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Five Ideas to Borrow for Your Next Conference

16-ntc-finalComing up with new experiences for attendees at conferences can be difficult. What is affordable? What keeps people connected during a break? What will participants talk about after the conference is over (aside from great sessions and speakers!)?

I had the privilege of attending this year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference (16NTC) – hosted by the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN). Check out my blog on Five Tech Trends Still Impacting Nonprofits for additional information!

There was a lot going on at the conference besides the numerous breakout sessions – from onsite activities to meetups, progressive parties to active sessions (like Yoga for Geeks). With so much happening, it was difficult to narrow down my favourite experiences from the conference to my top 5 – here they are, in no particular order:

1. Great Plenaries – I especially enjoyed the inspiring Ignite sessions and I’d love to see this format of sharing success stories at more conferences!

Ignite is a fast-paced, fun, thought-provoking presentation format that educates and entertains. Ignite talks give you the opportunity to share your fascinations and passions with the NTC Community.

My favourite Ignite sessions were part of the “NPTech Makers” theme – these presenters had seen a challenge or opportunity and made something of it. Not only did they share personal stories of creating opportunity from adversity that moved us to tears, but they also demonstrated how everyone working in the nonprofit sector is making a difference.

2. Networking – “Birds of a Feather” is an interesting and comfortable approach to networking lunches.

25673392254_d09f7b2f83_zWhen a bunch of extraverts and introverts (like me) get mixed up and told to ‘network’, it can make for some interesting dynamics. However, the “Birds of a Feather” exercise at lunch helped everyone to gravitate to tables with a variety of topics of interest to have a networking chats. Table topics ranged from regional, like the ‘Canadian, eh?’ table, to topical, like ‘Fundraising, Data, and Benchmarks, Oh My!’. Connecting and sharing experiences, whether we were experts or just curious about the topic, led to interesting conversations and introduced us to new colleagues.

3. Digital Connectivity – Of course this was a tech conference; however, NTEN was ready with a great interactive app and preset social media hashtags.

The 16NTC mobile app was fantastic for creating my itinerary, checking into sessions/events, adding photos and comments during sessions and in between, and making connections with other attendees. Each presentation had a hashtag and collaborative notes set up, so I was able to check out discussions at the sessions I missed.

4. Inclusive Space – Conferences are at their best when everyone is welcome, included, and comfortable.

I appreciated the efforts the 16NTC coordinators made to ensure the conference was an inclusive event. From varied levels of access, to gender neutral washrooms, there were frequent reminders that the conference was a safe space for everyone to participate.

26250384426_a0635f2324_z5. Creative Sponsor Add-ons – Creativity and sponsorship really do go well together!

16NTC had some fantastic sponsors who helped make it a great experience overall. My personal favorite was the exclusive showing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens one evening at the Tech Museum of Innovation dome IMAX. I felt spoiled!


Thanks to NTEN for a great conference experience! Check out all of their photos, used in this post.

Thank you to The Muttart Foundation for the bursary enabling me to attend this year’s conference, and to Volunteer Alberta for prioritizing professional development and a learning culture.

 

Cindy Walter
Volunteer Alberta

Data

Five Tech Trends Still Impacting Nonprofits

16-ntc-finalGoing into the 2016 Nonprofit Technology Conference (16NTC) I had fairly high expectations. The Nonprofit Technology Network’s (NTEN) typically features stellar presenters – and they really delivered at 16NTC. With a list of 116 sessions, I had many top choices for every breakout. As well as the opportunity to learn from experts and sector leaders.

From the sessions I was able to attend and had flagged to read the notes from, here are 5 sector-wide trends that were confirmed for me at 16NTC, not in any particular order. You may have heard of some of these:

  1. Accidental Techies: That is, falling into the role of managing your organization’s technology, without prior training. Check out the Fast Company article How To Master The Art Of The Accidental Career from Amy Sample Ward, NTEN’s CEO.
  1. Data management: What to measure and how? Many sessions focused on data topics, such as big vs. small data, data frameworks, how to measure data, open data, data-driven storytelling, and more. The Canada Council for the Arts has a great example of using data to tell a story.
  1. Communicating: It’s inescapable, by email, website, social media, and more. Communicating about what our nonprofits do, listening to our stakeholders, and using digital resources to do so. We got a sneak peek at the M+R Benchmarks X report with detailed data on email performance, website traffic, and social media engagement.
  1. New technologies: Prepare to think about automating and providing referrals, data, strategy, integration, retooling, and access. Check out the 2016 Digital Outlook Report.
  1. Storytelling: There are amazing, inspiring stories of contributions to nonprofit technology and by those who use it. Check out some of the interviews by Nonprofit Radio with speakers and conveners: http://www.nten.org/ntc/at-the-ntc/ntc-conversations/

What other nonprofit tech trends or resources have you found? Share in the comments!

26278232535_cfdf28361f_zWhat else happened at 16NTC? Check out next week’s blog Five Ideas to Borrow for Your Next Conference.

Thank you to The Muttart Foundation for the bursary enabling me to attend 16NTC and to Volunteer Alberta for prioritizing professional development and a learning culture.

Cindy Walter
Volunteer Alberta

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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

Volunteers Promovo - Smiling Senior

Seven Habits of Highly Well People

Guest post from our partners at OASSIS.

In our busy lives, it can be easy to neglect our health. This is especially true in the nonprofit sector where our attention and energy is most often directed to the clients we serve.

It’s important to remember that being healthy and taking care of our self is not a selfish act. In fact, being in top shape is the best thing we can do for those we work with and work for.

So how can we work towards better health? We are sharing seven healthy habits for healthier lifestyles. Start by choosing one manageable habit to work towards on your own – or, even better, to focus on as an office!

1. Exercise regularly

Promovo Community - Biking TogetherBeing physically active is one of the best things we can do for our health. Exercise does not have to be as daunting or time consuming as you might think. Being active for 30 min each day is recommended; however, this can be broken down into short, 10 min intervals. It can be as simple as going for a walk during the lunch hour, doing a few strength training exercises during TV commercial breaks, or completing 10 min of yoga or stretching in the morning before work. Try having a walking meeting to get your whole office active!

2. Eat more vegetables and fruits

Canada’s food guide recommends 7-8 servings of vegetables and fruits for adult women and 8-10 servings for adult men. Ensuring you have a vegetable or fruit with every meal, including snacks, is an easy way to sneak more of these nutrient-dense foods into your diet. Adding blueberries to morning cereal, carrots and hummus for a snack, and a brightly-coloured side salad to lunch and dinner are a few quick examples. Keep this in mind when ordering catering for staff or an event!

3. Get 7-8 hours of restful sleep each night.

Adequate sleep aids in both our physical and mental restoration. It helps keep our immune system in tip-top shape and supplies us with a full tank of energy to deal with daily stresses. For better sleep, make sure your bedroom is a sleep-optimal environment: Control for noise and light disturbances, and ensure a cool temperature and proper ventilation. If you can, make an office-wide rule to not answer any agency emails or phone calls after a certain hour.

4. Avoid smoking

Group of friendsCigarettes are the leading cause of lung cancer, and linked to heart disease and respiratory disease. The good news is, once you quit smoking, the damage can become near reversible. If you’re looking for help with smoking cessation, Health Canada, the Canadian Cancer Society and Smokers Hotline all provide excellent resources. If a few of your organization’s staff smoke, try quitting together.

5. Limit Alcohol Consumption

Over indulgence in alcohol has been linked to heart disease, liver disease, and various types of cancer. To avoid the associated health risks, follow the consumption guidelines set out by Health Canada: Women should limit alcoholic beverages to a maximum of 9 per week and men to a maximum of 14, not exceeding more than 2 drinks per day. If after-work drinks are a big part of your office culture, consider other fun activities you and your coworkers could do together.

6. Maintain close and positive social connections

Studies show that people with strong social connections are more likely to have better cognitive and physical health. Maintain close ties with friends and family, get involved in our community, and seek professional support when necessary. Make time for bonding and friendships at your office – have lunch together, or make an effort to learn something new about your colleagues.

7. Limiting stress

SillyResearch has demonstrated that high amounts of stress and the perception that stress impacts heath are associated with poor physical and mental health, along with an increased risk of premature death. Individuals who cope well with stress are better able to reduce their risk. For stress-busting techniques focus on deep breathing, meditation, and positivity training. Don’t treat stress like an inevitable part of work at your office and make sure you and your colleagues support each other through stressful times.

 


OASSIS is an employee benefit plan provider for the nonprofit sector. OASSIS created a partnership with Tri Fit Inc. to provide wellness programs and resources free of charge to all plan members. Tri Fit Inc. is Canada’s leading provider of workplace fitness and wellness programs.

For more information on OASSIS Benefits Plans please visit www.oassisplan.com and for more information on Tri Fit Inc. please visit www.trifit.com.

oassis blog trifit

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How do we create advocates, catalysts, and influencers for the nonprofit sector?

cropped-banner2This May, Volunteer Alberta is excited to participate in CACSL Conference 2016: Impact for Sustainability, an exciting conference bringing together community and post-secondary on the topic of Community Service Learning.

Our Creative Director, Katherine Topolniski, explains why Volunteer Alberta got involved in the conference:

“One of the most exciting trends in volunteerism is Community Service learning. The education system is moving quickly in this direction, students are being encouraged and supported to explore avenues for learning in their community. Students are enhancing their education with real world experiences, while making a difference.

This is an exciting new trend in Canada with benefits we have yet to fully comprehend. Will students become advocates, catalysts and influencers for community and the nonprofit sector? How will the experiences of today’s youth emerge as they explore career paths and embark on their professional journey?”

Katherine spoke more about the Impact for Sustainability conference to Community First: Impacts of Community Engagement (CFICE), another organization participating in the conference. Below is their blog about the upcoming conference, originally published on their website:


CFICE-LOGO-BG-LRG-1-240x215Volunteers often serve as the backbone of community initiatives, and the Volunteer Canada network wants to help organizations maximize their potential.

As part of the CACSL Conference 2016, which takes place May 25 to 27 at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Volunteer Alberta is hosting a networking series where academics, volunteer centres, and community organizations can share their knowledge and experiences.

“We are intentionally setting the scene for integrated dialogue and productive networking between [these three groups],” says Katherine Topolniski, Creative Director for Volunteer Alberta.

kbtphotography_034“In one of the Network Sessions we are focusing on discovering possibilities and creating opportunities to work together,” explains Topolniski. “We’re working to create the space in this session for participants to begin to shape the next steps they might take after the conference to initiate, grow, deepen, or scale current and/or emerging work. This is an opportunity for participants to move from recognizing the potential to beginning to harness it.”

In addition to this series of networking events, the conference will be exploring the theme of “Impact for Sustainability” with presentations from a number of Community Service Learning (CSL) and Community Engagement (CE) organizations – including those associated with CFICE.

Confirmed speakers for the conference include:

  • Patti H. Clayton, an Independent Consultant with over fifteen years of experience as a practitioner-scholar and educational developer in community-campus engagement and experiential education
  • Chelsea R. Willness, a passionate champion of community-engaged scholarship who currently holds two national research grants (SSHRC) for her research focusing on how stakeholders respond to organizations’ environmental practices and community involvement
  • Leah K. Hamilton, a Principal Investigator (SSHRC Insight Development Grant) and Co-Investigator (SSHRC Insight Grant) for two research projects focused on various ways to facilitate the settlement and integration of immigrants in Canada
  • Stephen Hill, an associate professor in the new School of Environment at Trent University whose research focuses on environmental and renewable energy management and policy in Canada

The conference will also feature engaging lunch panels focused on inter-organizational collaboration in environment sustainability, community engagement with First Nations communities, and a panel on Community Prosperity.

For more information about the conference, or to register, please visit http://cacslconference2016.ca/

Final registration is Thursday, May 19.

 

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