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Alberta Stepping Up and Collaborating to Help Fort McMurray Evacuees

As the wildfire crisis in Fort McMurray and surrounding communities continues, the whole Volunteer Alberta office has been paying attention and keeping our Fort McMurray colleagues, partners, friends, and family in our thoughts.

We have been incredibly inspired by the response from Albertan’s across the province. Some of the stories we have heard so far:

  • Individuals are stepping up as impromptu, informal volunteers to deliver gas to stranded motorists and offer food and beds to evacuees.
  • Businesses are sharing what they have, including vets and kennels opening to pets in need of shelter, restaurants serving free food, family attractions waiving admission fees, and hotels, dorms, and camps providing lodging.
  • Nonprofits in all subsectors are helping in their own ways, including recreation and community centres providing shelter, counselling and referral services supporting evacuees, and disaster relief organizations meeting immediate needs.
  • Government at all levels is getting people out of immediate danger, communicating regularly about what is going on, and providing funding and resources where they are needed.

Not only are people in every sector stepping up to help, collaboration within and across sectors to support evacuees has been amazing. Some examples:

  • Alberta Food Bank Association has organized for food banks in Edmonton and Calgary to transport large amounts of food to Athabasca and Lac La Biche food banks, using the strength of their network to meet emergency needs arising in those small communities.
  • Al Rashid Mosque in Edmonton is helping evacuees using the supplies, connections, and volunteers they have from welcoming Syrian refugees.
  • Airbnb is waiving service fees on listings from those wishing to share their accommodations with evacuees free of charge.
  • Both the provincial and federal governments are matching donations to the Canadian Red Cross, tripling donors’ efforts and enabling a coordinated disaster response. Many businesses are also donating and collecting donations to the Red Cross.
  • Oil companies including Shell and Suncor have been working with the evacuation effort to provide transportation and shelter to evacuees.
  • Volunteer Alberta has been sharing information and well wishes through Twitter, and waiting to hear how we can best help nonprofits, both from Fort McMurray and those helping around Alberta.

In the coming weeks and months, as both short and long term needs become more clear, communities will continue to respond and support evacuees and the community of Fort McMurray. I am sure we will continue to hear stories of Albertans in every sector and corner of the province finding ways to help out.

rogersIf you are looking for opportunities to help, keep in mind that the need has just begun.

Be patient as some organizations are experiencing overwhelming amount of support and donations, beyond what they can currently use or distribute! Your passion and enthusiasm is going to be very helpful as evacuees, organizations, and communities learn more about their ongoing needs – so hang tight.

To keep up to date on the help being provided for Fort McMurray evacuees, follow #ymmhelps on Twitter.

 

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

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Building Strong Communities through Informal and Formal Volunteering

Volunteer AirdrieHappy National Volunteer Week!

This year for National Volunteer Week, Volunteer Airdrie is celebrating with a Red Carpet Event. As Melanie Taylor, Vice Chair of Volunteer Airdrie, explained: “We are rolling out the red carpet for our volunteers, providing free movie tickets and concession as a thank you for all they do to make our community great.”

To make the event even more unique, and as inspiration for continued volunteerism in Airdrie, volunteers won their tickets to the event by completing formal or informal volunteer activities and sharing their volunteering stories with Volunteer Airdrie.  Find more information about how Volunteer Airdrie is celebrating National Volunteer Week here.

Melanie explained: “Informal volunteering opportunities are all around us. Helping a fellow Airdrie resident, family, friend, or neighbour directly [is informal volunteering]. Formal volunteering includes activities where you volunteer your time with social/nonprofit organizations, service clubs, community associations, and so on.

Here are some ideas to inspire you to take informal or formal action in your community:

Informal volunteering:

  • Shovel your neighbours walk
  • Pick up garbage in your neighbourhood
  • Run a carpool
  • Babysit for free
  • Help a newcomer practice their English
  • Drive a senior to their appointment
Formal volunteering:

  • Volunteer at a casino fundraiser
  • Coach minor hockey
  • Sit on a nonprofit board
  • Become a peer-to-peer counselor
  • Sort donations at a food bank or thrift store
  • Walk dogs at a shelter

 

Volunteer Airdrie’s campaign for informal or formal volunteering was a huge success!.

“We received more than 100 stories and they were all amazing examples of Airdrie’s community culture and spirit,” said Melanie, “By contributing time, energy, and skills to our community, people gain a greater sense of belonging and connection. They are more likely to care for their environments and the people around them; imagine less graffiti, more local shopping, less crime, more block parties, and increasing community pride. This is especially important in a rapidly growing city like Airdrie, where we are seeing the strains of growth and the current economy.”

And Airdrie volunteers seem to be enjoying the red carpet treatment as well – just look at them!

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Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

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Microvolunteering: the benefits and drawbacks

National Volunteer Weekvolunteer-lethbridge is right around the corner. Communities across the country are celebrating volunteerism during April 10-16th , inspiring people and thanking volunteers for their invaluable contributions.

As part of their National Volunteer Week Celebrations, Volunteer Lethbridge is promoting Microvolunteering Day on Friday, April 15th.

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!

iphone 4It 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:

For more information on what else Lethbridge has planned for National Volunteer Week, and to browse other Alberta communities’ National Volunteer Week celebrations, visit our National Volunteer Week event page.

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From the Vault: What DO Volunteers Want?

NVW2016_WebBanner editNational Volunteer Week is just around the corner! From April 10-16, join the country in recognizing and celebrating volunteerism in our communities. Learn more about National Volunteer Week and how to take part in the celebration.

In this blog, we share some volunteer recognition tips you can use during National Volunteer Week and year round.

Originally published November 12, 2013.

Volunteer Canada just released their 2013 Volunteer Recognition Study, and I highly recommend it to anyone who works with volunteers! It’s an easy and enlightening read. Best of all, there some big surprises that will (hopefully) improve how the sector works with and recognizes our volunteers.

To give you a taste, here are some of the biggest gaps the study identified between what our organizations think our volunteers want and what they truly appreciate:

1. In the study, volunteers said that their least preferred forms of recognition included formal gatherings (ex. banquets) and public acknowledgment (ex. radio ads or newspaper columns). These methods are common for many organizations, with 60% using banquets and formal gatherings, and 50% using public acknowledgement as their recognition strategies. Instead, volunteers indicated that they would prefer to be recognized through hearing about how their work has made a difference, and by being thanked in person on an ongoing, informal basis.

2. Over 80% of organizations said a lack of money was the most common barrier to volunteer recognition. Since the study shows that volunteers prefer personal ‘thank-you’s and being shown the value of their work over a costly banquet or a public advertisement, funds need not get in the way of good recognition!

3. Volunteers said that the volunteer activities they are least interested in are manual labour, crafts, cooking, and fundraising. According to the 2010 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (CSGVP), fundraising is the most common activity in which organizations engage volunteers. Instead, volunteers said that their preference is to work directly with people benefiting from their volunteering, or in opportunities where they can apply professional or technological skills.

These findings ring true in my own experiences as a volunteer. I really appreciate it when I am told I did a good job, or that a client made special mention of my work – it shows me that giving my time truly made a difference, which is the reason I volunteer in the first place. Conversely, I tend to avoid going to volunteer appreciation parties or awards ceremonies. My dislike for big social events is a personal preference (I’d much rather stay home with my cats!), but even the most outgoing and social volunteers are likely busy just like me.  It is very difficult to schedule an event that every volunteer can come to, and, if that is the only time made for recognition, then a lot of volunteers won’t receive any at all.

VolunteersThe good news is that while our sector may at times drop the ball on volunteer recognition, the changes recommended by the 2013 Volunteer Recognition Study are very attainable. We already know the value of our volunteers – now we just have to remember to communicate that to them! Read the whole study for more straightforward tips and ideas on how to step up your organization’s volunteer recognition.

For more from Volunteer Canada on volunteer recognition, check out their other resources.

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

 

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The 3 best nonprofit blogs to boost your work and your organization

There are plenty of websites, blogs, and online magazines for the nonprofit sector. So when I started in my role as Communication Coordinator at Volunteer Alberta, it seemed like I was wading through websites forever to find the best of the best.

After months and months of wading, I’ve found some really great sites that consistently publish engaging, quality articles on topics of interest to nonprofits.

These are my top three go-to blogs for great nonprofit information and inspiration:

 

NWB

#1. Nonprofit with Balls

Nonprofit with Balls isn’t just my favourite nonprofit blog – it’s my favourite blog. Period.

Vu Le, Nonprofit with Balls’ author, is smart and fearless. He is always ahead of the curve on nonprofit sector issues, and not at all afraid to share his insights, even if they are uncomfortable or unpopular. He’s also a master storyteller with a quirky sense of humour and can make any topic entertaining, trust me.

Some of his best blogs (although it’s hard to choose):

 

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#2. Charity Village

Charity Village’s collection of articles are full of personality and expertise.

It is always worth checking Charity Village’s website for new articles. They feature experts on topics from fundraising to human resources to communications. They set a high bar for themselves and routinely exceed it with rich, detailed, and timely articles.

Here are four that I found valuable:

 

SV#3. Social Velocity

If you find yourself thinking or wondering about the ‘big picture’, Social Velocity has you covered.

Social Velocity has great analysis of nonprofit obstacles and tips for how organizations can change for the better. Nell Edgington is excellent at zeroing in on nonprofit problems. She offers clear and intelligent opinions and strategies, and also recruits great guest contributors and interviewees.

Some big thinking topics to get you started:

 

BBHonorable Mention: Beth’s Blog

You’ve heard ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ – well this is a case of ‘don’t judge a blog by it’s website’.

I was wary the first time I visited Beth’s Blog – the website looks dated, and Beth Kanter’s chosen photo featuring a very loud cowboy hat didn’t instill confidence. But it turned out that there was a reason I kept running into her material – she’s great at sharing her knowledge from the nonprofit sector in easy-to-read, often bite-sized, articles!

Some of my favourites:

 

Now it’s your turn. What are your favourite blogs for nonprofits? I always love finding new gems to share with other Alberta nonprofits!

 

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

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