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From the Vault – Microvolunteering: the benefits and drawbacks

April is a busy month for volunteerism! April 23-29, communities across the country will be celebrating volunteers and volunteerism for National Volunteer Week.

volunteer-lethbridgeBut first, Saturday, April 15 is Microvolunteering Day – an opportunity to learn more, get involved, or offer microvolunteering opportunities.

Last year, Volunteer Lethbridge promoted Microvolunteering Day as part of their National Volunteer Week celebrations, and shared with us some the benefits and drawbacks of Microvolunteering.

We originally shared the following post April 6, 2016.


From the Microvolunteering Day website:

“Microvolunteering is bite-sized, on-demand, no commitment actions that benefit a worthy cause.”

Some examples of microvolunteering include:

  • Tweeting about an organization or event
  • Baking a cake, knitting a hat, or writing a card for a cause
  • Picking up garbage in your community
  • Participating in a survey or research project
  • Signing a petition
  • Helping a senior with their groceries or yard work

I talked to Chelsea Sherbut, Volunteer Lethbridge’s Development Coordinator, to learn more about microvolunteering and what Volunteer Lethbridge has planned for the day.

Sam Kriviak: How is microvolunteering different from traditional volunteering? What are the benefits and drawbacks of microvolunteering?

Chelsea Sherbut: Unlike most normal volunteer opportunities, there is no application process, no screening, and no real commitment with microvolunteering. Usually you don’t have to go to a specific place to do it. It can often be done for home on your own time. You can see that there can be a lot of benefits!

Some drawbacks are that volunteers might miss out on making some of the “real life” connections that you get with traditional volunteering, and it’s not the kind of volunteer opportunity that improves your résumé. It still can be tremendously impactful, though, and is a fantastic option for people who feel like they are too busy to volunteer.

SK: What about for volunteer-engaging organizations?

CS: For organizations, microvolunteering offers a way to create more engagement and an easy platform for people to get to know your organization better. It’s a good opportunity to expose people to your mission and slowly build an ambassador for your work!

It can also be a lot easier to attract volunteers for these kind of opportunities. We often talk about eliminating barriers to volunteering and this is one great way. If you can create an opportunity that requires as few barriers as possible you’ve made it almost impossible for a prospective volunteer to say no!

Creating microvolunteering opportunities isn’t without challenges, but if you are creative, there are a lot of potential ways to use volunteers on a micro-scale: research and data collection, citizen science, online petitions, donations of specific items, brainstorming (i.e. naming your new exhibit/campaign), social media marketing, clean ups, etc.!

SK: Along with many other community celebrations, Volunteer Lethbridge is recognizing Microvolunteering Day as part of National Volunteer Week. What are your plans for the day?

CS: Yes we have a very busy week, so this one is a bit low key. Our main plans are:

  • to highlight a different microvolunteering opportunity each hour throughout the day on social media;
  • to complete some microvolunteering actions in our office.

SK: Why did you feel it was important to celebrate Microvolunteering Day? How does microvolunteering benefit Lethbridge?

CS: We want everyone in Lethbridge to consider themselves a volunteer. Microvolunteering is one super simple, super fast way to get involved that EVERYONE has time for. We’d also like to start building an awareness of how agencies can be creative when they are coming up with ways to engage more volunteers.

SK: If people are interested in microvolunteering, where can they go for more information or to get involved?

CS: For people outside of Lethbridge, check out the Microvolunteering Day website. In Lethbridge, check out our Facebook page on Friday, April 15th for a ton of great ideas and opportunities all day long! We would love to hear what micro-actions others in the province are doing too!


Thank you so much to Chelsea from Volunteer Lethbridge for sharing with us!

Do you have plans or ideas for Microvolunteering Day? Let us know in the comments! Places to find out more:

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To Mentor or Coach: That is the Question

Volunteer Alberta is proud to promote Creating People Power’s Mentor Coach program, a unique opportunity for cross-sector, experiential learning to build your leadership skills and your network! In this post, Linda Maul from Creating People Power shares some of her insights on leading as both a mentor and a coach.


The best leader I ever worked for was a gentleman by the name of Aubrey Liddiard at Mid-West Paper, and he has been my role model over the past thirty some years. Whenever I am not sure of what to do as a leader, I ask myself ‘What would Aubrey do?’ 

What Would Aubrey Do?

Aubrey definitely had high expectations for his staff. He was my biggest cheerleader when I got things right. He always approached a conversation by inviting my ideas first, believing I had a piece of the puzzle he was unaware of, that I knew something he didn’t. When I did make a mistake, he would invite conversation to ensure I understood what had happened and then expected me to correct it. If I missed a deadline, the conversation always focused on my accountability to myself and the organization to meet commitments. He taught me how to manage expectations if there was even a hint of being late with an assignment. He was my mentor and my coach, sometimes telling me what to do if it was something new for me; other times asking questions, taking a coach approach, so that I came up with my own solution.

Today employees expect leaders to show up like Aubrey: to support others to be their best and to develop the next generation of leaders. Aubrey maintained control and achieved results – in fact he exceeded overall objectives year after year. However, he didn’t command employees to deliver. Instead, he inspired, motivated, and supported us to meet his expectations. He was a masterful coach and wise mentor who knew how and when to share his ideas and when to invite our input. His approach was always to start with a question first to understand what we already knew in any given situation.

What is the Difference Between Mentoring and Coaching?

To understand the difference, we need to know the definitions of mentoring and coaching:

MENTORING occurs when more experienced individuals share their wisdom and experience with staff or volunteers on a one-on-one basis. Mentoring often addresses topics like workplace culture, career growth, political savvy, specific skill development, or professional networking.

COACHING is based on the premise that the answers lie within the staff member or volunteer. Coaching is focused on the solutions the team member can create, not the answers the mentor brings. A coach will use questions to invite the volunteer or employee to tap into their own knowledge, experiences, and wisdom to move forward. Through coaching, the ability to develop and build on ideas is supported and practiced for successful execution today and in the future.

To Mentor or Coach?

Not sure whether to mentor or coach? Ask first! Always approach any potential mentoring situation with a question or series of questions to see if your employee or volunteer can solve their own dilemma or challenge. They may have insight into pieces of the puzzle that you are unaware of. Step in as their mentor only when you know the answers don’t lie within.

Still not sure about mentoring or coaching? Ready to learn more? Join Creating People Power’s Mentor Coach program, or get in touch.

Linda Maul
Creating People Power

Linda is a Professional Certified Coach, founder of Creating People Power with over twenty years of professional leadership development, eight years of executive coaching, and co-author of two books.  Her coaching practice includes a diverse group of senior leaders who are hungry to grow. If you have not experienced coaching, book Linda today for a complimentary session….you are one click away! 

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Five reasons Leader as Coach might be right for you!

As Program Manager at Volunteer Alberta, I know being a strong leader is essential for my success and that of my team, organization, and Alberta’s nonprofit sector. I am passionate about constantly growing, developing, and learning as a leader; however, it can be challenging to do so in our fast-paced sector. Nonprofits are dynamic, demanding, and constantly evolving. There is a lot to keep up with, and finding time and resources for learning is no easy task.

So when I was offered the opportunity to sign up for the Casey Executive Coaching Leader as Coach Program, I made sure to jump and grab it! 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.

There are so many leadership programs out there, which adds another layer of complexity to seeking out leadership learning opportunities. So why did we choose to participate in and promote this one?


Five reasons why I signed up for Leader as Coach

1. It’s tailored for the nonprofit sector

There are many great learning options out there for leadership, but, while the nonprofit sector shares similarities with private and public sector, we are not the same. Acknowledging and addressing our unique differences is integral for succeeding as a leader in our field.

Leader as Coach is designed for the nonprofit sector. All the discussions, activities, and lessons keep a nonprofit perspective in mind to ensure participants gain the most out of the course. I also get to learn alongside nonprofit colleagues!

2. It’s about leading as a coach

While Leader as Coach is great for managers, it also recognizes that anyone can be a leader regardless of their official title. This course would benefit anyone in the sector who wants to be an inclusive leader, develop practical coaching skills, and act as a catalyst for positive change and development in their organization.

The leader-as-coach approach centers on helping your whole team meet their highest potential by developing your skill as a coach. The coach approach includes active listening, thought-provoking questions, and examination of barriers and stuck-points. As a result, there are significant benefits to leader-as-coach approach such as increased staff productivity, engagement, and even retention.

3. It’s affordable

In the nonprofit sector, we understand the value and impact of a dollar. So, it is important to get all the value we can out of any professional development opportunity. And with this course, you do!

Leader as Coach is a three-session course with three additional one-on-one coaching sessions, and, with Canada-Alberta Job Grant funding, the course only costs $500.

4. It’s personal

Melissa Casey, the facilitator of Leader as Coach, is engaging, supportive, and insightful – all the amazing qualities you want in a mentor or coach. She works hard to meet her participants where they are at, and get to where they want and need to be. I left our one-on-one conversation feeling enlightened, energized, understood, and supported!

5. It’s more than a single session

If I learned anything from my four-year bachelor’s degree, it is that it takes time for information to really sink in. The challenge with one-day sessions is that, although we walk away with lots of great knowledge, once we get back to the workplace it is easy to lose sight of what we learned and how to implement it. Taking time to think, explore, and practice helps get the most meaning and value out of a learning opportunity.

Leader as Coach includes three full-day sessions, and three one-hour personal coaching sessions spread over several weeks. The pacing of the course allows for a lot of time for participants to reflect, implement, and evaluate what they learn. Spread out sessions also fit better with busy nonprofit schedules.


Want to sign up for Leader as Coach too? Register to participate in the spring session starting in April in both Edmonton and Calgary. Find out more about this program on the Casey Executive Coaching website.

Vada Antonakis
Volunteer Alberta

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Volunteer Screening: The Best Fit Makes a Big Difference

Volunteer Alberta, along with the Government of Alberta, recently launched our Volunteer Screening Program, which includes education, resources, and funding to enhance Alberta nonprofits’ screening policies and procedures.

In this post, Jennifer shares the impact great volunteer screening has had for her family:


I am a mom of two wonderful kids. A teenage boy and an almost teenage girl. Both are very busy with extra-curricular activities and I am always aware of my children’s safety. From car seats to coaches, I have always wanted the best for my kids.

My son plays hockey, along with many other sports, but hockey is his favourite. Although hockey is not Canada’s official sport, in our family, we like to think of it as Canada’s favourite sport. It’s part of our collective DNA. Year after year, I trust the hockey association he plays for will do their due diligence when they are selecting coaching staff for our team.

Every volunteer coach my son has had is excited to share their passion for the game with the children, in every sport he plays. And really, what better way to do so than coaching! As a hockey mom, I am grateful there are so many wonderful parents (mostly dad’s) who are willing and able to make time in their busy lives to support our team by volunteering to be on the bench and in the dressing room.

I know before coaches enter the dressing room or take their spot on the players’ bench, the organization we belong to ensures a few boxes on the screening list have been checked off. When I look at the 10-step to Screening, I am proud to say the hockey association follows many of the 10-step:

  • The hockey association has volunteer screening policies clearly written and posted on their website.
  • Although they don’t have volunteer descriptions for their coaching staff, I feel that hockey coach doesn’t require too much of a description.
  • Coaches have to submit their application if they are interested in coaching.
  • Successful volunteer coach applicants complete the Respect In Sport Coaches Course, and complete a police check application form which the organization submits on their behalf.

Joining a hockey team, or any sport for that matter, gives our children so much more than the rules of the game. It gives them a chance to be a part of a team, learn to win together, and learn to lose with grace. It teaches them commitment, dedication, discipline, and respect. Sports give them life-long friends, and a place to go whether it’s the gym, the ice, or the field. Volunteer coaches, our coaches, provide the guidance our players need both on and off the ice.

Our players deserve coaches who are passionate and knowledgeable about hockey, but we also look for coaches who will graciously lead their team, modelling good sportsmanship on the bench for both wins and losses. Volunteer Screening allows for our sports organizations to ensure they right volunteers are involved in molding our children into good athletes and good sports!

Jennifer Esler
Volunteer Alberta

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Connect with an Expert: Melissa Casey, Casey Executive Coaching

Connect with an Expert: 3 powerful questions to help you get connected to experts that can help.

Volunteer Alberta is focused on supporting the professional development of nonprofit professionals.

As nonprofit network stewards we connect information, resources, programs, and opportunities with  nonprofit leaders to develop themselves and their organizations. We identify and collaborate with experts who have valuable programs and services to offer nonprofit professionals.

Expert: Melissa Casey (MEd, BA, BSc, PCC, CEC) President Casey Executive Coaching

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We connected with Melissa as she was planning to host her 2017 Leader as Coach programs, a developmental program for nonprofit leaders focused on building inclusive leadership practices and practical coaching skills. A leader-as-coach approach is centered around helping leaders, as well as staff, to develop to their highest potential.


VA: What leadership problems seem to be more common for, or specific to, nonprofit leaders?

MC: Common for leaders in all sectors, is the experience of being hired or promoted into a leadership roles without having the necessary leadership skills in hand. There can be an expectation that once a person is in a leadership role the necessary skills will automatically evolve, which, for many, is not true. The desire to be successful is there, but the knowledge and confidence in knowing how to be a leader is another thing entirely.

Another challenge, which is somewhat unique to nonprofit leaders, is the experience of leading team members who may bring incredible heart to their jobs but might lack the skills required to operate in a successful, effective, and sustainable manner. The additional demand on leaders to mentor and coach staff may be another skill that is expected and doesn’t develop magically on its own.

youngteamVA: How does a leader-as-coach-approach help nonprofit leaders?

MC: Research shows a leader-as-coach approach results in higher levels of empowerment, increased staff productivity, engagement, and, ultimately, retention. A leader-as-coach approach is centered around a leader’s desire to develop staff to their highest potential through a combination of active listening, thought-provoking questions, and examination of barriers and stuck-points.

Coaching compels people to take action. Coaching supports the development of a fresh perspective, identifies what is wanted (and needed), explores what may hold someone back, and helps create plans to eliminate barriers. Coaching for nonprofit leaders, or from leaders to staff, provides dedicated time to explore ideas in an “agenda-free” space – like having a thinking partner who will support you in examining a challenge from multiple perspectives.

VA: What are some examples of coaching questions leaders can ask?

MC: Asking powerful questions which come from a place of genuine curiosity is the base of good coaching. I encourage leaders to ask questions of their staff and of themselves, including:

  • What might be a possible solution or next step in this situation?
  • Where are you stuck? What will support you in getting to where you need to be?
  • What is one thing you could do to make the greatest difference?

I ask leaders to think about:

  • What kind of leader does my organization need today? How about in 5-10 years?
  • Am I clear about my core values? Where might I be out of alignment? What impact is that having?
  • What one addition to my leadership would make the greatest difference?
  • Where do you want (and need) your leadership to be? How might you be getting in your own way? What will support you in getting there?

More about Melissa:

melisa-circleMelissa believes that our capacity to experience limitless potential comes with being bold, daring, brave, original, authentic, and inventive. She specializes in developing visionary leaders who are invested in the principles of inclusion and want to take their organization (and their lives) to the next level.

With 16 years of experience in leadership roles, management, and results-focused strategic planning, Melissa is a Certified Executive Coach and an accredited Professional Certified Coach (PCC) with the International Coach Federation, holds a Master of Education degree and is trained in strategic visioning methods, facilitative leadership, team development, communication effectiveness, and conflict resolution.

Why we recommend her program: Continuous learning and development supports positive transformation in ourselves and our work. It can be challenging to implement change in our lives, work, and organizations, so we get excited about opportunities that build in time to have practical hands-on experience and provide transformative leadership learning.

Melissa is offering an incredible opportunity for leadership development for nonprofit professionals in the Calgary and Edmonton areas – check out more about her upcoming programs.

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