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Thinking Woman

What does volunteering mean to Canadians?

Ahead of National Volunteer Week, Volunteer Canada, IPSOS Public Affairs, and Investors Group released their study “Recognizing Volunteers in 2017.” At first glance, we thought the study would be about volunteer recognition: how organizations can celebrate and recognize their volunteers in new and meaningful ways. Instead, this study identifies common trends in Canadian volunteerism.

As an organization who promotes the value of volunteerism, we understand how difficult it can be to capture data and share the value of volunteering for community. This study gave us some food for thought and some valuable takeaways that we want to share.

Common Definitions

Volunteer Canada offers four categories of volunteering and giving:

  • (Regular) formal volunteering: Giving unpaid help (at least once a month) through groups, clubs or organizations to benefit other people or the environment.
  • (Regular) informal volunteering: Giving unpaid help (at least once a month) as an individual to people who are not relatives.
  • Social action: Giving unpaid help to support a community event, campaign or project.
  • Charitable donation: Donating money to charitable causes.

These categories are helpful for distinguishing the different ways someone might support your organization or community; however, they are not all widely used by Canadians:

There is momentum building globally to expand the definition of volunteering to include informal volunteering, organic movements, and the many ways that people put their values into action. Canadians continue to perceive volunteering as a vital part of communities, and while they engage in community in diverse ways, they do not necessarily consider informal activities to be volunteering.

Canadian Opinions on Volunteering

So what do Canadians think about volunteering? For this report, IPSOS Public Affairs surveyed 1200 Canadians aged 16 and over in 2016. The poll found that Canadians greatly value volunteering: 87% felt that our society would suffer without volunteers, and 75% felt the economy would suffer without volunteers. At the same time, respondents considered helping family, random acts of kindness, and improving one’s community as more important than volunteering.

Some other interesting findings from the survey include:

  • 75% of Canadians view volunteering as an easy activity.
  • 75% of Canadians are very willing to volunteer in times of crisis.
  • 68% would be more motivated to choose an employer with a strong volunteer culture.
  • 82% of Canadians believe that all Canadians have something to offer.
  • 72% of Canadians agree that communities thrive when people know each other.

This is a great foundation of passion and interest for nonprofits to continue to build on!

The survey also explored the barriers to greater involvement that Canadians face. The main barrier is lack of physical or social opportunities (ex. lack of time and resources; friends and family not volunteering), followed by lack of physical or psychological capability (ex. lack of skills or knowledge). These insights provide opportunities for nonprofits to be flexible and meet volunteers where they are at. For instance, from the poll:

  • 60% agreed people would volunteer more if it was organized by their employer.
  • 68% agreed people would volunteer more if they could do it as a family.

Does your nonprofit currently offer employee-supported volunteering (ESV) opportunities or volunteer work that could be done as a family? Volunteer Canada has more resources on both styles of volunteer engagement on their website.

Find out more about “Recognizing Volunteers in 2017” – read the full report for more statistics and insights about volunteering in Canada.

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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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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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From the Vault – Privacy Protection: 4 easy steps

This blog was originally posted August 30, 2016.


Young employeeEarlier this year, we shared three ways that being privacy conscious can improve your organization’s reputation. By being privacy conscious you can help strengthen your organization’s reputation, enhance the trust in your staff, and even increase the loyalty of donors, participants, and volunteers.

So what steps can your organization take to improve your privacy practices?

In Alberta, the Personal Information and Protection Act (PIPA) is part of our privacy legislation. PIPA is an outline of best practices for privacy protection, and all organizations can benefit by meeting these standards.

Did you know?

Most nonprofit organizations are only legally required to follow PIPA when collecting, using, or disclosing personal information as part of a commercial activity. For example, operating a day care, emailing your donor list, or selling products, training, or a membership.

Service Alberta has created a workbook specifically for nonprofit organizations to help evaluate and improve privacy protection practices. We have gone through the workbook and highlighted these four best practices for you.


4 Best Practices for Privacy Protection

1. Have a good reason for collecting the information you do.

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What personal information does your organization collect for each program or service that it offers?

Collecting a client’s birthday might be appropriate if your program has a minimum or maximum age requirement, but it would be unnecessary if the client simply wanted to sign up for your newsletter.

Your organization can create a list of the information your organization collects, along with the purpose for collecting each piece. If you find that your organization is collecting more information than it needs, arrange to get rid of the extra information you already have, and stop collecting the information from new participants.

2. Designate a privacy contact person.

Envelope cartoonChoose one person to be a privacy contact person (staff member, volunteer, or board member) to answer questions or requests about the personal information your organization collects.

This person should be familiar with your organization’s privacy policies and procedures, and be readily available to answer any questions.

3. Get consent for collecting, using, and disclosing personal information.

Pen cartoonThere are two types of consent, implied consent and express consent:

Implied consent: Implied consent is acceptable in situations where it is really clear why you are collecting personal information and how you will use it. For example, taking a donor’s credit card information on the payment screen.

Express consent: Most of the time it is a good idea for your organization to provide added clarity for people and provide the opportunity for them to expressly consent to the collection, use, and disclosure of their personal information.

Two examples of express consent statements your organization might use:

1. Your organization is collecting income information for program participants to ensure they meet the low-income requirement:

The income information you have provided will be used to determine your eligibility for the program, and will only be shared within our agency.

□ I consent this information can be used within the organization to verify eligibility.

2. Your organization is collecting medical information for day camp attendees:

My child’s provided medical information will be shared with camp volunteers to assist them in recognizing a medical emergency. I consent to the collection of my child’s personal information for this purpose.

Signature:  ______________

4. Safeguard and protect the information you collect.

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The personal information your organization keeps on your clients, donors, members, staff, and volunteers is sensitive. Take care of other people’s information as if it were your own:

  • Lock your filing cabinets and password protect all devices, including laptops, tablets, and flash drives.
  • Limit access to personal information to relevant staff or volunteers.
  • Don’t keep information you don’t need. For example, if you need to verify your volunteer has a driver’s license, make a note that it has been verified rather than keeping a copy of the driver’s license on file.

Remember: Social insurance numbers, credit card information, birthdates, names, and addresses can all be used in identity theft. Medical information, criminal record checks, and income information can also have serious impacts on personal relationships, careers, and housing.

While privacy protection may require you to create new policies, or change your procedures, in the end best practices help your organization to protect those people who are integral to the work you do. After all, nonprofit organizations exist for the people we serve – let’s all do the best job that we can!

Does your organization follow these best practices? Do you have room for improvement? Let us know in the comments!

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

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