garden created on the property.  The land was purchased with shared funding from the City of Vancouver, the Government of British Columbia and the Vancouver Foundation through the generosity of W.J. VanDusen.  Work started in 1971 and the Garden officially opened to the public on August 30, 1975. 

Facilities  

The Garden 

The Garden has matured to international stature since opening in 1975.  The mild Vancouver climate allows  the cultivation of an outstanding plant collection over the 22 hectares (55 acres).  It is a delight any time of year with over 7500 kinds of plants from around the world.  The garden design features plant displays in attractive landscape settings.  Specific plantings illustrate botanical relationships, such as the Rhododendron Walk, or geographical origins, as in the Mediterranean Garden. These areas are set amidst rolling lawns, tranquil lakes and dramatic rockwork with vistas of the mountains and city. 

Walking tours are provided by trained volunteer garden guides and are free with the price of admission.  Guide driven electric carts for visitors with limited walking ability are available from April to October. Self-guided walking tours are available throughout the year. 

The Visitor Guide provides a map and walking routes as well as other information of interest to our visitors. 

The “Plant Collection Records” is a list of all plants in the garden.  It is available in the Volunteer Lounge and Library. 

Administration Centre 

The Administration building contains Park Board Administration offices, the Cedar Room, Floral Hall, as well as the VBGA offices including Administration Support, Volunteer Engagement, Education, Development and Membership departments. 

Visitor Centre 

Located off of Oak Street, the Visitor Centre contains the VanDusen Garden Shop, Truffles Fine Foods Garden Café, the Discovery Room (Interpretation Room), the Education Classroom, Library, Volunteer Lounge, the Great Hall, and washrooms. 

Wheelchairs are available for Garden use on a first-served basis.  Also, a wheelchair route map is available from the Cashier. 

Garden Shop 

The Garden Shop specializes in quality products with a horticultural theme – books for the gardener, gift items, pottery, gardening tools, seeds and floral paper products.  With membership to the Garden, volunteers receive a 10% discount on all items purchased (excluding sale items). 

The Garden Café 

The café offers Fair trade coffees, handcrafted hot and cold beverages, epicurean entrees, bistro favourites, and snacks – all freshly prepared on site from the highest quality ingredients.  

Shaughnessy Restaurant 

This is a full-service restaurant, located at the top of the parking lot, and operated on a lease arrangement from the Vancouver Park Board.  

Yosef Wosk Library and Resource Centre 

The VBGA operates a specialized reference library.  It receives many journals, newsletters, seed and nursery catalogues.  The library has a collection of over 4,000 current and out-of-print gardening, horticulture, and botany books, including titles on plant hunting and exploration. The librarian and volunteers are available during library hours to offer assistance. Library hours can be found on our website https://vandusengarden.org/learn/library/  

Bloedel Conservatory

History 

In 1966, while Canada prepared for its Centennial celebrations, two men in Vancouver had a grand vision. Stuart Lefeaux, Superintendent of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, and Deputy Superintendent Bill Livingston wanted to put a project through the Park Board that would enhance the image of Vancouver and give people something to be really excited about! Thanks to a significant contribution by lumber magnate Prentice Bloedel, the Bloedel Conservatory opened December 6th, 1969 and hosted over 500,000 visitors during its first year of operation. 

The Bloedel Conservatory and Plaza development won the prestigious “Vincent Massey Award for Excellence in the Urban Environment” in 1972.  In 1997 the Conservatory was given a “Class A” Heritage designation in recognition of its architectural contribution to the City as a structure of Primary Significance, representing the best example of a style or type of building. 

Bloedel Conservatory 

The crowning glory of Queen Elizabeth Park is the Bloedel Conservatory, built in 1969 at the highest point in Vancouver at 501 ft (153m). The dome is 140 ft (43 m) in diameter and 70 ft (21 m) high at the apex. The Conservatory features three biomes within its expansive triodetic dome – the second largest structure of its kind in North America. Simulated rain forest, subtropic, and desert environments feature over 500 species of plants from the tropical regions of the world. More than 100 free-flying birds and parrots also make their home here, complemented by a waterfall and natural basalt rock pool teeming with Japanese “Koi” fish. Tropical plants include palms, bromeliads, orchids and the many other exotic plants from around the world. The Conservatory and the surrounding plaza were constructed through a very generous donation from Prentice Bloedel in 1969. 

The City of Vancouver nearly lost the Bloedel Conservatory due to budget shortfalls in 2009. Local citizens formed a grassroots non-profit organization called the Friends of the Bloedel. They rallied public support and joined forces with the VanDusen Botanical Garden to submit a proposal to help operate and manage the Conservatory. This proposal was accepted by the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation in September 2010. Today the Bloedel Conservatory is managed jointly by VanDusen Botanical Garden and the Vancouver Botanical Gardens Association (VBGA). 

Volunteer Experience and Expectations

Orientation 

All prospective volunteers are required to complete a general orientation.  

Training 

Specific courses are provided and required for Guides, School Program Leaders and Docents.  All other groups receive role specific training for the volunteer opportunity they wish to pursue.  

Volunteers receive a comprehensive orientation, program specific training as well as ongoing support and recognition. 

Volunteer Recognition 

A recognition event is hosted annually by the VBGA to recognize the activities and support provided by volunteers to the Garden. As well, individual groups hold informal gatherings to recognize the contributions of volunteers to their activities.  

Volunteer Lounge 

The Volunteer lounge located in the Visitor Centre is available to all volunteers for breaks and as an information centre. 

Absences 

If you are unable to meet your volunteer obligation, please attempt to find a replacement for yourself with another member of your volunteer group and/or contact the volunteer or staff person to whom you report, or the Manager, Volunteer Engagement and Operations. 

Change of contact details 

Please notify the Volunteer Engagement & Operations team at 604-257-8469, or by email at volunteersupport@vandusen.org of any changes to contact details or emergency contact. Please also update your online volunteer profile. 

Membership 

Volunteers participating in regular, ongoing activities are required to be a current Vancouver Botanical Gardens Association (VBGA) member. 

Recording volunteer hours 

All volunteers are required to record their volunteer hours in your volunteer profile, myvolunteerpage.com. Volunteer hours are an important measure for the VBGA to demonstrate the quantitative impact and reach of our volunteer force and they’re shared with donors, supporters, and partners. Volunteer hours are also used for certain volunteer recognition initiatives to ensure they’re shared equitably and reflective of the level of service.   

Volunteer Emeritus Initiative 

Volunteers who retire with a minimum 10 years active, regular service as a volunteer, as captured in Better Impact; will receive an invitation to emeritus status by the Director, Volunteer Engagement and Operations. This is an open-ended membership, with the emeritus volunteer free to remain involved or to withdraw from the Initiative at any time. Emeritus volunteers will receive personal recognition in their year of retirement at one or more active-volunteer social events, on-going invitations to attend selected educational and social volunteer events each year; and other benefits as available.  

Problem-solving at VanDusen Botanical Garden and Bloedel Conservatory 

The Vancouver Botanical Gardens Association (VBGA) strives to ensure that volunteering is a positive experience; however, the Association recognizes that from time-to-time concerns, complaints and/or problems will arise.  

Our approach is one that relies on respectful dialogue and individual accountability. We all want what’s best for the Garden and Bloedel and what’s best for the visitor. 

The following process is intended to ensure issues that arise are resolved openly, fairly and quickly. 

Volunteer issue with another volunteer 

A volunteer should seek to resolve problems directly with another volunteer, unless: 

a: The volunteer has already approached the other volunteer and the issue has not been resolved 

b: The volunteer feels the issue is too large or serious an issue to be discussed directly with the other volunteer (e.g. theft or intoxication) 

If any of these situations apply, the volunteer should discuss the issue with his or her Group leader, staff supervisor or the Assistant Executive Director.  If in the case of a), the situation remains unresolved, the Assistant Executive Director will consult with the Executive Director regarding the issue. 

In the case of b) the Assistant Executive Director will take the issue directly to the Executive Director. 

Volunteer issue with a VBGA employee 

A volunteer should seek to resolve his or her concern directly with the employee; unless: 

a: The volunteer has already approached the employee and the complaint has not been resolved 

b: The volunteer feels the complaint is too large or serious an issue to be discussed directly with the employee. 

If any of these situations apply, the volunteer should discuss the situation with the Executive Director. 

In the event that an issue cannot be informally resolved, and to the extent the issue conflicts with the mandate of the VBGA and the Garden, the Executive Director will pursue the following process: 

  1. The first incident will be followed by an oral discussion with the volunteer and if applicable the Group leader.  The volunteer will be given the opportunity to be heard. A verbal warning may be given by the Executive Director at their discretion.
  2. A second incident will be addressed more formally, at the discretion of the Executive Director, with a written warning on behalf of the VBGA and could include contain time-bound objectives and criteria to help the volunteer address specific issues of concern.
  3. A third incident will result in dismissal or a cooling off period, whereby the volunteer’s participation in volunteer activities are temporarily suspended for a period set at the discretion of the Executive Director or Assistant Executive Director. This will be communicated to the volunteer in person or over the phone and followed up by a letter which will be sent to the volunteer within one week of the meeting
  4. Every step of the process will require complete documentation.
  5. If a volunteer feels that they have been mistreated in this process, the volunteer can appeal in writing to the VBGA Board of Directors Human Resources Committee.  Any decision of the Committee will be final.

Code of Conduct 

The Vancouver Botanical Gardens Association (VBGA) offers a comprehensive volunteer program that suits a variety of ages, interests and time availability.  This includes:  

  • A wide-range of volunteer opportunities 
  • Orientation, role specific training, classes and/or workshops 
  • On-going support through peer and/or staff supervision, mentoring, feedback, and guidance 
  • Recognition informally throughout the year and through the VBGA’s annual formal Recognition Program 
  • A respectful, inclusive, and supportive environment for volunteers 
  • Access and time for weekday appointments with the Volunteer Engagement & Operations Manager

As a VBGA volunteer I acknowledge my responsibility and agree to the following: 

  • I will be a positive ambassador for the VBGA, its activities, and its programs. 
  • I will be courteous and respectful to my fellow volunteers, staff, and visitors. 
  • I will fulfill my volunteer responsibilities and commitments and communicate properly if I am unable. 
  • I will not engage in activities that create actual, potential or perceived conflicts of interest, nor will I accept monies, gifts or other dispensations for personal advantage. 
  •  I acknowledge my responsibility and I will maintain confidentiality and privacy with respect to all VBGA information, whether it pertains to volunteers, members, donors, staff, business, or activities. I will securely maintain such information so that is it not visible, accessible or left unattended. 
  • I will act responsibly and ethically. I will take responsibility for my decisions and their consequences. 
  • I will abide by the policies and decisions adopted by the VBGA Board of Directors and of the Garden and not interfere with their application.

The VBGA reserves the right to revoke volunteer participation and privileges for any of the following reasons: 

  • Harassment in any form 
  • Insubordination 
  • Breach of confidentiality 
  • Theft 
  • Excessive, repeated absences 
  • Any other serious breach of the Code of Conduct

To ensure a safe and welcoming environment for all at the Garden and Conservatory, members must abide by the VBGA Member Code of Conduct, volunteers the Code of Conduct and Respectful Workplace Policy outlined below.  Additionally, the City of Vancouver has developed a Safe Access for Everyone Policy which covers everyone in their spaces. Issues that arise will be addressed as outlined in one or more of these policies, as appropriate.   

VBGA Respectful Workplace Policy 

This Respectful Workplace Policy has been adopted by the VBGA Board of Directors to ensure that all volunteers and staff are provided with a workplace that supports each individual’s physical, psychological and well-being. 

In a respectful workplace: 

  • volunteers and staff are valued 
  • communication is polite and courteous 
  • people are treated with respect 
  • conflict is addressed in a positive and respectful manner 
  • disrespectful behaviour and harassment are addressed immediately

What is harassment? 

Harassment is abusive and unwelcome behaviour or comments toward an individual. It can also be unwelcome sexual advances. The British Columbia Human Right Code prohibits harassment in employment and situations. 

What are the benefits of a respectful workplace? 

Everyone deserves a respectful workplace. When people at work offend, embarrass or humiliate others, it hurts the recipient’s dignity and well-being. It also damages working relationships and lowers productivity. Over time, disrespect in the workplace can lead to an unhealthy work environment resulting in a high rate of employee turnover. 

Who is responsible for preventing disrespect? 

Everyone has responsibility for preventing disrespect. 

Source The person whose action offends others. If you think your behaviour offends someone else or if you are informed that your behaviour offends, stop the behaviour. 

Target Tell someone if their behaviour offends you. Ask them to stop. Give a respectful response and avoid blaming. If the behaviour continues or is serious, report the incident to a person with authority. 

Observer If you see an occurrence of disrespectful behaviour. You are not innocent. You have a responsibility to call attention to the disrespectful behaviour by bringing this behaviour to the attention of a person with authority. Offer suggestions for more respectful behaviour. 

Persons with Authority 

Volunteer Chairs, Board Members, Directors, and Managers should address disrespect immediately. Ultimately, it is the VBGA Board of Directors’ responsibility to provide a respectful and harassment-free workplace. To report disrespectful behaviour, direct your concern to the person of authority you report to. If your concern involves this person, direct your concern to VBGA Management or a member of the Executive Committee of the VBGA Board of Directors. 

What is the VBGA to do? 

To ensure a respectful workplace, the VBGA Board of Directors and VBGA Management will provide a healthy work environment by: 

Training 

  • provide training on respectful workplaces to all volunteers and staff 
  • hold orientations with all new employees and at each volunteer orientation to review an individual’s rights, responsibilities, and obligations toward others 
  • provide diversity training 
  • provide conflict resolution training and make sure all Volunteer Chairs, Board of Directors, Managers, and Directors are skilled in handling conflict

Establishing policies & practices 

  • review policies and practices to make sure respect is the organizational norm 
  • develop a respectful workplace policy with the involvement of staff and volunteers  
  • support and encourage people who practice respectful behaviour 

Building accountability 

  • hold VBGA Management, Board of Directors, Volunteer Chairs and staff responsible for their behaviour 
  • investigate all complaints of disrespect and harassment 
  • assess respectful behaviour in performance evaluations

What can an individual do? 

You can model respect by practicing the following behaviour: 

  • try to understand the other person’s point of view 
  • accept values and opinions that are different from your own 
  • identify your own feelings before you share your concerns with another person 
  • do not blame, threaten or name call even if you are angry or hurt 
  • report abuse, discrimination or harassment 

Emergency Procedures 

Volunteer Safety and Emergency Procedures – Bloedel Conservatory 

General Security 

As a volunteer, we encourage you to be vigilant about inappropriate behaviour or activities in the Conservatory. You should avoid confrontations with the public and if you notice inappropriate behaviour, please report it to the Admissions Desk immediately. 

Emergency and First Aid Procedure 

In case of emergency or first aid incident, volunteers should: 

  • If it is a major incident, first call 911, then call/report to the Admissions Desk.  
  • Don’t leave the visitor unattended until help arrives.  
  • If a visitor calls 911, report the incident to the Admissions Desk. 
  • If it is a minor incident (not requiring 911 call), call/report to the Admissions Desk. 
  • Volunteers should not perform first aid or complete incident reports. Please direct the injured party to the admissions staff.  
  • Provide support and take direction from the admissions staff as needed, such as directing EMS to the scene, gathering first aid supplies or crowd control. If there is a major, life-threatening incident such as cardiac arrest, where urgent action is needed, 911 has been called, and if for some reason a staff person is not available; as a private citizen, if you are trained and willing, you may choose to step in. 
  • Post-event, please notify the Assistant Executive Director about the incident at 604.257.8674. For major issues involving a volunteer, you may call 604.990.4799 after hours. 
Admissions Desk  604-257-8584   
Emily Schultz, Business Team Lead  604-375-4962 (cell)  
Bruce McDonald, Superintendent   604-375-5793 (cell) 
Agnes Romses, Conservatory Lead  604-257-8533 

 

First Aid Kits, AED, and Phones 

There is no AED at the Conservatory. There are several basic first aid kits for staff to use during emergencies and as a volunteer you may be asked to bring them to an incident. The Primary First Aid kit is located at the Admissions Desk with a second kit located in the Lunch Room. Phones are located at the Admissions Desk. 

Phones: 

If you need to make a call in an emergency, you should find the cashier at the admission desk, if they are not there for some reason, you may use the phone. 

Emergency Exits and Muster Station 

In case of emergency, please follow the direction of staff. In the event of an emergency requiring evacuation, three exits are available— main entrance and exit doors at admissions, as well as the rear exit doors near the washrooms. Follow staff directions and calmly assist and guide visitors to the nearest exit. In case of evacuation, meet outside the front of the Conservatory. Please stay there until you have been accounted for and told you may leave or reenter. 

Volunteer Safety and Emergency Procedures – VanDusen Garden 

General Security 

As a volunteer, we encourage you to be vigilant about inappropriate behavior or activities in the Garden or Conservatory. You should avoid confrontations with the public and if you notice inappropriate behavior, please report it to the Admissions Desk immediately. 

Emergency and First Aid Procedure 

In case of emergency or first aid incident, volunteers should: 

  • If it is a major incident, first call 911, then call/report to the Admissions Desk.  
  • Don’t leave the visitor unattended until help arrives.  
  • If a visitor calls 911, report the incident to the admissions desk. 
  • If it is a minor incident (not requiring a 911 call), call/report to the admissions desk. 
  • Volunteers should not perform first aid or complete incident reports. Please direct the injured party to the admissions staff.  
  • Provide support and take direction from the admissions staff as needed, such as directing EMS to the scene, gathering first aid supplies or crowd control. If there is a major, life-threatening incident such as cardiac arrest, where urgent action is needed, 911 has been called, and if for some reason a staff person is not available; as a private citizen, if you are trained and willing, you may choose to step in. 
  • Post-event, please notify the Assistant Executive Director about the incident at 604.257.8674. For major issues involving a volunteer, you may call 604.990.4799 after hours. 
Admissions Desk  604.257.8463 
Administration Office  604-257-8666 (Mon to Fri 9am to 4:30pm) 
Emily Schultz, Business Team Lead  604-375-4962 (cell)  
Laura Principe, Garden Superintendent   604.404.1034 (cell) 
Security  604.353.9398 (evenings & weekends) 

First Aid Kits, AED, and Phones 

There is an AED and several basic first aid kits for staff to use during emergencies, as a volunteer you may be asked to bring them to an incident. 

Visitor Centre: 

Main First Aid kits in the Visitor Centre are located at the Admission Desk with a second kit located in the Gift Shop. There is an AED located in the hallway to the Satellite Office (found off the atrium) and can be easily accessed. 

Administration Building: 

There is a first aid kit located at the upper level reception desk with an AED located on the wall next to the washrooms, also on the upper level. 

Phones: 

If you need to make a call in an emergency and you don’t have a cell phone, you may be able to borrow one from a volunteer or visitor close by or you can find a phone at in the visitor centre: admission desk, visitor and membership desk, library or gift shop. In the administration building there are staff phones throughout. 

Emergency Exits and Muster Station 

In case of emergency, please follow the direction of staff. There are a number of emergency exits in the visitor center: the main doors into the centre, the main doors into the Garden, adjacent to the library, adjacent to the volunteer lounge, in the volunteer lounge, the classroom, and from Truffles Café. The muster station is located in the far west side of the parking lot. 

Garden map with gate locations: 

GATES 1 & 2  Public Parking area 

GATE 3 Hudson St. & 37th Avenue – Sino-Himalayan/Korean Pavilion area 

GATE 4 Cartier St. & 37th Avenue – Alma VanDusen Garden area 

GATE 5 Hudson St. & 33rd Avenue – Education Building area 

GATE 6 Osler St. & 33rd Avenue – Service area 

GATE 7 Northeast Corner of the Visitor Centre