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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

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
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Guides

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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