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Edmonton Sun – Province launches volunteer-based bursaries

By Tanara McLean,Edmonton Sun

There’s a new $1,000 incentive for post-secondary students to volunteer.

The government of Alberta, in collaboration with Volunteer Alberta, has launched the Serving Communities Internship Program (SCiP), that will award $1,000 bursaries to post-secondary students who complete internships with any non-profit or volunteer organization.

“This is so much more than painting fences or cleaning up parks,” says Karen Lynch, executive director of Volunteer Alberta.

In the first year, 500 bursaries will be distributed throughout the SCiP pilot project, with up to 1,000 available by year three of the program.

Eligible students include anyone enrolled in a certificate, diploma, undergraduate, graduate or PhD program at one of Alberta’s 26 public post-secondary institutions.

The idea for the program was hatched by Timothy Jobs, chair of the Alberta Student’ Executive Council (ASEC) and his fellow council members.

“The idea came from the clear need to find innovative solutions to increase the affordability of our post secondary system,” says Jobs, adding that this project will “create a program to reward students for using their skills to benefit their communities.”

For Kirsten Poon, 20, the bursary program isn’t so much an incentive, but a bonus for her years of volunteering. The University of Alberta science student is chair of the City of Edmonton youth council and a board director for Literacy Without Borders.

“I’m excited to be exposed to these new experiences,” says Poon. “Doing a meaningful internship in the non-profit sector and learning new things. Hopefully it will inspire a lot of students.”

Lynch says although students may be driven to choose organizations based on their future careers, they aren’t limited in which non-profit they intern with to earn the bursary.

“We know that the real world doesn’t fit into faculties and descriptions of their objectives,” says Lynch.

In Alberta there are 19,000 charities and non-profit organizations that support 2.5 million volunteers. Almost 58% of Albertans volunteer, according to information gathered by Volunteer Edmonton.

The bursary funds are distributed throughout the Advanced Education and Technology ministry.

Premier Ed Stelmach says the program is an opportunity for students to “sharpen their skills” while making a bit of money. Stelmach also called the program “innovative,” saying it will “put Alberta ahead in so many jurisdictions when it comes to this sector.”

tanara.mclean@sunmedia.ca

 

Number of Canadians Concerned about Charity Fraud Up Considerably

CanadaHelps and Capital One Canada launch the second annual charity fraud awareness quiz with $20,000 grand prize

Toronto, ON (February 24, 2011) – Canadians are generous donors, but two-thirds (65%) of them are worried about fraudulent charities, which is up considerably from a survey done in November 2009 (51%). These beliefs, coupled with the difficulty in recovering their lost donation, ultimately results in more than half of Canadians (53%) stating they are less likely to give to charities because of concerns about fraud.

A large proportion, (41%) say they do not take simple steps to check if a charity is registered, ask the solicitor for ID, or visit the charity’s website before making a donation and instead rely on the reputation of the charity, and/or, past personal experience with the charity. The survey also found that just over half of Canadians (52%) say they are not confident they would know where to turn to in the event their donation did not go to a legitimate cause.

“What concerns us most is the growing number of Canadians who are worried about these crimes,” said Owen Charters, CEO of CanadaHelps. “In educating Canadians to understand the warning signs of these scams, we hope that the well-earned trust in legitimate charities will remain high and Canadians’ eagerness to donate will continue to grow.”

Today’s survey also found that up to 22% of Canadians say they prefer to donate online – an 8 point climb from a similar study conducted in November 2009. In contrast the number of Canadians who say they prefer to donate by cheque is down 7 points over the same time period (from 32% to 25%). Younger Canadians appear to be a driving force behind this change – nearly a third of Canadians aged 18-34 (31%) say online donations are their preferred method.

“With more and more Canadians preferring to donate online, it is increasingly important for credit card users to understand what to look for to ensure they are donating through a legitimate and secure website,” said Laurel Ostfield, spokesperson, Capital One Canada. “We know that awareness is key in helping Canadians protect themselves from fraud. By partnering with CanadaHelps on this campaign, we hope to educate as many Canadians as possible so they are empowered to make safe, charitable donations.”

To educate the public about charity fraud, Capital One Canada and CanadaHelps are teaming up during Fraud Prevention Month for the second annual Charity Fraud Awareness Quiz. This quiz will help participants identify the signs of charity fraud to hopefully avoid these malicious schemes.

The online Charity Fraud Awareness Quiz is designed to inform Canadians about the risk of charity fraud and how to prevent it. Accessible at www.canadahelps.org, every participant who completes the quiz will be eligible to enter into a draw to win a $20,000 grand prize donation, or one of $1,000 weekly donations from Capital One, to be made to the winner’s charity of choice. The Charity Fraud Awareness Quiz runs from March 1-31, 2011.

Capital One and CanadaHelps offer the following charity fraud prevention tips:

  • Make sure the charity is registered with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and provides you with their charitable registration number. CanadaHelps.org only lists charities registered with the CRA.
  • Ask to see a charity’s financial statements. These should be readily available to anyone who asks and give you a sense of how the charity spends their money.
  • Understand the impact the charity has and what difference they make in the community. Charities should be able to give you clear outcomes of the programs or services they provide.
  • Research the causes you want to support and how much of your budget you want to donate to charity. You will feel less pressured to give when solicited if you have already planned your giving.
  • Avoid any charity that pressures you into making a donation or isn’t open to sharing more information about their organization.

Additional Survey Results

  • 77% of Canadians made a charitable donation in the past 12 months with women being more charitable (81%) than men (72%)
  • Over one-quarter (28%) of people report they are solicited for charitable donations at least weekly, with 45% saying they get solicited more often in the event of a natural disaster
  • In the wake of a natural disaster, the majority of Canadians (61%) report an increased concern over the possibility of charity fraud
  • While only 5% of Canadians overall prefer to donate via door-to-door solicitation, a surprising 22% of Atlantic Canadians prefer this method of solicitation
  • In terms of deciding who to trust, respondents said the most important factor is a charity’s reputation (53%) followed by its media coverage/advertising (31%) and being asked to donate by a friend or colleague (30%)

About the survey

From February 2nd to 3rd, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 1,008 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error-which measures sampling variability-is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

About the Charity Fraud Awareness Quiz No purchase necessary. Each person who completes the online quiz on charity fraud at www.canadahelps.org and provides the name of their preferred charity is automatically given one entry. Organizations must be federally registered charities with the Canadian Revenue Agency. Contest begins at 9:00:00 a.m. ET on March 1, 2011 and closes at 9:00:00 p.m. ET on March 31, 2011. Full contest details atwww.canadahelps.org. Skill testing question required. Four prizes of a $1,000 donation and one grand prize of a $20,000 donation available to be won. Not open to residents of the Territories.

About Capital One Located in Toronto, Ontario, Capital One has offered Canadian consumers a range of competitive MasterCard credit cards since 1996, when the company first introduced the Platinum MasterCard in Canada. Capital One Canada is a division of Capital One Bank, a subsidiary of Capital One Financial Corporation of McLean, Virginia (NYSE: COF).

About CanadaHelps CanadaHelps is an online donations website where donors can give safely and securely to all charities in Canada that are registered with the Canada Revenue Agency. The mission of CanadaHelps is to engage Canadians in the charitable sector and provide accessible and affordable online technology to both donors and charities to promote – and ultimately increase – charitable giving in Canada.

Contact: Laurel Ostfield, Capital One 416-549-2753 laurel.ostfield@capitalone.com

Owen Charters, CanadaHelps 416-628-6948 ext. 2384 owen@canadahelps.org

 

News Flash – KnowledgeConnector.ca launches

Attention senior leaders and volunteers: Regional Capacity Coordinators now working in Alberta communities

 

Leaders of nonprofit/voluntary organizations often raise concerns that they don’t always know where to find professional development and learning opportunities and don’t have time to search. KnowledgeConnector.ca is the solution!

KnowledgeConnector Initiative Phase One is now launched, where five Regional Capacity Coordinators are working in communities across Alberta to connect learners and learning providers across the nonprofit/voluntary sector with the KnowledgeConnector Initiative.

Once fully operational in Fall 2011, KnowledgeConnector.ca will provide a free assessment tool then connect nonprofit/voluntary sector leaders with professional development providers and opportunities. TheKnowledgeConnector Initiative enhances the capacities of organizations – large or small – to achieve their missions and strengthen local communities in Alberta.

It’s all about strengthening communities! 

“The KnowledgeConnectorwill allow me to quickly and easily assess my capacities as a leader, manager and board member” said Lisa Topilko, Director of the Volunteer Vegreville (and a Volunteer Alberta Board member).“From right here in Vegreville, KnowledgeConnector.ca will enable me to connect with learning opportunities strengthening my ability to lead my nonprofit organization and better support the needs of our community.”

Toby Rabinovitz, Project Manager of the KnowledgeConnector Initiative explained: “From sports and recreation to social services… from education to environment, the leaders, managers and board members of nonprofit/voluntary organizations – both large and small/ rural and urban – depend on tools and knowledge to build their capacity.”

“The KnowledgeConnector will be a “one-stop shop” web-based portal of opportunities, providing a searchable listing that enables organizations and individuals to find targeted learning opportunities in line with their specific interests, needs and training objectives” said Rabinovitz.

ABOUT

The KnowledgeConnector Initiative is managed by Volunteer Alberta on behalf of the nonprofit/voluntary sector in Alberta. Rather than duplicating, the KnowledgeConnector is about connecting with learning opportunities already available.

With significant financial support provided by the Rural Alberta Development Fund, the KnowledgeConnectorenables leaders from nonprofit/voluntary sector organizations to assess their strengths and abilities based on a Competency Framework, and fill identified gaps with targeted learning opportunities. The Initiative works to ensure rural and eventually urban communities and nonprofit/voluntary organizations can sustainably provide key services to Albertans.

MORE INFORMATION

Please visit www.KnowledgeConnector.ca or contact a

Regional Capacity Coordinator directly for more information.

– North West Region –   Yvonne Rempel        780-827-1464
– North East Region –     Donna Smith             780-718-5379
– Central West Region – Robert Mitchell         403-704-7122
– Central East Region –  Victoria Poschadel   780-945-6134
– South Region –              Amanda Leipert        403-977-4610

 

Edmonton Journal -A letter from Volunteer Alberta on how generous Albertans are (December 10, 2011)

Is Canada’s culture of giving actually falling?

Some lament that rates of charitable giving and volunteering are on the decline. There is a false perception that too many charities pay their CEOs “over a million dollars with unlimited expenses” and non-profit misspending leaves only small portions of donations for actual charity.

Myths need to be dispelled and facts presented.

Volunteer Alberta compiled Statistics Canada data (visit www.volunteeralberta.ab.ca) clearly demonstrating Albertans are charitable with their time and money.

With donating, 85 per cent of Albertans gave financially in 2007 undefined an increase from 79 per cent in 2004 to 85 per cent in 2007.

Albertans donated the largest amounts ($596 average per person).

Fifty-two per cent of Albertans volunteered an average of 172 hours in 2007, up from 48 per cent in 2004 (also higher than the Canadian average of 48 per cent). Over 1,445,000 Albertans volunteer their time.

Regarding CEO pay, Canada Revenue Agency already requires charities to disclose highest compensated staff and rates of pay (donors can easily check this at www.cra-arc.gc.ca/charities).

Ask people working in the non-profit sector. But with few exceptions, most employees are not making wages anywhere near those in the private or public sectors.

Targeted research, planning and administration are necessary for efficient program delivery. Moreover, of Alberta’s roughly 19,000 non-profit/voluntary organizations, 58 per cent are completely volunteer run.

Albertans are generous and they naturally want to live in stronger and more vibrant communities.

This culture of giving does not mean we should let up. Instead, let’s continue researching where our financial contributions make the biggest difference in our communities and explore ways of volunteering using our talents and skills in more specialized ways.

Karen Lynch, executive director, Volunteer Alberta, Edmonton

Read more here.

 

National Study Finds Pitfalls and Opportunities in Changing Volunteer Landscape

Organizations Urged to Strengthen Strategies to Improve Volunteer Satisfaction

 A new national study shows that while Canada’s voluntary sector is the second largest in the world after the Netherlands, a significant number of volunteers report an experience that is less than satisfying.   The latest data on the changing culture of Canada’s voluntary sector was released today by Volunteer Canada, the national leader on volunteerism, in partnership with Manulife Financial.

The study found that 62 percent of Canadians who volunteer on a regular basis indicated they had at least one ‘negative experience’ either due to perceived organizational politics, the belief that their skills were not being put to  best use, feeling like they were not making a difference, or frustration with lack of support related to the volunteer activity.

The national research study gathered practical information for use by organizations to attract and retain skilled, dedicated volunteers.  The study revealed there are significant gaps between the opportunities organizations are providing and the meaningful experiences today’s volunteers are seeking.

“The primary gaps include the fact that many Canadians are looking for group or short-term activities but few organizations have the capacity to offer them or prefer a longer-term commitment,” said Ruth MacKenzie, President & CEO of Volunteer Canada. “In addition, many of those with professional skills are looking for volunteer tasks that involve something different from their work life.  While organizations are expected to clearly define the roles and boundaries of volunteers, many Canadians want to create their own volunteer opportunity,” she said.

Other respondents indicated that they would like to achieve some personal goals through volunteer work while at the same time help meet the needs of the organization.

Engaging volunteers in strategic roles in organizations will help nonprofit/voluntary sector organizations advance their mandates, and will create opportunities for individuals choosing to apply their skills sets to make a bigger difference in their communities,” said Karen Lynch, Executive Director of Volunteer Alberta. “We provide a number of programs, services and resources (through the Resource Centre for Voluntary Organizations at Volunteer Alberta) that will assist nonprofit/voluntary organizations across Alberta implement some of the ideas and trends captured in this study.”

Unlike earlier surveys that emphasized overall participation rates, this new research captured what Canadians want in their volunteer experiences, how easy it is for them to find satisfying volunteer roles, and what organizations can do to enhance their volunteer base and ultimately build stronger communities.

“Advances in technology, shifting demographics and increased resource pressures mean today’s organizations must re-evaluate all facets of their volunteer policies and practices, and ultimately embrace different approaches,” added MacKenzie.   “The findings suggest the optimal formula for engaging volunteers is one where organizations are well organized but not too bureaucratic and open to letting volunteers determine the scope of what they can offer.”

“The results also clearly indicate that it’s important to match a volunteer’s skills to the needs of the organization but not assume that the volunteer wants to use the skills specifically related to their profession, trade, or education,” she said.

Conducted on behalf of Volunteer Canada in the summer of 2010 by the Centre for Voluntary Sector Research & Development at Carleton University and Harris/Decima, the study provides the most current national data about the changing culture of Canada’s voluntary sector and the perspectives of four key groups:  youth, baby boomers, families, and employer-supported volunteers.

Respondents in these four groups revealed that the volunteer experiences individuals are looking for change significantly as Canadians move through the different stages of their lives.  The results also pointed to an increasing number of recent immigrants of boomer age, who could play a pivotal volunteer role in helping to integrate and support new immigrants into Canadian society, thanks to their unique cultural and linguistic skills.

Compounding the need for new approaches is the fact that Canadians are not necessarily following in the footsteps of Canada’s ‘uber volunteers’ who are getting older.  These uber volunteers represent about seven per cent of Canadians who contribute approximately 78 per cent of the volunteer time in Canada.

The research study results offer practical information that Canadian organizations can use to improve the way they involve volunteers by exploring the characteristics, motivations, and experiences of current volunteers, past volunteers, and those who have yet to try volunteering.

Overall, respondents indicated that organizations could improve the volunteer experience by: getting to know volunteers’ unique needs and talents; using a human resources approach that integrates both paid employees and volunteers; being flexible and accommodating to recognize volunteers’ other time commitments; respecting volunteers’ gender, culture, language and age differences; as well as providing more online volunteer opportunities.

“As Canada marks 10 years since we celebrated the United Nations International Year of Volunteers in 2001, applying the lessons learned from this research can help bridge the gap to more meaningful volunteer engagement in the future, and solidify volunteerism not just as a fundamental value of a civil society but as a true act of Canadian citizenship,” said Rosemary Byrne, Board Chair of Volunteer Canada.

The study was conducted on behalf of Volunteer Canada and in partnership with corporate leader in the sector Manulife Financial.  The research initiative is part of a multi-year program Manulife Financial is implementing to strengthen volunteerism in Canada in order to help build strong and sustainable communities for Canadians.

See the full study: Bridging the Gap

 

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