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What is a Brand Identity, Anyway?

Photo courtesy of sonc.co.uk

Photo courtesy of sonc.co.uk

If you’re “most people” you haven’t asked yourself this question in a while, or possibly ever. But, affirming, creating, or updating your brand identity is one of the most important things you can do. But, before you start, what is a brand identity?

A brand identity is a concise, but holistic, idea of what your organization is, from your stakeholder’s perspective. Who are you? What do you stand for? What you deliver to your stakeholders? These are all important parts of your organization’s brand identity. If your stakeholders cannot immediately and clearly answer you when you ask these questions, you might have a problem with your brand identity.

Something I hear time and time again when talking about brand identity is “but, we have a logo”. A logo is your visual identity. Sure, it represents your organization’s brand, but it does so visually. A true brand identity is the idea of your brand. Think about it – what is Apple? Do you only think of their logo when you read the name? My guess is no. You think of innovation and user-friendly design, among other things. Maybe you don’t even think of their logo.

So, what is it you want people to think of when they hear your nonprofit’s name? Is that idea clear, or is it complicated? Here’s an exercise for you: write down the idea you want your stakeholders to have of your organization.

Now, simplify it.

Great, now simplify it again.

Try it once more. How simple can you get that idea? One sentence? A couple of words? The reality is most of your stakeholders will associate your nonprofit with a far simpler idea than we want them to. It’s just the way our brain works – we organize our experiences and file them into the most appropriate “drawer” in our brains – and, believe me, “synergistic-capacity-building-underprivileged- youth-empowerment” likely isn’t a drawer that exists in many people’s brains.

Now that you know what you want your brand identity to be – look around you, at your programs, services, and ways of operating. Does your organization embody your brand identity in every aspect? If not, this exercise will certainly help you identify areas to improve.

Jenna Marynowski, Communications and Marketing Manager

SCiP Internships: Flexible & Fulfilling

When I told some friends that I was doing a SCiP internship, I got a lot of shocked reactions.

“Another job? How are you going to juggle all of that?”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea, what with starting a new program and everything?”

I was just starting graduate school in Library and Information Studies, and I had a part-time job already, so I admit I had some of those doubts myself.

But when I saw the SCiP internship for a Library Policy Development Intern, I had to apply. It sounded interesting and applicable to my program, and I wanted some hands-on experience. Applying was easy: I put together my application, submitted it, and heard back about it right away.

When I met with someone from the organization, I expressed my concerns about fitting another thing into my very busy schedule. He reassured me that they would be flexible enough to make it work, and he certainly followed through!

The SCiP internship turned out to be a truly excellent experience. My organization, Volunteer Alberta, was very flexible, and I was able to easily make the internship fit around my school and work commitments. Everyone at the organization was friendly and helpful, and most importantly, I got that hands-on experience in my field that I had signed up for. The chance to develop policy for a small library helped me hone many skills, particularly my research skills, and enhanced my overall knowledge of the field and the nonprofit/voluntary sector. The $1000 bursary at the end is a major perk, but I definitely feel like the experience I gained is worth more than the money.

Now, when people ask how my internship worked out, I tell them to apply themselves! There are a ton of internships to choose from, so there’s bound to be one for anyone’s field of interest, and it’s easy to get involved. And the pay-off is huge: I was able to network with people in my field and gain valuable skills and experience for my resume for the future. Even though I was worried about fitting an internship into my schedule, I didn’t have to be. My organization recognized I was a student, and worked with me to make it a success. I loved my experience and I would highly recommend it!

For more information on SCiP internships visit joinscip.ca or call Sam at 780.482.3300 ext 225.
Alexandria Eldridge

Library Policy Development Intern, Volunteer Alberta

Everybody Loves Lunch: Thoughts on Networking

We have all heard it- It’s not what you know, but who you know. But, who are these people, and how do you get to know them? For some it comes very easily and for others it’s a fate worse than public speaking, which, according to numerous studies, is more terrifying than death. Personally, I love networking. I love going out there and meeting new people, finding out what they are up do, what they are passionate about and trying to make connections between what I am doing, what they are doing and what others are doing. Networking has opened up some fantastic opportunities and given me some awesome stories.

Personally it’s an absolute necessity to be out networking as often as you can; though it’s tough, and it’s work, but we’ll get to that shortly. Whether in your city, town, province, or country, in the nonprofit sector or the business community, decisions are made by the people with power and the small groups that influence them. The personal and professional payoffs that come with being “in” with any of these groups is immeasurable, but worth it. I wholeheartedly believe that there are very real benefits to your organization putting your staff in a position to network.

Networking allows you to build a personal relationship with people outside of your usual social circle. I have become very good friends with people I met “through work”. So now, should I need to, I can call on these people for advice or, potentially, a favour (I do try to avoid that as best I can). Professionally, you never know who the people you meet know, and they can often put you in contact with the right person to make your project or initiative happen. I suppose that is the abridged version of how the Serving Communities Internship Program (SCiP) got started.

You also need to go into “networking” with an open mind, who knows what will come from it. However, in my experience it has always been worth it.

But how does one network?

First thing is getting in the door. Look around for public events and make time to be there. For me, the most successful networkers “live their brand” so to speak. It’s not about being a workaholic, but it’s about really believing in what you do, so you don’t mind spending your evenings “working”. Also, volunteer with groups that might be outside your usual sphere of influence. Chambers of Commerce, Boards, Committees or, for the more political, Election Campaigns are all great places to start.

While you are there, try not to be shy (which is easier said than done). Honestly, I find it helps to stand by the food or the bar, because people seem more talkative in those areas. That or, if there is open seating, just going up to a table, asking to sit there and then introducing yourself. Not every conversation will be fruitful, but there is rarely a negative that can come from it.

Also, business cards! They are like baseball cards for adults. I have learned people love trading them to each other. Collect as many as you can while at the event.

Another note about preparation for an event, catch up on the latest news. The worst part of networking is when things get awkward. So avoid that. Read up on sports, current events, weather, business, and yes even celebrity gossip (you never EVER know when knowledge about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorce will come in handy). It sounds labour intensive, however it’s not that bad, devote maybe an hour a day to learning about the world and you automatically become a better conversationalist;  as my grandpa used to say “know a little about a lot of things, and you’ll never be boring.”

Once you leave an event, take all the business cards you’ve collected and send them a note telling them it was great to meet them, that is unless you never want to talk to them again, which happens. If you had a particularly good conversation, or would like to connect further, do not hesitate to ask them for lunch.

Everybody loves lunch.

 

Steve Kwasny

Stakeholder Relations Coordinator

New Curriculum to Bundle Essential Learning Opportunities for Sector Leaders

Why is it that many organizations are still battling problems even though the solutions are available? Why is it that despite workshops, speakers, and seminars galore focused on solving issues, our sector leadership and funders are still frustrated in their efforts to motivate staff and volunteers to explore new solutions?

Many cynics refer to workshops as a day out of the office rather than an investment of a day into learning. I don’t believe this for a moment but I do believe that the sector as a whole is not reaping 100% of the benefits from participating in the hundreds of opportunities for learning available for our staff and volunteers in any given year.

Obviously something has to change. Volunteer Alberta is offering that change now.

One of the advantages of the experience gained from delivering years of learning opportunities throughout Alberta is insight as to what creates change. Volunteer Alberta’s new approach – bundling the traditional one hour or half day workshops about a specific issue into a formal, comprehensive, structured series of competency-based professional development seminars – is designed to increase the ability of sector leaders to create the required changes we need to continue to be competitive, effective, and focused on mission delivery. Offering one hour or half day single-issue learning does not move the sector to a greater understanding of what is needed to succeed and excel in mission-based organizations.

Volunteer Alberta’s new curriculum combined with our new approach to knowledge transfer is now ready to be implemented. The learning opportunities are clustered into three ‘clouds’:

•             Risk Management

•             People Engagement

•             Governance

The intensive curriculum is designed to identify the issues that learners are looking to resolve prior to the day-long seminars, provide expert-facilitated instruction and insights, and review the resolutions reached against the issues identified pre-seminar. This fall, Volunteer Alberta is offering day-long Risk Management seminars in seven locations throughout Alberta. Watch for more information in the August 21 Sector Connector.

 

Karen Lynch

Executive Director

Volunteer Management from the Volunteers Perspective

 

Courtesy David Suzuki Foundation

I was recently volunteering at the Freewill Players’ annual Shakespeare in the Park festival, where I gained some great insight into volunteer management. During my second shift, I was talking to one of the other volunteers and she told me, “It’s awesome to volunteer here! You are never bored, and you get to help make people happy and have a great time! It’s not like volunteering at other places. I mean, at [organization name] – that’s meaningful and important work, yeah, but it’s not nearly as fun.”

This really hit home for me – both in my work in helping promote Volunteer Alberta’s programs that help Managers of Volunteers, and my own volunteer work where I manage an e-zine, Sound and Noise, including its group of volunteers. As a life-long volunteer, I know meaningful work doesn’t have to be boring. So what did the Freewill Players do right to get that reaction from its volunteers?

1.       Break tasks into self-directed roles – Did you know post-secondary graduates are one of the groups most likely to volunteer? Volunteers are smart! There’s no need to micro-manage them. The Freewill Players ensured we understood how our role fit into the success of the festival, and gave us enough authority that we gained ownership of our role. Moreover, we didn’t need someone looking over our shoulders, telling us what to do every step of the way.

 

2.       Let volunteers see the impact they make – Hearing festival patrons say, “thanks so much!” at the end of the night was really gratifying, and it didn’t cost the Freewill Players a cent! 93% of volunteers say they volunteer to make a contribution to the community – so, why not show them that contribution? Even though it’s easier at an event where they interact with the public or clients, you can demonstrate the impact your volunteers make no matter what role they’re in! This could be as simple as sharing “thank-you” notes from stakeholders or client success stories with your volunteers regularly.

 

3.       Respect volunteer’s time– In creating the volunteer roles, Freewill Players listed the times each volunteer was expected to be at the festival for. The roles carried enough responsibilities  that there was never a dull moment during your shift, yet you didn’t feel overwhelmed. Moreover, if the organizers saw a volunteer without a task, they knew exactly which other areas needed help, ensuring no volunteers were bored or under-utilized. I was also pleasantly surprised at the orientation. The volunteers were sent a detailed volunteer handbook before the orientation, and it was kept short and sweet. A quick introduction to the organizing team members – so we could identify them during our shifts – and an overview of general information which every volunteer needed to know. There’s nothing worse (especially for busy people) than an orientation where volunteers get unnecessary information or spend time doing things that don’t add to the overall experience.

While volunteering at Shakespeare in the Park, I felt as though I was being engaged as a valued contributor, not just “free labour”. The three actions listed above – which any nonprofit/voluntary organization can do – made my experience with the Freewill Players fulfilling. I’ll be back next year!

Jenna Marynowski

Marketing and Communications Manager

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