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Guest Post: Ten things nonprofits want funders to know

This article originally appeared on the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) blog October 17, 2016.


onnONN has heard a lot about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to funding. Through our policy work, and our outreach and engagement of our network and working groups of nonprofit leaders, we’ve heard from organizations of all sizes over the years from a variety of sectors and parts of Ontario. These ten things keep bubbling up.

So, we’re sharing them here to open a discussion about funding: how it flows, how it can be used, how it’s evaluated, and how data and information is shared. Whether it’s from government or non-government funders, what can be done to improve investment in the sector? Here’s what the nonprofit sector wants funders to know:

1. Budget flexibility: Rather than restrictions, help us innovate and invest in the essentials that we need to deliver on our missions.

2. Measuring success: Together, let’s find great ways to measure success. Focusing on overhead ratio is not an adequate way to measure our work or missions.

3. A resilient workforce: Your funding practices determine whether we can offer decent work and avoid losing our best and brightest to other sectors with better salaries, more secure employment, and benefits.

4. Meaningful evaluation: We want you to work with us to develop appropriate evaluation strategies that can help us to do our work better, while also leading to learnings for both of us.

5. Budget size: To foster healthy growth in the sector, let’s find alternatives to funding rules based on current budget size (aka Budget Testing– limiting funding based on an organization’s current budget size.) This can perpetuate existing inequities and hamstring growing nonprofits. How can an organization grow if it’s always pegged as “small”?

6. Applications: Help reduce costs to apply for funding- use a streamlined, fast-tracked application process and letters of intent.

7. Admin burden proportionate to funding: Adopt application processes, reporting requirements, and expected outcomes proportional to the level of funding provided (and vice versa).

8. Share what’s happening: Talk about the other projects or programs you fund. If you give us information and share data, we can build more effective partnerships.

9. Work with other funders: To streamline funding administration, create common granting guidelines, application forms, and reporting processes.

10. Matching funds: Do away with requiring matching funding as a condition of being approved for a grant; many rural, small, and newer organizations will especially benefit, including those serving marginalized populations.

Liz Sutherland
ONN

Header image: WOCinTech

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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?

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.

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?

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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 about an issue they are passionate about 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

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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 JoinInUK.org 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

FuseSocial

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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.

Together

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

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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!

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