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NextGen City Jam recognizes Edmonton volunteers: Why they give back and stay involved

Everyone’s volunteer journey is unique. When you ask volunteers why and how they started, their stories are often different.

Recently, we interviewed two Edmonton volunteers who are attending NextGen’s volunteer recognition event City Jam to give us insight into how they started volunteering and why they give back to the Edmonton community.

How long have you been volunteering for?

Maddy Shevchuk: I’ve been volunteering for different groups and organizations since I started university in September 2012.

Jim Walsh: I started volunteering in 2012 when I met a wonderful lady I now proudly call my wife. I got involved here in Edmonton in January 2019 with the Deep Freeze.

Why did you start volunteering?

Maddy: I love working with kids and helping kids makes me feel good! I love the feeling of volunteering.

Jim: My wife was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2011, a year before we met. Seeing her get involved to help support and educate others, and to witness her be an inspiration to so many others who were going through the same disease, made me want to get involved to support her and her cause.

Since then, I have discovered there are many wonderful things that can come from lending your time and talents to assist others. For example, it is a fantastic way to give back to your community. Here in Edmonton, I have a great friend of mine who asked me if I was interested in helping out at the Deep Freeze this year. It was a great way for me to find out more about what my new home city has to offer me. I have also felt a great sense of purpose and it helps me to reduce stress when I get involved in other activities.

Why do you think volunteering/volunteerism is important?

Maddy: I think that volunteering is important because everybody could use a helping hand every once in a while. And the few spare hours you have to volunteer can make a world of difference for somebody else.

I think that other people should get involved with their communities through volunteering so they can see what else is out there. See how other people live and see the impact that different organizations have on their community.

Jim: Volunteering helps bring people together. Getting involved in volunteerism provides you a greater appreciation for where you live, helps foster a greater sense of pride in our neighborhood/town/city, etc. It gives you a chance to grow as a person. It’s also a fantastic way to relieve stress; you take the focus off yourself for a little while and focus on others. So get out there. Get involved in something, anything.

From your perspective as a volunteer, why do you think NextGen City Jam is important to your community? 

Maddy: I think NextGen City Jam is very important in our community because it encourages people to step out of their comfort zone, doing things that they would not normally do, it also helps out the communities that we live in and makes such a positive impact in so many different areas!

Jim: As a volunteer and as a NEW volunteer here in the Edmonton area, for me, NextGen City Jam is a way for organizers of the volunteer community to show their appreciation to all those who help make events and charities more successful/memorable. It is that thankful recognition that helps make the volunteers feel that their efforts are greatly respected. As people, we all like to be recognized and that makes us want to do more. This helps feed the desire to grow the volunteer community. So thank you NextGen.

Has NextGen City Jam encouraged you to volunteer more?

Maddy: It has encouraged me to keep volunteering in my community to give back.

Jim: The knowledge of NextGen City Jam has made me want to get more involved. From my view, it’s a great show of appreciation to the volunteer community for the hard work that the volunteers do.

I never realized how much work goes into creating and putting on an event. Volunteers are truly an integral part, and for an event like NextGen City Jam to honour the volunteers the way they do is amazing! People want to repeat actions that give them positive feelings, and recognition like NextGen City Jam certainly fills you with pride and appreciation.

If a friend of yours wanted to start volunteering but didn’t know where to start, what advice would you give to them?

Maddy: Look into volunteering in areas that you are passionate about. I for one love working with kids so I am always interested in opportunities in this field. If you are not sure what interests you, try volunteering for several different organizations and see how you like them. You never know what you might enjoy if you don’t try.

Jim: If someone was to ask me about volunteering I would tell them to start small. Don’t overwhelm yourself. You want the experience to be enjoyable, not a “chore”. Don’t try to be a superhero right out of the gate!  Get involved in something of interest. We all have skills/talents we can offer others. So, use those skills and compassion to help others, to bring someone else some enjoyment.

Have you or your volunteers donated at least 10 hours between May 1st and September 4th? Send in your hours to Edmonton’s NextGen and get your name on the guestlist for City Jam 2019 at Sonic Field Day!

Maddy Shevchuk is a University of Alberta elementary education student who loves volunteering with kids and making other people happy! Currently, she volunteers as a big sister mentor with the Boys & Girls Club Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton & Area. When Maddy is not in school, volunteering or working, she loves to bake cupcakes and read.  

 

Jim Walsh is originally from the east coast and recently moved to Edmonton for the second time in late 2018 with his beloved wife. He loves to volunteer to open his mind to new things and learn more about his city. Currently, Jim volunteers with Kaleido, the Deep Freeze with Arts on the Avenue, the Heart of the City, Heritage Festival and Edmonton Rock Fest. Jim and his wife are long-time breast cancer survivor advocates and dedicated volunteers who help raise funds and increase awareness.

 

Adrienne Vansevenandt

Volunteer Alberta

Fringe volunteers

Member Spotlight: Edmonton Fringe Theatre finds ‘the right fit’ with their volunteer program

Volunteers are integral to the nonprofit sector. Many nonprofits/charities, events, festivals and more, would not be possible without Albertans selflessly devoting their time to our communities and causes. But many nonprofits struggle with getting volunteers in the door and finding volunteers who are the right fit that will also come back to volunteer.

Fringe Theatre has a unique challenge to recruit, onboard, and engage more than 1,200 volunteers for their annual Fringe Festival in Edmonton. But, their volunteer program is extremely successful, so how do they do it?

How the Fringe Theatre finds and reaches volunteers

One of the ways the Fringe Theatre reaches volunteers is by posting their opportunities online on the VolunteerConnector platform; a new platform that allows volunteers to search for opportunities by cause, skills, time commitment, and more.

Sarah and Drew, Fringe Theatre Volunteer Team

“I love the new VolunteerConnector! As a volunteer and volunteer manager, I was previously so frustrated by the lack of an easy-to-use, visually appealing volunteer opportunities board,” says Drew Delbaere, Interim Volunteer Manager at Fringe Theatre. “It’s great that so many volunteer centres across the province are now using the platform, so we don’t have to put our postings in multiple places.”

In addition to online postings, Drew says they also put up posters around the city, attend other events and farmers markets, advertise on social media, and reach out to former volunteers. They also do targeted outreach for their more skilled volunteer roles.

“For some of our roles, we do targeted outreach to people or organizations that would meet the specific qualifications, like for our First Aid Team,” says Drew.

Using the 10 steps to volunteer screening to get ‘the right fit’

But reaching volunteers and getting people interested in your cause is only one piece of volunteer recruitment. It’s also about finding the right fit and good onboarding. And the Fringe Theatre finds the right fit not only for their organization but also for their volunteers using the 10 Steps to Volunteer Screening.

“The 10 Steps are the foundation of our volunteer screening process,” says Drew. “When we first developed our screening strategy, or subsequently look to adjust it from year to year, the 10 Steps are behind every decision that we make.”

For example, some key steps that help find the right fit include writing clear volunteer position/role descriptions and conducting interviews to get to know the volunteer. But, the 10 Steps or good screening practices start at developing policies and is carried through to the support and supervision a volunteer receives.

“I believe that screening is one of the most important parts of any volunteer program. As volunteer managers, we need to move beyond thinking about screening as just a background check because it is so much more than that,” says Drew. “To me, screening means finding people who are a good fit for your organization, and a background check alone can’t tell me that.”

While screening can take a lot of resources, both financially and in staff time, according to Drew, it is a worthwhile investment. “Without a good screening program in place, you will spend more time dealing with performance, disciplinary, and/or retention issues in the future.”

Recommendations for your volunteer program

With Fringe Theatre’s tall order of recruiting 1,200+ volunteers every year, they’ve learned a thing or two about running a successful volunteer program. Here are some tips/recommendations from Fringe Theatre’s Interim Volunteer Manager, Drew, that could help your organization’s volunteer program:

  • Set clear expectations from the start.
  • Make sure that position descriptions are easy to understand and that they encompass all parts of the role. There should be no surprises!
  • Make sure to communicate if there is a mandatory training session upfront. Even better if you can give the exact date and time.
  • If you are an organization that runs an annual event or festival, make sure to invite your previous volunteers back! A simple email inviting former volunteers to join you again can make a huge impact.
  • If you are an organization that recruits volunteers year-round, consider why someone should join you now, rather than a month or year from now.
    • Make sure you give a deadline because if you have ongoing recruitment it can be easy for potential volunteers to keep putting off applying.
  • For all volunteer managers, use your current group of volunteers to help your recruit. Beyond just asking, help facilitate this process. For example:
    • You could create a toolkit with graphics, photos, or messaging that your volunteers can share with their networks in emails or on social media.
  • Deliver a quality volunteer experience. For better or worse, volunteer programs will start to develop a reputation which can have an impact on the success or struggles of future recruitment.

The Edmonton International Fringe™ Theatre Festival has been delighting, shocking, and surprising audiences since 1982. Of the 23 in North America, they are the oldest and largest! They transform theatre. Foster artists. Nurture audiences. Take chances. And help you find the artist inside.

 

Adrienne Vansevenandt

Volunteer Alberta

Youth @ the Table Team

Why engaging youth in board governance is important according to the Youth @ the Table team

Launched this year, Youth @ the Table is Volunteer Alberta’s new youth engagement initiative. The program aims to create governance opportunities for young people ages 18 to 30 who are interested in the nonprofit sector.

Participants will be paired with a nonprofit board in their community and spend six months learning directly from a mentor on the nonprofit’s leadership team. Over the course of the program, they will gain the knowledge and skills necessary to influence operations and strategic directions. By sitting at the decision-making table, youth will lead the nonprofit sector into the future and create space for young people to influence social issues in Alberta.

Hear from the Youth @ the Table team about why they believe engaging youth in Alberta’s nonprofit sector is important:

What is your role at Volunteer Alberta?

Eunice: I am the Youth @ the Table Coordinator! I help figure out the logistics of our overall game plan.

Lauren: My role is the Youth @ the Table Project Manager. I lead a great team who has been working hard to develop and implement the Youth @ the Table project!

Navneet: I’m the Senior Coordinator, Marketing & Communications! I curate our social media, draft external communications, and lead strategic directions on branding.

Have you ever had any governance experience? What was it like?

Eunice: Yes! I participated in the Non-profit Board Internship, a program run by Community Service-Learning at the University of Alberta. I was paired with interVivos, a nonprofit that provides forums for emerging leaders in Edmonton. I sat on a board for 8 months as an intern it really elevated my confidence and my ability to connect with professionals.

As a young person trying to navigate what comes next in a fast-paced world, developing communication, leadership, critical thinking and decision-making skills are crucial. I am now a more well-rounded community member. I know what goes on at the decision-making level of groups who shape our community to be better and more livable and I can ask meaningful questions, and really understand the avenues where real change can happen.

Lauren: I am relatively new to governance! During my first year at the University of Alberta, I served a term on the Alberta Mentorship Program (AMP)’s Executive Committee. It gave me the opportunity to volunteer with various organizations like the Mustard Seed and local initiatives like The Youth Restorative Justice Project.

Before and after AMP, I’ve asked myself “how do I get more involved in nonprofit organizations?”. I didn’t know how or where to seek out governance opportunities. Looking back, I think to have a program like Youth @ the Table would have really benefited me because Youth @ the Table bridges that gap between nonprofits who are looking to engage youth and youth who are looking to take action and get involved.

Navneet: During my time as a student at the University of Alberta, I was involved in a wide range of board and governance roles. I served as a Team Leader at the Campus Food Bank for a couple years then as a Member at Large on The Gateway Student Journalism Society’s board. I loved these roles because I got to go beyond the day to day operations and be part of major decisions such as which fundraisers to approve and how to transition the newspaper into a magazine.

Currently, I sit on the Winspear’s Young Leadership Council and get to do similar work. I provide input on how to make guest experiences more youth-friendly and engage young people in musical endeavours. This work is incredibly rewarding because I get to express my ideas and watch them get implemented to improve an organization that I care deeply about.

Why is getting youth (18-30 years old) involved in governance so important?

Eunice: This age group makes up the biggest chunk of Canada, I think finding opportunities for people in this age bracket to exercise their passions and channel their energy would only benefit society as a whole. It’s about time that folks who fall in this age bracket are recognized as important knowledge keepers, not just receivers.

Lauren: We are experiencing so much change in our world right now, I think there has never been a more important time for young people to get involved in decision-making, not only in the nonprofit sector but in every sector. I think as we continue to make space for them in these conversations, we will begin to recognize how much knowledge they have to contribute and how passionate they are about social issues.

Navneet: Young people are our future leaders. This fact, though obvious, is all too often overlooked in many sectors. By failing to include this age group at decision-making tables, we fail to prepare for the future and lose opportunities for growth in our sector. For young people to gain the skills necessary to tackle the world’s most complex social issues, we must break down the barriers that prevent them from being heard. Young people bring diverse perspectives and innovative ideas to the table — it’s important that they are taken seriously!

Do you have any last thoughts about engaging youth in the nonprofit sector?

Navneet: Governance can often be an intimidating concept that seems reserved for those who are interested in politics or traditional leadership roles. With Youth @ the Table, we want to break down this perception of governance and push decision-making spaces to be more open and inclusive. For progress to happen in our sector, we have to make sure young people have access to the board rooms in which decisions are made.

Are you between the ages of 18-30 and interested in making a difference in your community? Apply for Volunteer Alberta’s Youth @ the Table program by June 15th, 2019! Learn more.

Vegreville Pic 1

Member Spotlight: Vegreville & District FCSS inspire youth to engage in board governance and nonprofit part 2

Youth engagement has been a hot topic in the nonprofit sector and community for the last several years. Nonprofits want to know how to reach young people and keep them engaged. Especially when it comes to getting young people at decision-making tables to support succession planning for the nonprofit sector.

But, youth engagement goes beyond describing and understanding millennials or generation Z. It’s about creating unique opportunities for youth to have a voice and bring fresh perspectives that fill existing gaps for nonprofits and your community.

This is exactly what Vegreville and District FCSS is doing with their Youth Making A Change program. Youth Making A Change (YMAC) successfully engages students in grades 10 to 12 in board governance, and as a result, encourages succession planning for the future of our sector.

Last year, we covered how Vegreville and District FCSS engages youth in board governance through this program, so we decided to provide an update of how their program is making a difference in their community.

Inspiring youth to get involved in governance and nonprofit

YMAC inspires, equips and mobilizes youth to take action to make changes in their community and learn new skills through service. When Vegreville & District first created YMAC, there were no programs in which youth were taught about leadership and community engagement, and also given a first-hand board and community project experience.

While most youths have the opportunity to join in sports, or other after-school activities, there was not a space for youth who possessed an interest in volunteerism and leadership skills in a more formal setting. YMAC was able to fill that void by creating a safe space for the students to come once a week and take action in bettering themselves and their community.

“The program has been effective for the youth,” says Julie Gottselig, Manager at Vegreville and District FCSS. “When going through their evaluations, 8 out of the 10-youth said that they feel that because of YMAC, they can make a difference in their community. Having this program available in the community is vital to help inspire youth and show them that they can make a difference.”

As a result, many young people that participated in YMAC now volunteer in the Vegreville community. A few students even mentioned that they want to work in human services after they graduate thanks to the program. That is, YMAC inspires young people with a hands-on opportunity to learn and understand the value and impact of the nonprofit sector.

Impact on Vegreville nonprofits

According to Vegreville and District FCSS, YMAC Board Mentors appreciate and see the value of having a youth member on their board as it brings in a fresh face and new ideas. One Board Mentor said this about their experience:

“It’s inspiring to have young people be interested in not only being a part of their community but also giving back to it. It’s great to see them being involved in such an impactful way.” – Joanna Karczmarek, Board Mentor at Vegreville Food Bank

Because of these positive experiences through YMAC, many Vegreville nonprofit boards request to have youth join them for the next YMAC intake. Other Vegreville nonprofit boards even get a second youth member to join them in the following years!

How nonprofits can engage youth in board governance

To engage youth in board governance in your community, Vegreville and District FCSS recommends providing appropriate training for your board. The training must teach board members on how to be mentors for youth.

More specifically, being a mentor means knowing the different ways to make sure youth are comfortable and have an enjoyable experience as a board member themselves.

“This can include not putting the youth on the spot or forcing them to participate in a conversation, warning them when a topic may become intense, and offering them words of encouragement throughout the meetings,” says Emma Murray, FCSS Child Youth and Family Programmer.

According to Vegreville and District FCSS, providing this training is what makes YMAC possible and successful. Beyond training, they also recommend getting youth involved in being a part of events and planning. They find YMAC students enjoy boards more when there are specific events that give them an opportunity to show their more creative side during board meetings.

Vegreville and District FCSS is a nonprofit organization that prevents crisis and takes care of the social well-being of the community by offering low/no cost programs and services to the Town of Vegreville and the western portion of the County of Minburn.

Do you want to learn how to get youth to join your board? Contact Vegreville & District FCSS for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ECVO Fail Safe pic 1

Member Spotlight: Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (ECVO) educates nonprofits about ‘risky business’

In Alberta’s nonprofit voluntary sector, usually, our top priority is social good. We try our best to make our communities more vibrant, safe and overall better places to live for all Albertans. But, while we have good intentions, we may not always realize the unintended risk that comes with the work we do.

Risk for nonprofits can range from volunteer screening to human resources, working with disadvantaged populations to program failure, reputation management to legal liabilities and inappropriate insurance coverage, everything in between and more. But, what do we do when the unexpected happens and we don’t have the required tools, resources or plans to mitigate and overcome the risk?

The many ways ECVO educates nonprofits about risk

This is why familiarity with risk management is essential when it comes to the operation of any nonprofit or charity. And luckily, there are capacity building organizations like the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (ECVO) that provide education and guidance on not only managing risk, but also foundational knowledge for nonprofits in their community.

ECVO’s ongoing learning events include topics like bylaw refreshers, board member training, human resources training, policy-making, and more. All of which are foundational topics that nonprofits need to know and support risk management strategies.

More recently, risk was the topic at hand at Think Tank Conversations, an initiative that sees the city’s volunteer managers gather regularly to discuss their challenges and co-create solutions.

Author and entrepreneur Paul Shoemaker leading a breakout session at Fail Safe, October 2018.

Participants brainstormed processes and tools to assist them in their volunteer management work, and also completed risk assessment exercises. One key takeaway from their conversations is that risk is unavoidable and the only solution is to be prepared and to have a plan.

And part of the planning process means learning from previous failures. In 2018, ECVO held their first-ever Fail Safe Conference, a conference that creates safe and supportive spaces to discuss various aspects of failure—how it happens, how to learn from it, and how to use it to create success for your organization.

How ECVO manages risk in their programs and services

It is a fitting conference as one risk that ECVO faces most frequently is the potential failure of a program or service according to Russ Dahms, Executive Director at ECVO. “The risk relates to investing resources and not achieving an outcome, as well as possible reputation risk,” says Russ.

So how does ECVO mitigate this risk? “We consult with trusted advisors and may test proposed programs or services with representatives from the intended target market,” says Russ. This is a smart way to trial new programs before investing in a full launch.

What ECVO recommends for your risk management strategy

But programs and services are only one aspect to consider. Russ recommends that as part of your risk management strategy, nonprofits and charitable organizations should include cyber security, and to find a reputable and capable cyber security company to work with.

In addition, Russ suggests that organizations review their policies to confirm that there are sufficient guidelines to support decision making around mitigating risk. He also recommends making sure your insurance provider has a complete understanding of your organization’s activities so that the insurance policy properly covers risk.

“In addition to general comprehensive liability insurance, director and officer insurance is a must,” states Russ. “Cyber insurance is quickly becoming a standard insurance inclusion.”

ECVO intends to offer another workshop on risk management in the fall of 2019, giving nonprofits the chance to learn more about risk management strategies and to be prepared for the unexpected.

The Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (ECVO) is a member-based nonprofit organization serving the nonprofit and charitable organizations in the Metro Edmonton Region. Their vision is a strong, vibrant community strengthened by an effective voluntary sector working with government and business.

Looking for more information related to risk management and volunteer screening? Check out our Volunteer Screening Program for more information.

 

Adrienne Vansevenandt

Volunteer Alberta

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