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Nonprofits – YOU can create a politically engaged generation!

This week we are sharing a guest blog from Apathy is Boring on their Election Readiness Toolkit and what it has to do with your nonprofit.


apathy-is-boringEven though Alberta is not in an election cycle right now, democracy, and its implications, are at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds. Building the relationship between young citizen and their government has never been more important.

So what can we do to make sure we educate all Canadians, and Albertans, on the role that democracy and voting play in our lives?

At Apathy is Boring, we think about this question a lot, and part of the solution is education. We have partnered with Elections Alberta to support youth electoral engagement through the community sector.

Why are nonprofit and community organizations perfectly primed for this important job?

Because:

  • They are at the heart of community and are already hubs for civic engagement
  • They create bridges between individuals and their larger communities by connecting with people of all ages and all walks of life as volunteers, clients, staff, and stakeholders
  • They know how to inspire and motivate people to address social issues, build strong communities, and get involved

Together, we can make civic engagement fun, relevant, and important to young Albertans.

students-500x500pxWe believe it is imperative that young Canadians, (between the ages of 16 and 30), are engaged and informed on civic engagement, democracy, and government, whether or not they learn about these topics through formal education.

Through tools like videos and games, as well as with the support of local nonprofit and community organizations, we believe that even the busiest, most disinterested young person can take a few minutes to turn their attention towards the bigger picture, learn about the democratic system, and equip themselves with the tools and knowledge necessary for effective, genuine engagement.

In order to help facilitate this learning process, we’ve created an Election Readiness Toolkit. There are three tools in the toolkit: a manual, a game, and a video.

We are sharing the Election Readiness Toolkit with nonprofit and community organizations across Alberta so you can pass it on to youth you are already connected with.

How can your nonprofit get involved?

STEP 1: Download the manual if your organization offers programing or volunteer opportunities for youth (16-30). The Election Readiness Toolkit includes a manual that we developed to help organizations support youth engagement when an election is called. In it, you’ll find community engagement tips, case studies, academic findings, and more.

STEP 2: Play the game! You can share the game with the youth you connect with in workshops or online through social media and newsletters. We’ve created a Day in the Life Quiz (very Buzzfeed of us) that highlights the connection between everyday life and government. Understanding how each level of government affects day-to-day life is essential to inspiring engagement and defeating apathy.

STEP 3: Watch the short video and share it. This accessible video helps build the bridge between youth, their government, and the issues they care about. We explain how the voting process works in Alberta and how policy is relevant to youth and their communities. You can play the video during a workshop or share it online.

TogetherFor more information and to check out the Election Readiness Toolkit, click here.

Remember: building a stronger democracy benefits everyone! With your support, we are working to engage youth across the province of Alberta. Nonprofit organizations are a powerful influence – let’s make sure we take this chance to impact the next generation!

Sophie Babinski
Apathy is Boring

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Guest Post: Rekindle your love for your work

We are excited to share this guest post from leadership coach, Kathy Archer. Learn more about Kathy and Silver River Caching.


ThoughtfuAre you tired of getting up in the morning, and heading to work to spin your wheels chasing a to-do list and putting out fires?

At the end of that day, do you wonder what you actually got done? Has this routine left you feeling worn-out and stuck?

If you have grown tired of energy sucking routines, then it might be time to reconnect to the reason you came to do this work in the first place. It is time for you to awaken your heart, remind yourself of why you do this work and reconnect to your passion.

Remember back to when you came to your organization or this field of work. It may have been years ago, but see if you can get a peek back there for a moment. I suspect if you allow yourself to recollect those days, you will see there was more energy, excitement, and enthusiasm for your work. You’ll likely get glimpses of smiles, laughter, or heated bursts of passionate appeals for the cause.

Contrast that to now, which, for many of us, is the same old, same old every day. You know what to expect; emails that never end, the battle you have to fight with the board member, wondering once again about how to stretch the limited dollars of your program, and then getting home late after another long day that felt far from meaningful work.

Getting lost in the crazy cycle tends to disconnect us from the deeper meaning behind what we do. Because we believe we need to get stuff done immediately, we tend to skim over the surface of everything. In doing the shallow tasks, we miss the richer, more meaningful work.

So, how do you reconnect and rekindle the love of your work?

3 ways to bring your passion back to work

Jump with Joy1)    Look back to when you first started out in this career, what stories, memories leap out at you? Pay attention – the clearest recollections will point toward your passions.

2)    Take notes about what you discover in your memories and other things you care deeply about in regards to your work. Write your passions down in a clear and precise way then place it somewhere that you will see often, at work or at home.

3)    When you are having a “bad” day or moment, take a look at your list and remind yourself of why you do the work you do. Reconnect to your heart and let it guide forward, out of the mess.

quoteYes, it’s easy to get lost in the to-do lists, the phone calls, and the emergencies that land on our desks. But if you are tired of that, reconnect to why you do this work.

Most of us got into this line of work because we care deeply about people and love being connected to them knowing that we are making a difference. It is possible to get back to that reality if you fan the flames of the passion that brought you here in the first place.

You can rekindle your love of your work by being aware of your passion and allowing it to guide you. I suspect you will connect more with people, attend to things in a way that brings meaning to you and your clients, and inspires others on your staff team to stay focused on the great work that you do.


Kathy is a leadership coach for women who want to strengthen their leadership & find balance in life. She mentors women as they rediscover their purpose, passion, and persistence for life while dealing with office politics, jerk bosses and the challenges of family life. Kathy gives her ladies the hope and inspiration they need along with a kick in the pants to make positive changes in their lives. Discover more in Kathy’s book Mastering Confidence: Discover Your Leadership Potential by Awakening Your Inner Guidance System Find Kathy at silverrivercoaching.com

 

 

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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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