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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

10fund

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?

happy-hipster

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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