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From the Vault: When the Going Gets Tough, Be More Like a Penguin

This is a post from our vault. Originally posted Sept 17, 2012 as There are Penguins in Grande Prairie.

I recently took a quick trip to beautiful Grande Prairie, or “GP” as the locals say, to give the keynote address at the first Non-profit & Social Purpose Expo hosted and located at The Community Village.

The theme of the talk was The Power of Community. In the weeks leading up to the event, I spent my usual post-work walk home mulling over the approach I’d take. Would I talk about Martha Parker’s ideas around managers and directors of volunteers becoming “strategists in community engagement”? Or I would I speak about the 2011 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report and the common global values regarding volunteerism? Although both of those topics interest me (among others), the one idea that made the most sense to me was to talk about Emperor Penguins.

To be clear, I’ve never paid much notice to penguins, I have always considered them cute, quirky birds that dress well, but after seeing the movie March of the Penguins I had a new found respect for Aptenodytes forsteri. While reflecting on the movie I came to the conclusion that these penguins can teach us something about the power of community.

give wayFirst, what are the similarities? Penguins and humans are both social animals, survive harsh winters and like to summer by the sea, are large and flightless, are mainly monogamous, and look good dressed up. How penguins endure, survive and thrive in their environment is where the lessons can be learned about the power of community. As a side note, when I refer to community I am talking specifically about a community of nonprofit/voluntary sector organizations that operate in the same community trying to improve said community. Without going into a lot of how penguins live (you can look it up on Wikipedia like I did) let’s just say Emperor penguins have chosen a tough path to survival and have chosen to band together during the toughest times.

So, what are the lessons the nonprofit/voluntary sector can learn from these birds:

1)      Survival depends on working together – Without each other, penguins would not be able to stay warm. Without other nonprofit organizations, no one would be able demonstrate their importance. It is a community of organizations that truly has the most impact.

2)      We are all trying to nurture something we care about – For penguins it is their eggs, and for organizations it is the cause, broader community, clients, volunteers, and employees we aim to nurture.

3)      Not everybody makes it– Despite our best efforts, sometimes environmental stresses and ever so slight missteps claim victims. No matter how difficult it is when a fellow organization fails or flounders, it is the larger community’s responsibility to show resolve and continue on to set the example of what is possible.

4)      It is worth the time, effort and energy it takes to work together as a community – In the end it’s about building a stronger community with more to offer and a brighter future, working together guarantees it.  Penguins hatch chicks, organizations get stronger networks working together to more effectively hatch positive community outcomes.

5)      When it feels cold and lonely that is the time to come together as a community – Penguins could chose to do it on their own rather than, literally, huddle together. Nonprofits should think the same way. When resources are low, and the future seems bleak, that is the exact time to look to your peers and find the opportunities to collaborate and find creative solution to common challenges.

There it is. Penguins demonstrate the power of community and, if nothing else, it is a strong image to remember. So, the next time you are feeling yourself out alone in the nonprofit world, think of the Emperor Penguins huddled together staying warm and surviving. It should at least inspire to reach out and connect to your nonprofit community.

Annand Ollivierre
Volunteer Alberta

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Five Ideas to Borrow for Your Next Conference

16-ntc-finalComing up with new experiences for attendees at conferences can be difficult. What is affordable? What keeps people connected during a break? What will participants talk about after the conference is over (aside from great sessions and speakers!)?

I had the privilege of attending this year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference (16NTC) – hosted by the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN). Check out my blog on Five Tech Trends Still Impacting Nonprofits for additional information!

There was a lot going on at the conference besides the numerous breakout sessions – from onsite activities to meetups, progressive parties to active sessions (like Yoga for Geeks). With so much happening, it was difficult to narrow down my favourite experiences from the conference to my top 5 – here they are, in no particular order:

1. Great Plenaries – I especially enjoyed the inspiring Ignite sessions and I’d love to see this format of sharing success stories at more conferences!

Ignite is a fast-paced, fun, thought-provoking presentation format that educates and entertains. Ignite talks give you the opportunity to share your fascinations and passions with the NTC Community.

My favourite Ignite sessions were part of the “NPTech Makers” theme – these presenters had seen a challenge or opportunity and made something of it. Not only did they share personal stories of creating opportunity from adversity that moved us to tears, but they also demonstrated how everyone working in the nonprofit sector is making a difference.

2. Networking – “Birds of a Feather” is an interesting and comfortable approach to networking lunches.

25673392254_d09f7b2f83_zWhen a bunch of extraverts and introverts (like me) get mixed up and told to ‘network’, it can make for some interesting dynamics. However, the “Birds of a Feather” exercise at lunch helped everyone to gravitate to tables with a variety of topics of interest to have a networking chats. Table topics ranged from regional, like the ‘Canadian, eh?’ table, to topical, like ‘Fundraising, Data, and Benchmarks, Oh My!’. Connecting and sharing experiences, whether we were experts or just curious about the topic, led to interesting conversations and introduced us to new colleagues.

3. Digital Connectivity – Of course this was a tech conference; however, NTEN was ready with a great interactive app and preset social media hashtags.

The 16NTC mobile app was fantastic for creating my itinerary, checking into sessions/events, adding photos and comments during sessions and in between, and making connections with other attendees. Each presentation had a hashtag and collaborative notes set up, so I was able to check out discussions at the sessions I missed.

4. Inclusive Space – Conferences are at their best when everyone is welcome, included, and comfortable.

I appreciated the efforts the 16NTC coordinators made to ensure the conference was an inclusive event. From varied levels of access, to gender neutral washrooms, there were frequent reminders that the conference was a safe space for everyone to participate.

26250384426_a0635f2324_z5. Creative Sponsor Add-ons – Creativity and sponsorship really do go well together!

16NTC had some fantastic sponsors who helped make it a great experience overall. My personal favorite was the exclusive showing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens one evening at the Tech Museum of Innovation dome IMAX. I felt spoiled!


Thanks to NTEN for a great conference experience! Check out all of their photos, used in this post.

Thank you to The Muttart Foundation for the bursary enabling me to attend this year’s conference, and to Volunteer Alberta for prioritizing professional development and a learning culture.

 

Cindy Walter
Volunteer Alberta

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Five Tech Trends Still Impacting Nonprofits

16-ntc-finalGoing into the 2016 Nonprofit Technology Conference (16NTC) I had fairly high expectations. The Nonprofit Technology Network’s (NTEN) typically features stellar presenters – and they really delivered at 16NTC. With a list of 116 sessions, I had many top choices for every breakout. As well as the opportunity to learn from experts and sector leaders.

From the sessions I was able to attend and had flagged to read the notes from, here are 5 sector-wide trends that were confirmed for me at 16NTC, not in any particular order. You may have heard of some of these:

  1. Accidental Techies: That is, falling into the role of managing your organization’s technology, without prior training. Check out the Fast Company article How To Master The Art Of The Accidental Career from Amy Sample Ward, NTEN’s CEO.
  1. Data management: What to measure and how? Many sessions focused on data topics, such as big vs. small data, data frameworks, how to measure data, open data, data-driven storytelling, and more. The Canada Council for the Arts has a great example of using data to tell a story.
  1. Communicating: It’s inescapable, by email, website, social media, and more. Communicating about what our nonprofits do, listening to our stakeholders, and using digital resources to do so. We got a sneak peek at the M+R Benchmarks X report with detailed data on email performance, website traffic, and social media engagement.
  1. New technologies: Prepare to think about automating and providing referrals, data, strategy, integration, retooling, and access. Check out the 2016 Digital Outlook Report.
  1. Storytelling: There are amazing, inspiring stories of contributions to nonprofit technology and by those who use it. Check out some of the interviews by Nonprofit Radio with speakers and conveners: http://www.nten.org/ntc/at-the-ntc/ntc-conversations/

What other nonprofit tech trends or resources have you found? Share in the comments!

26278232535_cfdf28361f_zWhat else happened at 16NTC? Check out next week’s blog Five Ideas to Borrow for Your Next Conference.

Thank you to The Muttart Foundation for the bursary enabling me to attend 16NTC and to Volunteer Alberta for prioritizing professional development and a learning culture.

Cindy Walter
Volunteer Alberta

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Alberta Stepping Up and Collaborating to Help Fort McMurray Evacuees

As the wildfire crisis in Fort McMurray and surrounding communities continues, the whole Volunteer Alberta office has been paying attention and keeping our Fort McMurray colleagues, partners, friends, and family in our thoughts.

We have been incredibly inspired by the response from Albertan’s across the province. Some of the stories we have heard so far:

  • Individuals are stepping up as impromptu, informal volunteers to deliver gas to stranded motorists and offer food and beds to evacuees.
  • Businesses are sharing what they have, including vets and kennels opening to pets in need of shelter, restaurants serving free food, family attractions waiving admission fees, and hotels, dorms, and camps providing lodging.
  • Nonprofits in all subsectors are helping in their own ways, including recreation and community centres providing shelter, counselling and referral services supporting evacuees, and disaster relief organizations meeting immediate needs.
  • Government at all levels is getting people out of immediate danger, communicating regularly about what is going on, and providing funding and resources where they are needed.

Not only are people in every sector stepping up to help, collaboration within and across sectors to support evacuees has been amazing. Some examples:

  • Alberta Food Bank Association has organized for food banks in Edmonton and Calgary to transport large amounts of food to Athabasca and Lac La Biche food banks, using the strength of their network to meet emergency needs arising in those small communities.
  • Al Rashid Mosque in Edmonton is helping evacuees using the supplies, connections, and volunteers they have from welcoming Syrian refugees.
  • Airbnb is waiving service fees on listings from those wishing to share their accommodations with evacuees free of charge.
  • Both the provincial and federal governments are matching donations to the Canadian Red Cross, tripling donors’ efforts and enabling a coordinated disaster response. Many businesses are also donating and collecting donations to the Red Cross.
  • Oil companies including Shell and Suncor have been working with the evacuation effort to provide transportation and shelter to evacuees.
  • Volunteer Alberta has been sharing information and well wishes through Twitter, and waiting to hear how we can best help nonprofits, both from Fort McMurray and those helping around Alberta.

In the coming weeks and months, as both short and long term needs become more clear, communities will continue to respond and support evacuees and the community of Fort McMurray. I am sure we will continue to hear stories of Albertans in every sector and corner of the province finding ways to help out.

rogersIf you are looking for opportunities to help, keep in mind that the need has just begun.

Be patient as some organizations are experiencing overwhelming amount of support and donations, beyond what they can currently use or distribute! Your passion and enthusiasm is going to be very helpful as evacuees, organizations, and communities learn more about their ongoing needs – so hang tight.

To keep up to date on the help being provided for Fort McMurray evacuees, follow #ymmhelps on Twitter.

 

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

Volunteers Promovo - Smiling Senior

Seven Habits of Highly Well People

Guest post from our partners at OASSIS.

In our busy lives, it can be easy to neglect our health. This is especially true in the nonprofit sector where our attention and energy is most often directed to the clients we serve.

It’s important to remember that being healthy and taking care of our self is not a selfish act. In fact, being in top shape is the best thing we can do for those we work with and work for.

So how can we work towards better health? We are sharing seven healthy habits for healthier lifestyles. Start by choosing one manageable habit to work towards on your own – or, even better, to focus on as an office!

1. Exercise regularly

Promovo Community - Biking TogetherBeing physically active is one of the best things we can do for our health. Exercise does not have to be as daunting or time consuming as you might think. Being active for 30 min each day is recommended; however, this can be broken down into short, 10 min intervals. It can be as simple as going for a walk during the lunch hour, doing a few strength training exercises during TV commercial breaks, or completing 10 min of yoga or stretching in the morning before work. Try having a walking meeting to get your whole office active!

2. Eat more vegetables and fruits

Canada’s food guide recommends 7-8 servings of vegetables and fruits for adult women and 8-10 servings for adult men. Ensuring you have a vegetable or fruit with every meal, including snacks, is an easy way to sneak more of these nutrient-dense foods into your diet. Adding blueberries to morning cereal, carrots and hummus for a snack, and a brightly-coloured side salad to lunch and dinner are a few quick examples. Keep this in mind when ordering catering for staff or an event!

3. Get 7-8 hours of restful sleep each night.

Adequate sleep aids in both our physical and mental restoration. It helps keep our immune system in tip-top shape and supplies us with a full tank of energy to deal with daily stresses. For better sleep, make sure your bedroom is a sleep-optimal environment: Control for noise and light disturbances, and ensure a cool temperature and proper ventilation. If you can, make an office-wide rule to not answer any agency emails or phone calls after a certain hour.

4. Avoid smoking

Group of friendsCigarettes are the leading cause of lung cancer, and linked to heart disease and respiratory disease. The good news is, once you quit smoking, the damage can become near reversible. If you’re looking for help with smoking cessation, Health Canada, the Canadian Cancer Society and Smokers Hotline all provide excellent resources. If a few of your organization’s staff smoke, try quitting together.

5. Limit Alcohol Consumption

Over indulgence in alcohol has been linked to heart disease, liver disease, and various types of cancer. To avoid the associated health risks, follow the consumption guidelines set out by Health Canada: Women should limit alcoholic beverages to a maximum of 9 per week and men to a maximum of 14, not exceeding more than 2 drinks per day. If after-work drinks are a big part of your office culture, consider other fun activities you and your coworkers could do together.

6. Maintain close and positive social connections

Studies show that people with strong social connections are more likely to have better cognitive and physical health. Maintain close ties with friends and family, get involved in our community, and seek professional support when necessary. Make time for bonding and friendships at your office – have lunch together, or make an effort to learn something new about your colleagues.

7. Limiting stress

SillyResearch has demonstrated that high amounts of stress and the perception that stress impacts heath are associated with poor physical and mental health, along with an increased risk of premature death. Individuals who cope well with stress are better able to reduce their risk. For stress-busting techniques focus on deep breathing, meditation, and positivity training. Don’t treat stress like an inevitable part of work at your office and make sure you and your colleagues support each other through stressful times.

 


OASSIS is an employee benefit plan provider for the nonprofit sector. OASSIS created a partnership with Tri Fit Inc. to provide wellness programs and resources free of charge to all plan members. Tri Fit Inc. is Canada’s leading provider of workplace fitness and wellness programs.

For more information on OASSIS Benefits Plans please visit www.oassisplan.com and for more information on Tri Fit Inc. please visit www.trifit.com.

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