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From the Vault – Microvolunteering: the benefits and drawbacks

April is a busy month for volunteerism! April 23-29, communities across the country will be celebrating volunteers and volunteerism for National Volunteer Week.

volunteer-lethbridgeBut first, Saturday, April 15 is Microvolunteering Day – an opportunity to learn more, get involved, or offer microvolunteering opportunities.

Last year, Volunteer Lethbridge promoted Microvolunteering Day as part of their National Volunteer Week celebrations, and shared with us some the benefits and drawbacks of Microvolunteering.

We originally shared the following post April 6, 2016.


From the Microvolunteering Day website:

“Microvolunteering is bite-sized, on-demand, no commitment actions that benefit a worthy cause.”

Some examples of microvolunteering include:

  • Tweeting about an organization or event
  • Baking a cake, knitting a hat, or writing a card for a cause
  • Picking up garbage in your community
  • Participating in a survey or research project
  • Signing a petition
  • Helping a senior with their groceries or yard work

I talked to Chelsea Sherbut, Volunteer Lethbridge’s Development Coordinator, to learn more about microvolunteering and what Volunteer Lethbridge has planned for the day.

Sam Kriviak: How is microvolunteering different from traditional volunteering? What are the benefits and drawbacks of microvolunteering?

Chelsea Sherbut: Unlike most normal volunteer opportunities, there is no application process, no screening, and no real commitment with microvolunteering. Usually you don’t have to go to a specific place to do it. It can often be done for home on your own time. You can see that there can be a lot of benefits!

Some drawbacks are that volunteers might miss out on making some of the “real life” connections that you get with traditional volunteering, and it’s not the kind of volunteer opportunity that improves your résumé. It still can be tremendously impactful, though, and is a fantastic option for people who feel like they are too busy to volunteer.

SK: What about for volunteer-engaging organizations?

CS: For organizations, microvolunteering offers a way to create more engagement and an easy platform for people to get to know your organization better. It’s a good opportunity to expose people to your mission and slowly build an ambassador for your work!

It can also be a lot easier to attract volunteers for these kind of opportunities. We often talk about eliminating barriers to volunteering and this is one great way. If you can create an opportunity that requires as few barriers as possible you’ve made it almost impossible for a prospective volunteer to say no!

Creating microvolunteering opportunities isn’t without challenges, but if you are creative, there are a lot of potential ways to use volunteers on a micro-scale: research and data collection, citizen science, online petitions, donations of specific items, brainstorming (i.e. naming your new exhibit/campaign), social media marketing, clean ups, etc.!

SK: Along with many other community celebrations, Volunteer Lethbridge is recognizing Microvolunteering Day as part of National Volunteer Week. What are your plans for the day?

CS: Yes we have a very busy week, so this one is a bit low key. Our main plans are:

  • to highlight a different microvolunteering opportunity each hour throughout the day on social media;
  • to complete some microvolunteering actions in our office.

SK: Why did you feel it was important to celebrate Microvolunteering Day? How does microvolunteering benefit Lethbridge?

CS: We want everyone in Lethbridge to consider themselves a volunteer. Microvolunteering is one super simple, super fast way to get involved that EVERYONE has time for. We’d also like to start building an awareness of how agencies can be creative when they are coming up with ways to engage more volunteers.

SK: If people are interested in microvolunteering, where can they go for more information or to get involved?

CS: For people outside of Lethbridge, check out the Microvolunteering Day website. In Lethbridge, check out our Facebook page on Friday, April 15th for a ton of great ideas and opportunities all day long! We would love to hear what micro-actions others in the province are doing too!


Thank you so much to Chelsea from Volunteer Lethbridge for sharing with us!

Do you have plans or ideas for Microvolunteering Day? Let us know in the comments! Places to find out more:

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From the Vault – Privacy Protection: 4 easy steps

This blog was originally posted August 30, 2016.


Young employeeEarlier this year, we shared three ways that being privacy conscious can improve your organization’s reputation. By being privacy conscious you can help strengthen your organization’s reputation, enhance the trust in your staff, and even increase the loyalty of donors, participants, and volunteers.

So what steps can your organization take to improve your privacy practices?

In Alberta, the Personal Information and Protection Act (PIPA) is part of our privacy legislation. PIPA is an outline of best practices for privacy protection, and all organizations can benefit by meeting these standards.

Did you know?

Most nonprofit organizations are only legally required to follow PIPA when collecting, using, or disclosing personal information as part of a commercial activity. For example, operating a day care, emailing your donor list, or selling products, training, or a membership.

Service Alberta has created a workbook specifically for nonprofit organizations to help evaluate and improve privacy protection practices. We have gone through the workbook and highlighted these four best practices for you.


4 Best Practices for Privacy Protection

1. Have a good reason for collecting the information you do.

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What personal information does your organization collect for each program or service that it offers?

Collecting a client’s birthday might be appropriate if your program has a minimum or maximum age requirement, but it would be unnecessary if the client simply wanted to sign up for your newsletter.

Your organization can create a list of the information your organization collects, along with the purpose for collecting each piece. If you find that your organization is collecting more information than it needs, arrange to get rid of the extra information you already have, and stop collecting the information from new participants.

2. Designate a privacy contact person.

Envelope cartoonChoose one person to be a privacy contact person (staff member, volunteer, or board member) to answer questions or requests about the personal information your organization collects.

This person should be familiar with your organization’s privacy policies and procedures, and be readily available to answer any questions.

3. Get consent for collecting, using, and disclosing personal information.

Pen cartoonThere are two types of consent, implied consent and express consent:

Implied consent: Implied consent is acceptable in situations where it is really clear why you are collecting personal information and how you will use it. For example, taking a donor’s credit card information on the payment screen.

Express consent: Most of the time it is a good idea for your organization to provide added clarity for people and provide the opportunity for them to expressly consent to the collection, use, and disclosure of their personal information.

Two examples of express consent statements your organization might use:

1. Your organization is collecting income information for program participants to ensure they meet the low-income requirement:

The income information you have provided will be used to determine your eligibility for the program, and will only be shared within our agency.

□ I consent this information can be used within the organization to verify eligibility.

2. Your organization is collecting medical information for day camp attendees:

My child’s provided medical information will be shared with camp volunteers to assist them in recognizing a medical emergency. I consent to the collection of my child’s personal information for this purpose.

Signature:  ______________

4. Safeguard and protect the information you collect.

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The personal information your organization keeps on your clients, donors, members, staff, and volunteers is sensitive. Take care of other people’s information as if it were your own:

  • Lock your filing cabinets and password protect all devices, including laptops, tablets, and flash drives.
  • Limit access to personal information to relevant staff or volunteers.
  • Don’t keep information you don’t need. For example, if you need to verify your volunteer has a driver’s license, make a note that it has been verified rather than keeping a copy of the driver’s license on file.

Remember: Social insurance numbers, credit card information, birthdates, names, and addresses can all be used in identity theft. Medical information, criminal record checks, and income information can also have serious impacts on personal relationships, careers, and housing.

While privacy protection may require you to create new policies, or change your procedures, in the end best practices help your organization to protect those people who are integral to the work you do. After all, nonprofit organizations exist for the people we serve – let’s all do the best job that we can!

Does your organization follow these best practices? Do you have room for improvement? Let us know in the comments!

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

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Engaging New Volunteers: 2 Trends to Tap Into

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 postsecondary 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 4000 internships at 500 organizations in 50 Alberta communities. For the 2016/17 program year, SCiP has already filled over 400 of our available 1000 internship positions.

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

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How to be a Bigger Person at work in 3 steps

I found lots of tools for supporting interpersonal relationships, including workplace dynamics, at a mindfulness-based counselling workshop I recently attended, offered by Hakomi Edmonton. I wrote about one in my last blog on different staff needs, values, and motivations.

One of the most useful tools I gained at the workshop is the idea of expansive and contracted selves, or, being our big and little selves. After sharing it with my colleagues Volunteer Alberta, I thought other nonprofit staff may also find it helpful.

How to be the Bigger Person in our work

When it comes to interpersonal relationships, how do you choose to be a bigger person at work? And how can you tell whether you are showing up as a big or little self so that you can opt for being ‘big’?

Here are three important steps:

1. Understand ‘whois talking

planImagine your best self –  the version of yourself that is kind and respectful, brave and honest, committed to your values and ideals, hardworking and optimistic, reflective and mature, fair and willing to give the benefit of the doubt. This is your expansive, or ‘big’ self

We don’t always show up like this.

We all have times when we feel hurt, confused, scared, inexperienced, tested, angry, or frustrated, and the contracted, or ‘little’ side of us bubbles up to the surface. We start to play games, point fingers, build defenses, and assume the worst of others. We act like we did when we were children, except we have the smokescreen of looking and sounding like adults.

We act like this because our ‘little’ self believes we are not going to get our needs met – whatever those needs are – and starts to use the strategies we learned when we were young to beat the system: maybe acting out, maybe making someone else responsible, or maybe apologizing profusely to cover our butts.

Is it a good idea to let a four, eight, or even thirteen-year-old try to navigate professional adult relationships? Children just don’t have the tools, so let’s kindly get them out of the situation.

2. Examine how’ we are relating to others

How do you know if you are expanded or contracted? Both selves have valid needs and a wide range of emotions, but different behaviour. We relate to others from three perspectives: I, you, and we. In each of these perspectives, we have the opportunity to be our ‘big’ or ‘little’ selves.

I/i
You’re thinking about yourself when you are in ‘I’ perspective.

What are my needs, how am I going to communicate them, and how will I get them met?

womanBig I’s know that we have a right to our needs and that our needs are important. Big I’s are straightforward, confident, and respectful.

Little i’s don’t think we are going to get our needs met, and start using sneaky strategies to try to make sure we get what we need. This could look like playing games, lying, or being passive aggressive.

Example:

You are stressed out. Your boss has assigned you too much work and the only way to finish it all is to come in on weekends.

Big I: You tell your boss that you have too much on your plate and that you won’t be able to complete it all. You know you are only paid for a 40-hour week, and you need to fix the problem so that you aren’t working unpaid overtime.

Little i: You don’t believe your boss values your time, or maybe they are so bad at their job that the work keeps filtering down to you. You pretend to lose emails assigning you new work, or play sick to get much-needed time off.

You/you
You’re thinking about the other person when you’re in ‘you’ perspective.

What do they need and how can I help them get it?

2-attrib-wocintechBig You’s know that other people have important needs and that, sometimes, they are even more important than our own needs. Big You’s are helpful and supportive, as well as aware of our own strengths and limits to assisting others.

Little you’s worry that focussing on others will mean our own needs won’t get met. Little you’s help other people only when we think it will help ourselves.

Example:

Your colleague is sick and they were supposed to run a workshop today. You’ve been asked to step in.

Big You: Right now you are able to do the workshop and your colleagues isn’t. Your work isn’t as pressing, so you are able to step up and help them out of a tight spot.

Little you: You believe you’re always shortchanged when other people can’t fulfill their responsibilities. You’ll help this time because it will make you look good in your upcoming evaluation, but your colleague better pay you back or they are getting the cold shoulder.

We/we
You’re thinking about everyone when you are in ‘we’ perspective.

How do we all get what we need? What strategies can we use to take care of all of us?

cooperativeBig We’s value everyone’s best interests and believe there are solutions that can work for everyone, so that you can succeed together. Big We’s are collaborative and flexible.

Little we’s have learned relationships are necessary, but believe one person will always be the winner and want to make sure they don’t lose out. This means taking turns and keeping score, with resentment as soon as something seems unfair.

Example:

Your organization needs funding and doesn’t have a designated grant writer. Someone has to take time away from their regular work to write a grant application.

Big We: This grant would benefit all of your work – you will pick who will write it based on their skills and availability, and all of you can work together to make sure any missed work is handled within the department.

Little we: You can write the grant this time, but that means another colleague will have to do it next time to keep things fair. You make sure to remind your colleague that they have less on their plate this time around as you juggle the application and your regular work.

3. Start taking steps toward being a bigger person

Half the battle is being able to recognize when you are being ‘big’ or ‘little’ with your colleagues, boss, team, clients, volunteers, and stakeholders.

As you start noticing what helps you stay expansive (so that everyone can win), see where your stumbling blocks are. Then check in – how would your best self make sure you get your needs met using all the skills, wisdom, and compassion you have as an adult?

Recognizing these approaches in other people can also help you respond empathetically and model expansive behaviour until the other person is able to meet you there, rather than taking the bait and joining them in a contracted state.

 

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

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Celebrate the people power behind volunteers on Volunteer Managers Day

 “Managers of volunteers work hard to make sure volunteer programs run smoothly. They care about keeping volunteers fulfilled and engaged.

And volunteers who feel fulfilled in their roles are more likely to stick to their volunteer commitments.

That’s something worth celebrating.”

-Volunteer Canada


ivmday16November 5 is International Volunteer Managers Day – an opportunity to recognize the people who make volunteering happen in Alberta and around the world.

About 2 million Albertans volunteer. That energy and commitment to our communities is astounding, and it’s important to acknowledge the Volunteer Managers who engage and lead Alberta’s volunteers to success.

Volunteer managers, by that title or another, are crucial to our nonprofit organizations. They are critical to events like charity runs, music festivals, and soccer tournaments. They ensure that food banks, hospital programs, and animal shelters run smoothly. They show young people how to get involved, connect newcomers, and keep seniors active in their communities.

Some celebration events coming up this week:

Volunteer Lethbridge is holding a Volunteer Managers’ Luncheon on November 4. All Volunteer Managers, Coordinators, and Supervisors are invited to attend, meet their peers, have a delicious meal, and enjoy some recognition for their important work!

Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organization’s (ECVO) is celebrating with an International Volunteer Managers Day Reception on November 4. Volunteer Managers, Coordinators, and those who engage volunteers in their professional role are invited to attend, feel appreciated, make new connections, and delve into the topic of balancing many roles within one job.

International Volunteer Managers Day was founded in 1999 in the United States, and was first celebrated on November 5 in 2008. As the day’s popularity grows, we hope an understanding and appreciation of the hard (not to mention necessary) work of Volunteer Managers grows too.

Find more on the day’s history and purpose on the International Volunteer Managers Day website.

How are you celebrating Volunteer Managers at your organization and in your community? We’d love to hear about your plans in the comments!

 

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

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