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Guest Post: Ten things nonprofits want funders to know

This article originally appeared on the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) blog October 17, 2016.


onnONN has heard a lot about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to funding. Through our policy work, and our outreach and engagement of our network and working groups of nonprofit leaders, we’ve heard from organizations of all sizes over the years from a variety of sectors and parts of Ontario. These ten things keep bubbling up.

So, we’re sharing them here to open a discussion about funding: how it flows, how it can be used, how it’s evaluated, and how data and information is shared. Whether it’s from government or non-government funders, what can be done to improve investment in the sector? Here’s what the nonprofit sector wants funders to know:

1. Budget flexibility: Rather than restrictions, help us innovate and invest in the essentials that we need to deliver on our missions.

2. Measuring success: Together, let’s find great ways to measure success. Focusing on overhead ratio is not an adequate way to measure our work or missions.

3. A resilient workforce: Your funding practices determine whether we can offer decent work and avoid losing our best and brightest to other sectors with better salaries, more secure employment, and benefits.

4. Meaningful evaluation: We want you to work with us to develop appropriate evaluation strategies that can help us to do our work better, while also leading to learnings for both of us.

5. Budget size: To foster healthy growth in the sector, let’s find alternatives to funding rules based on current budget size (aka Budget Testing– limiting funding based on an organization’s current budget size.) This can perpetuate existing inequities and hamstring growing nonprofits. How can an organization grow if it’s always pegged as “small”?

6. Applications: Help reduce costs to apply for funding- use a streamlined, fast-tracked application process and letters of intent.

7. Admin burden proportionate to funding: Adopt application processes, reporting requirements, and expected outcomes proportional to the level of funding provided (and vice versa).

8. Share what’s happening: Talk about the other projects or programs you fund. If you give us information and share data, we can build more effective partnerships.

9. Work with other funders: To streamline funding administration, create common granting guidelines, application forms, and reporting processes.

10. Matching funds: Do away with requiring matching funding as a condition of being approved for a grant; many rural, small, and newer organizations will especially benefit, including those serving marginalized populations.

Liz Sutherland
ONN

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Why do your staff show up? Staff motivations, needs, and priorities

I recently attended a two-part mindfulness-based counselling workshop: Working with Couples from a Hakomi Perspective, offered by Hakomi Edmonton.

While this may not sound like it would directly connect to work at Volunteer Alberta, I was curious how this mindfulness approach to interpersonal relationships might relate to nonprofit staff management and brought back some insights to share with our staff.

How can staff find connection, security, and freedom at work?

triangleOne of the tools we looked at during the workshop is the Connectedness-Security-Freedom balance. In couples’ counselling, it’s helpful to explore what connectedness, security, and freedom in a relationship look like to each person, and what each person tends to value the most.

This relationship lens can be applied to nonprofit staff.

We all assess how well our jobs meet our needs based on factors like income, interest, passion, benefits, flexibility, location, colleagues, workplace culture, and so on. Some of these things are more important than others, based on who we are and the current demands of our lives.

What do these needs and priorities look like in the workplace?

Connectedness – Feeling connected to our work might include our passion, motivation, or investment in a cause or project. It could also mean strong relationships with our colleagues or clients.

Security – Job security, income, benefits, and opportunities for advancement  all provide security. But there are other subtle ways our jobs offer us security, like friendly and supportive workplace culture, or good reputations in our communities.

Freedom – Having freedom at work might mean pursuing projects that interest us, or having input at decision-making tables. It can also include flexibility, vacation time, and even succession planning to make it less difficult to move on from our jobs when the time comes.

Reminder: staff will relate to the Connectedness-Security-Freedom balance differently

  • Staff will define connectedness, security, and freedom differently
  • Staff will rank the importance and priority of each differently
  • Staff communicate their needs and priorities differently
  • Staff react differently when they aren’t getting what they need at work

What might this look like at your organization?

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A staff member who puts freedom first might jump at the chance to guide a new project or start a social enterprise for your organization. They might also be happy to forego the security of higher pay for more vacation time or flexibility.

A staff member who puts security before connectedness might be okay working on something they aren’t passionate about as long as the job is a full-time, permanent position.

On the other hand, someone who values connectedness over security might speak from their heart about an issue they are passionate about in staff meetings, even if doing so could put their job security at risk.

If the Connectedness-Security-Freedom balance aligns with nonprofit staff management, now what?

The Connectedness-Security-Freedom balance is a powerful tool to begin to get to know what motivates different staff so that you can meet their needs and support their success.

There isn’t a cookie cutter solution for how to motivate your staff to do their best. It typically isn’t possible to recruit or retain every person with the same perks and benefits, so knowing what staff members value is useful when you have limited resources.

Questions you might ask include:

Is a staff member more motivated by taking control of a project, or are they happy to work on what you give them as long as they can count on consistency?

Would they prefer a better benefits package, or the ability to work from home?

2-attrib-wocintechFor team members, it can also be helpful to understand what is important to your colleagues. Knowing where people are coming from and acknowledging differences can go a long way in combatting assumptions, confusion, and frustration.

With this tool, your staffs’ motivations may be becoming more clear to you. What questions would you still like to ask the people you work with?

Think of how you could apply the Connectedness-Security-Freedom balance in year-end staff reviews or in your hiring process. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

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Guest Post: The New Volunteer

This article originally appeared in FuseSocial‘s September 27, 2016 newsletter.


Organizations need volunteers more then ever, and the good news is; people want to volunteer!

But volunteerism has changed and volunteer expectations have evolved. It’s no longer enough to just put out a generic “call for volunteers” and then treat them all alike when they show up. Today’s volunteers have an expectation to receive something in return for their time, talents and skills they offer.  A study from JoinInUK.org sums up perfectly what volunteers are looking for in their volunteers roles.

  • planG: Personal growth and well-being
  • I:  Increased sense of purpose, such as knowing just how they make a difference
  • V: Voice regarding how volunteers are asked to give their time
  • E: Easy to sign up, to get there, and to get the job done
  • R: Recognition. Being thanked, appreciated, and celebrated
  • S: Social opportunities like making new friends and working in a team

In ten very straight forward steps your organization can work all these expectations into your volunteer programs.

smiling-woman2Volunteers want and expect:

  1. you to be prepared for them
  2. to feel welcome
  3. good training
  4. to do interesting work
  5. to know up front the duration of their shift
  6. to be appreciated
  7. you to clearly communicate with them and often
  8. to know what they are helping is making the community a better place
  9. to be socially connected 
  10. to learn something new

For more information on using volunteers to strengthen your organization please visit www.NGOConnect.NET

FuseSocial

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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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From the Vault: Six Insights for Systems Leadership

This blog was originally posted August 11, 2015.


In the Winter 2015 edition of the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) Peter Senge, Hal Hamilton, and John Kania co-authored an incredibly valuable article: “The Dawn of System Leadership”. Leading up to Volunteer Alberta’s collective impact event, interCHANGE 2015, I have been reflecting on this article and, more generally, the world of systems thinking and leadership.

The article offers three key points regarding systems leadership:

  1. System leaders are not singular heroic figures but those who facilitate the conditions within which others can make progress toward social change.
  2. Any individual in any organization, across sectors and formal levels of authority, can be a system leader.
  3. The core capabilities necessary for system leadership are the ability to see the larger system, fostering reflection and more generative conversations, and shifting the collective focus from reactive problem solving to co-creating the future.

As a follow up this article, WGBH, FSG , and the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley convened and recorded their event, Catalyzing Collective Leadership, which further expanded on the concepts introduced through the original SSRI article. In addition to the three key points offered in “The Dawn of Systems Leadership,” here are my three highlights from that recording:

  1. A system leader is not full of answers. They have a clear understanding that nothing will change if others are not able to contribute. Systems leaders are skilled at asking questions that surface the ingenuity and know-how of others.
  2. Change is accomplished through teams. Systems leaders foster compelling team cultures that inspire others but aren’t solely dependent on one leader. The culture ripples through the team and is perpetuated by each team member.
  3. Letting go is a pathway to success. Systems leaders bring what is most important to them to the table and are completely willing to have others take it on. This often looks like letting go of control and ownership over decisions and solutions. Sacrifice is not a loss but rather a gift given for the sake of the larger cause.

flockAs Peter Senge puts it: “We need lots of leaders in lots of places everywhere, all kinds of people stepping forward and doing all kinds of different things. We live in an era where the effective use of hierarchical power and authority is simply inadequate for the problems we face.”

The capabilities used by systems leaders are learned and more importantly practiced, reflected on, and refined. I encourage all of us to try on the capabilities of systems leadership and explore our world through a systems lens. Through practicing the capabilities above I am sure new worlds will open, old assumptions will crumble, and access to previously unidentified levers for positive change will emerge.

Annand Ollivierre
Volunteer Alberta

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