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Alberta Nonprofits Play Hashtag

hashtagThe role of social media in the nonprofit/voluntary sector continues to evolve. Nonprofit organizations can use social media to fundraise, recruit volunteers, promote upcoming events, distribute resources or connect people to available programs. One thing that’s becoming clear is that social media is not simply a tool at the disposal of communications professionals in the sector, but rather a toolkit. One such tool in the social media toolkit is the hashtag, which can be used on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Hashtags are a way of categorizing a tweet or Instagram post so it is added to that online conversation. Adding a hashtag to your tweet or post makes it searchable! For example, if you want to read what people are saying about Canada Day, simply search #CanadaDay on whichever social media platform you happen to be using and you will be given a list of relevant posts.

Alberta nonprofits are becoming very adept at using social media to help achieve their mandate and communicate with stakeholders, and hashtags are one of the tools to help them succeed. There are a number of ways Alberta nonprofits are using hashtags. Here are a few examples:

Contest – Edmonton’s Bissell Centre recently had an Instagram photo contest to accompany a spring clothing drive they were hosting. They asked their followers to donate clothes and share a photo of their donation with the hashtag #clothes4bissell on Instagram, and they had prizes for the best photos. The #clothes4bissell hashtag successfully engaged Bissell Centre social media followers and helped collect a truckload of donations (and some great photos).

Conference or Event – In a few weeks Alberta’s nonprofit/voluntary sector will get together at Vitalize, Alberta’s Nonprofit Sector Conference. The hashtag #Vitalize2014 will help provide some order to the maze of knowledge transfer and networking. Conference delegates who want to effectively share a message with other delegates or presenters can do so by using the #Vitalize2014 hashtag on Twitter. Want to know what you missed in the other sessions? Search the hashtag and see what others thought.

Ongoing Initiative or Program – Volunteerville is another great use of the social media hashtag! This Volunteer Alberta program was launched during National Volunteer Week but is an ongoing initiative. When an organization or individual shares a photo or story of volunteerism on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #volunteerville, it will be posted to volunteerville.ca. In this instance the hashtag helps build a collective narrative about the impact of volunteerism in Alberta. More than half of Albertans volunteer, but it’s a story that goes largely untold. Until now!

Special Day – Every organization has certain days of the year that are extra meaningful. Some organizations will use a hashtag to accompany their social media posts to help raise awareness of a specific issue. Bell Canada, while not a nonprofit organization, is a perfect example. Once a year, they have Bell Let’s Talk Day, which raises awareness about the stigma associated with mental illness and raises money to support mental health initiatives across the country. The hashtag #BellLetsTalk is a huge part of the campaign and allows those on Twitter to follow along and join in the conversation.

These are just a handful of the ways hashtags are helping Alberta nonprofits reach a wider audience, build networks and achieve their mandates.

Is your organization active on social media? Do you use hashtags to your advantage? Tell us how!

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Tim Henderson, Communications/Program Coordinator

Leadership Edmonton: An Experience of Bite-Sized Pieces

As I began my participation with the Leadership Edmonton program, one of the comments I took from the opening retreat was:bite sized

“The source of learning is life. Leadership Edmonton provides a framework to learn from these experiences.”

Well, that was a relief!

Finally, someone was going to share a framework that would make sense of all the experiences, knowledge, interactions, challenges and opportunities we face every single day and explain how we can all provide the leadership to make our way through this complex set of situations in which we find ourselves. But to what end? Was it chasing outcomes and impact? How does the world of social profit, governments and corporations fit in to this overall “end”? What was the context – were we coming at this as individuals, a group, or from humanity as a whole? Those questions were still to be answered. My curiosity was mounting and my expectations were completely reasonable.

The reality was… Leadership Edmonton started with bite-sized pieces. This was the only possible way of approaching such complexity. They started with history. From the demise of the Roman Empire to the settlement and collapse of civilization on Easter Island, understanding and learning from societies and communities, their growing populations, their use and misuse of resources and cultural dynamics provide us with examples and opportunities that can inform our present and future thinking. Next were intertwined sessions on learning, development and individual leadership. These provided an insightful focus on the ecology of leadership, wisdom and judgement, innovation, the influence of media, pioneers in their time, levels of caring and action, and the connection of science and philosophy. All these learnings were interspersed with time for reflection and meaningful discussion with colleagues. Finally, they were overlaid on a framework made of many separate pieces attempting to make sense of the whole and provide direction and support for adaptive leadership into the future. A monumental undertaking!

With my last two formal Leadership Edmonton sessions ahead of me, including some final presentations by our smaller participant cohorts (which are an incredibly interesting representation of perspective, learning and action, and probably the topic of another blog in itself!), I still wonder and still have those questions I started with. What makes it different now, after engaging in the discussions, readings, interviews, experiences, videos, presentations, events and reflection that were all a part of Leadership Edmonton? A greater awareness of the interconnected nature of systems and people, a greater sense of the responsibility we all have to engage in life and the importance of taking action towards the systemic issues affecting us now and generations into the future. And what remains is the curiosity and the expectation that we can do more.

I wondered about how to write about all of this complexity… bite-sized pieces.

For more information on the Leadership Edmonton Program, and to get involved, visit www.leadershipedmonton.wordpress.com

Rosanne Tollenaar
Program Administrator

Guest Blog: Manage your Online Brand – Or Others Will!

Courtesy directorymaximizer.com

Courtesy directorymaximizer.com

It is now 2014 and I’m astonished when I continue to hear nonprofit/voluntary sector leaders say the following about building their online brand:

  • “I don’t trust it. It could be damaging”
  • “How do we control what people will say?”
  • “I doubt anyone will listen to what I have to say”
  • “How do we know anyone is even listening?”
  • “I just don’t have the time for that stuff”
  • “I’m not a techie”
  • “It’s better to be safe than sorry”

Make no mistake, whatever online tool people choose, they are commenting on the experience they had interacting with your organization and you are missing the opportunity to leverage their energy… whether it’s positive or negative.

Are you going to let others define your online brand?

Real World Example: @stats_canada (twitter)

Upon seeing that Statistics Canada has a twitter feed, I became very excited. I was poised to receive an unending stream of interesting stats pulled from real Statistics Canada data that I could use to impress my friends and family. However, after reading the tweets more carefully, I realized the twitter feed was satirical and likely not created by Statistics Canada at all.

How could Statistics Canada have been so far behind the curve to allow their brand to be co-opted on such a powerful social media platform?

My Suggestion: take some time to do some google searches of your organization’s name and try to include any variation you can summon. Take note of where people are talking about your organization and what they are saying. What does it say about your online brand if you find nothing beyond your own Facebook posts? Perhaps you’re being safe…rather than sorry.


Darcy McDonald , The Social Margin

Sometimes We Can Move the Needle – preliminary results from SCiP

scipIt’s been just over two years since the Serving Communities Internship Program (SCiP) was launched and although there is still one more year left iun the 3-year pilot it seems like a good time to take stock of the journey so far. SCiP was collaboratively developed by stdent organizations (ASEC, CAUS, and AGC), the Government of Alberta, and Volunteer Alberta to ensure mutual benefit for both nonprofit organizations and students. Volunteer Alberta manages the day-to-day programming, promotions, and operations of the program on behalf of the partners.

There are three broad program objectives for SCiP:

  • Create meaningful opportunities for students to develop skills and deepen applied learning opportunities to support personal and career goals
  • Foster an appreciation for community engagement while supporting the efforts of nonprofit organizations to achieve their mission and strengthen local communities
  • Increase student awareness of the important contributions of the nonprofit sector to their communities and the possibilities of working in this sector.

These objectives guide how we measure and evaluate the program and based on the data collected so far we are starting to get a sense of the impact of SCiP, here are some highlights:

  • 375 internships were completed in year one of SCiP and 741 were completed in  year 2
  • By the end of year two of SCiP 5424 students have registered and 765 organizations have registered
  • 103 or 14% of year 2 completed internships were filled by repeat students who also completed internships in year 1 of SCiP
  • 75% of interns are female students, and most interns are 20 – 25 years of age

Survey Results*

  • 85% of organizations indicate that SCiP has a positive impact on their knowledge/ability to strategically engage post-secondary students
  • 94% of organizations indicate that SCiP has had a positive impact on their ability to meet mission
  • 93% of interns indicated they would do another SCiP internship
  • 63% of interns indicated that SCiP increased their awareness of the nonprofit sector as a place of employment
  • 99% of interns reported that SCiP has helped them gain practical skills and knowledge that will have value in their future employment
  • 85% of interns responded that SCiP has increased their awareness of the value of the nonprofit sector  to society/community
  • Before their internship 21% of interns were looking at the sector as a possible place of employment and after their internship 85% of interns were looking at the NPVS as a possible place of employment.
  • Before an internship 5% of interns stated that the nonprofit sector was their preferred sector of employment compared to 14% of interns after completing an internship.
  • 89% of student indicated that the $1000 bursary motivated them to apply for SCiP.

The statistics demonstrate that organizations and students are experiencing significant benefits from participating in SCiP. The program is developing a cohort of post-secondary students who recognize that the nonprofit sector has many professional opportunities and employment potential. Likewise, organizations are gaining key insights into how to mentor and engage students and new graduates meaningfully in ways they might not have considered before. Of course there have been bumps along the way and there is still a lot of work to be done to really capture the full impact of the 3-year pilot, but for now we can take comfort that positive change is being realized.

For the last word here some examples of the positive feedback SCiP has received:

“My internship at Hope Mission was incredible. It was a fun and humbling experience. I learned many new skills helping in the areas of Special Events and Fundraising, and Volunteer Services. I helped with grant writing; I got to help with planning, organizing and coordinating special events. The internship provided housing at the shelter and living there really completed the experience. I learned way more than I expected. I hope to take all I’ve learned with me in my education, my career and my life in general.”

 – Anonymous student Intern, year 2

“We have recruited 12 SCIP interns in the past year and all of our interns have been a great help to the organization. SCIP helps our organization fulfil the need of students to gain meaningful experience in their said field of academic majors. It also benefits the organization to achieve its goals and outcomes because of the relentless efforts done on part of these students in fulfilling their assigned tasks.”

– Anonymous SCiP Organization, year 2

*Report statistics were collected in 2 surveys during year 2 of SCiP from students and organizations. 214 organizations received the survey with a response rate of 80%, 741 students received the survey with a response rate of 54%


Annand Ollivierre, Program Manager

The Learning Journey

walkI just spent the large part of the last two weeks at two very interesting and dynamic professional development opportunities; the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) and the Tamarack Communities Collaborating Institute (CCI). These opportunities have filled my head with a lot of ideas, tools and have built new connections and many new possibilities. It is hard to summarize what I have learned and thought about throughout the last two weeks but one idea that has stuck with me was introduced by Adam Kahane at the CCI.

Adam Kahane talked to us about a “learning journey” as a tool to build a greater understanding between players in a complex system so that social systems change becomes possible. As Mr. Kahane described it, a learning journey is when individuals who are from different parts of a system or community go and visit the system together to learn more about each other, their perspectives, and how they are impacted by, and contribute to, the community. It is a literal walk together that Mr. Kahane has seen as an essential component in orienting people towards working on complex problems together. It is a tool to build shared understanding between members within a diverse group, community or society.

It is so simple, going on a walk together, but how often are we asked or interested in walking with someone we don’t understand, have an opposing view point with, or can’t identify with? I find that in professional circumstances the risk for these types of conflicts are high and are also avoided. We go into meetings knowing we may not agree and are unsurprised when we leave without a shared understanding of what needs to change. I have found myself thinking that for community or society to improve we just need to take a “walk in the other person’s shoes” however, I think what the learning journey approach suggests is that we should seek to listen to how someone else lives in their “own shoes”. It’s not about switching places, rather it is about experiencing that same place together and sharing perspectives.

More information on Adam Kahane’s approaches to social change and dealing with complex societal challenges can be found in his three books; Solving Tough Problems, Transformative Scenario Planning, and Power and Love and at REOS Partners.

Annand Ollivierre, Program Manager

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