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Vote with Nonprofits In Mind

You would be hard pressed to find an Albertan who hasn’t worked for, volunteered with, or benefited from one Alberta’s 25,000 nonprofit organizations. After all, the breadth and reach of our nonprofit sector is extensive:

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Nonprofits are the fabric of Alberta, creating communities through culture and sports, education and housing, support and opportunity. Which is why, in today’s election, we are calling on all Albertans to vote, and to vote with nonprofits in mind. Here are some resources you might find interesting:

If you have already voted, thank you! Your vote does make a difference! Encourage your friends, family, and coworkers to vote as well. Remind them that government impacts nonprofits, and nonprofits are the building blocks of our communities.

If you haven’t voted yet, visit the resources below, and make sure you cast your ballot before the polls close at 8pm!

Now that you have the information you need to make an informed decision, all that’s left to do is get out to the polls! Let’s beat last provincial election’s turnout of 54% and ensure nonprofits have a strong voice in this election!

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

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Building Up Alberta’s Nonprofit Sector

BUANP1Last month at the Volunteer Alberta Open House, we invited our guests to help Build Up Alberta’s Nonprofit Sector by building a skyline of well-wishes and gratitude. The instructions were simple: write a thank-you or a wish for the sector on a ‘brick’ and add it to our wall. The result was a lot of love and appreciation for Alberta’s volunteers, organizations, partnerships, and communities!

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Some ‘bricks’ featured compliments:

“ECVO are great partners!”

“I volunteer for ACTSS (Animal Cancer Therapy Subsidization Society). They are GREAT to their volunteers!”

“Shout out to the Volunteer Centres for community leadership and support”

“Alberta’s EcoTrust – great leadership around mapping the environmental sector!”

Others left messages of thanks and gratitude:

“Thank you to all of the amazing volunteers from YWCA Edmonton.”

“Much love to Calgary Outlink and Edmonton Pride Centre! Thanks for fighting for warm and welcoming communities.”

“Thank you to Banff Life for making a difference in the lives of youth in Banff.”

“Thank you to everyone in ALL sectors who reach out and build and support Alberta collaboratively.”

Still others reflected on the larger scale impact of volunteers and the nonprofit sector in Alberta:

“Where would society be without the nonprofit/voluntary sector? Thank-you for all the great work being done… in spite of the challenges facing the sector!”

“So many doing so much good!

“Volunteers make the world go ‘round.”

“I am proud to be a part of the nonprofit sector!! Thanks.”

A few of our contributors looked forward and dreamed big with their wishes for the nonprofit sector:

“My wish for the sector: to be valued, sustainable, and HUGELY SUCCESSFUL!”

“I wish the nonprofit sector a very PROFITABLE future!”

All in all, we think we did a good job of building up Alberta’s nonprofit sector! Now we want to keep it going: in order to spread all of the warm feelings, we will be tweeting the contributions we received over the next weeks – just follow @VolunteerAB to stay updated.

If you weren’t able to attend our open house and would like to join in, you are welcome to add your own virtual ‘bricks’ by tweeting back at us, or leave them in the comment section below. We would love to share your positive messages with the Alberta nonprofit sector!

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

5 Tips for Getting Started on Twitter

twitterTwitter is a great place to interact with your community, both at the local and global levels. As a community member, Twitter helps you keep a finger on the pulse, get involved, and get informed about what nonprofit organizations are up to. If you are a small nonprofit, it also offers a cheap and easy way to build your brand and relationships. No matter who you are, you can truly connect with just about anyone. Staying in the loop is at your fingertips.

But if you are anything like me, you have resisted getting on board. Maybe you feel that you’re already connected, or that you have other things to do with your time. Or maybe you just haven’t found a good enough reason to join yet.

For me, the opportunity to become more involved in communications at Volunteer Alberta was finally that good reason – and so as of last Friday, I am on Twitter.

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If you are on the verge of joining, or if you’re just starting out on Twitter, it can feel like there is a steep learning curve ahead. There are plenty of blogs and resources on how to use Twitter personally or on behalf of an organization, but 8 years after Twitter’s launch there’s a lot to wade through.

So, as a starting point, here are the five best pieces of advice I’ve received as I have embarked on my Twitter adventure:

1. Twitter is like a stream that you can dip in and out of. If you feel overwhelmed by your growing Twitter feed, remember you don’t have to read every tweet, follow every exchange, or catch up on everything that happened in that week you were away.

2. Twitter is relational and interactive. You don’t have to, and you shouldn’t, use it solely as a personal platform to talk about your event, your blog, or what you ate for dinner. Follow others, retweet interesting content, share articles, and join conversations!

3. That being said, you are your own interesting and unique person or organization. Creating your own content, sharing your own ideas, and bring your perspective to the table is why you signed up for Twitter in the first place, even if you don’t know it yet. After all, Twitter wouldn’t exist without the millions of voices that make it a dynamic place to learn and connect.

4. Make it easy for others to mention you, quote your tweets, or involve you in a conversation by keeping your Twitter handle short and your tweets well under the 140 character limit.

5. If you really want to see the true power of Twitter, use it at an event. The Vitalize Conference, for example, always has its own hashtag (#Vitalize2015) which you can use to tap into the wonderful ideas sparked by the conference, connect with other attendees, and follow what is happening in other rooms and other sessions. Twitter is like a free and accessible VIP pass – use it!

I have much more to learn, but even in my first week I am already getting the hang of Twitter. And you can do it too! Maybe this is the moment that you find your good reason to get involved.

Have your own favourite piece of Twitter advice? Leave it in the comments!

To learn more about hashtags, check out this previous VA blog post: Alberta Nonprofits Play Hashtag.

Sam Kriviak (@SamKriviak), Program Coordinator

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Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First – The Importance of Self-Care

At this time of year, many of Alberta’s frontline service organizations are experiencing huge demand. Even with the holiday rush over, the financial burden of the holiday season means that many people are still looking to Alberta’s nonprofit sector for affordable services and ways to meet their basic needs. Counselling, crisis support, and family and sexual violence organizations know all too well that the holidays are not always a happy time. As well, winter conditions mean that it is peak season for organizations serving the homeless.

Thank goodness for the volunteers and staff who work tirelessly at these organizations to support Alberta’s most vulnerable, especially at this time of year! For them, seeing the demand for their work, can mean that it’s hard to take a break. Stress and burnout are common in any field, but they are particularly impactful for those providing the most needed care and support. Having both accessed and provided frontline services, I know the toll the work can take, and I want to encourage staff and volunteers in high stress situations to remember to take care of yourself as well.

Remember the airplane instructions: in case of an emergency, put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others. It isn’t selfish to take care of yourself, even when others need help. It is necessary!

Self-care doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. Not everyone can book a spa retreat or take a week off during the busy season, but you can be attentive to your needs and carve out time for yourself. Self-care is deeply personal, but there are lots of resources to give you some inspiration. A quick Google search gives hundreds of self-care ideas, from a hot bath complete with candles to a delicious and healthy smoothie. Even volunteering can be self-care!

Psychology Today breaks down self-care into seven categories:

  • Sensory: cozy blankets, furry animals, the sound of running water, scented candles, or the sun on your face.
  • Pleasure: a meal out, good movies, playing with your dog, gardening, or a delicious hot beverage.
  • Mental: a new activity, cleaning and organizing, a challenging crossword puzzle, or reading an interesting article.
  • Spiritual: meditation, prayer, reading poetry, visiting nature, or attending church.
  • Emotional: a good cry, writing in a journal, or laughing out loud.
  • Physical: yoga, dancing, a good night’s sleep or an afternoon nap, or going for a stroll.
  • Social: calling a friend, joining a club or support group, or surrounding yourself with family.

In short, you can take care of yourself by doing what you love, connecting to yourself, and living in the moment, even just for a moment! What that looks like for you is your choice.

What do you do for self-care? My favourite self-care methods are getting some fresh air, cuddling with my cats, arts and crafts, and yoga or meditation. Please share your ideas in the comment section below!

Sam Kriviak, Program Coordinator

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The Art of Volunteering

Slow - Marcia Harris

Slow – Marcia Harris

In November, I will become the proud new owner of the beautiful painting ‘Slow’ by Alberta artist Marcia Harris, all because I volunteered for 100 hrs this year!

Let me explain. In November 2013, I attended the 5th annual Edmonton Timeraiser, an innovative event with a unique approach to volunteer recruitment. Timeraiser is a volunteer fair and art auction combined into one fantastic night out – the twist is that participants bid on the artwork with volunteer hours, not money.

The event creates a win-win-win scenario:

  • Art is purchased for market value from local emerging artists, and put on display to a crowd of art lovers
  • Nonprofit organizations are able to meet with a captive audience of potential volunteers
  • Participants enjoy a great evening of art, company, and food as well as access to a wide range of volunteer opportunities. Winning a piece of art is an added bonus!

While this sounds wonderful, looking at Timeraiser simply in terms of dollars, it may beg the question of why volunteers are being paid so well (beautiful art at market value doesn’t come cheaply) when volunteering is supposed to come from the heart. But there is much more happening.

Through Timeraiser people are brought together around art and community, connecting with organizations in need of helping hands (and minds) while enjoying art they may never have seen otherwise. Through these connections an emerging artist may gain new admirers and an organization can share their cause with potential volunteers. Most participants will make a connection with an organization that leads to a rewarding experience, offering the volunteers knowledge, skills, community, and fulfillment. Participants might also win a piece of art that they may not have been able to afford in dollars but will enjoy as much as any art collector.

While this was the first year I won art, I have found volunteer opportunities through Timeraiser many times now! After placing a winning bid this year I started volunteering with two of the organizations I met at the event, helping to achieve the ultimate goal of Timeraiser – creating volunteer impact in my community. For me, the art piece was a catalyst. While I will certainly be thrilled to get it on my wall, the real benefit was in the value of volunteering, both personally and for my community.

So far, Timeraiser has been a huge success. They have opened the door to innovative volunteer recruitment, adding elements of community building, and appreciation for arts and culture, proving sometimes all it takes to make an impact is an innovative idea.

Edmonton’s 6th Timeraiser is on November 8th. Nonprofit applications are now closed, however tickets are still available – enjoy a fancy night out surrounded by art and awesome volunteer opportunities!

Sam Kriviak, Program Coordinator

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