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Alberta is Strong – Do We Also Have Endurance?

In May, Alberta experienced an unprecedented natural disaster. The entire city of Fort McMurray, along with nearby communities, were deeply impacted by wildfires. People were evacuated, homes and neighbourhoods were lost, families were separated, and jobs were interrupted, some indefinitely.

alberta-strongAlberta Strong was our province’s response to the wildfires. People across Alberta in all sectors stepped up and demonstrated our shared strength. As residents began to return to the Wood Buffalo area to reconcile, reclaim, and rebuild, they too showed the world that Wood Buffalo is strong.

Nonprofit organizations in Wood Buffalo’s social profit sector have been in the middle of it all; responding to the wildfire, assisting with the evacuation, and the re-entry. These organizations have experienced both sides of this disaster – helping those affected and being deeply impacted themselves.

FuseSocial, Wood Buffalo’s nonprofit backbone organization, shared an update from the sector in August:

We are now nearing the end of month three of post-fire re-entry and even though an astounding amount of work and progress has taken place within our community, there is still a considerable amount of work to be done.

This is especially evident within the Social Profit sector in Wood Buffalo. Agencies are working tirelessly to get back to capacity and to continue their vital work in our community.

As a result of the wildfire, many of these organizations are faced with incredible challenges including funding issues, staffing vacancies, compromised infrastructure and even the challenge of not knowing what the future will hold. 

As part of their support and monitoring of the sector over this time, FuseSocial conducted a Social Profit Sector Wildfire Impact Survey.

The survey indicated that, as of July, 57% of nonprofits were fully operating. Returning to normal has been a slow process, with some organizations facing more barriers and delays than others, including relocation, lack of services, or limited human resource capacity.

People pulled together to help with the crises in May and now, nearly five months later, it is becoming a question of endurance for social profit organizations and their staff and volunteers. Survey results indicate that:

  • 75% of organizations have been negatively impacted by losses of board, staff, and volunteers.
    • 50% of organizations lost staff since the wildfire
    • 50% of organizations are unsure if volunteers will return
  • 1 in 3 organizations experienced building damage, 1 in 5 organizations experienced equipment damage, and 1 in 10 organizations lost data, including client and historical files.

Together

These concerns, expressed by participating organizations in July, are not short-term issues. Alberta was strong when disaster hit, but support from all sectors is needed for many months to come. Let’s continue to be strong together, and offer our ongoing support to continue to help Wood Buffalo as they need it!

For more information, visit FuseSocial’s website.

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

Binder office

Privacy Protection: 4 easy steps

Young employeeEarlier this year, we shared three ways that being privacy conscious can improve your organization’s reputation. By being privacy conscious you can help strengthen your organization’s reputation, enhance the trust in your staff, and even increase the loyalty of donors, participants, and volunteers.

So what steps can your organization take to improve your privacy practices?

In Alberta, the Personal Information and Protection Act (PIPA) is part of our privacy legislation. PIPA is an outline of best practices for privacy protection, and all organizations can benefit by meeting these standards.

Did you know?

Most nonprofit organizations are only legally required to follow PIPA when collecting, using, or disclosing personal information as part of a commercial activity. For example, operating a day care, emailing your donor list, or selling products, training, or a membership.

Service Alberta has created a workbook specifically for nonprofit organizations to help evaluate and improve privacy protection practices. We have gone through the workbook and highlighted these four best practices for you.


4 Best Practices for Privacy Protection

1. Have a good reason for collecting the information you do.

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What personal information does your organization collect for each program or service that it offers?

Collecting a client’s birthday might be appropriate if your program has a minimum or maximum age requirement, but it would be unnecessary if the client simply wanted to sign up for your newsletter.

Your organization can create a list of the information your organization collects, along with the purpose for collecting each piece. If you find that your organization is collecting more information than it needs, arrange to get rid of the extra information you already have, and stop collecting the information from new participants.

2. Designate a privacy contact person.

Envelope cartoonChoose one person to be a privacy contact person (staff member, volunteer, or board member) to answer questions or requests about the personal information your organization collects.

This person should be familiar with your organization’s privacy policies and procedures, and be readily available to answer any questions.

3. Get consent for collecting, using, and disclosing personal information.

Pen cartoonThere are two types of consent, implied consent and express consent:

Implied consent: Implied consent is acceptable in situations where it is really clear why you are collecting personal information and how you will use it. For example, taking a donor’s credit card information on the payment screen.

Express consent: Most of the time it is a good idea for your organization to provide added clarity for people and provide the opportunity for them to expressly consent to the collection, use, and disclosure of their personal information.

Two examples of express consent statements your organization might use:

1. Your organization is collecting income information for program participants to ensure they meet the low-income requirement:

The income information you have provided will be used to determine your eligibility for the program, and will only be shared within our agency.

□ I consent this information can be used within the organization to verify eligibility.

2. Your organization is collecting medical information for day camp attendees:

My child’s provided medical information will be shared with camp volunteers to assist them in recognizing a medical emergency. I consent to the collection of my child’s personal information for this purpose.

Signature:  ______________

4. Safeguard and protect the information you collect.

Laptop cartoon

The personal information your organization keeps on your clients, donors, members, staff, and volunteers is sensitive. Take care of other people’s information as if it were your own:

  • Lock your filing cabinets and password protect all devices, including laptops, tablets, and flash drives.
  • Limit access to personal information to relevant staff or volunteers.
  • Don’t keep information you don’t need. For example, if you need to verify your volunteer has a driver’s license, make a note that it has been verified rather than keeping a copy of the driver’s license on file.

Remember: Social insurance numbers, credit card information, birthdates, names, and addresses can all be used in identity theft. Medical information, criminal record checks, and income information can also have serious impacts on personal relationships, careers, and housing.

While privacy protection may require you to create new policies, or change your procedures, in the end best practices help your organization to protect those people who are integral to the work you do. After all, nonprofit organizations exist for the people we serve – let’s all do the best job that we can!

Does your organization follow these best practices? Do you have room for improvement? Let us know in the comments!

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

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Are you successfully sharing your data with your Board?

Have you ever wondered how to use all the data your organization collects to measure your success and report to your Board? How do you show whether the organization is doing a good job?

Organizations and their Boards define what a ‘good job’ looks like with a series of objectives. These objectives, known as strategic directions or goals, are included in an organization’s strategic plan. One way to measure these strategic directions is to examine how successfully the organization’s services are being delivered using the data your organization collects.

Volunteer Alberta has five strategic directions. One of our strategic directions is to ‘Facilitate knowledge exchange and access to learning opportunities to strengthen organizations’.

Using this strategic direction as an example, we’ll investigate two foundational considerations to report on meeting this strategic direction by using data that we collect. The key is to ensure the data tells a meaningful story to the Board.

Selecting a performance indicator

Web Stats1Do you want to tell your Board the number of participants at a training session? Or do you want to tell your Board about whether your clients are more skilled or confident following a training session?

The answer is… it all depends.

The rule of thumb is both. Report outputs when your initiative is new and you are just beginning to gather data. Report outputs and outcomes when your program or tactic has been in place for a reasonable period of time.

Outputs: the scale or number of actual activities that your organization undertook (ex. number of participants at the training session, or the number of training sessions). Outputs answer the question ‘What happened?’

Outcomes: the value or impact of your program (ex. what people got out of the training session). Outcomes answer the question ‘Why does it matter?’

When starting a new program or initiative (ex. a training session), the number of participants and sessions are meaningful for the Board. When a year or two of the training has passed, outcome-based measures become more relevant. By year two and onwards, the Board wants to know whether participants are more confident, for example, or can apply something new to their jobs as a result of the training. Regardless, outputs (the numbers) are always required for context as they show the scale of the service (and any growth).

Reporting the performance indicator

Using our data, outputs, and outcomes, how do we report to the Board on our progress and achievement of our strategic direction: ‘Facilitate knowledge exchange and access to learning opportunities to strengthen organizations’?

There are multiple programs and initiatives Volunteer Alberta works on to contribute to this strategic direction, and we report on several different performance indicators to share our progress with the Board. One performance indicator might be ‘% of participants who feel they can apply something new to their job that they learnt at the training session’.

Data over several years is especially powerful as it shows trends. If this indicator % reduces, then it may indicate that the training is not as useful as it once was, or alert us that it may be time to review and update the training material.

In addition to numbers, data also includes additional context and stories. Ex. Did the facilitator change? Is there a particularly inspiring story from a participant that we can share? How is the organization’s communication plan impacting this particular training opportunity?

With the data your organization is already collecting, it’s likely that you have a good amount of outputs and outcomes, along with additional information that you can share with your Board and truly measure the success of your work against your organization’s strategic directions.

Have more questions about reporting data to your Board? Ask in the comment section!

Susan Gulko
Volunteer Alberta Board of Directors

Header photo attribution: WOCinTech
Look Up

Creating Alberta’s best future through social innovation

A couple weeks ago, Volunteer Alberta held our AGM during the Impact for Sustainability Conference. We were thrilled to have guest speaker Kate Letizia on the agenda to share with us The Future of Social Innovation in Alberta. We envision a high-functioning, impactful, and resilient nonprofit sector emerging through the social innovation ecosystem in Alberta. We want to know:

How can we work together to develop the dynamic relationships required to maintain stability, while taking the risks required to explore and test innovative approaches?

Future Social InnovationIf you missed our AGM and would like to learn more about Kate’s presentation, you can check out the full report from ABSI Connect: The Future of Social Innovation Alberta 2016 or the summary report. Created by ABSI Fellows Kate Letizia, Aleeya Velji, and Lesely Cornelisse, the report seeks to answer the question “How can we do better at solving complex social and environmental problems in our province?”

Kelsey Spitz, administrator and advisor for the ABSI Connect Fellows, shared some of the insights she learned from the report in a blog. You can find her whole blog on the ABSI Connect website – Here is an excerpt from her post:


Here is what I learned from the ABSI Connect Fellows…

Alberta is rad(ical).

TogetherAlberta has a rich tradition of social innovation. It is the province of the Famous Five, who secured women legal recognition as ‘persons’ in Canada, leading to a radical shift in our social relationships and in Canadian jurisprudence. It is the only province where the Métis have a legislated land base, with the goals “to secure a Métis land base for future generations, local autonomy, and economic self-sufficiency” (Source: Alberta Indigenous Relations). And it was the first province to develop a formal interface for non-profit sector leaders to address high level, sector-wide issues directly with government officials – the Alberta Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Initiative.

Alberta has consistently been the home of key justice and equality movements, from the United Farmers of Alberta to the Pembina Institute.

What is common to all of these milestones? Each transforms a critical relationship, introducing a new status quo that advances, in some way, inclusion, openness and deeper collaboration.

Author Thomas King (and a former professor of Native Studies at University of Lethbridge) writes, “the truth about stories is that that’s all we are” (The Truth About Stories, 2003). The stories we tell about ourselves matter; they inform how we see, show up and act in our daily lives. The Fellows amplified Alberta’s story as a leader in doing what it takes for community well being and equality, shedding light on an inspiring legacy of operating at the radical edge of innovation.

It is time to raise a barn together.

While there is this rich history of social innovation in Alberta, one contemporary pattern the Fellows surfaced was in the opposite direction. Today, the social impact ecosystem celebrates and rewards individualism over collective action. There has been a shift toward communities of heroes, rather than heroic communities. Short time horizons for results and a focus on individual agency undercuts an otherwise deep interest in collaborative action and isolates successful initiatives embodying this approach.

Old manListen to speak.

When the Fellows began their journey last summer, social innovation was a vexed concept in Alberta, specifically in Calgary and Edmonton, where their efforts were concentrated. Some folks considered it a critical new process to advance long sought social change, others considered it an empty fad, others still saw evidence of neoliberalism in the approach, and yet others felt it was either a useful or obnoxious term to describe the kind of breakthrough work they had already been dedicated to for years.

The Fellows started from a place of deep listening, inviting each person they spoke with to share what they thought the value, definition, and possibility of social innovation is. In doing so, the Fellows killed two birds with one stone: they discovered that there is a common direction that people want to walk together (toward solving root causes) and, by listening and resourcing, they empowered the work of a diverse array of actors in both their current work and towards that common direction.

The Fellows learned that it absolutely matters to have a shared story, but that story must be accessible, inclusive, inspiring and democratic. Here is how I heard it: our common ground is in our deep dedication to aligning our social change efforts with our fundamental intent. If the goal is to solve something, then we focus on solving it. If the goal is to change the status quo, then we reimagine it. There is a growing movement of processes, models, approaches and shared learning that will help us align intent with action, whether we must invent, innovate, adapt, adopt or collaborate to get there.

Social innovation is the stuff of culture.

With little or no preconceptions of what they would be sharing back with community at the end of their term, the patterns and opportunities the Fellows identified through emergent learning all relate to the cultural elements shaping how and why we seek to forge solutions to our most complex challenges.

Plan 2What they heard and learned strikes at the heart of how we think about, enact and vision impactful social change. What we call it matters less than identifying the systemic patterns shaping how we go about it and working to break the patterns holding us from our core intent.

Like any journey without a map – and solving complex social and ecological problems is as far from having a map as possible – we must constantly check-in on our direction and our path, referencing the changing landscape, the local know-how, resonant examples, our experiences, the experiences and stories of others, and our own courage to try a path untested. With an appreciation that we alone do not have the answers, but the answers are out there, we can make a concerted effort to contribute to their collective creation.

Thank you to the Fellows for leading and inspiring a unique inquiry, learning journey and community. Thank you all – especially the funding partners, hosts, advisors and contributors – for your time, contribution, support, insights and partnership. The journey continues with the Fellows’ insights offering pathways forward and a true shock of the possible.

 

Kelsey Spitz
ABSI Connect / Social Innovation Generation (SiG) National

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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

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