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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

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Engaging New Volunteers: 2 Trends to Tap Into

Here at Volunteer Alberta, we keep our finger on the pulse of volunteer trends in Alberta and across the country. Two strong trends we have noticed over the past couple years: skilled volunteerism and student involvement.

Skilled Volunteerism

Skilled volunteers share unique skills or talents. Volunteers may share professional skills (accountants, lawyers, veterinarians, or photographers), or they may bring a personal talent or hobby (coaches, home cooks, face painters, or podcasters). Skilled volunteers can also be trained specifically for roles by your organization.

CoachSome examples of amazing skilled volunteers include:

  • an event photographer with an eye for storytelling through pictures
  • a lawyer providing legal advice or assistance
  • translators for newcomers
  • a soccer coach with an understanding of the game
  • web developers creating or enhancing a website

I’ve had some wonderful skilled volunteer experiences. I volunteer as a yoga teacher offering both professional skills and a hobby I enjoy – I am an accredited yoga teacher, and yoga is a personal passion.

I also volunteer as a Distress Line Listener with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), offering support over the phone for people in crisis. I am not a therapist, but this is still a skilled role that required 64 hours of training at CMHA and lots of ongoing development once I started on the lines.

What skills do you have that you might consider contributing to a cause you believe in?

The Window of Work is a great way to identify what skills or talents you may have to share.

Student Involvement

smiling-woman2In many ways, the trend of student involvement at nonprofit organizations is an extension of skilled volunteerism.

Students may volunteer for the opportunity to build their portfolios or gain professional experience. This includes offering newly acquired skills in areas like communications, medicine, counselling, or business planning. Nonprofits also provide real world experience for classroom concepts through programs like Community Service Learning (CSL). CSL is offered as a required placement in some postsecondary courses such as Human Ecology, Native Studies, Public Health, and Languages.

Serving Communities Internship Program

Volunteer Alberta’s Serving Communities Internship Program (SCiP) is another way students can offer their skills and learn new ones in Alberta nonprofit organizations. Launched in 2011, SCiP supports nonprofits to create skilled, part-time internships for post-secondary students. Organizations access talent, skills, and added human capacity, and students build their resumes, networks, and work experience while earning a $1000 award from the Government of Alberta. Over the past five years, SCiP has filled 4000 internships at 500 organizations in 50 Alberta communities. For the 2016/17 program year, SCiP has already filled over 400 of our available 1000 internship positions.

SCiP is successful because it offers mutual benefit for students and nonprofits, as well as for the communities they serve. In the long term, SCiP is also strengthening communities by developing sector advocates, supporters, and successors.

The great thing is that none of these benefits are limited to the Serving Communities Internship Program – by tapping into skilled volunteerism and student involvement, these outcomes are available to the whole nonprofit sector far beyond SCiP’s yearly capacity for internships.

Skilled Volunteerism & Student Engagement beyond SCiP

To begin engaging volunteers in skilled positions at your organization, start asking questions:

  • How can we engage people based on their skills, passion, and unique gifts?
  • How can we use volunteerism and community involvement as a tool for education? As a means of promoting our sector?
  • How does our approach to volunteerism change when we fill skilled position or engage students? What are the concerns and the opportunities?

It’s likely your answers will be slightly different than other nonprofits – but, no matter what your answers are, they will open up new pathways for volunteer involvement in your organization.

Does your nonprofit already strive to involve skilled volunteers and students to meet your mission? Tell us about your tips and successes in the comments!

Keep reading about skilled volunteerism on our website or learn more about SCiP.  

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

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Alberta – Let’s Put Our Volunteers in the Spotlight!

“Volunteers want to be thanked and shown how they have made a difference – they want to know the impact of their contributions.”
so-happy-2013 Volunteer Recognition Study, by Volunteer Canada

As nonprofit organizations, we all rely on volunteers to meet our missions. With 24,800 nonprofit organization in Alberta, it is clear that the spirit of volunteerism is deeply rooted in our communities.

There are lots of different ways to recognize our amazing volunteers, but making sure volunteers are thanked and rewarded for their efforts is a critical part of fostering future and continued volunteer engagement. Our future depends on all of us working together and inspiring others to do the same, so communities will continue to prosper! Volunteer recognition is key to sharing this story and promoting volunteerism in Alberta.

The Government of Alberta hosts Stars of Alberta, Alberta’s most prestigious volunteer awards. The Stars of Alberta Volunteer Awards recognize extraordinary Albertans whose volunteer efforts have contributed to the well-being of their community and fellow community members. Six awards – two youth, adult, and senior – are presented annually, on or around International Volunteer Day, December 5. Nominations for the awards close September 20.

The Awards receive many nominations from Alberta’s major cities and in the adult and senior categories; however, we know Alberta is home to passionate, dedicated, and inspiring youth volunteers. We also know that Alberta’s rural communities are fantastic places to live because of local spirit of volunteerism and the contributions of the people who care about their community.

This year, nominate a youth volunteer, or volunteers from rural Alberta and help bring attention and shine a light on their incredible contributions!

Lethbridge, Warburg, Cochrane, Blackfalds, Fort McMurray, and Grand Prairie are a few of the communities across the province already celebrating youth volunteering through youth volunteer awards and Leaders of Tomorrow. Lethbridge drew a record number of nominees this year for their Leaders of Tomorrow event, and had over 300 people attend the celebration. The passion, interest, and dedication is alive and well.

We know that every Albertan community thrives because of the contributions of volunteers of all ages. Recognize an Albertan volunteer and thank them for all that they do so that the magic of volunteerism stays front and center, and our communities remain strong and connected as they grow.

Nominate a shining star before September 20!

Swing

Nonprofit Experiences: A Lifetime of Involvement

Our experiences with nonprofits are varied: we may work or volunteer in the sector, or donate to our favourite organizations. We are also personally impacted through school, religion, community, sports, recreation, and support. Regardless, the nonprofit sector is central to many of our lives.

A couple years ago, Sam shared five of her personal experiences with the nonprofit sector. We are continuing to share Volunteer Alberta staff experiences, turning this into an ongoing series. Up next is Cindy!

Cindy has shared some of the key moments from her life as she has engaged with nonprofits and become the volunteer she is today. Here are her 5 key personal experiences (and a step-by-step guide for a lifetime of involvement!):

1. Start with Family: The County Clothes-Line Store was where I first formally volunteered! The organization receives donations of clothes to sell to the public (specifically offering affordable pricing to those unable to spend a lot) and the money goes into the CCL Foundation. The Foundation funds various programs and scholarships in Strathcona County. My mom volunteered there and brought me along. I was fairly young, so folding clothes, ragging, and tidying up was often what I was asked to do.

Jazz2. Benefit from Nonprofits: I was a band girl growing up. I enjoyed music, I was good at it (or so I heard!), and I had a great time hanging out with my friends. One year, I happened to be the right age to play with a number of amazing musicians. Between my school’s jazz band, jazz combo, and concert band, we were often entered into band competitions and sometimes lucky enough to go to MusicFest Canada, a national competition. It was great fun! At that time, I didn’t realize it was a nonprofit – now I can recognize the amount of work that went into organizing it all. Some of my band friends continue to play, while others, like me, have taken different paths, but still appreciate what music has brought to my life.

3. Fulfill a Passion and Get Inspired: My friend’s son is a virtuoso cello player (check out his YouTube channel!) and has received support from the Anne Burrows Music Foundation. I have volunteered for their casino several times. I choose to support them because I believe in their mission of supporting upcoming musicians, I have a direct connection to someone benefiting from their work, and I actually met the very inspiring namesake, Anne Burrows, through my piano teacher many years ago.

4. Have Fun: At Fort Edmonton Park I was fortunate to volunteer for an organization I love, while supporting local tourism. My role was scaring people. To be clear, this was in costume during their Halloween event: Spooktacular. We had the opportunity to build the scenarios and create the scenes ourselves, and then the fun of entertaining guests throughout the event. I am definitely hoping to volunteer with them again in the future.

5. Be Recognized: Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival has such a wide variety of positions open that there is something for everyone! I worked with the finance team and we had a lot of fun, including daily team challenges from the Festival. The Fringe also has good processes in place for volunteer orientation and recognition – including Fringe Bucks for hours volunteered (to purchase show tickets). It’s fun, I get to see a few shows and participate in the festival, and support the organization’s due diligence!

Stay tuned for more Volunteer Alberta staff experiences with amazing nonprofit organizations, and please share your own experiences in the comment section!

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Leadership, Respect, and Innovation – Notes from the Action Generation Residency

Drew Noiles, Volunteer Alberta Learning and Technology Coordinator, attended the Alberta Youth VOLUNTEER! Action Generation Residency in Banff in August, a leadership learning opportunity for young people.

Forest2We live in a world progressively captivated by what it means to truly lead. The leadership residency assembled about 25 of us for a unique, hands-on learning opportunity with the ultimate purpose of developing our individual and collective leadership skills, all while savoring a humbling dose of mountain culture.

Our residency took place at the breathtakingly beautiful Banff Centre. Alliteration aside, it began with a simple introduction, an ice-breaker, and a quote:

“One of the challenges of being a leader is mastering the shift from having others define your goals to being the architect of the organization’s purposes and objectives” (Mary Parker Follett, 1919)

Taped on the wall were group guidelines and reference points on how to get the most out of our leadership residency. One of these guiding messages stood out to me; in a dark blue sharpie it simply stated: Be Fit & Well.

It’s a statement that I have now come to understand to be synonymous with stepping outside of your fears, and allowing yourself to be open and in the moment. There is a very welcomed perspective change – an epiphany if you will – that takes place when everyone in a room begins from a place of equality and respect. This was a delightful transition to which our group was receptive and enthusiastic.

Over the course of the next three and a half days we were fed. We were fed well, and we were fed often. Looking back, having that amount of delectable treats available to you at all times really does enhance the entire experience. Keeping spirits high and eagerness abundant.

There were many topics discussed throughout our stay. Starting with collaboration and coaching, leading into goal setting, and understanding the importance of prototyping. The leadership residency provided us all the opportunity to not only identify challenges, but to address them in a safe space.

The lessons from the leadership residency that I am going to incorporate into my daily work:

  • Listening is something you are accountable for; listening is a responsibility.
  • Fail. We should be encouraged to fail, but to fail fast.  Creativity comes from allowing yourself to make mistakes.
  • The truth: great leaders are needed to shape a better world; and that type of leadership is rooted in the understanding of both wise practices and creative new approaches.

By the end I was left feeling very much a part of a community that inspires one another to take risks, to develop new ideas, and to find solutions for the present and future. Because in the end, that’s what learning is: understanding something you’ve understood before but in a new way.

Drew Noiles
Volunteer Alberta

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