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Why do your staff show up? Staff motivations, needs, and priorities

I recently attended a two-part mindfulness-based counselling workshop: Working with Couples from a Hakomi Perspective, offered by Hakomi Edmonton.

While this may not sound like it would directly connect to work at Volunteer Alberta, I was curious how this mindfulness approach to interpersonal relationships might relate to nonprofit staff management and brought back some insights to share with our staff.

How can staff find connection, security, and freedom at work?

triangleOne of the tools we looked at during the workshop is the Connectedness-Security-Freedom balance. In couples’ counselling, it’s helpful to explore what connectedness, security, and freedom in a relationship look like to each person, and what each person tends to value the most.

This relationship lens can be applied to nonprofit staff.

We all assess how well our jobs meet our needs based on factors like income, interest, passion, benefits, flexibility, location, colleagues, workplace culture, and so on. Some of these things are more important than others, based on who we are and the current demands of our lives.

What do these needs and priorities look like in the workplace?


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Connectedness – Feeling connected to our work might include our passion, motivation, or investment in a cause or project. It could also mean strong relationships with our colleagues or clients.

Security – Job security, income, benefits, and opportunities for advancement  all provide security. But there are other subtle ways our jobs offer us security, like friendly and supportive workplace culture, or good reputations in our communities.

Freedom – Having freedom at work might mean pursuing projects that interest us, or having input at decision-making tables. It can also include flexibility, vacation time, and even succession planning to make it less difficult to move on from our jobs when the time comes.


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[su_note note_color="#DDDAE8" radius="9"]Reminder: staff will relate to the Connectedness-Security-Freedom balance differently

  • Staff will define connectedness, security, and freedom differently
  • Staff will rank the importance and priority of each differently
  • Staff communicate their needs and priorities differently
  • Staff react differently when they aren’t getting what they need at work




What might this look like at your organization?


A staff member who puts freedom first might jump at the chance to guide a new project or start a social enterprise for your organization. They might also be happy to forego the security of higher pay for more vacation time or flexibility.

A staff member who puts security before connectedness might be okay working on something they aren’t passionate about as long as the job is a full-time, permanent position.

On the other hand, someone who values connectedness over security might speak from their heart in staff meetings, even if doing so could put their job security at risk.

If the Connectedness-Security-Freedom balance aligns with nonprofit staff management, now what?

The Connectedness-Security-Freedom balance is a powerful tool to begin to get to know what motivates different staff so that you can meet their needs and support their success.

There isn’t a cookie cutter solution for how to motivate your staff to do their best. It typically isn’t possible to recruit or retain every person with the same perks and benefits, so knowing what staff members value is useful when you have limited resources.

Questions you might ask include:

Is a staff member more motivated by taking control of a project, or are they happy to work on what you give them as long as they can count on consistency?

Would they prefer a better benefits package, or the ability to work from home?

2-attrib-wocintechFor team members, it can also be helpful to understand what is important to your colleagues. Knowing where people are coming from and acknowledging differences can go a long way in combatting assumptions, confusion, and frustration.

With this tool, your staffs’ motivations may be becoming more clear to you. What questions would you still like to ask the people you work with?

Think of how you could apply the Connectedness-Security-Freedom balance in year-end staff reviews or in your hiring process. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta



Guest Post: The New Volunteer

This article originally appeared in FuseSocial‘s September 27, 2016 newsletter.

Organizations need volunteers more then ever, and the good news is; people want to volunteer!

But volunteerism has changed and volunteer expectations have evolved. It’s no longer enough to just put out a generic “call for volunteers” and then treat them all alike when they show up. Today’s volunteers have an expectation to receive something in return for their time, talents and skills they offer.  A study from sums up perfectly what volunteers are looking for in their volunteers roles.

  • planG: Personal growth and well-being
  • I:  Increased sense of purpose, such as knowing just how they make a difference
  • V: Voice regarding how volunteers are asked to give their time
  • E: Easy to sign up, to get there, and to get the job done
  • R: Recognition. Being thanked, appreciated, and celebrated
  • S: Social opportunities like making new friends and working in a team

In ten very straight forward steps your organization can work all these expectations into your volunteer programs.

smiling-woman2Volunteers want and expect:

  1. you to be prepared for them
  2. to feel welcome
  3. good training
  4. to do interesting work
  5. to know up front the duration of their shift
  6. to be appreciated
  7. you to clearly communicate with them and often
  8. to know what they are helping is making the community a better place
  9. to be socially connected 
  10. to learn something new

For more information on using volunteers to strengthen your organization please visit www.NGOConnect.NET





Alberta is Strong – Do We Also Have Endurance?

In May, Alberta experienced an unprecedented natural disaster. The entire city of Fort McMurray, along with nearby communities, were deeply impacted by wildfires. People were evacuated, homes and neighbourhoods were lost, families were separated, and jobs were interrupted, some indefinitely.

alberta-strongAlberta Strong was our province’s response to the wildfires. People across Alberta in all sectors stepped up and demonstrated our shared strength. As residents began to return to the Wood Buffalo area to reconcile, reclaim, and rebuild, they too showed the world that Wood Buffalo is strong.

Nonprofit organizations in Wood Buffalo’s social profit sector have been in the middle of it all; responding to the wildfire, assisting with the evacuation, and the re-entry. These organizations have experienced both sides of this disaster – helping those affected and being deeply impacted themselves.

FuseSocial, Wood Buffalo’s nonprofit backbone organization, shared an update from the sector in August:

We are now nearing the end of month three of post-fire re-entry and even though an astounding amount of work and progress has taken place within our community, there is still a considerable amount of work to be done.

This is especially evident within the Social Profit sector in Wood Buffalo. Agencies are working tirelessly to get back to capacity and to continue their vital work in our community.

As a result of the wildfire, many of these organizations are faced with incredible challenges including funding issues, staffing vacancies, compromised infrastructure and even the challenge of not knowing what the future will hold. 

As part of their support and monitoring of the sector over this time, FuseSocial conducted a Social Profit Sector Wildfire Impact Survey.

The survey indicated that, as of July, 57% of nonprofits were fully operating. Returning to normal has been a slow process, with some organizations facing more barriers and delays than others, including relocation, lack of services, or limited human resource capacity.

People pulled together to help with the crises in May and now, nearly five months later, it is becoming a question of endurance for social profit organizations and their staff and volunteers. Survey results indicate that:

  • 75% of organizations have been negatively impacted by losses of board, staff, and volunteers.
    • 50% of organizations lost staff since the wildfire
    • 50% of organizations are unsure if volunteers will return
  • 1 in 3 organizations experienced building damage, 1 in 5 organizations experienced equipment damage, and 1 in 10 organizations lost data, including client and historical files.


These concerns, expressed by participating organizations in July, are not short-term issues. Alberta was strong when disaster hit, but support from all sectors is needed for many months to come. Let’s continue to be strong together, and offer our ongoing support to continue to help Wood Buffalo as they need it!

For more information, visit FuseSocial’s website.

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta


Alberta – Let’s Put Our Volunteers in the Spotlight!

“Volunteers want to be thanked and shown how they have made a difference – they want to know the impact of their contributions.”
so-happy-2013 Volunteer Recognition Study, by Volunteer Canada

As nonprofit organizations, we all rely on volunteers to meet our missions. With 24,800 nonprofit organization in Alberta, it is clear that the spirit of volunteerism is deeply rooted in our communities.

There are lots of different ways to recognize our amazing volunteers, but making sure volunteers are thanked and rewarded for their efforts is a critical part of fostering future and continued volunteer engagement. Our future depends on all of us working together and inspiring others to do the same, so communities will continue to prosper! Volunteer recognition is key to sharing this story and promoting volunteerism in Alberta.

The Government of Alberta hosts Stars of Alberta, Alberta’s most prestigious volunteer awards. The Stars of Alberta Volunteer Awards recognize extraordinary Albertans whose volunteer efforts have contributed to the well-being of their community and fellow community members. Six awards – two youth, adult, and senior – are presented annually, on or around International Volunteer Day, December 5. Nominations for the awards close September 20.

The Awards receive many nominations from Alberta’s major cities and in the adult and senior categories; however, we know Alberta is home to passionate, dedicated, and inspiring youth volunteers. We also know that Alberta’s rural communities are fantastic places to live because of local spirit of volunteerism and the contributions of the people who care about their community.

This year, nominate a youth volunteer, or volunteers from rural Alberta and help bring attention and shine a light on their incredible contributions!

Lethbridge, Warburg, Cochrane, Blackfalds, Fort McMurray, and Grand Prairie are a few of the communities across the province already celebrating youth volunteering through youth volunteer awards and Leaders of Tomorrow. Lethbridge drew a record number of nominees this year for their Leaders of Tomorrow event, and had over 300 people attend the celebration. The passion, interest, and dedication is alive and well.

We know that every Albertan community thrives because of the contributions of volunteers of all ages. Recognize an Albertan volunteer and thank them for all that they do so that the magic of volunteerism stays front and center, and our communities remain strong and connected as they grow.

Nominate a shining star before September 20!

Binder office

Privacy Protection: 4 easy steps

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.

[su_note note_color="#DDDAE8" radius="9"]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.

Laptop cartoon

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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