Sign up for Sector Connector
Login / Logout Link
Volunteer Airdrie LEAD Graduation Group 1

Member Spotlight: Volunteer Airdrie breaks down barriers to volunteerism in their community

Finding solutions that suit your community may not be easy. But, when you approach solving complex issues with a mindset of abundance versus scarcity, multiple solutions tend to present themselves.

This is how Volunteer Airdrie approached redesigning their programs and services within the past few years. By looking at what opportunities were available and identifying gaps in their community, Volunteer Airdrie realized they needed to shift their focus to serving Airdrie residents.

“We really started focusing on where can we fit in and came to the conclusion that a lot of residents struggle to find the right volunteer opportunity quickly and efficiently,” says Dave Maffitt, Chair of Volunteer Airdrie’s Board of Directors. “So, we redesigned our focus to help our residents to break down barriers.”

Creating a user-friendly way to find volunteer opportunities

One way Volunteer Airdrie is helping residents break down barriers to volunteering is through the development of the Better Impact MVP Software; a free online tool that allows residents to create a profile on the website based on their age, availability, interests, qualifications and much more.

“The system allows Airdrie residents to do searches based on those criteria. For youth, somebody under 18, the system isn’t going to show them volunteer opportunities that are restricted to adults,” says Dave. “It’s growing rapidly and it’s starting to get additional members on a daily basis.”

Engaging youth in Airdrie’s nonprofit community with LEAD

In their community, Volunteer Airdrie is also breaking down barriers for youth engagement through the Leadership Empowerment and Achieving a Difference (LEAD) program. LEAD is a ten-week program that is free of charge for youth grades 7-12 with ten in-class sessions and 20 hours of community service or volunteering.

In LEAD’s in-class sessions, young people learn about topics like problem-solving, organizing and planning, teamwork, conflict management skills and personal wellbeing to help them develop youth leadership skills to use while volunteering or out in their community in other ways.

“Kids often get exposure to a number of different opportunities and causes, and start to get an appreciation for the needs in Airdrie and some of the causes that are may be more meaningful to them,” says Dave. “In the long term, it attracts them to come back and continue to volunteer with that organization after they have finished LEAD. It’s been a big, big success!”

Overcoming volunteer age restrictions for youth

Despite nonprofits’ minimum age requirement policies, Volunteer Airdrie has also been able to match young teens with group volunteer opportunities successfully at local nonprofits by providing appropriate adult supervision.

“So, that’s where we step in because we can open a lot of doors for these youth, especially the 12-14 year age group,” says Dave. “It’s really difficult for them to find meaningful volunteer opportunities since most nonprofit organizations have policies in minimum age requirements that are in that 15-16 year range.”

Volunteer Airdrie will continue their youth engagement initiative by opening a youth volunteer centre next year. They hope the centre creates a caring environment for kids that provides them with community service opportunities that are meaningful to them.

Located in Airdrie, Alberta, Volunteer Airdrie is the recognized volunteer centre for the City of Airdrie and the immediate surrounding area of Rocky View County, Alberta. Volunteer Airdrie’s mission is to empower Airdrie residents to invest in themselves and their community through volunteerism.

Adrienne Vansevenandt

Volunteer Alberta

Special thanks to our summer intern, Navi Bhullar, for sourcing and helping to storyboard this Member Spotlight.

Member Spotlight: How Network Leaders connect, collaborate and improve communities

Volunteer Lethbridge’s unique approach to community collaboration

Network leaders play an important role within the nonprofit sector. They create spaces for citizens, volunteers and organizations to collaborate and support one another. Volunteer Lethbridge is a nonprofit Network Leader in Alberta that promotes and fosters the value of volunteerism, community and the nonprofit sector.

Currently, Volunteer Lethbridge is working with the City of Lethbridge on mapping the assets of their community, to bring value to the city and the organizations they serve. This approach will assist in pinpointing the assets within the community and provide the opportunity to identify some of the gaps that could be filled to meet the needs of their community better.

“The city is really moving forward in a dynamic way to map the assets of our community and then be able to evaluate and see what are some of the trends, where are some of the gaps, and what are some of the programming that we need to develop,” says Diana Sim, Executive Director at Volunteer Lethbridge.

This Network Leader mindset encourages Diana to seek partnerships and potential connections to benefit nonprofits, volunteers, Lethbridge residents and their community as a whole.

“Our mission is about building connections and empowering individuals and organizations to enhance volunteerism and grow volunteer capacity,” says Diana.

Leveraging networks to help nonprofits grow in capacity with SCiP

One way Volunteer Lethbridge helps local nonprofits grow volunteer capacity is by promoting and leveraging the Serving Communities Internship Program (SCIP)* in their community. SCiP connects nonprofits with post-secondary students by facilitating internship opportunities for students to apply their skills and knowledge.

“As a Network Leader, we receive supports to be the local champion of SCiP and skilled volunteerism,” says Diana. “Over the past few years, I’ve leveraged SCiP in developing relationships with our local post-secondary institutions. The win-win-win ripple effect continues beyond what we see.”

By promoting SCiP in their community, Volunteer Lethbridge increases awareness of volunteerism and builds the future workforce of nonprofits by providing students a first-hand experience into the value of working in the nonprofit sector.

“SCiP interns really support the work of diverse agencies. It provides opportunities for students to gain experience and it helps relieve extra demands on staffing resources. More is accomplished with more people,” says Diana.

Connecting students with volunteer opportunities

Volunteer Lethbridge holds two volunteer fairs each year; one in September at the University of Lethbridge campus. The fair helps students discover ways they can connect with the community through volunteering and participating in SCiP, and prepares them to be a part of the community beyond their studies.

“Promoting SCiP always peaks interests, as students learn ways to gain valuable work experience and benefit financially as well,” says Diana. “Student engagement in the community is a great way for students to build their network, get to know the community and enrich an organization.”

*Administered by Volunteer Alberta and funded by the Government of Alberta

 

Over the years, Volunteer Lethbridge has established a solid reputation as a leader in the voluntary and nonprofit sector. Their services continue to grow and evolve to meet the needs of nonprofit agencies, individuals and the community at large.

Navi Bhullar

Volunteer Alberta Intern

Audio: FAQs About Employee Benefits for Nonprofit Organizations

oassis_newVolunteer Alberta has a partnership with OASSIS, a nonprofit organization providing employee benefit plans specifically designed for the nonprofit sector. Members of Volunteer Alberta receive exclusive access to OASSIS benefit plans in Alberta.

Karen Bentham, Executive Director for OASSIS, recently sat down with us to discuss some frequently asked questions about employee benefits.

Guest Blog: Prevent Long Term Disability by Managing Casual Absences

desk_benefitsRight now, there are employees at workplaces across Canada who may be at risk of absence and disability, some of them in your own place of employment. They may be dealing with physical or mental health issues, personal concerns or unresolved issues with a work colleague or supervisor. It is estimated that mental health problems alone cost employers about $20 billion a year, according to Statistics Canada. Add to this the fact that the average employee reported the equivalent of 9.3 days in work time lost for personal reasons in 2011, and the picture of lost productivity becomes very relevant for employers.

What can you as an employer do to address these issues before they escalate to a long-term disability claim?

Assess your organization
As an employer, you first need to look at your organization and assess the following.

Baseline- Do you have measures in place to track absenteeism, disabilities or health risks? The 2012 Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey showed that only 38% of employers formally track absenteeism. It is difficult to address a problem if you don’t know the extent of the problem, so getting a good read on the current state of your organization is important.

Current policies and practices – Do you have an absence policy? Is there a disability plan for short and long-term disabilities? Does your sick leave policy mesh with your disability plan?

Health or organization assessment – You might decide that simply assessing your current policies and practices reveals opportunities for improvement, which allow you to take action.

Create a plan and strategy
Once you’ve assessed your situation, you need to form strategies and plan.  It is hard to address everything at once so prioritize. Assess whether you need to do the following:

  • develop policies and practices that address current gaps related to managing absence and disability; or
  • develop a workplace wellness strategy (i.e., what are the areas of focus that can best help your staff? do you have someone who can be responsible for managing the wellness programs? If not, where can you tap into resources?).

Develop improved practices
Early identification of issues and appropriate early intervention can help avoid short and long-term disabilities. On the other hand, sometimes simply treating an absence problem as a performance issue can do more harm than good, and can even lead to a disability. A manager must be able to look beyond the absenteeism and consider the reason for the absences, and do this in a way that respects the employee’s privacy. In this respect, management training is essential to help managers guide the discussion.

Communication is important, so you need to let employees know that the resources and services available can make a difference. In addition, providing information on medical conditions, prescription drugs, treatment options and health news can enable employees to help themselves.

Measure success
How you manage absences can say a lot about your organization and send a clear message to employees about their value. By applying various best practices and understanding what is going on in your workplace, you can support your managers and employees with great result. Consider some of these potential benefits:

  • a decrease in employee absence and disability incidence rates;
  • the ability to retain and engage valued employees and improved employee morale;
  • improved levels of overall organizational health and wellness;
  • improved service to customers; and
  • reduced costs, increased productivity and a healthier bottom line.

OASSIS partners with Volunteer Alberta to access respected and reliable carriers of benefit products. Organizations in Alberta that wish to access OASSIS Employee Benefits must be current members of Volunteer Alberta.

To get a quote today, contact Jennifer Truman at 1-888-233-5580 Ext. 7.

 

Karen Bentham

Executive Director of OASSIS

 

If you are interested in contributing to the VA blog as a Guest Blogger, please contact Tim at thenderson@volunteeralberta.ab.ca

There are options! Nonprofit Sector Employee Benefits

On Tuesday, Volunteer Alberta hosted a two-hour interactive discussion on employee benefits in the nonprofit/voluntary sector! Mike Babichuk, our resident expert, answered questions about employee benefits. Here are the questions, and answers to what people wanted to know about employee benefits:

Q – Rachel McBeath Hi Mike! I just started with a small organization (6 People) and we don’t have any kind of benefit plan…Are we just too small to have benefits?

A – Mike Babichuk Not at all Rachel, OASSIS can provide benefits to even a single person organization. We of course can also provide those same benefits to 1000’s

Q – Rachel McBeath Are we limited in what we can get because we are smaller?? I hear that benefits can be really expensive for smaller places like the one I work with

A – Mike Babichuk Size for the most part is irrelevant. OASSIS offers 6 different plans with a number of options in each plan which can be tailored to everyone’s needs and budget. OASSIS is very competitive as we do not use brokers and all savings are passed on to our customers.

Q – Doray Veno Hello Mike, Would June 15th morning work for you to do a VC presentation to the Hanna Learning Centre Board? Thanks Doray

Q – Doray Veno What organizational information do you require to provide a quote?

A – Mike Babichuk June 15 is fine for me Doray, just confirm the logistics as soon as you can. As for a quote I actually don’t need any information as I would provide you a secure website location where you would answer just a few questions and you would receive a quote usually within 48 hours. I would of course be available to answer any questions during the process if you require.

Q – Rachel McBeath Not to ask you too many questions Mike…but in talking with the girls here, where do we begin with benefit plans? Like what are standard benefits that we should probably look at getting? Can they be set up to be different for different people in the organization?

A – Mike Babichuk Love the questions; very thoughtful and pertinent. Although I did say plans are highly customizable they are for the group as a whole not individually. So whatever is chosen for benefits is for everyone within the group. Having said that most plans cover the gambit of benefits most individuals require. There are a couple of ways of making choices; what can we as an organization afford or what benefits do we want to provide to retain our existing staff or recruit staff for future growth. Plans are very flexible so you can start for example with a Standard Plan that covers 80% of most prescription & dental services right up to 100% coverage. You also have choices on optional benefits like short & long term disability, dependent life, counselling services (EAP) and health spending accounts. Hope I answered your question.

Q – Maxine Charlton I have my own business; can I set up a benefit plan if it is a sole proprietorship?

A – Mike Babichuk To your question sorry we can’t provide benefits for self-employed persons just for paid staff. I know it may seem like splitting hairs but OASSIS was created to provide benefits for volunteer and not for profit organizations.

Thanks to everyone who posed some great questions about benefits. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact Mike via email or by phone 780.482.3300 ext.238 or visit the OASSIS website at http://www.oassisplan.com/

Mike Babichuk
OASSIS Sales and Marketing Leader

Not-for-profit Web Consulting & Digital Marketing by Adster Creative