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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: Five Reasons to Invest in Learning this Spring!

This blog was originally posted March 17, 2015


Spring is an opportunity to invest in learning and professional growth.

Here are five reasons that spring is a great time to learn:

  1. The days are longer. The sun is up early and nightfall comes later; there is much more time for activities, making spring a great time to start investing in you. With more hours of daylight, we often feel a burst of energy with the added vitamin D, which is a great excuse to add a class or two to your schedule. Learning something new this spring will give you the time to achieve goals throughout the year, and undoubtedly by the time winter rolls around again you will see the benefits.
  2. Create momentum through learning. Learning begets learning. Possibilities present themselves to those who choose to learn, and opening up to these opportunities creates momentum to grow. Don’t think of learning like a bucket to be filled, but more as a fire waiting to be lit. So burn baby, burn!
  3. Grow personal and professional networks. Learning provides a comfortable space to meet new people and makes for a great icebreaker, giving you a common topic to talk about. Depending on what learning opportunity you choose to invest in, the potential to establish both friendship and professional connections are abundant.
  4. Digital culture makes learning easy! We live in a time where inspiration is attainable and often learning opportunities are much closer than you think. The opportunity to be “wowed” is everywhere online. The possibilities are endless and it doesn’t take a huge commitment to gain knew knowledge. There are countless online courses being offered for free, YouTube tutorials, webinars, how-to-guides and amazing newsletters that can provide you with learning opportunities. All you have to do is keep an eye for what wows you and find out more.
  5. There are lots of ways to learn. Investing in learning this spring doesn’t have to be traditional in any sense of the word. You don’t have to attend a lecture, or strive for an A+.The practice of teaching and learning has experienced tremendous growth in terms of methodology and engagement. There are countless ways to acquire the knowledge you seek, it’s simply a matter of which method is the most fun for you.

Most importantly, make it “fun for you”! For some, learning can be synonymous with the unpleasant, frustrating, and even a means to an end. By completing just one investment in learning this spring that really wows you, you can complete something to be proud of and maybe even shift your perspective (as well as gain some new skills) along the way.

Visit our Community Learning Opportunities page to find learning opportunities near you and online.

Drew Noiles
Volunteer Alberta

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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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From the Vault: 15 Tips to Get Sponsored

This blog was originally posted October 28, 2015.


static1.squarespace.comI recently attended the Western Sponsorship Congress two day event in Calgary. I met a variety of people, sat in on some amazing sessions, and heard great tidbits from the group chats in the main ballroom.

Reflecting on all I heard, I went through my notes and found 15 insightful tips, trends, and insights to keep in mind when considering sponsorship.

CONSIDERATIONS FROM THE KEYNOTE:
Brent Barootes from Partnership Group presented some very relevant information about sponsorship in today’s world.

1. Declines in traditional marketing channels (newspaper ads, TV commercials, etc.) has freed up more money in corporate sponsorship budgets.

2. Sponsorship budgets (on average) rose from 5% in 2007, to 25% in 2014 out of the marketing budgets of corporations.

3. Sponsors want to be fully integrated into the marketing strategy of your event, cause, or organization.

4. Corporations prefer product placement or brand placement (ex. at your event) to advertisements.

5. Many corporations are looking to engage their employees in new and innovative ways to showcase their company and deliver an increased return on investment (ROI).

BREAKOUT SESSIONS HIGHLIGHTS

6. Find a sponsorship partnership that excites you – this is just as important (maybe even more important) as the amount of money that exchanges hands.

7. Building a good relationship is a fundamental part of sponsorship – the discovery part of the relationship (the first few meetings) can help both parties understand the roles, outcomes, and responsibilities of the partnership.

8. Share your cause with potential sponsors. Sponsors are looking to align with causes that will help them make their world (community/market) a better place.

9. Consider video as a way to add extra value to your communications (campaigns, emails, website, or as a stand-alone awareness piece). Video is a great way to showcase sponsors and may attract a specific video sponsorship.

10. Think creatively and offer potential themes for you and your sponsorship partner to build the sponsorship around. (Instead of offering different sponsorship levels – see tip #11) Pick something that you and your sponsor can grow together, so their sponsorship can continue year-round and not end with a specific event.

Staff meetingPANEL DISCUSSION HIGHLIGHTS
In my opinion this was the MOST interesting and educational session of the whole event! The panel discussion, ‘One Size Doesn’t Fit All’ featured four representatives from different businesses (Telus, Cenovus, Remax Real Estate, and North Peace Savings & Credit Union) who shared what they look for when considering potential sponsorship opportunities.

11. Don’t spend time creating the ‘typical sponsor packages’ (Gold, Silver, Bronze) – they do not work because they are outdated and not tailored for mutual benefit.

12. Pick-up the phone when approaching smaller businesses (like Remax and Credit Union). Chatting about the problem, issue, or opportunity will help both parties see possible solutions. They may offer advice or steer you to the right “pile of money” and aide you in the application process – and help build the relationship.

13. Do your homework! Be well aware of a sponsors market, product, what they do, why they do it, and the reasons why they donate. (This is especially important for larger corporations. Most large corporations have online forms – tailor your online application with the information you discover in your research.)

Bonus Tip: If you know someone within the company, follow-up with an email or phone call to make them aware of your application.

14. Know your own stuff! Know your stats, your mission, your audience, and what your objectives are. Be well prepared for meetings – you will come across as genuine and credible. Show the company how they can help drive your mission and how it aligns with their own mission and business objectives.

15. Fair Warning: It will take anywhere from 22 – 24 months for a successful sponsorship deal to close from the initial meeting to money changing hands.

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These 15 tips, along with many others, made for an extremely informative conference and I hope some of you find value in the tidbits I’m sharing. I will be applying these tips in my work going forward. Please share in the comments what tips resonate with you and share if you are applying any of them in your work.

Jennifer Esler
Volunteer Alberta

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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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