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What young volunteers can bring to the board governance table

Many nonprofits and charities experience challenges in recruiting young volunteers. What kind of language appeals to youth? What channels can you reach them on? And what type of opportunities are they looking for?

Luckily, at Volunteer Alberta, we’ve created a unique volunteer matching program that connects youth with nonprofit boards across the province: Youth @ the Table, taking the guess-work out of recruiting young volunteers for board governance.

In this guest blog, Janica and Paul, a mentor and youth board member duo from Youth @ the Table, tell us how trying something new and joining the program led to an impactful relationship between them, and uncovered lasting learnings.

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Janica:  I’m a person who loves the community. I’ve worked in the not-for-profit sector for most of my career. I am the Executive Director of Humanity In Practice (h!p), and I am a Youth @the Table mentor.

Paul: I’m currently a board member of Humanity in Practice and am part of Youth @ The Table. I am also a second-year undergraduate neuroscience student at the University of Calgary.

What made you want to participate in Youth @ the Table?

Janica: We were excited to engage youth at a board level. I thought this was an excellent opportunity to connect with Volunteer Alberta and other nonprofits across Alberta. We hoped to understand the challenges and experience the benefits that youth can bring to an organization.

Paul: I have experience in volunteering, but was always curious about the function and decision-making structure of the organizations that I volunteered for. The need for youth involvement became apparent when I came across a statement from Youth @ The Table saying that youth representation is lacking in nonprofit governance. I became motivated to participate in Youth @ The Table to learn more about nonprofit governance, but also increase youth engagement at this level.

Did Youth @ the Table allow you to connect and learn more about board governance easier?

Janica: YES! The process was simple. Volunteer Alberta handled all aspects of recruiting a board member, which we know can be time-consuming and sometimes frustrating. This opportunity provided both h!p and youth with training, networking, and a board member match. Paul was a welcomed addition to our board.

Paul: Without Youth @ The Table, I don’t think I would have reached out and become part of a nonprofit board. It’s daunting for youth to participate. We do not have much experience nor knowledge about nonprofit governance and boards. Janica has been such a great mentor and has made me feel more confident in myself as a board member.

What are your key takeaways from this experience?

Janica: Youth are busy with school, work, and extracurricular activities, and thus, a successful role for them must contain flexibility. The youth want to be engaged and heard. Paul brought to our table fresh ideas and insights. By listening to his ideas, we tailored our program to be more youth-friendly!

Paul: Collaborating and presenting my perspective is not as scary as it seems. I really feel that my voice is valued on my board. With that said, I also learned that not all boards are the same. Finally, I learned that being a board member takes time, which some youth don’t have much of. Despite the challenges, the relationship you build with a board mentor and board can enhance your experience. Janica and h!p listen to my perspectives and points of view. I am genuinely thankful for all they have done to accommodate me.

Based on your experiences, what advice would you give to your peers?

Janica: I would tell boards: “Bring them on!” Create an environment where youth can be engaged with your organization at a higher level.

Paul: Don’t be scared. Both boards and youth should be willing to connect with each other without any barriers. We shouldn’t be afraid to get involved.

Any last thoughts?

Janica: Through Youth @ the Table, Volunteer Alberta created an opportunity to connect youth to a board-level experience that gives them insight into the nonprofit sector. I hope that experiences like Y@TT encourage youth to continue supporting and participating in the nonprofit sector.

Also, our board has met the other participating boards and given us an opportunity to network. We learned about other initiatives across our province. The possibilities of collaborations and shared learnings have been an unexpected outcome, one that has both strengthened our awareness of programs and services available and has introduced us to like-minded cheerleaders.

Looking for more resources about engaging youth on your boards? We’ve got you covered. Coming in the spring of 2020, Volunteer Alberta is releasing a Youth @ the Table Good Practice Guide that identifies what the 23 participating organizations did well to engage youth during the program. We are excited to share what we learned with you.

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Are you ready to recruit volunteers? 3 resources to help you get started

Recruiting and engaging volunteers is much more than requesting a police information check or simply putting an ad up on social media that says, “volunteers needed!” It’s an ongoing process that matches the right volunteer with the right opportunity creating a meaningful and mutually beneficial experience.

At Volunteer Alberta, we believe that a successful volunteer recruitment and engagement program is crucial to onboard and retain outstanding, dedicated volunteers. So, is your organization ready to recruit volunteers? Here are three resources to help you get started:

1. Watch the 10 Steps to Screening video

If you don’t know where to start, watch the 10 Steps to Screening video. In this video, we adapted the Ten Steps from Volunteer Canada’s Screening Handbook to give you a quick overview of the screening process.

We also recommend taking a deeper dive into the Screening Handbook to guide you through important information like risk and liability, police checks, privacy, and social policy. The handbook is also a great resource to demonstrate the value of screening in case anyone in your organization needs convincing.

2. Create captivating volunteer position descriptions

Once you’re familiar with the principles of screening, you can start creating volunteer position descriptions. Our handy template will help you to develop specific positions and identify risks and relevant policies.

When creating position descriptions, we encourage you to think about tasks, roles or skilled work that would interest volunteers. Make sure the description is captivating enough to motivate potential volunteers to apply!

Bonus resource: The Window of Work can also help you to create an engaging volunteer posting.

3. Complete a risk assessment

Now that you’ve mapped out your volunteer positions, you can complete a risk assessment to determine what information you’ll need to screen volunteers into your organization.

Our risk assessment matrix can help you determine whether you need a police information check (PIC) or a vulnerable sector check (VSC). Generally, the higher the risk, the greater the degree of screening is necessary for the position.

Looking for more learning resources on volunteer recruitment and screening? Check out our seven-part webinar series starting February 26, 2020! Learn more.

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2019 Member Spotlight Rewind: Tips from nonprofits for nonprofits

In 2019, Alberta nonprofits faced new challenges. Together, we collaborated, advocated, and delivered innovative solutions. At Volunteer Alberta, we also featured our Members’ fantastic work including their insights and successes. 

So in case, you missed it in 2019, here is a breakdown of what some of our Members accomplished and their tips for you and your nonprofit: 

Advocacy

CCVO (Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations) helps Alberta nonprofits make a difference in our sector by teaching and sharing their knowledge in policy and advocacy work. Last year, CCVO developed an election toolkit to help nonprofits in their preparation for the Alberta election.

CCVO’s tip for nonprofits? Speak up in every way you can during election time. 

“If we stay silent during an election campaign, we let other sectors drive the agenda, which can mean that we won’t see meaningful commitments from political parties on issues that matter to the nonprofit sector.”

Community building 

One of Hinton FCSS’s main goals is to foster community connection and reduce social isolation. As a result, informal giving or volunteering organically flourishes in their programs and services.

Hinton FCSS’s tip for nonprofits? “Friends are just strangers waiting to happen.” 

Hinton FCSS launched a Friendly Visitor Program: a program brought to life by people offering their friendship to another person. Instead of volunteers doing bare minimum visits, volunteers tend to turn strangers into life-long family friends, connecting and building the community in Hinton.

St. Albert CIVC, also known as St. Albert’s hidden gem, celebrated its 40th birthday in 2019 as the go-to place for volunteer matching and recognition. Its success is due in large part to their understanding that community building stems directly from volunteer appreciation.

St. Albert CIVC’s tip for nonprofits? When it comes to planning volunteer appreciation events, keeping it simple always works best.

St. Albert CIVC’s Coffee Break program partners with local coffee businesses to distribute coupons for free coffee to volunteers as a way to thank them for their contributions to the community.

Risk Management

Capacity building organizations like the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (ECVO) provide education and guidance on not only managing risk, but also foundational knowledge for nonprofits in their community.

ECVO’s tip for nonprofits? When it comes to mitigating risk, nonprofits should consider exposure to any possible risks.

“In addition to general comprehensive liability insurance, director and officer insurance is a must. Cyber insurance is quickly becoming a standard insurance inclusion.”

Volunteer recruitment & engagement 

In 2018, Propellus officially launched a new website called VolunteerConnector, Alberta’s first platform that connects volunteers with available opportunities shared by nonprofits across Alberta.

Propellus’s tip for nonprofits? Inform your volunteer program with current data and trends. 

“Implement our research in training for volunteer engagement and recruitment. It’s the first time real-time information has been available in our province, so it means we can help people learn about volunteerism as trends change.”

Fringe Theatre has a unique challenge to recruit, onboard, and engage more than 1,200 volunteers for their annual Fringe Festival in Edmonton. And, their volunteer program is hugely successful. So, how do they do it?

Fringe Theatre’s tip for nonprofits? Use the 10 Steps to Volunteer Screening as the foundation for your volunteer program.

While screening can take a lot of resources, both financially and in staff time, according to Fringe Theatre, it is a worthwhile investment. “Without a good screening program in place, you will spend more time dealing with performance, disciplinary, or retention issues in the future.”

Youth engagement 

What 4-H Alberta does differently is that they create a safe and supportive environment that invites youth to not only govern their clubs but also direct their learning and skills development in any subject that interests them.

4-H Alberta’s tip for nonprofits? Create a program that is flexible for young people’s input and participation. 

“4-H members can pursue whatever projects they can dream up so that potential is perhaps the most appealing reason for youth to join 4-H.”

Vegreville & District FCSS’s Youth Making A Change (YMAC) successfully engages students in grades 10 to 12 in board governance, and as a result, encourages succession planning for the future of our sector.

Vegreville & District FCSS’s tip for nonprofits? Provide appropriate training for your board to mentor and engage youth.

“This can include not putting the youth on the spot or forcing them to participate in a conversation, warning them when a topic may become intense, and offering them words of encouragement throughout the meetings.”

Do you want tips like these and resources before everyone else? Join our network and receive a monthly, Member Exclusive newsletter with specially curated resources. Learn more about Membership.

Adrienne Vansevenandt

Volunteer Alberta

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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The psychology behind the decline in giving and what you can do about it

It’s no secret that the number of people in Canada who give has been declining since 1990. This means charities and nonprofits have had to rely on a decreasing pool of donors for their fundraising and operational needs. But, the bigger question is why are fewer people donating than ever before and what can we do about it?

As a former psychology major, I wondered if any social psychology theories could help explain this phenomenon. During my research, I realized that my intuition was right. So, here are three social psychology theories that may point to why Canadians are donating less:

Social loafing

Have you ever been assigned a group project and noticed that some of your group members put in less effort than other group members? This is known as social loafing: the tendency for people to put in less effort because they are aware that there are more people to contribute to the same project or goal.

Now, imagine you send out a generic email asking for a donation. One of your potential donors receives the email and realizes that it was sent to numerous people. Based on the email content, there doesn’t seem to be much urgency to donate. So, your donor decides not to donate because “someone else will” eventually. This is social loafing in action.

What you can do about it

When you request a donation, it’s important to clearly articulate the donation’s impact (that every penny counts) and your financial need. Let your donors know that donations are low. Your donors may be more willing to help if they know how and why their contribution will make a difference.

Cognitive dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is the feeling of discomfort when you realize there’s an inconsistency between your attitudes and/or behaviours. So, you rationalize the attitude or behaviour to make yourself feel better.

For example, say someone donated once because they believe in your cause, but they decide against donating again and become uncomfortable. So, they justify their decision to make themselves feel better through objections like, “I needed the money more” or “my small donation won’t make much of difference.”

What you can do about it

Again, communicating the impact and value of a donation may motivate your donor to take action. But, consider taking it one step further by putting yourself in your donor’s shoes; tell your donor your organization understands not everyone can contribute monetarily. And instead, offer alternatives to cash donations such as volunteering or in-kind donations. Your donor may be more likely to give if they feel understood.

Social exchange theory

Social exchange theory is how we evaluate our relationships based on its costs and benefits, what we think we deserve, and whether there are better alternatives.

For example, if a friend doesn’t return your texts or calls, or cancels plans more frequently, we may wonder whether the friendship is worth our time. And if the costs outweigh what we put into the friendship, we will be more likely to end it. And it’s no different for your donors who will evaluate whether their social exchange (i.e., their donations, volunteer time, etc.) is reciprocated by your organization.

What you can do about it

Do you have a donor retention strategy? If not, now is the time to build one. And if you already have one, think of new or more ways you can thank your donors. For example, share your successful volunteer stories or your mission success stories that tell your donors how they helped to make a difference.

And when you ask for another donation, don’t start with big requests like legacy giving or large sums. Instead, build trust through the foot-in-the-door technique by asking for something small. As a result, your donor will be more likely to consider the big ask later on.

Are you looking for more funding ideas or resources? We can help!

Adrienne Vansevenandt

Volunteer Alberta

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