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Why I embraced virtual programming: How I learned and connected with peers online during Youth @ the Table

In a time where virtual volunteering is the new norm, young people looking for opportunities to give back or connect may wonder what being part of a virtual community is like. How do you keep people engaged online? What about tech issues?

In its pilot year, Youth @ the Table convened eight youth from regional communities on Zoom each month, forming Y@TT’s Virtual team. In this guest blog, Alexis Holmgren, a virtual team alumna, shares her perspectives and insights on meeting remotely.

Why I Joined Youth @ the Table

What excited me the most about Y@TT was the opportunity to partner with a nonprofit board. I was eager to learn more about how nonprofits run and what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ in boardrooms. I previously had experience serving on councils and committees, and I wanted to expand on this experience.

I was drawn to apply, additionally, by my ingrained love for volunteering and desire to make a difference. As an advocate for diversity and inclusion, I was thrilled that a program existed to prioritize youth and youth voices at the decision-making tables of Alberta’s nonprofit sector.

Being on a virtual team

When I found out that I would be on a virtual team, I was excited overall, but a few challenges came to mind. I expected that there would be technical challenges, requiring some patience and a lot of flexibility. I was worried that I couldn’t connect with my peers and learn from them if we weren’t all in the same room together physically. I also wasn’t sure how the meetings would be structured virtually.

However, I was excited that being on a virtual team meant that I could connect with people from across the province over a much wider distance than my own city. I was also excited because as a person with multiple health challenges and disabilities, the program was much more easily accessible to me since I could log on from my bedroom.

An insight to engaging remotely

The virtual meetings were excellent and exceeded all my expectations. I felt that even with the significant distance between us, we were able to connect on a meaningful level and build relationships. I also learned new pieces of technology in the process like Google Jamboard. More importantly, I learned extensively from the experiences of my peers.

There were times where people couldn’t hear me, my internet would cut out, there would be background noise from someone not muting their microphone, or a pet or family member would walk in. Still, we worked through it and shared some laughs and bonded all the while.

A lasting impact

Even though the program was virtual, I found it highly meaningful and impactful. I am proud to have contributed to the Good Practices Guide that will change the future of how youth are engaged on boards and hopefully further the presence of youth on boards.

I looked forward to the virtual meetings every month and I always felt my views were valued. I gained more confidence in sharing my ideas, experiences, and perspective with those who may have different viewpoints from mine. I also learned a considerable amount about nonprofit boards and how they operate, which is a significant reason why I was interested in the program in the first place. Y@TT gave me an invaluable opportunity to learn and grow as an individual.

The advice I would give to youth who want to participate but are worried about the virtual experience is to give the program a chance. The program is absolutely worth it, virtually or in-person. I would say to be patient and flexible but also know that everyone is there to support you. In fact, many of your peers and the facilitators face similar challenges to those you face. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or support if you need it.

Are you ready to take the plunge and be a part of this year’s Youth @ the Table cohort? Apply now! Applications close June 29, 2020.

Author Bio:

Alexis Holmgren is 19 years old and comes from Red Deer Alberta. Alexis is a dedicated volunteer and holds many accomplishments. As a lifelong Girl Guide, she’s served as part of the National Inclusion Action Group and a Youth Accessibility Leader. Currently, she serves as a Trainer Candidate and Link Member. She is also especially proud of her time as a member of the RCMP National Youth Advisory Committee. Outside of volunteering, Alexis is currently studying to become a genetic counsellor to help others like herself who have rare, genetic disorders. In her spare time, she is a published writer, a traveller filled with constant wanderlust, a knitter, and a scrapbooker.

OASSIS

Sponsored blog: How is OASSIS different from other group employee benefit providers?

We work hard for our clients, whether they are long-term clients or organizations that are simply considering OASSIS.

Recently, we brought on a new large client who was looking to make major plan design changes along with merging many of their divisions. We helped them navigate the change by first quoting what they had and again for where they hoped to be.

We provided a transition plan so there were no surprises and we assured them that we would mirror their current plan design while implementing all desired changes. Once they decided to move to OASSIS, we put the plan of action into play.

However, there was one issue; their prior carrier had approved an expensive new life-saving drug that only had conditional approval from Health Canada. An insurance carrier would rarely reimburse a drug that isn’t fully approved for sale. So, we worked with senior management at Green Shield Canada, our health and dental provider, and we succeeded in allowing coverage to continue for this new drug!

This is just one example of the work we do for our clients. We are here for them and do whatever we can to help. Moving your Group Benefits Plan to OASSIS is simple and we do most of the work for you. In most cases, we can mirror your current plan and make the transition seamless for your employees.

Did you know? If you’re a Volunteer Alberta Member, you can access OASSIS employee benefits. Contact Brent Voisey at OASSIS, brent@oassisplan.com or by phone 1-888-233-5580, ext. 302 to find out more.

If you’re not a Volunteer Alberta Member, consider joining their network if you would like this kind of support and care for your employees!

Brent Voisey

Group Benefits Sales Executive at OASSIS

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Guest blog: Event liability tips from The Co-operators

Hosting an event can be an important part of any nonprofit’s activities; whether it’s to build awareness about your organization or to fundraise for a specific cause. Making sure you have the right insurance coverage for your event is important to protect you and your organization. But what kind of insurance do you need? Does your Commercial General Liability (CGL) policy cover your event?

Depending on the nature of your event, there are a couple of options available. For single or multi-day events, it may be best to purchase a Party Alcohol Liability (PAL). This coverage is available with or without the service of alcohol. Any claims from this event would be made against the PAL policy; therefore, protecting the claims experience of your organization’s CGL policy. This policy needs to be in place ahead of your event and there is an additional cost for the policy.

If you host events more frequently, insuring your events as a part of your CGL policy may be a better fit; provided that your insurer is aware. By doing so, you are not required to submit a new application for every event that you host, but in some cases, it could increase the cost of your policy.

No matter the event, your insurance advisor is there to help make sure you have the right coverage – it’s always best to discuss the details of your event with them ahead of time.

If you have questions or would like to learn more about insurance for nonprofits, please don’t hesitate to contact us or visit our website.

Dominique Nadeau

The Co-operators

10fund

Guest blog: Five ways nonprofits can impart soft skills to volunteers

A big part of retaining volunteers is finding new and innovative ways to engage them. By helping volunteers to develop soft skills, nonprofits can enrich volunteers’ experiences.

Soft skills such as the ability to gel well in a team, make sound and/or quick decisions and communicate effectively are important for any nonprofit volunteer to successfully contribute to your organization’s cause, initiatives and activities.

While some volunteers intrinsically possess these skills, others need to hone them. Luckily, these are abilities which can be taught. In this blog, we look at how your nonprofit can impart soft skills to their volunteers.

1. Hold training sessions and workshops

Volunteers, especially first-timers, may find it difficult to work in a new environment due to their lack of experience. A simple way to fix this is to periodically organize training sessions and workshops for volunteers to develop skills like effective communication, time-management, and decision making.

Through talks by senior members, games focusing on building teamwork, interactive discussions and role-playing situations, your nonprofit can help its volunteers improve their interpersonal skills while boosting their confidence. And the best part is everyone can learn while bonding with each other and having fun!

2. Let volunteers take ownership

While soft skills can be taught, there is no better teacher than experiential self-learning. Give volunteers opportunities to take charge of tasks, while gently guiding them along the way if required. It makes sense to give responsibility based on the volunteer’s experience and comfort level.

For instance, give new volunteers the opportunity to represent your nonprofit’s stall during one of your events; as they gain more experience, perhaps they could take up bigger tasks like organizing an entire event.

Letting volunteers take the initiative helps them hone their interpersonal skills while giving them a taste of real-life leadership and accountability; important skills you helped them learn by themselves!

3. Encourage teamwork

Team up volunteers of different age groups and backgrounds on tasks and watch the learning flow from within! When grouped together to achieve a common goal, volunteers inevitably end up learning from one another.

Doing so allows them to gain new perspectives, listen to diverse experiences, and feel a collective sense of thrill from overcoming obstacles together.

Pro-tip: Assign a mentor to each team to monitor work and defuse any conflicts if they arise.

4. Promote creativity

By performing creative tasks, volunteers can improve their problem-solving skills. Encourage volunteers to take up activities which require exercising the inventive side of their brain.

When volunteers get creative and learn a new skill-set or grow an existing skill-set, it becomes a stepping stone for them to become a skilled volunteer or apply their newly developed skills in other volunteer positions.

From designing posters for rallies and creating catchy event invites, to shooting and producing a ‘behind-the-scenes’ nonprofit video, the creative possibilities are endless!

Pro-tip: Whatever the activity happens to be, ensure that it’s in sync with your nonprofit’s voice and tone by sharing the necessary guidelines beforehand.

5. Organize get-togethers and similar events

Depending on the size of your nonprofit and the number of volunteers, there is a fair chance that not everyone has spoken to each other. Perhaps first-time volunteers didn’t get a chance to interact with senior staff or board members due to a lack of opportunity or a lack of confidence.

By organizing get-togethers, outdoor barbeques, or parties exclusively for staff, board members and volunteers, everyone loosens up and learns to bond with each other. Volunteers can interact with everybody in a relaxed setting, resulting in a cooperative environment which boosts their communication skills and confidence.

Pro-tip: These networking opportunities also help volunteers get to know your organization from the inside out, gain new perspectives and see how their efforts contribute to your organization’s cause and mission. And when they understand their impact, they are more likely to continue volunteering for your nonprofit.

Final thoughts

When nonprofits impart soft skills to their volunteers, it not only fosters volunteer engagement, but it also equips your volunteers to carry out your mission. In this sense, it is an investment back into your organization’s operational plan and strategic directions.

Nurturing soft skills in your volunteers also provides your volunteers the opportunity to transfer their skills to different volunteer positions in your organization, and even to their careers or everyday life.

Final pro-tip: Ask your volunteers what skills they want to develop or use to match them to the appropriate volunteer position and/or activity that suits their wants and needs. Feedback is important. Be sure to find out what your volunteers thought about the opportunities your nonprofit offered so your nonprofit can learn and adjust as needed.

Guest blog author bio: Shaunak Wanikar is part of the Marketing team at CallHub, a cloud telephony company which connects campaigns with their supporters through its voice and SMS software. He helps deliver compelling content which bridges knowledge gaps for nonprofit organizations, political campaigns, advocacy groups, and businesses. An engineering graduate, Shaunak is passionate about seeing the world improve through the medium of technology. Movies, football, and books keep him sane.

GEPartnership_FullGroupFun

Guest blog: Four questions to ask when approaching small business donors

How to approach small business donors

Creating a Community Involvement Program for your Small Business helps businesses – and nonprofits – understand the components that drive a successful community-giving plan.

Now more than ever, small businesses know about the benefits of giving back. A well-executed community involvement strategy can create a proud and united employee culture, attract new customers and engage existing ones, and improve brand reputation. Really, building relationships with the nonprofit sector should be a no-brainer for companies looking to gain a competitive edge.

And yet, approaching a business for support can be one of the most awkward situations for any nonprofit. It can be an intimidating conversation, filled with uncertainty about expectations and etiquette surrounding a potentially sensitive topic.

But these conversations don’t have to be uncomfortable. When approached transparently and respectfully, nonprofits and small businesses can come to understand objectives on both sides and find common ground to build the foundation for a mutually beneficial partnership.

The community involvement toolkit from Alberta’s Promise, Creating a Community Involvement Program for your Small Business, breaks down the giving process into bite-sized segments for small businesses interested in supporting their community. The toolkit is a free resource available for download online. Here are four questions drawn from the toolkit that your nonprofit should consider asking when approaching local businesses for support.

What are your business’ goals for giving?

Before a business can even think about building a relationship with your nonprofit, they must identify their own internal objectives of giving back. Help them understand the “why” behind their community involvement strategy, and what they hope to gain.

Goals may include generating positive publicity, improving company morale, winning new business, developing the future workforce, or tackling issues that matter most to employees and customers. For an extensive list of giving objectives, check out page 9 of the toolkit.

What causes matter most to your business?

Alberta’s Promise – Pink Shirt Day

Small businesses simply can’t support every nonprofit that comes knocking, so it is up to them to narrow down the causes they want to support. If they have already defined their giving priorities, it will be easy to recognize whether or not your nonprofit’s cause aligns well.

For example, if the company believes in supporting education, your child literacy program may be a great fit. However, if the business has not defined their giving priorities, help them identify causes that connect with what they do, what they stand for, and what customers and employees value. Read page 11 of the toolkit for more on identifying giving priorities.

What resources are you interested in giving to the causes you care about?

Like any business activity, a community involvement program must be tied to a set budget and pool of resources. Find out what the business has to give, and remind them that giving can take all forms – not just financial support.

Employee volunteering, offering pro bono services, donating the use of meeting space, extending purchasing power, or launching a new product in support of a cause are just some of the creative and strategic ways in which businesses can support local nonprofits. See page 21 of the toolkit for more great ways to give.

Is there an opportunity for our organizations to work together?

Relationships should make sense for everyone involved. And community giving should never be a one-way transaction. Brainstorm ways your organization would be able to further the business’ giving objectives.

Would you be able to promote the company’s community giving to a large social media following or in your monthly newsletter? Could you offer unique team-building opportunities for the company’s staff? In exchange for event sponsorship, could you offer the company exclusive perks like media opportunities and complimentary VIP tickets? Get creative, and go into your conversation with a mental list of possibilities.

One final tip when approaching small businesses: don’t forget to communicate the impact of your organization. A well-rehearsed elevator pitch that is customized to your audience has the potential to spark a great conversation, a partnership, or even other donor referrals down the road.

Ready to forge some amazing local partnerships? Download the community involvement toolkit and add it to your arsenal of resources for approaching local businesses.

 

Alberta’s Promise makes community investment easy. The organization helps businesses in Alberta direct financial gifts, volunteer hours, and in-kind donations to non-profits that support the well-being of kids and their families. Learn more at www.albertaspromise.org.

Adison Wiberg

Marketing Communications Coordinator at Alberta’s Promise

 

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