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Leadership Takes Many Forms

The Casey Executive Coaching Leader as Coach Program is a developmental program for nonprofit leaders focused on building inclusive leadership practices and practical coaching skills. A leader-as-coach approach helps leaders, as well as staff, to develop to their highest potential.

In a unique partnership, Volunteer Alberta was given a spot in the program at a reduced cost in exchange for sharing the program with others. Our Serving Communities Internship Program (SCiP) Coordinator, Tim Henderson, signed up for the program to develop his mentorship style. Tim found the concepts, theories, and techniques, introduced by Melissa Casey, helped him to understand what kind of leader he is and how he can use his skills to better help others.

We asked Tim what he learned from the course. If you choose to take the Leader as Coach Program you may learn something similar, or you may focus on your own learning goals instead!


VA: What did you experience from the course?

TH: It was fascinating to hear from the other participants in the group and get a sense of the roles they play in their own organizations. We discussed what leadership meant to each of us and found each person in the group had completely different strengths and weaknesses. What was interesting to see was how those traits shaped their respective leadership styles.

Hearing the stories of others helped me appreciate my own strengths, but they also helped me understand the steps I can take to improve my weaknesses and become a better leader.

Throughout the program we were given a number of opportunities to practice ‘active listening’ in both one-on-one and group scenarios. This type of listening helped us build trust amongst ourselves and ended up paving the way for more fruitful conversations as the course progressed.

VA: What did you take away from the course overall?

TH: Overall, I learned that leadership takes many forms. Every personality is different, but through active listening, anyone can provide leadership in their organization. We all have something different to bring to the table and, if given the tools, we are all capable of stepping into leadership. Through this program, Melissa (our host), provided these tools. Coming back to my organization after finishing the course, I found that I was able to connect and communicate with my colleagues more effectively.


Leader as Coach is designed for the nonprofit sector. Continuous learning and development supports positive change in ourselves and our work. Implementing change in our lives, work, and organizations can be challenging, so we get excited about opportunities that build in time to have practical hands-on experience and provide transformative leadership learning! Tim would recommend this course for anyone who is looking for personal or professional development related to leadership.

Do you want to sign up for Leader as Coach? Register to participate in the fall session beginning in October. This program is offered in both Calgary and Edmonton. Find out more about this program on the Casey Executive Coaching website.

Home work

Twitter Tips and Tricks

We recently shared some social media tips in our blog “Getting Started on Twitter”. In this blog, we will offer some additional information for those of you who are new to Twitter!

What does following mean?

When you follow someone you are subscribing to their tweets. Some users have private accounts and you will have to request to follow them before you can see their tweets.

What’s a hashtag?

A hashtag looks like this: #volunteers. By placing a # in front of a word or phrase (no spaces!), you create a searchable link. Twitter users can follow the link to see tweets with the same hashtag. Keep in mind that hashtags are most useful when numerous other people are using them.

Hashtags are a great way to interact with other nonprofits or individuals who are talking about similar things. Hashtags are most often used for events, locations, campaigns, or news topics.

What does the @ do?

You can link to another Twitter user and let them know you are mentioning them by using @username (ex. @VolunteerAB). This is called a handle.

You can use @ when you are mentioning a person or organization to give them credit, sharing their work or event, or directing others to their Twitter page. Using a handle to link to someone is a good tool for engaging or communicating with followers of your organization and other nonprofits!

@ vs. .@

Keep in mind, when you begin a tweet with @username the tweet will go directly to that account and won’t always show up for your other followers.

You can use @ at the start of your tweet when you want to send a semi-private tweet – for example, to give someone specific information that isn’t necessarily important or relevant for all of your followers. These tweets won’t automatically be seen by your followers or the public, but they can still be viewed if someone either searches for them or follows both your account and the one you mention.

By adding a period, character, or word before the account you wish to tweet (for example: .@username or check out @username) your tweet will be sent normally – the tweet will be able to be viewed by the public as well as in your followers’ news feeds.

What does DM mean?

DM stands for direct message. This is a private message sent to the Twitter inbox of a selected recipient. DMs can be between two accounts or they can be sent to multiple people, making it a group message. A DM is completely private and is only seen by those included in the message, just like an email. It will not show up on your timeline or other’s news feeds.

What’s a retweet?

A RT or retweet is when you re-share someone else’s tweet. This action causes their tweet to appear on your organization’s profile page and appear in your followers’ news feeds. Basically, retweeting is how you share other people’s posts!

It’s a good idea to retweet relevant news, events, stories, comments, and information you think your followers would be interested in.  This way, you can share and learn from others, show what your organization both cares about and is interested in, and participate in what makes social media ‘social’: an interactive and connected community.

What’s the difference between blocking and muting?

Blocking is for ending all interaction with another account. This action will stop others from viewing your tweets from their account, directly mentioning you in a tweet, or DM’ing you. Blocking is helpful if you receive spam or abusive messages.

Muting hides tweets from an account you follow so they don’t show up in your front page news feed. You may mute accounts to keep your feed relevant and manageable or to ignore a really chatty account (for example: someone live-tweeting an event that doesn’t apply to your own organization). You will still get notifications if someone you muted directly mentions you in a tweet or replies to you.

Now that you understand more about Twitter, stay tuned for our next blog where we will share tips for managing your organization’s social media, utilizing Twitter analytics, and using pictures, emojis, polls, and memes appropriately!

Whitney Cullingham
Volunteer Alberta

Brainstorming wall

Strengthen Your Brand, Strengthen Your Work

With about 25,000 nonprofits in Alberta alone, there is plenty we can all learn from one another. From our triumphs to our tribulations, we can all learn a thing or two from other nonprofits to apply to our own work in the sector.

Jennifer Esler, the previous Communications Manager at Volunteer Alberta, has been working and volunteering in the nonprofit sector for many years. With this experience under her belt, she has lots of valuable advice to share with other nonprofit professionals. We captured some of her wisdom about nonprofit branding:

What is your brand?

Jen found one of the most important things she learned working in nonprofits is to have a strong brand. Having a strong brand is just as important for nonprofits as it is for business.

Brand is the immediate feeling people have when they see, hear, and interact with an organization, and it goes much deeper than simply a logo. Your brand affirms what your organization stands for and values. It is the deep, underlying identity that guides your organization and informs how your staff and volunteers act and communicate.

Not having a clear vision of your brand and your mission confuses people and leaves discrepancies within your organization!

Who are your audiences?

Jen shared that one of the most important aspects of branding is knowing your audiences. Your audiences include anyone your organization interacts with: funders, clients, potential volunteers, partners, and the communities your serve.

Tailor your brand to your audience, not the other way around. Identify the goals and problems that the audience you are addressing may have from their perspective.

What moves a donor to give to your cause? How does a volunteer benefit from working with your organization? What concerns can you quell for your funders?

Once you have familiarized yourself with your audiences, you can decide how you would like to engage with them. Ask the following questions to guide your communications:

  • What do you want them to know?
  • How do you want them to feel?
  • What do you want them to find?
  • What action do you want them to take?

Answering these questions will help you pinpoint what your goals are and give you clarity about how to communicate your brand to your important stakeholders.

Know the ‘why’:

When we asked Jen what she thinks nonprofits should know about effective messaging and branding, she said that she wants people to remember the ‘why’:

  • Why your organization exists
  • Why clients choose your organization
  • Why staff show up to work every day
  • Why volunteers want to work with you

Understanding your ‘why’ will help strengthen your brand and messaging and ensure your programs and services match your mission and vision. A strong brand draws donors, volunteers, advocates, and funders to the organization, so ensuring that you communicate well supports your organization’s work!

Keep it simple

Branding can sound daunting. To keep things simple, Jen shared her top tips and tricks for getting nonprofit messaging and branding across:

  • Know your mission
  • Know why people engage with you
  • When writing messages, have a clear idea of what you want your audience to know

We hope that these tips will help your organization further develop your brand and share your vision!

Whitney Cullingham
Volunteer Alberta

Workstation coffee

Getting Started on Twitter

Twitter can be overwhelming. With the constant, 24/7 updates, the infinite hashtags, the ever-changing trending topics, and the millions of users, you might feel lost trying to get a handle on Twitter. Even that last sentence might make you feel overwhelmed! However, Twitter can help nonprofits spread their visions and values to others easily. With some guidance, Twitter can be an effective and easy-to-use platform for communicating with numerous audiences quickly.

To help those of you who are brand new to Twitter, we will go over:

  • The sign-up process
  • Ideas for choosing an appropriate handle and profile picture
  • Creating an effective bio
  • How to stay on brand

Signing Up for Twitter

Twitter has the ability to increase your client, member, donor, and volunteer engagement and send new supporters your way. If you are new to Twitter, find some comfort knowing that signing up is straightforward!

The sign-up process helps you find who you might want to follow, add people and organizations you know, and personalize your profile. As a nonprofit, you should consider following other organizations close to your location. This way you can stay up-to-date with any new information, webinars, or events that may be happening near you! Also, it may be valuable to follow other nonprofits who share similar values and perspectives with you. Why? Because these organizations will be awesome for retweeting!

To start you will need to have a name (usually your organization’s name) and a password handy. You also need to think of a handle, this will be your username – ours is @VolunteerAB.

Twitter Handles and Profile Pictures

Once you’ve finished signing up and the initial tutorial, it’s time to start fine-tuning your Twitter homepage to make sure it reflects your organization’s brand and values. Did you choose the appropriate handle (username)? Your handle will be how others find and communicate with you, so make sure it is close to your organization’s name! Keep in mind that a shorter handle will be easier for others to fit in their tweets.

What about your profile picture? Your picture should also be representative of your organization. Usually your logo is the best way to go!

Twitter Bios

Something to remember for Twitter is to keep things short and sweet. There is a 140 character limit on tweets which usually translates to one or two short sentences and a link (to your event, article, or further information).

Twitter bios should be no different. Consider using your vision or mission statement and be sure to include a link to your website.

Staying On Brand

Finally, keep in mind that staying on brand and being consistent is important. Consider creating a communication plan or thinking of some goals for your Twitter feed. How many tweets would you like to put out a day? How many responses or retweets? Start small, see what your audience responds to.

Consistency and quality is more important than quantity! Your tweets should align with your organization’s values to ensure your communication works towards your cause, represents what you stand for, stays professional, and doesn’t confuse any of your audiences. Think about what you would want to hear about from your organization if you didn’t work there.

Continue to monitor your account to see how effective you are. Twitter has analytics available that can give you some extra insights. Once you have some initial information on how your audience is reacting to you, you can begin to tailor your Twitter approach. Creating a successful Twitter feed doesn’t happen overnight. It takes commitment and a little bit of work to get it running. So be patient, and take it one day at a time!

Make sure to read our next blog on some tips and tricks to keep in mind when you begin to tweet more often!

Stephanie O’Neill
Volunteer Alberta

Apple Computer

What does Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation mean for your nonprofit?

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) is coming into full force July 1, 2017 after a transition period of three years. The law prohibits sending commercial emails to Canadians without their consent. Here are some considerations to help ensure your organization is following this legislation:

We are a nonprofit! Our emails aren’t “commercial” are they? 

Your emails are commercial if they include or advertise any programs, services, or products the recipient could pay for.

For nonprofit organizations, commercial content in emails might include advertising membership, sharing workshop opportunities, selling event tickets, or promoting a corporate sponsor. If your emails include this type of information, CASL applies to your work.

For registered charities, soliciting donations is not considered a commercial activity.

CASL applies to my organization – what do we need to do?

You need to do three things to meet CASL: get consent, include identifying information about your organization, and include an unsubscribe function.

1. Get Consent

Your email recipients need to agree to receive emails from you.

In most cases, your organization is required to get expressed consent. This means email recipients need to ‘opt-in’ to receive your emails.

Implied consent is acceptable with your members, donors, volunteers, business relationships, and program participants who have been actively engaged with your organization in the past two years. Keep in mind, consent is only implied within the boundaries of that particular relationship – for example, you may only have implied consent from program participants for emails about said program. Implied consent needs to be renewed every two years.

When in doubt, get expressed consent!

2. Include Identifying Information

Your email recipients need to know who is sending the email (your organization) and how to get in touch with you. Add your nonprofits email, phone number, or address to your emails in a signature line or an email footer.

3. Include an Unsubscribe Function

Just because your email recipient gave consent, doesn’t mean they can’t withdraw that consent at a later time. You need to have a way for them to do this (like an unsubscribe button) and a process for ensuring you don’t keep emailing them after they have asked to be removed from your list.

What happens if my organization makes a mistake?

Originally, private citizens would have been allowed to file lawsuits against organizations and individuals who did not follow CASL as of July 1, 2017. The provisions allowing these private lawsuits were suspended this week.

The Competition Bureau, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, and the CRTC can all still take legal action to enforce CASL, with penalties for the most serious violations ranging up to $10 million.

As well, personal assets of board members are no longer at risk in the case of a mistake or CASL noncompliance.

It is important for nonprofit organizations to ensure that their insurance covers possible risks.

More information on CASL for nonprofits

Lucky for all of us, there are many great CASL resources available for nonprofits! Here are some good places to look for more information, tools, and templates:

Please keep in mind that Volunteer Alberta is not able to offer legal advice. We hope the information we have offered is helpful and we encourage your nonprofit to contact a lawyer with any legal questions.

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

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