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Four Ways to ‘Be the Change’ We Want to See in the World

This blog was originally published by Imagine Canada on March 7, 2017.


The nonprofit sector is unlike any other.

We exist to protect the values of equity, inclusion, ethics, accountability, transparency, compassion, human rights, justice and sustainability in society. We advocate for our governments, public institutions and corporations to respect these values. We fight for values-based systems change.

Needless to say this is challenging work – especially when paired with the pressures of fundraising, fiscal prudence and accountability. After spending the resources and energy needed to balance these priorities, there is often little left to look inwards – to ensure we have internalized the values we are asking other institutions to uphold.

While this is something that has long been in the back of my mind while working in the sector, it was during a trip home over the holidays that I had the chance to give it some greater reflection. When visiting with my father, I noticed a pile of wrapping paper on his desk. I asked where it came from and he said it was a ‘thank you’ from one of the organizations to which he donates. At first I thought nothing of it, most charities have a Christmas campaign to thank their donors.

But as I saw the paper go unused over the holidays and make its way to the recycling bin, I began to think about the broader implication of a child-focused humanitarian organization giving away a paper-based product.

A growing threat to children in the Global South is climate change. In many low-income countries, children experience the greatest impacts through rising sea levels, extreme weather, desertification, disease, and food insecurity. And one of our greatest defenses against climate change is carbon offsetting through reforestation. So, if we are thinking in systems – is the give-away of a paper-based product at odds with the values of a humanitarian organization whose majority of work is done in the Global South?

I reflected on my time working in the nonprofit sector and other examples of decisions that didn’t fully align with the espoused values of the organization or consideration of the broader system: giving away wasteful items at fundraising events; using images and stories of children in developing countries without consent in marketing materials; and creating internships that only the privileged can afford.

And I began to ask myself, if we are advocating for corporations and governments to change their practices so that systems change can occur, should we not be asking the same of ourselves? How can we support organizational cultures that will work with intent to enact our espoused values?

Here are four ways nonprofits can move towards being an organization that lives the change it wants to see in the world:

1. Internalize your Vision, Mission and Values:

Most organizations have a clearly articulated vision, mission and values. These are used to communicate with the public and inform programming, but they can also be used to guide how every department functions. For example, if your organization’s vision focuses on child-wellbeing – do you ensure a work-life balance that would best enable your staff to raise healthy and happy children? If inclusion is one of your organizational values, do you have a Board with diverse representation and meaningful participation, including from the communities you serve?

Take Action: Have each department reflect on how the organizational vision, mission and values guide their work and design actions. For example, if equity is one of your values – how will your volunteer managers ensure internship opportunities for people with diverse socio-economic backgrounds? Key performance indicators and targets should be assigned to each action and regularly monitored.

2. Hire for Values Alignment:

As the nonprofit sector becomes increasingly professionalized, hiring to secure specific skills and expertise is important, but hiring for values alignment is still just as important for values-based organizations. And this is true for every position in the organization, from the Board to volunteers. Once your organization has aligned the work of each department with the values of the organization, it will be easier to hire individuals who can demonstrate a commitment to the vision, mission and values through their work experience.

Take Action: During interviews ask questions that will give insight into value alignment with your organization and the position.  Ask the interviewee to give an example as to how they enacted one of your organizational values in a previous job. Present a scenario that would require the interviewee to make a decision and ask what considerations they would give to arrive at a decision.

3. Always Think in Systems:

Many of us are familiar with this way of thinking at it applies to program design. However, this approach to planning can also be applied to the design of internal processes and events. Being social and/or environmentally focused organizations, it is important that our decision-making considers the interconnectedness of society, the environment and the economy. As demonstrated with the example of the child-focused organization and climate change, we as a sector cannot address one of these elements without considering the others.

Take Action: Next time your organization is planning an event, campaign, process or policy – take some time to map out how it impacts the broader system. For example, if your organization does a lot of travel, what are some ways you could consider people, the environment and the economy in your planning? Could you actively engage in carbon offsetting activities such as using more telecommunications or encouraging staff to rent the most fuel-efficient vehicles?  Could you source local food for catering, and stay in locally owned hotels?

4. Create Cross-Functional Collaboration:

In every organization I have worked for, there have been times of tension between the programming and fundraising teams. Sometimes programming staff can feel the fundraising campaigns are at odds with the organization’s mission and fundraising staff can feel the programming staff are too restrictive in creating creative campaigns. This is not necessarily unhealthy but it can reveal gaps in clarity on the organizational values and how they apply to each department. And when not addressed, it can lead to internal dysfunction and disillusioned staff. By providing opportunity for cross-functional training and collaboration, all staff will have the opportunity to see how the organization lives their values across each organizational function. This will lead to a more aligned organization.

Take Action: Create cross-functional teams during the planning stages.  Programming staff should participate in planning for fundraising to help ensure the campaigns do not clash with the programming goals of the organization and fundraising staff should participate in programming meetings to help design scalable and marketable programs.

Each of these steps will lead to the creation of a beautifully aligned organization – one with engaged employees, efficient decision-making, safe spaces for risk-taking and innovation, cohesive teams, and unwavering confidence.

But more importantly, as our sector shines the light on our governments and corporations – asking them to look at their practices to create systems change, we will only be more influential when we are walking the talk.

As Mahatma Gandhi is so often quoted, “Be the change that you want to see in the world”.

Carissa MacLennan

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To Mentor or Coach: That is the Question

Volunteer Alberta is proud to promote Creating People Power’s Mentor Coach program, a unique opportunity for cross-sector, experiential learning to build your leadership skills and your network! In this post, Linda Maul from Creating People Power shares some of her insights on leading as both a mentor and a coach.


The best leader I ever worked for was a gentleman by the name of Aubrey Liddiard at Mid-West Paper, and he has been my role model over the past thirty some years. Whenever I am not sure of what to do as a leader, I ask myself ‘What would Aubrey do?’ 

What Would Aubrey Do?

Aubrey definitely had high expectations for his staff. He was my biggest cheerleader when I got things right. He always approached a conversation by inviting my ideas first, believing I had a piece of the puzzle he was unaware of, that I knew something he didn’t. When I did make a mistake, he would invite conversation to ensure I understood what had happened and then expected me to correct it. If I missed a deadline, the conversation always focused on my accountability to myself and the organization to meet commitments. He taught me how to manage expectations if there was even a hint of being late with an assignment. He was my mentor and my coach, sometimes telling me what to do if it was something new for me; other times asking questions, taking a coach approach, so that I came up with my own solution.

Today employees expect leaders to show up like Aubrey: to support others to be their best and to develop the next generation of leaders. Aubrey maintained control and achieved results – in fact he exceeded overall objectives year after year. However, he didn’t command employees to deliver. Instead, he inspired, motivated, and supported us to meet his expectations. He was a masterful coach and wise mentor who knew how and when to share his ideas and when to invite our input. His approach was always to start with a question first to understand what we already knew in any given situation.

What is the Difference Between Mentoring and Coaching?

To understand the difference, we need to know the definitions of mentoring and coaching:

MENTORING occurs when more experienced individuals share their wisdom and experience with staff or volunteers on a one-on-one basis. Mentoring often addresses topics like workplace culture, career growth, political savvy, specific skill development, or professional networking.

COACHING is based on the premise that the answers lie within the staff member or volunteer. Coaching is focused on the solutions the team member can create, not the answers the mentor brings. A coach will use questions to invite the volunteer or employee to tap into their own knowledge, experiences, and wisdom to move forward. Through coaching, the ability to develop and build on ideas is supported and practiced for successful execution today and in the future.

To Mentor or Coach?

Not sure whether to mentor or coach? Ask first! Always approach any potential mentoring situation with a question or series of questions to see if your employee or volunteer can solve their own dilemma or challenge. They may have insight into pieces of the puzzle that you are unaware of. Step in as their mentor only when you know the answers don’t lie within.

Still not sure about mentoring or coaching? Ready to learn more? Join Creating People Power’s Mentor Coach program, or get in touch.

Linda Maul
Creating People Power

Linda is a Professional Certified Coach, founder of Creating People Power with over twenty years of professional leadership development, eight years of executive coaching, and co-author of two books.  Her coaching practice includes a diverse group of senior leaders who are hungry to grow. If you have not experienced coaching, book Linda today for a complimentary session….you are one click away! 

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Nonprofits – YOU can create a politically engaged generation!

This week we are sharing a guest blog from Apathy is Boring on their Election Readiness Toolkit and what it has to do with your nonprofit.


apathy-is-boringEven though Alberta is not in an election cycle right now, democracy, and its implications, are at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds. Building the relationship between young citizen and their government has never been more important.

So what can we do to make sure we educate all Canadians, and Albertans, on the role that democracy and voting play in our lives?

At Apathy is Boring, we think about this question a lot, and part of the solution is education. We have partnered with Elections Alberta to support youth electoral engagement through the community sector.

Why are nonprofit and community organizations perfectly primed for this important job?

Because:

  • They are at the heart of community and are already hubs for civic engagement
  • They create bridges between individuals and their larger communities by connecting with people of all ages and all walks of life as volunteers, clients, staff, and stakeholders
  • They know how to inspire and motivate people to address social issues, build strong communities, and get involved

Together, we can make civic engagement fun, relevant, and important to young Albertans.

students-500x500pxWe believe it is imperative that young Canadians, (between the ages of 16 and 30), are engaged and informed on civic engagement, democracy, and government, whether or not they learn about these topics through formal education.

Through tools like videos and games, as well as with the support of local nonprofit and community organizations, we believe that even the busiest, most disinterested young person can take a few minutes to turn their attention towards the bigger picture, learn about the democratic system, and equip themselves with the tools and knowledge necessary for effective, genuine engagement.

In order to help facilitate this learning process, we’ve created an Election Readiness Toolkit. There are three tools in the toolkit: a manual, a game, and a video.

We are sharing the Election Readiness Toolkit with nonprofit and community organizations across Alberta so you can pass it on to youth you are already connected with.

How can your nonprofit get involved?

STEP 1: Download the manual if your organization offers programing or volunteer opportunities for youth (16-30). The Election Readiness Toolkit includes a manual that we developed to help organizations support youth engagement when an election is called. In it, you’ll find community engagement tips, case studies, academic findings, and more.

STEP 2: Play the game! You can share the game with the youth you connect with in workshops or online through social media and newsletters. We’ve created a Day in the Life Quiz (very Buzzfeed of us) that highlights the connection between everyday life and government. Understanding how each level of government affects day-to-day life is essential to inspiring engagement and defeating apathy.

STEP 3: Watch the short video and share it. This accessible video helps build the bridge between youth, their government, and the issues they care about. We explain how the voting process works in Alberta and how policy is relevant to youth and their communities. You can play the video during a workshop or share it online.

TogetherFor more information and to check out the Election Readiness Toolkit, click here.

Remember: building a stronger democracy benefits everyone! With your support, we are working to engage youth across the province of Alberta. Nonprofit organizations are a powerful influence – let’s make sure we take this chance to impact the next generation!

Sophie Babinski
Apathy is Boring

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Guest Post: Rekindle your love for your work

We are excited to share this guest post from leadership coach, Kathy Archer. Learn more about Kathy and Silver River Caching.


ThoughtfuAre you tired of getting up in the morning, and heading to work to spin your wheels chasing a to-do list and putting out fires?

At the end of that day, do you wonder what you actually got done? Has this routine left you feeling worn-out and stuck?

If you have grown tired of energy sucking routines, then it might be time to reconnect to the reason you came to do this work in the first place. It is time for you to awaken your heart, remind yourself of why you do this work and reconnect to your passion.

Remember back to when you came to your organization or this field of work. It may have been years ago, but see if you can get a peek back there for a moment. I suspect if you allow yourself to recollect those days, you will see there was more energy, excitement, and enthusiasm for your work. You’ll likely get glimpses of smiles, laughter, or heated bursts of passionate appeals for the cause.

Contrast that to now, which, for many of us, is the same old, same old every day. You know what to expect; emails that never end, the battle you have to fight with the board member, wondering once again about how to stretch the limited dollars of your program, and then getting home late after another long day that felt far from meaningful work.

Getting lost in the crazy cycle tends to disconnect us from the deeper meaning behind what we do. Because we believe we need to get stuff done immediately, we tend to skim over the surface of everything. In doing the shallow tasks, we miss the richer, more meaningful work.

So, how do you reconnect and rekindle the love of your work?

3 ways to bring your passion back to work

Jump with Joy1)    Look back to when you first started out in this career, what stories, memories leap out at you? Pay attention – the clearest recollections will point toward your passions.

2)    Take notes about what you discover in your memories and other things you care deeply about in regards to your work. Write your passions down in a clear and precise way then place it somewhere that you will see often, at work or at home.

3)    When you are having a “bad” day or moment, take a look at your list and remind yourself of why you do the work you do. Reconnect to your heart and let it guide forward, out of the mess.

quoteYes, it’s easy to get lost in the to-do lists, the phone calls, and the emergencies that land on our desks. But if you are tired of that, reconnect to why you do this work.

Most of us got into this line of work because we care deeply about people and love being connected to them knowing that we are making a difference. It is possible to get back to that reality if you fan the flames of the passion that brought you here in the first place.

You can rekindle your love of your work by being aware of your passion and allowing it to guide you. I suspect you will connect more with people, attend to things in a way that brings meaning to you and your clients, and inspires others on your staff team to stay focused on the great work that you do.


Kathy is a leadership coach for women who want to strengthen their leadership & find balance in life. She mentors women as they rediscover their purpose, passion, and persistence for life while dealing with office politics, jerk bosses and the challenges of family life. Kathy gives her ladies the hope and inspiration they need along with a kick in the pants to make positive changes in their lives. Discover more in Kathy’s book Mastering Confidence: Discover Your Leadership Potential by Awakening Your Inner Guidance System Find Kathy at silverrivercoaching.com

 

 

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Guest Post: Ten things nonprofits want funders to know

This article originally appeared on the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) blog October 17, 2016.


onnONN has heard a lot about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to funding. Through our policy work, and our outreach and engagement of our network and working groups of nonprofit leaders, we’ve heard from organizations of all sizes over the years from a variety of sectors and parts of Ontario. These ten things keep bubbling up.

So, we’re sharing them here to open a discussion about funding: how it flows, how it can be used, how it’s evaluated, and how data and information is shared. Whether it’s from government or non-government funders, what can be done to improve investment in the sector? Here’s what the nonprofit sector wants funders to know:

1. Budget flexibility: Rather than restrictions, help us innovate and invest in the essentials that we need to deliver on our missions.

2. Measuring success: Together, let’s find great ways to measure success. Focusing on overhead ratio is not an adequate way to measure our work or missions.

3. A resilient workforce: Your funding practices determine whether we can offer decent work and avoid losing our best and brightest to other sectors with better salaries, more secure employment, and benefits.

4. Meaningful evaluation: We want you to work with us to develop appropriate evaluation strategies that can help us to do our work better, while also leading to learnings for both of us.

5. Budget size: To foster healthy growth in the sector, let’s find alternatives to funding rules based on current budget size (aka Budget Testing– limiting funding based on an organization’s current budget size.) This can perpetuate existing inequities and hamstring growing nonprofits. How can an organization grow if it’s always pegged as “small”?

6. Applications: Help reduce costs to apply for funding- use a streamlined, fast-tracked application process and letters of intent.

7. Admin burden proportionate to funding: Adopt application processes, reporting requirements, and expected outcomes proportional to the level of funding provided (and vice versa).

8. Share what’s happening: Talk about the other projects or programs you fund. If you give us information and share data, we can build more effective partnerships.

9. Work with other funders: To streamline funding administration, create common granting guidelines, application forms, and reporting processes.

10. Matching funds: Do away with requiring matching funding as a condition of being approved for a grant; many rural, small, and newer organizations will especially benefit, including those serving marginalized populations.

Liz Sutherland
ONN

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