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Got A Question? RCVO to the Rescue

Yesterday my co-worker wondered aloud what the difference is between incorporating an organization under the Societies Act and incorporating under the Alberta Companies Act.  With access to resources and links I set out to find an answer and a short time later I found myself frustrated that I couldn’t find a solution in the usual places. Then it dawned on me, the answer was right under my nose: the Learning Resource Guides available online at www.rcvo.org.

Feeling like a fool for overlooking one of Volunteer Alberta’s most reliable information resources, I immediately headed to the RCVO@Volunteer Alberta website. Not only did I quickly find the answer to my query, I also solved a few other related questions I had been working on. Every day I refer people and organizations to the Learning Resource Guides on www.rcvo.org, but it turns out they are a great resource for VA too. While there is no shortage of expertise among the staff at Volunteer Alberta, sometimes the simplest solution is the best one.

Every Learning Resource Guide is clear and concise while also being very informative and helpful. If you need information on any issue relating to the nonprofit/voluntary sector, the Learning Resource Guides are the perfect starting point. Today there are over 40 Learning Resource Guides at your disposal on www.rcvo.org and more will be added in the coming months to meet the growing demand.

Learning Resource Guides are certainly not the only way Volunteer Alberta provides indispensable information for the nonprofit/voluntary sector, but they are excellent quick reference guides for any person or organization with a question; even if that organization happens to be Volunteer Alberta.

–          Tim Henderson



Grow your toolkit. Access relevant, hard copy resources for Alberta nonprofits.

2015-125-VA---Icons---individual-LearningSometimes what you need is a hard copy resource you can work through with others, a checklist you can write on, or a physical book you can hold in your hands.

We provide a variety of resources for Alberta’s nonprofit sector because we believe that sharing applicable knowledge will grow your ability to develop good standards and practices for your organization.

The following hard copy resources are available for sale from Volunteer Alberta. These books will help you engage new Board members, ensure your Bylaws are up to date, inspire your work, and much more!

To order, please complete our order form.

Board Development Workbooks

Free downloads are available of the most recent version (revised 2008) of the Board Development Workbooks. Click the title of the workbook to download a free PDF version.

If you would like to purchase a hard copy (revised 2006), please complete our order form. Hard copy workbooks cost $10.00 or $40.00 for all five. 

Hiring and Performance Appraisal of the EDHiring and Performance Appraisal for an Executive Director  – This workbook will help you in hiring a new ED or conducting an ED performance appraisal.


Developing Job DescriptionsDeveloping Job Descriptions of Board Members – This workbook will help you create effective and comprehensive board member job descriptions.


Drafting and Revising BylawsDrafting and Revising Bylaws – For Boards and senior staff looking to create or update organizational bylaws.

Recruiting and Developing Board MembersRecruiting and Developing Board – This workbook will assist you in recruiting skilled and passionate leaders for your organization.


Financial ResponsibilitiesFinancial Responsibilities of Not-for-Profit Boards – For Boards looking for more information on managing financial records including a checklist of financial responsibilities and assistance with reading financial statements.

To order any of the Board Development Workbooks, please complete an order form.

Muttart Fellowship Books

Free downloads are available of the Muttart Fellowship Books. Click the title of the book to download a free PDF version. For more Muttart Foundation publications, visit their website.

If you would like to purchase a hard copy, please complete our order form.


Accreditation of Child Care CentresAccreditation of Child Care Centres by Margaret Anne Golberg – What is accreditation and what constitutes quality child care? This exploration of childcare in Alberta proposes an accreditation system that establishes quality criteria to ensure good programming while giving parents, the community, and government the information needed to make informed decisions.

63 pages, published 1999

The Board and Executive DirectorBoard and Executive Director: developing and nurturing an effective relationship by Kelly Sloan – Has the Board of Directors or Executive Director in your organization ever been frustrated by the rocky and troublesome relationship with each other? This book identifies key factors for creating a successful relationship and provides questions that Boards and Executive Directors can use as a starting point for discussing their relationship. The book contains practical strategies to implement in these areas as well as a list of resources relevant to the subject.

90 pages, published 2006

Competition in the Voluntary SectorCompetition in the Voluntary Sector: the case of community-based trainers in Alberta by Walter J. Hossli – The 1990s saw tremendous changes in the delivery of social services. This book explores one significant trend, the increased competition between agencies, specifically in Alberta, and how it affects those who deliver employment and self-employment training, the community-based trainers. The author highlights key competitive activities voluntary agencies now undertake to provide their services in the current environment.

66 pages, published 2001

Conversations About Capacity BuildingConversations About Capacity Building by Joanne Kidd – In the late 90s, funders began to recognize that grants made to nonprofits with a narrow project focus did not always achieve the anticipated results and that neglect of infrastructure often meant organizations could not sustain their best ideas. This led these funders to re-focus on what became known as “organizational capacity building.” Conversations about Capacity Building reports on those discussions, and compares the various viewpoints with current literature on ways to achieve organizational effectiveness and high performance.

92 pages, published 2005

Daunting Tasks; Dedicated PeopleCultures at Work: intercultural communication in the Canadian workplace by Ana Maria Fantino – (DESCRIPTION TO COME).




Daunting Tasks; Dedicated PeopleDaunting Tasks, Dedicated People: stories in the management of change in HIV/AIDS organizations by Sherry A. McKibben – As Executive Director of HIV Edmonton, Sherry McKibben managed a change process that was incredibly difficult and never really came to a conclusion. This book provides discussions regarding change, primarily in AIDS service organizations. It presents material and ideas that will help increase our understanding of the dynamics of change and the management of change in HIV/AIDS work and in the third sector in general.

253 pages, published 2004

The Garden PatchThe Garden Patch: an organic approach to planning for the voluntary sector by Anne E. Campbell – Individuals, boards, and community groups who want to start to implement a strategic plan will find fresh ideas and planning methodologies in this book. The book covers such concepts as holding the public trust, creating a civil society, and the importance of the voluntary sector understanding its role and viability within the fabric of Canadian society. Four planning methodologies are described, with the bibliography extending the scope of the book by including additional resources, workbooks, and useful websites.

167 pages, published 2004

Igniting Young Minds and SpiritsIgniting Young Minds and Spirits: Youth Governance by Wayne Wiens – After working with organizations serving youth and children, Wayne Wiens noticed that too often the youth had no input into the very programs that were designed to serve their needs. If there was input, it was informal, indirect, and from a position of powerlessness. Starting from the perspective of a small nonprofit organization, Wiens identifies barriers and challenges youth input. He identifies steps in developing youth development campaigns, and offers models of youth participation in governance.

29 pages, published 2000

Improving Health StatusImproving Health Status Through Inter-sectoral Cooperation by Dr. John H. Hylton – This book is about the determinants of health status ‑ that is, what makes some populations healthier than others. It reviews recent literature about the determinants of population health status and points out that health depends on much more than the availability of formal health services. A number of specific strategies for cooperating across sectors are discussed, and case studies where these techniques have been utilized are reviewed.

169 pages, published 2003

Letters to JoyLetters to (not always of) Joy by Bob Wyatt – In his Muttart Staff Fellowship monograph, Letters to (not always of) Joy, Muttart Foundation executive director, Bob Wyatt, argues in favour of a strong national umbrella organization to advance the work of the voluntary sector.

149 pages, published 2006

Partnerships Profits and Not-for-Profits TogetherPartnerships: profits and not-for-profits together by Martha Parker – Partnerships and strategic alliances between corporations and not-for-profits are becoming a more common element in giving, with altruism and self-interest blending to include “more than money.” Distinctive relationships are replacing cheque book philanthropy and are involving key stakeholders of both not-for-profits and companies. This book includes detailed case studies, rationale for change, the evolution of leading corporations and not-for-profits, plus reflections and learnings.

224 pages, published 1999

Political AsylumsPolitical Asylums by Ronald A. LaJeunesse – (DESCRIPTION TO COME).



331 pages, published 2002
for lending only

Radical RelatednessRadical Relatedness: exploring the spiritual dimension of family service work by Michael McKernan – Family service work has, at the heart of its mission, the urge towards community. The richest sense of what we offer our clients is an experience of meaningful connection with themselves; with the community of family, friends and fellow workers; and with society in general. The book includes discussions on the value of spirituality as it relates to social work practice, and the concepts and language used to address the emotional and intellectual baggage that has marginalized spirituality in social work.

288 pages, published 2004

Responding to DiversityResponding to Diversity by Maureen Collins – This workbook is a personal, thoughtful, and action oriented reflection on the author’s journey as she facilitated an organizational change process of responding to diversity. This workbook can be used as a tool by individuals for personal reflection or by working groups to focus discussion. The workbook is of value both to groups who are just starting to think about how to address issues of diversity in service work and to those who already have experience.

49 pages, published 2006

Sermons for the New MillenniumSermons for the New Millennium by Martin Garber-Conrad – This collection of essays explores issues related to the non-profit sector at the dawn of the 21st Century. Heated discussion of the future accompanied the end of the last millennium and historical perspective was in short supply. The emphasis in the book is the practical: what ideas can provide perspectives that can be used here and now? Along with the book’s valuable insights, its light, sometimes humorous style makes it a pleasure to read.

168 pages, published 1999

Social Enterprise The Three P'sSocial Enterprise: philosophy, processes and practicalities by Shelley Williams – Has your organization thought about diversifying its funding base? Have you been told by other funders that you need to diversify your sources of funding? Have you considered social enterprise but not even contemplate it as it seemed an overwhelming task? Shelley Williams takes a thorough look at the pros and cons of nonprofit organizations going into revenue generating endeavors using a workbook style format.

105 pages, published 2005

TransitionsTransitions: the art of implementing positive change by Karen Bruce – Transitions introduces a new change model that focuses on four foundational building blocks: Window of Opportunity, Leadership, The Human Side of Change, and Reflections. The concepts are introduced through a fictional group of characters that are working through a controversial merger of two nonprofit organizations. The emotional difficulties of dealing with personal reluctance to change, system and process issues, staff concerns, diverse stakeholder interests, and community needs are explored through the interaction of the characters.

97 pages, published 2006

Weaving through the CommunityWeaving Through the Community: becoming a responsive board by Lindsay Ann Cooke – This book makes the case that non-profit boards are an important component of a healthy society where citizens participate in a meaningful way. The book examines the motives of people who choose to volunteer as board members and suggests that, though there may be many reasons, some altruistic and some self-serving, board members connecting to the concept of the “Servant Leader” will be the most successful in governing their organization.

75 pages, published 2001

Winter's ChildrenWinter’s Children: the emergence of children’s mental health services in Alberta 1905 – 2005 by Germaine M. Dechant – From Alberta’s inception, the emergence of children’s mental health services has been a tale of hope and disappointment, a saga of courage and conviction to overcome almost insurmountable odds. Evolving from a focus on juvenile delinquency, meager services weathered depressions, eugenics, world wars, epidemics, and oil crises in the struggle to help some of our province’s most vulnerable children. This concise and rewarding read is not only a valuable reference, but an engaging account of Alberta’s first century.

181 pages, published 2006

To order any of the Muttart Fellowship Books, please complete our order form.

Other Publications

Best of AllBest of All: the quick reference guide to effective volunteer involvement by Linda L. Graff – This guide is a compendium of best practices in volunteer coordination. Described as an “abundance of tips with a minimum of words,” Best of All is a powerful tool for helping your volunteers to contribute their very best through your programs. Best of All is sure to become the essential desk reference for busy people.

169 pages, published 2005



Beyond Police ChecksBeyond Police Checks: the definitive volunteer and employee screening guidebook by Linda L. Graff – Beyond Police Checks is a comprehensive “how to” manual on volunteer and employee screening. This definitive new resource helps employers understand screening responsibilities and provides specific details on how to carefully choose screening methods matched to the requirements of any given position. Loaded with practical tips, helpful cautions, and fully reproducible checklists and assessment tools, this comprehensive guidebook will lead you step-by-step to increased screening effectiveness and program safety.

150 pages, published 1999

By DefinitionBy Definition: policies for volunteer programs by Linda L. Graff – By Definition covers policies and policy development for volunteer programs. It is written for managers of volunteers and board/senior management in organizations which operate volunteer programs. The manual discusses and provides samples of policies in over 70 different topic areas, including: communicable diseases; conflict of interest; progressive discipline and firing; responsibilities of board members; sexual harassment; strike; insurance; screening; confidentiality; and anti-racism.

97 pages, published 1997

RCVOFunding Sources for Edmonton’s Non-profit Sector 2010-2011 by RCVO – This helpful guide provides detailed information on Edmonton funding sources to help searchers find the most likely and appropriate sources of funding for their organizations. Also included is an extensive bibliography to aid further research into fundraising topics.

Please note: This was last published in 2010 and there is no plan currently to update the resource. It still may be used as a base for searching for potential funders. Visit our Funder Databases page to find out more about accessing current funder information.


To order any of these publications, please complete our order form.


Term Limits: A Positive or Negative?

Term limits for board directors, or a lack thereof, is one of the most controversial topics of conversation in the nonprofit/voluntary sector. Each new organization must decide at the outset, when writing their bylaws, whether or not to include a cap on the number of consecutive terms a board director can serve. In an effort to learn more about the perceived pros and cons of term limits, I searched out books, articles and other resources on the subject in the Volunteer Alberta Resource Centre. Right away I found an article entitled “Term Limits: Pro or Con” in the May 2012 edition of The Journal of the Institute of Corporate Directors. In the article, Deepak Shukla, Corporate Director and Board Trustee with Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan, makes the case for term limits; and David Dominy, Chairman of 3D Capital Inc., makes the case against having term limits. Both made great points in support of their arguments.

One of Shukla’s primary arguments in favour of term limits for boards is that it ensures there is a continuous supply of fresh blood. This school of thought suggests organizations are best served by having a constantly evolving board of directors, with staggered terms to ensure that there is a healthy balance of fresh perspective and experience. Dominy, on the other hand, insists that organizations should focus on recruiting, and retaining, the best and the brightest, rather than forcing perfectly capable board members to step down. The key question to consider is, “which approach is best for my organization?”

According to Shukla, having unlimited consecutive terms can often result in ‘group think’ – a situation where a board ceases being a true democracy. Both sides of the issue provided examples of boards that do not have term limits for their board directors; Shukla cited Research In Motion (RIM) as an organization with a board that has no term limits and has seen a negative impact as a result. Yet, Dominy is quick to point out that some of the most successful corporations in Canada, such as BMO, RBC, BCE and Shaw, have no board term limits. While these examples are for-profit enterprises, instead of nonprofit/voluntary organizations, it demonstrates that each organization has its own needs and that there is no one size fits all approach.

Having term limits in place can work as a safeguard to prevent board members from steering the organization down the wrong path, and, according to Shukla, there is no effective evaluation process for boards, as the most common form is a self-evaluation. However, Dominy suggests that term limits can put an organization in the undesirable position of having to replace a strong board member with a candidate from a less desirable talent pool.

Shukla and Dominy both want what is best for their respective organizations and, in the nonprofit/voluntary sector, the board must consider the organization and the stakeholders with every decision. The foundation of any nonprofit/voluntary organization are its bylaws, and whether or not to have term limits is one of the most important decisions founders must make for the future of their organization.

Now, my question to readers: what is most important to your organization: a fresh supply of independent thinkers or experienced board directors?

Tim Henderson

Office and Communications Coordinator

Volunteer Management Isn’t Just a Buzzword


Being (what I term) a serial volunteer, as well as working in the nonprofit/voluntary sector, has given me some special insight into how to go about managing volunteers. I’m always happy every time a volunteer manager (either by title or by their role within the organization) makes sure that I, as a volunteer, am satisfied with my experience, and know that I am appreciated. One of the reasons I started working at Volunteer Alberta was because I was interested in ensuring every volunteer has a good experience, and wants to become even more involved in their community.

However, I’m sure we’ve all had experiences where we – as volunteers – were managed poorly. I had one such experience recently while attending a meeting of an organization that is just in the early stages of incorporating as a nonprofit. So, what did I, as a manager of volunteers at another organization, learn about volunteer recruitment and management from this experience? Here are just three things, but I’m sure there’s many more:

  1. Ask your volunteers what they want from you. What are they looking to get out of their experience? Why are they giving their time? By asking these two simple questions, you can create a role that’s suited to the volunteer – not ask them to take on a role that they are either unsuited for, or that doesn’t interest them.
  2. Always let your volunteers know what to expect from a meeting. If volunteers know what to expect from a meeting, they can come prepared to contribute in a meaningful way. If they know what to expect, they will also leave the meeting knowing how their input contributed to the organization or the project, and will be more satisfied with the outcome of the meeting. Personally, if I had known what to expect from the meeting I recently attended, I would have left the meeting much more satisfied with the outcome, and would be much more likely to come back and volunteer my skills to them again.
  3.  Show your volunteers that you value their time. Whether you send out an agenda (which is something I frequently do for the volunteers I manage), or just manage the meeting in an efficient way (including being there when the volunteers arrive), volunteers are giving their time (personally, one of my most valuable resources), and we should be appreciative of that.

Volunteer Alberta has some great resources on management of volunteers, including resources about:

Your turn! What lessons have you learnt about volunteer management – either through the way you, as a volunteer, were managed, or in your role of managing volunteers in your organization?
– Jenna Marynowski
Communications and Marketing Manager


Developing good standards and practices in Alberta nonprofits benefits our communities.

It is important to run your organization effectively. There is lots of information out there and you have a lot to focus on in your day-to-day. Sometimes the best place to start is with a credible and straight forward guide – a step-by-step resource, a checklist, a workbook – to help you figure out what you need to move forward.

We provide a variety of resources for Alberta’s nonprofit sector because we believe that sharing applicable knowledge will grow your ability to develop good standards and practices for your organization.

These guides will help you employ new staff and volunteers, start a nonprofit organization, learn how to screen volunteers, work with corporations, engage your board, and much more!

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