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We Are Listening Alberta! – Our New Website

Just before the holidays our new website went live. We are still working with our talented web developers at Adster Creative to sort out any kinks – we welcome your suggestions and we are excited to hear your first impressions on the changes!

We heard from our members that it was challenging to find specific programs, discover new initiatives, or find answers to your questions on our old website. This new website is designed with you in mind. We want you to be able to find our programs faster, uncover new programs, services, and resources, and discover information that fit your needs.

We hope that you find our website to be intuitive, inviting, and a great tool to finding out how we can help you and other Alberta nonprofits.

 

We Focused on You

FUNDING-HR SCiP - Colleagues Working (1)-minWe heard from our members that the top four areas you look for support are:

  1. Network Resources
  2. Human Resources
  3. Information Resources
  4. Financial Resources

We built our website around these four critical areas to easily direct you to programs, services, resources, and information that fit your needs.

 

Network Resources

The number one reason organizations join our membership is to be part of a provincial nonprofit network and to access knowledge exchange and meaningful connections across the province. We work to amplify the voice of Alberta’s nonprofits through a variety of influential partnerships and collaborations. Our website has been designed to help us grow and share the benefits of the network. It’s also easy for you to stay connected on nonprofit issues through our newsletters.

 

Human Resources

Recruiting and engaging people as staff and volunteers is one of the ongoing efforts of nonprofit organizations. We offer programs and resources to help address these challenges. Our new website offers easier access to these programs, as well as resources for managing paid employees and volunteers, as well as learning resources for those working in nonprofits at any level.

 

Information Resources

While we had many pieces of information and resources, they were lost in our old website. People would get confused and frustrated trying to find what they were looking for and would leave without the resources they were looking for. So, we grouped together resources and information, with quick links right on our front page. The information you need is now quick and easy to find.

 

Financial Resources

Often the biggest challenge as nonprofits is ensuring we have funding to do what we do. We have gathered information to get you started. We have gathered a list of places to look for funding, as well as resources to help you get funded.

 

Our new website design is just one of the ways we have changed to better serve Alberta communities and support the nonprofit sector. Learn more about Volunteer Alberta, our vision, and values on our brand new About Us pages, and let us know what you think about our website and how we are doing – we are listening!

New Government, New Platform – Will it impact the nonprofit sector?

LeafOn Monday, Canada elected a new Liberal Government. The new government’s platform will impact our members, partners, and stakeholders. We have highlighted a few areas of the platform that may relate to nonprofit work, in all sub-sectors, across Alberta.

Nonprofit advocacy in particular is an element of the platform relevant to Volunteer Alberta.

Nonprofit Advocacy

From Volunteer Alberta Executive Director, Jann Beeston:

At Volunteer Alberta we believe, along with many others, that public policy is better when the nonprofit sector voice at the table.

Advocacy is a key part of Volunteer Alberta’s work. We can only do this work through the valuable input from our members, partners, and networks. We have worked in strategic partnership, with other nonprofit organizations, to influence direction related to;

  • privacy legislation,
  • vulnerable sector police information checks,
  • lobbyist act,
  • charitable donation tax credit,
  • nonprofit data,
  • funding mechanisms,
  • and the Alberta nonprofit incorporation review. 

Your voice is vital. It matters to our work, and to nonprofit advocacy and public policy work that impacts our sector and communities.

The Liberal platform promises to “modernize the rules” governing nonprofit advocacy, stating:

“We will allow charities to do their work on behalf of Canadians free from political harassment, and will modernize the rules governing the charitable and not-for-profit sectors. This will include clarifying the rules governing “political activity,” with an understanding that charities make an important contribution to public debate and public policy. A new legislative framework to strengthen the sector will emerge from this process.”

We will work to find opportunities for Alberta nonprofits to participate in the evolution of this and other new legislative frameworks. Volunteer Alberta will connect with both our strong provincial network of capacity building organizations, and national organization like Volunteer Canada and Imagine Canada. We look forward to working collaboratively and to communicating with the sector on issues that impact across Canada.

Other Areas of Interest

On addition to the Liberal platform promise regarding nonprofit advocacy, the platform includes many other promises that you may want to keep track of as the new government settles in.

The following promises may impact the nonprofit sector under our new federal government:

  • Employment:
    • Create youth jobs in the heritage sector through the Young Canada Works program.
    • Waive Employment Insurance premiums for 12 months for 18-24 years old hired into permanent positions in 2016, 2017, and 2018.
  • Technology and Data:
    • Crowdsource policy ideas from citizens using technology.
    • Increase data collection and availability, including reinstatement of the long-form census and changes to Statistics Canada.
  • Infrastructure:
    • Invest in affordable housing, seniors’ facilities, early learning and child care, and cultural and recreational infrastructure.
    • Create more infrastructure funding and loan opportunities for municipalities.
  • Arts:
    • Invest in cultural and creative industries, including doubling investment in the Canada Council for the Arts and increased funding for other arts bodies and programs.
  • Environment:
    • Work with provinces, territories, and other willing partners to address water and soil conservation and development issues.
    • Support innovation and the use of clean technologies in the forestry, fisheries, mining, energy, and agricultural sectors.
  • Indigenous Peoples:
    • Address housing, infrastructure, health and mental health care, community safety and policing, child welfare, and education through a nation-to-nation process with Indigenous Peoples.
    • New funding for Indigenous communities to promote and preserve Indigenous languages and cultures.
  • Women:
    • Work with experts and advocates to develop and implement a comprehensive federal gender violence strategy and action plan.
    • Increase investments in Canada’s network of shelters and transition houses for those fleeing domestic violence.
  • People with Disabilities:
    • Consult with provinces, territories, and other stakeholders to introduce a National Disabilities Act to eliminate systemic barriers for Canadians with disabilities.
  • Housing and Homelessness:
    • Commit funding for Housing First initiatives for homeless Canadians.
  • International Aid:
    • Consult with Canadian and international aid organizations to review current policies and funding frameworks.
    • Widen international aid reproductive health services and increase spending on international development.
  • Unions:
    • Repeal Bills C-377 and C-525 that diminished Canada’s labour movement.

Review the Liberal platform for more information on these promises.

The platform includes further promises on issues that nonprofit sub-sectors and organizations may care about. Find more information on these promises in the platform:

  • Funding for post-secondary students
  • Accessible mental health services
  • Poverty reduction for children and seniors
  • Investment in agricultural research and technical and marketing assistance
  • Gender equality in government and public policies
  • National inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls
  • Respect for Indigenous traditions in environmental stewardship
  • Climate change response framework and strengthened environmental protections
  • Quicker and increased immigration and refugee intake

What is your response to the Liberal government’s platform as it relates to the nonprofit sector and nonprofit organization issues in Alberta? Please share in the comments!

2015 Federal Election – Vote with nonprofits in mind

Canada flagEarlier this year, we encouraged Albertans to go to the polls in the Provincial Election. Once again we are calling on all Albertans and Canadians to vote, and to vote with nonprofits in mind in the Canadian Federal Election on Monday, October 19.

After all, we are all impacted by the work of nonprofits. The nonprofit sector includes social services, religious institutions, university and colleges, libraries, hospitals, environmental organizations, health research, cultural associations, legal aid, theatre and the arts, recreation and sports, advocacy, professional associations, and more.

For this reason, we have put together a list of resources to help you vote, to help you mobilize others to vote, and to show why the nonprofit sector is so important this election:

Vote!

Mobilize Others to Vote

#elxn42 Sharing your priorities, concerns, and voice during this election is important – Join the conversation about the upcoming election on Twitter with #elxn42.

#NPVote CCVO has created the first-ever Calgary Nonprofit Democratic Challenge. Join the challenge on Twitter by using the hashtag #NPVote and share the creative ways your organization is encouraging your staff, patrons, members and/or clients to vote. Challenge other nonprofit organizations to participate as well.

Vote Nation Voting is contagious — we know this. If you tell your friends and family you’re voting, they’re more likely to vote too. Add ‘I Will Vote October 19’ to your profile picture with this site. No matter what you are sharing on social media, your message of civic engagement will be included in every post!

Pledge to Vote Try out this CBC election engagement and interactive mapping tool to pledge to vote, share what you care about, and see why other Canadians are pledging to vote as well. Once you have pledged, share the call to action on social media.

Apathy is Boring Apathy is Boring is committed to getting young and first time voters out on Election Day. Visit their website for infographics, information, and tools to better engage these demographics – especially if you or your organization work with young people, immigrants, or marginalized groups.

Nonprofits and the Federal Election

Nonprofits Step Up! The Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) and Samara Canada have created an excellent infographic outlining how nonprofits can play a crucial role in strengthening our democracy. Read more about why they are asking nonprofits to start conversations about: what role does (and should) nonprofits play in democracy? How can the nonprofit sector build a healthier democracy?

Election 2015 Hub Imagine Canada has created this hub to keep charities informed and involved this election with information and resources. Find out why and how this federal election offers an excellent opportunity for charities and nonprofits to promote civic engagement and to talk bold about issues important to Canadians and our communities!

2015 Federal Election Resources CCVO has compiled a thorough list of information, resources, and link to support nonprofits, their staff and volunteers, and their clients with their election engagement strategies. Find it on their website.

Nonprofit Advocacy during Elections Check out Charity Village’s tips for engaging in advocacy this election. As long as your organization’s advocacy efforts are issue-based and non-partisan, elections offer unique and important opportunities for your nonprofit!

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

Budget 2015: Highlights for Nonprofits

Photo-Budget2015The Alberta budget was announced on March 26, 2015. The response at Volunteer Alberta was both relief and concern for the impact of the budget on the voluntary sector. With the lead up to the budget and the speculation of massive cuts due to the economic downturn, we were bracing for deeper program cuts. While we were relieved that many voluntary sector programs and services were maintained, we are concerned about the 5% cuts to grant funding mechanisms (Boards, Foundations and Commissions) for nonprofits and potential impact of the diminished charitable tax credit. The new economic situation in Alberta will have some lasting effects on the nonprofit sector.

The budget was, as Jim Prentice said, “fiscally responsible” balancing increased revenue and reduced spending. However, it was refreshing to hear that the government is committed to supporting families and communities, and protecting lower income and vulnerable Albertans.

Here is what we know:

Alberta anticipated a $7 billion shortfall in revenues for 2015. The Government of Alberta needed to look for ways to increase revenue streams while slowing down government spending. Minister Campbell delivered a budget for Alberta that included “responsible spending” and an increase in revenues streams by $1.5 billion.

We prepared a highlight of relevant budget items that may be important to Volunteer Alberta members and across the nonprofit sector.

Human Services

  • Front-line programs will be maintained
  • Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) funding has been maintained at $76M
  • Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) and Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) have a slight increase to their budgets to accommodate anticipated growth

Culture and Tourism

  • Maintained funding for Community Facility Enhancement Programs (CFEP)
  • Alberta Foundation for the Arts budget is decreased by $1.4M
  • Alberta Sport, Recreation, Parks and Wildlife Foundation budget is decreased by $2M
  • Community and Voluntary Support Services (which includes program support, community engagement and the Community Initiatives Program) decreased by $1.54M
    • This reduction includes $1.2M from Community Initiatives Program (CIP)

A few other points of interest for the nonprofit sector include:

Even though Vitalize funding was reduced by $90,000 this year, this valuable nonprofit sector conference is still in-place. We are thankful for this opportunity for the members of the sector to connect and learn together once again.

After talking to our partners in the Government of Alberta, we confirmed that the Serving Communities Internship Program (SCiP) funding was maintained and more than 800 internships will benefit the sector throughout the rest of this year and into 2016.

Communities will be affected by the Municipal Sustainability Initiative decrease, however, nearly $880M will still be invested in municipal infrastructure projects in 2015-16.

Changes to the charitable tax credit: the tax credit will be lowered from 21% to 12.75% (rates equal to 2007) for donations above $200. The reduction in the tax credit will save the province $90M per year We  do not yet have a clear understanding of the impact of this change on charitable contributions, but will continue to explore this and engage partners in dialogue and/or research

According to the 2013 General Social Survey from Stats Canada, Albertans have the highest amount donated every year across Canada with an average of $861/person.

We are still breaking down the numbers and understanding what this budget will mean for the nonprofit sector. It may take time and further conversations with our sector partners as well as those in government to fully understand the longer term impact on the nonprofit sector.

For more information about the budget please see CCVO news release and the Government of Alberta 2015 Budget website. Volunteer Alberta is committed to supporting your voice to government when budget and policy affect your ability to do your work, at the grassroots level, supporting civic engagement and social wellbeing.

Let us know your thoughts on the budget. We want to hear about your issues and concerns as well as any areas of relief you may wish to share.

Jennifer Esler
Volunteer Alberta

 

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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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