Sign up for Sector Connector
Login / Logout Link
GabbyGibbs

Guest Volunteer Blog: The Hands that Give are Never Truly Empty

The hands that give are never truly empty. – Gabby Gibbs, Leader of Tomorrow

If there is one thing I have experienced as a volunteer, it is that I am surrounded by individuals who love as if it is their last day on earth regardless of where I happen to be.

I have been involved in international service trips for the last four years of my life, travelling with a few different organizations to Ecuador, India, Zambia, and this summer, the Philippines. Volunteer travel for me, and even talking about my trips, give me a rush similar to a breakaway in hockey, or the excitement before going down a rollercoaster. It may sound kind of silly, but I think everyone has that one thing that they love so much that it just gets their blood pumping and heart racing.

My first volunteer trip was an incredible adventure to the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador when I was only 16 years old. My parents responded – as most parents would – with a lot of questions and concerns. But with some research and explaining, I eventually won their support.

While in Ecuador, I was working on the construction of a school to serve a community that previously had to send students hours away for an elementary level education, which often prevented them going to school at all. This community was brand new to the organization I was working with so it was crucial to establish a good relationship with the community.

After a week of incredibly hot days digging the foundation, it becomes really easy to feel like you’re making no progress at all. I call this the “not-so unexpected trip slump”. It’s a part of a volunteer trip no one really talks about, but it’s where you learn the most about yourself. About half way through a workday, I was talking to one of the foremen on a water break, and he shared with me the story of how their entire culture is based on what is called “Minga”.

He said, “Do you notice how the children will come and go, bringing different tools to the parents helping us build? Do you notice how the different men and women will come by throughout the day when they have time?”. I nodded; I had noticed this. He told me that ‘Minga’ is a way of life for them in Ecuador. It is when everyone in the community collectively rallies and works towards a common goal. That no matter what you accomplish on any single day, it is the foundation of teamwork and community working towards completing a goal that is what matters most.

From an outsider view, yes, we flew to Ecuador to build this schoolroom. But, I left Ecuador with the irreplaceable lesson that it isn’t about how fast you do something or how much of a project you complete. It is entirely about the journey and the people on it with you. I left this conversation with him saying “manos que dan nunca estaran vacias” which means “the hands that give are never truly empty”. This quote along with the ‘Minga’ lifestyle is to this day one of the greatest gifts in my life.

The silent heroism and selflessness I have experienced in these countries drives me to share their stories in their honor. Knowing they will never be on any headline and they will not be recognized for their life-changing work, but they still do it with all of their hearts and put it all on the line.

Gabby Gibbs grew up in Okotoks, Alberta and graduated from Holy Trinity Academy in 2017. She is passionate about international development and international law and is currently studying Policy and International Business at Mount Royal University. She also has a Certificate in International Volunteering through The Global Travel Academy and has recently completed her Global Collaboration Certificate in Cross Cultural Management at Mount Royal University. She will be completing her Teaching English As A Foreign Language Certificate through the Center for Communication and English Language Teaching this summer in the Philippines while at placement in a local school.

rochelle-nicole-84911

The Next Generation of Advocates

I’m a millennial. Yes, I like avocado toast, I take selfies, I use my phone at the dinner table, and I am partially responsible for the decline of print journalism. I am part of the elusive generation nonprofits worry about recruiting. After all, nonprofits are told that millennials don’t want to work in the sector. And truthfully, young people are notorious for job-hopping. So, if the sector figures out how to recruit us, will we even stay?

The future looks dire.

Unfortunately, I am part of the problem. I have worked at Volunteer Alberta for over six years – first as a Program Coordinator and now as the Communications Coordinator. Last year I went back to school to pursue a Master of Counselling. Unless Volunteer Alberta decides to hire on a therapist, I will soon be moving on in pursuit of my next career.

But is the outlook as bad as it seems?

I have worked and volunteered in the nonprofit sector for over nine years (a significant chunk of my young life) and in that time, I have learned a lot about the sector’s impact, diversity, and challenges. I know the opportunities nonprofits offer those of us who want to make a difference, as well as the sector’s importance in building and strengthening communities.

In other words, I have become an advocate with significant knowledge and experience that helps me see the possibilities and nuances of the nonprofit sector. This won’t change with career shifts. As an advocate, I will continue to share what I know with those I connect with. I will always donate to causes that move me (without complaining about overhead!). I will continue to use my strengths, interests, skills, and even my new education, as a volunteer. I might even continue to work in the sector at a nonprofit agency or mental health organization! And, I know I will share the amazing support services the sector offers with my future clients.

While worrying about how to hire younger generations is fair, the nonprofit sector can also embrace the benefits of engaging young people as volunteers, practicum students, and short-term employees. The future is collaborative and cross-sectoral! Consider thinking outside the box about the ways young people (like me) can, and will, make a difference and help communities meet shared aspirations.

Whether it is through programs like the Serving Communities Internship Program (SCiP), or by making the investment in training someone who is starting their career and new to our sector, engaging young people is how we ‘pass the torch’. Passing the torch is more than finding your next Executive Director – it’s igniting passion and engagement that can last a lifetime.

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

skilled-volunteer

From the Vault – Engaging New Volunteers: 2 Trends to Tap Into

This blog was originally posted November 23, 2016.


Here at Volunteer Alberta, we keep our finger on the pulse of volunteer trends in Alberta and across the country. Two strong trends we have noticed over the past couple years: skilled volunteerism and student involvement.

Skilled Volunteerism

Skilled volunteers share unique skills or talents. Volunteers may share professional skills (accountants, lawyers, veterinarians, or photographers), or they may bring a personal talent or hobby (coaches, home cooks, face painters, or podcasters). Skilled volunteers can also be trained specifically for roles by your organization.

CoachSome examples of amazing skilled volunteers include:

  • an event photographer with an eye for storytelling through pictures
  • a lawyer providing legal advice or assistance
  • translators for newcomers
  • a soccer coach with an understanding of the game
  • web developers creating or enhancing a website

I’ve had some wonderful skilled volunteer experiences. I volunteer as a yoga teacher offering both professional skills and a hobby I enjoy – I am an accredited yoga teacher, and yoga is a personal passion.

I also volunteer as a Distress Line Listener with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), offering support over the phone for people in crisis. I am not a therapist, but this is still a skilled role that required 64 hours of training at CMHA and lots of ongoing development once I started on the lines.

What skills do you have that you might consider contributing to a cause you believe in?

The Window of Work is a great way to identify what skills or talents you may have to share.

Student Involvement

smiling-woman2In many ways, the trend of student involvement at nonprofit organizations is an extension of skilled volunteerism.

Students may volunteer for the opportunity to build their portfolios or gain professional experience. This includes offering newly acquired skills in areas like communications, medicine, counselling, or business planning. Nonprofits also provide real world experience for classroom concepts through programs like Community Service Learning (CSL). CSL is offered as a required placement in some post-secondary courses such as Human Ecology, Native Studies, Public Health, and Languages.

Serving Communities Internship Program

Volunteer Alberta’s Serving Communities Internship Program (SCiP) is another way students can offer their skills and learn new ones in Alberta nonprofit organizations. Launched in 2011, SCiP supports nonprofits to create skilled, part-time internships for post-secondary students. Organizations access talent, skills, and added human capacity, and students build their resumes, networks, and work experience while earning a $1000 award from the Government of Alberta. Over the past five years, SCiP has filled 5000 internships at 500 organizations in 50 Alberta communities.

SCiP is successful because it offers mutual benefit for students and nonprofits, as well as for the communities they serve. In the long term, SCiP is also strengthening communities by developing sector advocates, supporters, and successors.

The great thing is that none of these benefits are limited to the Serving Communities Internship Program – by tapping into skilled volunteerism and student involvement, these outcomes are available to the whole nonprofit sector far beyond SCiP’s yearly capacity for internships.

Skilled Volunteerism & Student Engagement beyond SCiP

To begin engaging volunteers in skilled positions at your organization, start asking questions:

  • How can we engage people based on their skills, passion, and unique gifts?
  • How can we use volunteerism and community involvement as a tool for education? As a means of promoting our sector?
  • How does our approach to volunteerism change when we fill skilled position or engage students? What are the concerns and the opportunities?

It’s likely your answers will be slightly different than other nonprofits – but, no matter what your answers are, they will open up new pathways for volunteer involvement in your organization.

Does your nonprofit already strive to involve skilled volunteers and students to meet your mission? Tell us about your tips and successes in the comments!

Keep reading about skilled volunteerism on our website or learn more about SCiP.  

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

Young team

Leadership Takes Many Forms

The Casey Executive Coaching Leader as Coach Program is a developmental program for nonprofit leaders focused on building inclusive leadership practices and practical coaching skills. A leader-as-coach approach helps leaders, as well as staff, to develop to their highest potential.

In a unique partnership, Volunteer Alberta was given a spot in the program at a reduced cost in exchange for sharing the program with others. Our Serving Communities Internship Program (SCiP) Coordinator, Tim Henderson, signed up for the program to develop his mentorship style. Tim found the concepts, theories, and techniques, introduced by Melissa Casey, helped him to understand what kind of leader he is and how he can use his skills to better help others.

We asked Tim what he learned from the course. If you choose to take the Leader as Coach Program you may learn something similar, or you may focus on your own learning goals instead!


VA: What did you experience from the course?

TH: It was fascinating to hear from the other participants in the group and get a sense of the roles they play in their own organizations. We discussed what leadership meant to each of us and found each person in the group had completely different strengths and weaknesses. What was interesting to see was how those traits shaped their respective leadership styles.

Hearing the stories of others helped me appreciate my own strengths, but they also helped me understand the steps I can take to improve my weaknesses and become a better leader.

Throughout the program we were given a number of opportunities to practice ‘active listening’ in both one-on-one and group scenarios. This type of listening helped us build trust amongst ourselves and ended up paving the way for more fruitful conversations as the course progressed.

VA: What did you take away from the course overall?

TH: Overall, I learned that leadership takes many forms. Every personality is different, but through active listening, anyone can provide leadership in their organization. We all have something different to bring to the table and, if given the tools, we are all capable of stepping into leadership. Through this program, Melissa (our host), provided these tools. Coming back to my organization after finishing the course, I found that I was able to connect and communicate with my colleagues more effectively.


Leader as Coach is designed for the nonprofit sector. Continuous learning and development supports positive change in ourselves and our work. Implementing change in our lives, work, and organizations can be challenging, so we get excited about opportunities that build in time to have practical hands-on experience and provide transformative leadership learning! Tim would recommend this course for anyone who is looking for personal or professional development related to leadership.

Do you want to sign up for Leader as Coach? Register to participate in the fall session beginning in October. This program is offered in both Calgary and Edmonton. Find out more about this program on the Casey Executive Coaching website.

Apple Computer

What does Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation mean for your nonprofit?

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) is coming into full force July 1, 2017 after a transition period of three years. The law prohibits sending commercial emails to Canadians without their consent. Here are some considerations to help ensure your organization is following this legislation:

We are a nonprofit! Our emails aren’t “commercial” are they? 

Your emails are commercial if they include or advertise any programs, services, or products the recipient could pay for.

For nonprofit organizations, commercial content in emails might include advertising membership, sharing workshop opportunities, selling event tickets, or promoting a corporate sponsor. If your emails include this type of information, CASL applies to your work.

For registered charities, soliciting donations is not considered a commercial activity.

CASL applies to my organization – what do we need to do?

You need to do three things to meet CASL: get consent, include identifying information about your organization, and include an unsubscribe function.

1. Get Consent

Your email recipients need to agree to receive emails from you.

In most cases, your organization is required to get expressed consent. This means email recipients need to ‘opt-in’ to receive your emails.

Implied consent is acceptable with your members, donors, volunteers, business relationships, and program participants who have been actively engaged with your organization in the past two years. Keep in mind, consent is only implied within the boundaries of that particular relationship – for example, you may only have implied consent from program participants for emails about said program. Implied consent needs to be renewed every two years.

When in doubt, get expressed consent!

2. Include Identifying Information

Your email recipients need to know who is sending the email (your organization) and how to get in touch with you. Add your nonprofits email, phone number, or address to your emails in a signature line or an email footer.

3. Include an Unsubscribe Function

Just because your email recipient gave consent, doesn’t mean they can’t withdraw that consent at a later time. You need to have a way for them to do this (like an unsubscribe button) and a process for ensuring you don’t keep emailing them after they have asked to be removed from your list.

What happens if my organization makes a mistake?

Originally, private citizens would have been allowed to file lawsuits against organizations and individuals who did not follow CASL as of July 1, 2017. The provisions allowing these private lawsuits were suspended this week.

The Competition Bureau, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, and the CRTC can all still take legal action to enforce CASL, with penalties for the most serious violations ranging up to $10 million.

As well, personal assets of board members are no longer at risk in the case of a mistake or CASL noncompliance.

It is important for nonprofit organizations to ensure that their insurance covers possible risks.

More information on CASL for nonprofits

Lucky for all of us, there are many great CASL resources available for nonprofits! Here are some good places to look for more information, tools, and templates:

Please keep in mind that Volunteer Alberta is not able to offer legal advice. We hope the information we have offered is helpful and we encourage your nonprofit to contact a lawyer with any legal questions.

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

Not-for-profit Web Consulting & Digital Marketing by Adster Creative