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Building safe vibrant communities with Volunteer Screening

Growing communities and risk mitigation

Sometimes, our communities can grow faster than we can establish appropriate policies to meet the needs of those joining and participating with our nonprofits. When we can’t keep up with the increasing changes, this can put our organizations and communities unintentionally at risk.

Volunteer screening helps foster safe communities and supports organizations to fulfill duty of care – for clients, volunteers, and community. It also can be a tool to protect vulnerable populations.

Developing screening policies to meet growing community needs

For the last 25 years, the Muslim Community Mosque of Edmonton had run a couple of schools and various programs, which included vulnerable populations such as students and seniors. However, the Mosque, like many organizations, began to realize that its growing community meant they needed comprehensive volunteer policies in place.

“We had no screening for our volunteers at all! A scary thought, now that we have developed policies,” says Mohamed El Bialy, Social and Da’awah (Outreach) Coordinator at the Muslim Community Mosque of Edmonton. “Thankfully, we never had any issues in the past, but now it seems crazy that no policies regarding screening had ever been developed.”

By accessing Volunteer Alberta’s Volunteer Screening Program and the Screening Development Grant, the Mosque created the proper tools and policies based on sector best practices.

“We have already received positive feedback from community members, as well as constructive remarks,” says Mohamed. “These policies will help us ensure that we have responsible volunteers who will create a safe environment for the vulnerable populations that we interact with.”

The Volunteer Screening Development Grant is designed to help support the development of effective screening practices and processes. The grant provides up to $3000 to support nonprofit organizations facing resource and capacity challenges in the area of volunteer screening. Applications are open until July 15th! Apply today.

Adrienne Vansevenandt
Volunteer Alberta

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NextGen City Jam is increasing volunteerism – and you can too!

Imagine a room full of people excitedly anticipating for a concert to start. The room goes dark, lights flood the stage, and the crowd goes wild as the headliner takes the stage. But, this night isn’t just for anyone. This concert is exclusively for dedicated volunteers who generously donate their time to their community.

What is City Jam?

NextGen City Jam is a night full of live music in Edmonton with stellar bands that both thanks volunteers for their hard work, and also encourages volunteerism in the community. In exchange for 10 or more hours of their time, volunteers receive exclusive access to this event. Just one of the ways NextGen is engaging youth to get involved in their community.

“We know the important impact that young people can have on the future of this city,” says Christine Causing, Edmonton’s NextGen Coordinator. “This is why we’re hosting City Jam to encourage more Edmontonians, especially those between 18-40, to get involved and experience how rewarding it can be to give back.”

Encouraging volunteerism locally

Last year, NextGen City Jam helped raise 11,000 volunteer hours! That’s 11,000 hours given to local nonprofits to carry out their missions that they didn’t have before, with the assistance of one enticing event centered around engaging existing and first-time volunteers.

“It’s a brand new experience, something I’ve never really done before. And it’s giving me the opportunity to try even more new things. This is all great for me and is even better because I know and can see first-hand that I’m making a difference,” – Anonymous, Volunteer at Boys and Girls Big Brother Big Sisters of Edmonton Area.

Increasing the number of first-time volunteers

Last year, 10% of 400 volunteers were first-time volunteers. This year, NextGen’s goal is to increase the number of first-time volunteers, even if it’s for a minimum of 10 hours. To do this, NextGen will support first-time volunteers by hosting opportunities where they’d go out for the day and volunteer at a charity, event or nonprofit organization.

City Jam is an example of a new and exciting way to engage volunteers; it creates new opportunities for people to come together and contribute to their community.

NextGen consists of a group of volunteers who work together to provide a platform for new and engaging ideas and create a vibrant community. Do you want to participate in City Jam? Volunteer for a minimum of 10 hours at a local charity or nonprofit between June 1 and November 28, and then submit your hours to NextGen to register to attend the concert taking place on December 1.

Blog written by: Navi Bhullar, Volunteer Alberta Intern

Lineup announcements:

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Guest Blog: How to develop emotional intelligence as a leader

We are excited to welcome leadership coach, Kathy Archer, to the Volunteer Alberta blog! This is the second of a two-part series on leadership and emotional intelligence. Read last week’s blog: Why successful leaders put intelligence and emotion together

Developing emotional intelligence (EI) takes time. The ability to recognize and manage your emotions requires self-reflection and personal growth.  Becoming more emotionally intelligent requires you to access your inner wisdom, or as I call it, your Inner Guidance System (IGS). Your IGS is your emotions, thoughts, feelings, and body sensations. You deliberately access your IGS by repeatedly cycling through the Inner Guidance Cycle (IGC):

Pause

Take a deep breath and tune in. If you have time, write down what’s going on for you.

Ponder

Reflect on what going on inside your body and mind as well as in your surroundings.

  • What emotions are you feeling?
  • What just triggered your reaction?
  • What meaning are you attaching to that event?

Pivot

Choose to see the event in a new perspective that will allow you to feel the way you want and move you forward in this moment.

Proceed

Get back into action by responding rather than reacting to the event.

Repeat

The final note about using the IGC is that to increase your EI you must constantly be looping back through the Pause, Ponder, Pivot, and Proceed steps throughout your day. Committing to becoming clearer on your emotions and feelings, and learning to manage them rather than attempt to banish them, will put you back in the driver’s seat.

The most effective leaders welcome their emotions. They know their emotions are their constant companion and they learn to manage and control them. It’s a powerful shift!

Learn more about using the Inner Guidance Cycle to access your inner wisdom.

Leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead. In Kathy Archer’s online courses and leadership coaching sessions, she teaches leaders the inner and outer tools to restore their lost confidence so they can move from surviving to thriving in both leadership and life.

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Guest blog: Why successful leaders put intelligence and emotion together

We are excited to welcome leadership coach, Kathy Archer, back to the Volunteer Alberta blog! This is the first of a two-part series on leadership and emotional intelligence.

You need to be smart to be a leader. You need to have training, education and intelligence to be successful.

If you are a leader, that’s probably what you believe. In fact, many leaders feel imposter-like because they don’t have the proper credentials. Moving up the career ladder is often a result of doing great in a frontline position. We then find ourselves in management without the “right” qualifications to be there. This lack of credentials leaves us worried we will be exposed for the frauds we feel we are.

While you need a baseline level of both intellect and training, leadership is much more than your IQ level or the letters after your name. One of the key indicators of a successful leader is their level of Emotional Intelligence (EI). In fact, EI is a higher predictor of a leader’s success than IQ. Let me explain.

Emotional intelligence (EI) and managing your emotions as a leader

Leaders need to have the extraordinary ability to manage their emotions. Leadership is a tough gig! It can be stressful and demanding. In a leadership position, you are juggling a constant stream of interruptions, reports, meetings and people. You think on your feet, deal with criticism and, at times, you must communicate hard messages.

But here’s the thing, when everything is chaotic in the organization, effective leaders bring a sense of calm and control. As teams get bogged down, an effective leader recharges everyone with inspiration, motivation and energy. When tension rises between staff members, an effective leader takes on those charged conversations to resolve issues. The leader’s emotional stability propels successful organizations forward.

For a leader to be all these things, they much have a high degree of EI. Emotional Intelligence, coined by Daniel Goleman, is the ability to both recognize and manage your emotions.

Notice I said manage emotions, not suppress them, turn them off, or tune them out. EI is not about eliminating emotions; it’s about tuning in to them- recognizing them for what they are and using them to guide future behavior.

Emotional intelligence in practice

Take, for example, experiencing fear in the middle of a meeting after being asked a question. Fear puts us on alert, releases adrenaline into our body, and prepares us to fight, flee, or freeze.

Here is where EI kicks in. An emotionally aware leader will notice physical sensations in their body, like belly tightening, heart racing, and hand clenching. They will also take note of the subsequent feelings of anxiety, shame, or frustration.

Rather than reacting by sending a biting comment back, ending the meeting quickly, or backing down, the leader with increased EI will look at their inner dialogue. By becoming conscious of what they are telling themselves about this situation, they can decide if the thought is accurate and helpful or if it needs to be changed.

When a leader does this inner work, they can react rationally. Instead of the fight, flee, or freeze reaction, the leader with EI may respond by saying, “That’s a great question, and I don’t have the answer to it currently. I will find out and get back you by Friday.” They haven’t lost their sense of inner power. In fact, they’ve regained their inner power.

In next week’s article, you will learn how to further develop emotional intelligence by accessing your Inner Guidance System (IGS).

Leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead. In Kathy Archer’s online courses and leadership coaching sessions, she teaches leaders the inner and outer tools to restore their lost confidence so they can move from surviving to thriving in both leadership and life.

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Did you know you are a People Engagement Specialist? Thinking & Acting Differently Part 2

Getting creative

Jodi was inspired and wanted to read more about how to improve her volunteer engagement, so she dove into the Volunteer Recognition Study published by Volunteer Canada in 2013… she found it highly relevant and insightful.

It highlighted that volunteer recognition could be enhanced with a deeper understanding about volunteer motivations and interests, and about how engaging volunteers in developing and using their skills could create mutual benefit and added value for the volunteer. The study provided her with even more motivation to engage volunteers in meaningful ways.

The very next day Jodi received the Volunteer Alberta Member Exclusive email… and in it was a rather intriguing worksheet promising a quick and easy way to engage volunteers by gaining a deeper understanding of their motivations and interests. It was called the Window of Work. ­ She downloaded it right away and started thinking about how she could use it.

Then it dawned on her, one of the steps she was building into her volunteer screening process was step number 10 – the feedback step! She decided to invite some of the volunteers to complete the worksheet, she started with the STP’s (you know, the Same Ten People, the ones who always show up but risk burnout at every turn.)

Jodi emailed them. She shared the Window of Work and gave simple instructions about how to complete it. She requested a 30-minute conversation the next time they were in to volunteer. Within a week she had 10 appointments scheduled!

Some simple changes

Jodi was happy to hear that everyone was grateful that she wanted to know more about them! They told her how valued it made them feel that she wanted to connect about their interests, motivations, and to get their feedback on their volunteer experience.

Jodi discovered a lot in those conversations:

  • Almost all of them gave incredible insight into “why” they kept coming back… and she realized she could use those reasons to help recruit instead of just saying “volunteers needed!”. She made new volunteer recruitment posters and wrote a variety of social media posts that spoke directly to the meaning people experienced because of being engaged as volunteers in her organization.
  • One volunteer identified their love of meeting and talking to new people – so she invited them to come help with recruitment at the volunteer fair booth during NVW.
  • Two of them gave fantastic feedback and ideas about the training process – and one of them, who’d been with the organization for nearly a decade, even volunteered to help with training! The volunteer felt recognized as a resident expert and valued as a champion of the organization! And as a bonus, some of Jodi’s time was freed up to be strategic and to keep building new people engagement possibilities. 
  • One of her newest volunteers was an aspiring writer in his second year of communications in college. Together they came up with a project he could do as an intern through Volunteer Alberta’s Serving Communities Internship Program (a total Win-Win for them both! The student would get a $1000 from the Government of Alberta after successfully completing his internship and her organization was going to get a series of newsletters – which could really help improve outreach.)
  • One volunteer shared how much they loved photography and indicated an interest in photographing the special events. So she created a new position, Event Photographer, and together they outlined the expectations. (This was a huge bonus because they could use the photos on the website and social media to help with outreach!)
  • That same volunteer was working at a café but really wanted to put her Art History degree to work, but didn’t know where to get the vital job experience she needed…. After thinking about it together, they came up with another idea! Together they could create a display about the organization’s history and impact in the community that could travel between the local elementary schools and share important information with the younger generation!
  • One person revealed how much they wanted to volunteer with their family more. She had six kids and Jodi didn’t really have an opportunity for her to do… but thankfully Jodi remembered her colleague, the one from the Volunteer Managers Group, had lots of family-friendly opportunities! So Jodi advised the volunteer to contact that organization and provided her with a referral to the volunteer manager there.
  • Another volunteer was reluctant to reveal that they weren’t enjoying the weekly volunteer position anymore. It was too hard to make it on time and he was starting to feel obligated, which was disappointing to him because he really believed in the cause… Jodi suggested he become a special event volunteer instead and put his training to use by helping fill in here and there when he could. The volunteer felt valued and had a renewed understanding of the impact he could make for a cause that really mattered to him!

Jodi was on her way to becoming a People Engagement Specialist. You see, with a little research, creativity, a subtle shift in your thinking and a willingness to make some simple changes to your work, you can create new possibilities for meaningful people engagement.

In the making of a People Engagement Specialist, there are three the key ingredients: knowing volunteer’s interests and motivations, understanding impact, and creating meaningful engagement.

Katherine Topolniski

Volunteer Alberta 

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