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Arena Funding Proposal Raises Concerns for Nonprofits

Alberta’s unique charitable gaming model is a valuable financial contributor to the robust nonprofit sector Albertans have come to know and rely upon.  Provincially, Alberta generates $1.44 billion in annual gaming revenue and the percentage given to nonprofits and charities is invaluable to the sector. According to the Alberta Lottery Fund’s audited 2012 financials, 88% of the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission’s gross proceeds from provincial lotteries were disbursed to nonprofits and charities through the Alberta Lottery Fund.

The Wildrose Party, Alberta’s Official Opposition, has recently proposed that in order to fund new sports arenas for both Calgary and Edmonton, an existing lottery game, Keno, should be re-branded, re-vamped and the proceeds directed to building the arenas.

Their proposal (see this press release): a Keno game set up in bingo halls and sports bars would be used to cover the shortfall in funding arenas in Calgary and Edmonton. The problem with this idea is threefold. First is a logistical concern; second, one must wonder if this will grow the gaming revenue for the province, or if it will instead dilute the proportion charities receive; and third, does this put Alberta’s charitable gaming model at risk?

The first concern has been a definite cause for contention; however, the logistics of the model are outside of Volunteer Alberta’s area of expertise. The Wildrose Party is proposing that in order to reach their $194 million projection, it would need to be in at least 1000 bars and pubs in Alberta. According to the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, there are only 1,557 Class A Minors Prohibited Liquor Licenses in the province. This is the liquor licence that allows the use of Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) and Slot Machines. One could assume that even if the logistics of putting Keno in over 60% of Alberta’s bars, it would be in direct competition with the VLTs that people already use to gamble, and whose revenues go into the Alberta Lottery Fund, which supports many of Alberta’s nonprofits and charities.

This brings us to the second point, revenue dilution for nonprofits and charities. Volunteer Alberta’s worry is that while some “new gamblers” may be drawn to this NHL-branded Keno game, which would grow the total gaming revenue pie, the vast majority of Keno’s revenue will come from those who would have otherwise used an alternative game where the money would be directed to the Alberta Lottery Fund. This would effectively shrink the proportion of the pie directed to Alberta’s nonprofit sector, leaving already cash strapped organizations with fewer revenue sources, while private companies would benefit.

Lastly, Volunteer Alberta is concerned that the Wildrose’s proposal would leave Alberta’s charitable gaming model at risk. If we as a province make this exemption, what is there to stop it from happening again and again in other communities in Alberta? An expansion of this approach runs the risk of further diluting and diverting gaming funds away from the nonprofit and charitable sector. While Calgary and Edmonton may benefit from the building of new arenas, Alberta’s nonprofit and charitable sector relies on funding from the Alberta Lottery Fund to provide numerous programs and services Albertans need. Programs offered through Rotary clubs, athletics clubs, arts foundations, language and cultural groups and many others that make Alberta the best province to live in. Other jurisdictions have funded public-private partnerships like arenas through a number of different means.  While it is great to experiment with new ideas, it seems like, in this case, the cure is worse than the disease.

Steve Kwasny

Stakeholder Relations Coordinator

Marketing Myths that Annoy Me

I just finished reading the brilliant book, The Age of Persuasion: How Marketing Ate Our Culture by Terry O’Reilly and Mike Tennant. This was a fantastic book, full of things that remind me why I chose to be a marketer. But, as I finished the book, and remember people’s reactions when I say that I’m a marketing and communication manager, I get a little disheartened. So, I wanted to write about the top three marketing myths that grind my gears, explain why they’re not true, and give you some tips to begin thinking differently about marketing.

Myth #1 – “Advertising is sneaky. In order to be effective, you have to sell people things they don’t need or want.”

This may have been true in the early 1900’s, but modern day marketing has rejected that notion for quite some time. Most good marketers – or advertisers – think about what they do as informing people of options that are available to solve the needs people already have. We know no amount of shouting, subliminal advertising, or pleading will ever create a need. Our job is to inform about the benefits our products, services, or organizations give supporters or clients in trying to fulfill a need they already have, even if they are not consciously aware of it.

The reality: You know that your organization does good work, but which of your supporter’s needs are you meeting? If you have a large base of volunteers, perhaps you’re meeting volunteer’s needs for a community to meet people and make friends. Perhaps you’re meeting your donor’s need to be recognized and celebrated. Once you know what needs your organization meets, it makes your appeal for continued, or first-time, support a lot more compelling. 


Myth #2 – “Marketing? Don’t you mean advertising?”

No, I mean marketing. Advertising is one aspect of marketing. Public relations is another. Social media is another. Product or service design is another aspect. So is pricing. So is evaluating the customer experience. Marketing is every way your organization interacts with a person. The organizations – nonprofit or otherwise – that have succeeded in the 20th century realize that supporter/client experience is king.

The reality: Examine your organization from the outside in. Do you do the things you say you’ll do? If you say you want to end a certain disease NOW, do you take 5 days to respond to an email, or do you respond immediately? If you exist to engage youth in the nonprofit sector, are you willing to employ young graduates with little experience? Evaluate if the way an outsider experiences you is consistent with your mission, values, and brand.


Myth #3 – “Our audience is everyone”

I guarantee you your audience is not everyone. Unless absolutely everyone donates to your organization, volunteers with your organization, or uses  your services, your audience isn’t everyone. Most likely there is a specific group of people that your product, service, or organization appeals to.

The reality: Start collecting data about who engages with you, why, and how. If you already collect that data, spend some time exploring it, getting to know it, and using it to find and appeal to the people who are the best fit for your organization or cause.


Jenna Marynowski, Marketing and Communications Manager

Putting out the Burnout Fire

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… As we approach the holiday season, many nonprofits launch into their capital campaign and annual fundraising efforts. It’s a big time for both staff and volunteers – and everyone is crucial to making these efforts a success. Of course, with so much to do, it’s easy to get burnt out.

KnowledgeConnector has published two previous blogs about volunteer burnout (links at the bottom of this blog), so I wanted to revisit the topic and see what we can learn going forward. Both of these blogs recognize that a passionate and committed nonprofit/voluntary sector is critical to Alberta’s communities, but how do we ensure it stays vibrant? I wanted to share some tips of my own about avoiding burnout that I have developed while managing volunteers, but please feel free to share your own in the comments section!

  1. Eyes on the prize – Make sure your volunteers know what they’re working towards. Everyone works better when they know what their work is accomplishing, and measuring progress can be a big motivator. There’s nothing worse than sinking your effort into a “black hole” and not knowing what it accomplished.
  2. Recognition – We all know that volunteer recognition is key, but it may be time to re-think how you’re doing it. While we might not have time to plan volunteer appreciation parties during this season, a simple “thank-you” or a specific note about how well you think they’re doing is always appreciated.
  3. YOU can do it! – There’s nothing worse than waiting around for someone to review what you’ve done so you can move on to the next stage in your project. You’re busy – we know! So, why not give your volunteers more power over their projects? Do you really need to review their work or give the “okay” before they move on to the next phase of a project? Try revising your “check-in” points with your volunteers and streamline the process wherever possible. While giving your volunteers decision-making power can be scary (and not appropriate in all cases), it may pay dividends in terms of time, as well as volunteer satisfaction.
  4. Have fun – You know what they say, “all work and no play…” Take a moment away from the stress and to-do lists to have fun. Whether that’s a five minute yoga breathing and relaxation exercise for staff and volunteers to do together, or a group hug, taking a few minutes away from all the action will refresh your brain and your spirits.
  5. Work smarter, not harder – I know, now might not be the best time to try out a new way of doing things. But as you work, take note of which tasks are taking up most of your time, energy, and thoughts. Is there a way that you can do these things better? Consider joining (or setting up) a peer circle to discuss these issues, taking courses in the new year to learn more about these areas, or just talking to your co-workers or friends for a fresh perspective.

And, if all else fails, read this.

More KnowledgeConnector blogs about burn out:

Volunteer Burnout: Wetaskiwin Leaders Working Smarter to Bust Burnout – by Victoria Poschadel

Grow a Community Garden – Yvonne Rempel


Jenna Marynowski, Communications and Marketing Manager

Twitter Enhances Conference Experience

I had heard great things about WordCamp2011, so I knew WordCamp2012 was a going to be a useful professional development experience. WordCamp is a conference revolving around using the open source web development software, WordPress. I was impressed with how incredibly well organized it was, everything from registration to the final keynote. Startup Edmonton were good hosts and Roast Coffeehouse completely spoiled attendees with fresh coffee and delicious baked goods*.

One thing that caught me off-guard about WordCamp was the role that social media played in tying the conference together. Never before have I seen an event so effortlessly and effectively transformed by social media, specifically Twitter. I suppose this shouldn’t have come as a surprise given all the creative muscle possessed by the organizers and participants. WordCamp was truly Twitter in its purest form. Not only were people networking using Twitter, but also WordCamp’s hash tag, #wcyeg, was a bustling forum of discussion about the sessions of the day. The presenters were all amazing, but sadly, you had to choose one session over another. Fortunately, Twitter allowed attendees to sit in on one session and follow along in another, so you were never really missing what was going on in the next room.

Obviously, Twitter is no substitute for connecting with someone in the flesh, but it played a huge role in the conference by quickly connecting beginners with experts in a meaningful way. As one of the presenters pointed out in his presentation, social media is only one tool in the tool kit. While it may only be one tool, it took my WordCamp experience to the next level. No one at WordCamp2012 invented Twitter, but organizers, presenters, and attendees clearly knew how to use that tool to its full potential.

* I ate too many chocolate croissants.

Tim Henderson, Office and Communications Coordinator

Mittens are Like Shoes for my Hands

Courtesy of Crazy Aunt Purl

Courtesy of Crazy Aunt Purl


Mittens are warm,
Mittens are grand,
Mittens are like shoes for my hand.


As I travel around Southern Alberta sharing with communities what Volunteer Alberta has to offer, the question I am asked the most often is “what is risk management?”

What a great question! When I was first introduced to risk management, I thought it was a term created by insurance companies to sell insurance. These days it seems like we can buy insurance for everything and everyone is selling it!  My life insurance sales person tells me I don’t have enough, but when does a person have enough insurance? At what point are you throwing your money away?

Risk management is “hoping for the best, planning for the worst”; a lesson that we’re all taught in some form or another as children.  As we grow our planning becomes more complicated. Unfortunately, developing a risk management strategy is not as simple bringing an extra pair of mittens to school so our hands stay warm.

Risk management goes far beyond insurance. Insurance is just one strategy.  In the risk management session, Protect Your Assets, we give you ways to evaluate your level of risk and provide solutions to manage your risk. Do you need different policies? Do you need a different way of executing the program?  Risk management is not just a concern for upper management. It is something that everyone at every level of your organizations needs to be aware of- this includes volunteers, board, and all staff.  Many times the frontline workers that have a different view on risk and can offer solutions to reduce risk.

So, keep checking the Volunteer Alberta website or the latest issue of Sector Connector to see when a session is available in your area.  If one is not available, let me know we can start planning!


Amanda Liepert, Knowledge Exchange Coordinator

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