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Part II: Charity Village’s ‘20 Questions’ for the Nonprofit Sector

For their 20th anniversary, Charity Village has asked the nonprofit sector to share our collective wisdom through answering some of their ‘20 questions’. We love the idea, and decided to enlist some of our staff to help add to the growing wealth of answers! See our previous blog for Jen and Katherine’s responses.

Visit Charity Village’s website for more information and to hear responses from others in the sector.

What advice would you give a 20-year-old starting their career?

As a young person who started my nonprofit career at 20, my advice for newcomers to the sector:

  • The nonprofit sector is not homogenous. Each organization will have different strengths and weaknesses, a different mission, different operating style, different work culture, and a different size, budget, and reach. Rather than simply looking for a job in the nonprofit sector, consider all of these factors to find the best fit.
  • You will learn by doing. My post-secondary education was invaluable, however, most nonprofit positions will require you to get your hands dirty, learn something new with each project, and develop ‘real world’ skills as you go. Don’t let this intimidate you!
  • paintDon’t let your fresh, new ideas be shut down with ‘this is how we have always done it’ (a common nonprofit mantra). There may be good reasons for using a tried and true method, but new ideas should warrant an open conversation about possibilities as well as obstacles.

 PuttPutt120 years ago I was using my computer to…

…play Putt-Putt and create beautiful abstract Paint art (I was 5).

Where do you see the sector 20 years from now?

I think 20 years from now the sector as we know it will no longer exist. In fact, I think we are already in the early days of the end of sectors as we have historically understood them.

What I see emerging:

  • Businesses/organizations will be expected to have economic, social, and environmental missions weaved into how they work. Solving economic, social, and environmental challenges will be all of our responsibility.
  • Today’s pressing issues (e.g. environmental destruction, economic inequality, security, increased urbanization, etc.) likely will not be all “solved’ in 20 years, but what sector you are solving them within will matter less and less.
  • Cross-sector collaborations will no longer be the “new” model but rather the standard model, especially when addressing complex community challenges.
  • Multiple organizations with different and complementary business models will equitably contribute and leverage each other’s capacity to constantly improve everyone’s well-being.

That’s the dream that drives me!

encarta20 years ago I was using my computer to…

…gather a plethora of weird facts from the Microsoft Encarta CD-ROM. They did not help me with grade 10 girls despite my complete belief that this was what girls were in to.

Part I: Charity Village’s ‘20 Questions’ for the Nonprofit Sector

For their 20th anniversary, Charity Village has asked the nonprofit sector to share our collective wisdom through answering some of their ‘20 questions’. We love the idea, and decided to enlist some of our staff to help add to the growing wealth of answers! Check back later this week for more.

Visit Charity Village’s website for more information and to hear responses from others in the sector.

What’s the most creative nonprofit campaign you’ve seen in the past 20 years?

Campaigns, both nonprofit and for profit, have seen major changes over the last 20 years. With these changes, the best companies are using platforms that work for their cause. Be it visual, video, print, radio, music, the possibilities are endless.

The nonprofit campaign that popped into my head first is a YouTube video the Winnipeg Humane Society created in 2011. It has humor, a fast talking salesman, and is full of cats. In my opinion, they nailed it!

Other nonprofits that have great campaigns include:

  • Alberta Cancer Foundation: Doug’s Story.
  • Spare Change Real Change: a social media and email campaign to increase donor participation. The award winning campaign was created for the United Way of London & Middlesex by Lashbrook Marketing and Public Relations.
  • In 2011, PFLAG Canada used QR codes (which we really big at the time) for their awareness campaign. Read about the campaign here and check out their current site.

solitaire20 years ago I was using my computer to…

 …play Solitaire and the other pre-loaded games!

What one thing should every nonprofit professional do for 20 minutes every day?

I highly recommend connecting with the people who matter most to your organization – volunteers.

Sometimes we get lost in our work and we forget about the relationships that are so important to our work. Talk to your volunteers – face-to-face or over the phone.  Volunteers are critical to our work in the nonprofit sector, we value that they choose to give their time and energy to our causes. Get to know them better!

  • Learn about their goals and motivations for volunteering with you. Show your appreciation for the reasons they choose to volunteer with you and work with those reasons in mind.
  • Ask about their volunteer experiences (both with your organization and others). Honouring their input will keep them engaged and help them get what they are seeking from their volunteer experience. It can also help you improve!

compy20 years ago I was using my computer to…

…learn to type without looking at the keyboard (with the help of Mavis Beacon) and write a novel – at the age of 13. On this bad boy:


Alberta’s Minimum Wage Increase – Why I’m Embracing It!

The following are my thoughts and reflections and may not represent the official position of Volunteer Alberta.

The Government of Alberta has pledged to increase the minimum wage to $15/hr by 2018. The plan includes an increase this fall from $10.20 to $11.20 for most workers, and from $9.20 to $10.20 for employees serving liquor (the two-tiered minimum wage will be eliminated in 2016).

Since the announcement, there have been arguments made both for and against minimum wage changes:

  • Research shows that a living wage in Edmonton is $17.36 and in Calgary is $17.29 – in 2015, not 2018. An increase to $15 may bring people closer to the basic level of income necessary to support themselves and their families.
  • Higher costs to employers may lead to layoffs, failed businesses, and, ultimately, greater unemployment – earning a lower wage is preferable to earning no wage.

While the minimum wage changes are relevant to us all as Albertans, the Calgary Herald published a piece last month that hit even closer to home: ‘Non-profits raise concerns over NDP plan to hike minimum wage.’

I value social justice and equality. I also work in the nonprofit sector. This complex issue has given me a lot to consider.photo via Hartlepool Mail

Will an increased minimum wage leave nonprofits unable to continue their valuable work in Alberta communities? Funding is already tight, and, after all, we aren’t making profit on the backs of our employees – we are making change! …Right?

Prior to the minimum wage announcement, CCVO shared the concerns and challenges for the sector with the government and on their website. Some of their recommendations, including to phase in a minimum wage increase, were reflected in the government’s announcement. Many voices from the sector have since spoken up in favor of the wage increase – read what they had to say:

I am adding my voice as well.

I landed my first paid nonprofit job in 2010 when I was in university. At $15 an hour, my wage was much higher than the $8.80 minimum wage at the time, but working 20 hours a week only brought in $1200 a month. My rent and utilities alone were $950, nowhere near the affordable housing guideline of 30% of my income. The bus ride to my job took 45 minutes, adding an hour and a half to each short shift. I was in school full-time, and I was volunteering more hours per week than I worked.

Luckily, thrift store fashion was in and I really liked frozen pierogis. Equally lucky, I didn’t have dependents like many Albertans do.

While I was earning my $15 wage and spending 80% of my income on housing, I was working in affordable housing. The irony should be obvious. Nonprofits provide these services, we should know the value of them.

photo via Active For LifeAlberta’s nonprofits exist and are funded to improve the quality of life in our communities and to create a better society. This is our shared mission. We have many ways of doing it: engaging kids in sports, sharing art and theatre, caring for our environment, supporting religious communities, teaching our future leaders, feeding the hungry, and more.

What if we strived to meet this shared mission by ensuring our staff could afford the same quality of life that our organizations attempt to create?

Nonprofit staff would have enough money to eat, live, and care for their families. They would have enough time to enjoy recreation, arts, and community. They would have enough of both to meet their true potential through support, education, volunteering, and travel. And the nonprofit sector would attract (even more) qualified people!

Alberta’s nonprofits are creative, smart, frugal, and adept at conquering challenges. We have the amazing power of volunteers on our side. The minimum wage increase sheds light on the economic complexities of our sector. I recognize that an increase in minimum wage will create real challenges for some nonprofits – but I also know that an increase in minimum wage has the potential to improve the lives of those working in the sector and in our communities. I think we should embrace it!

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

Vote with Nonprofits In Mind

You would be hard pressed to find an Albertan who hasn’t worked for, volunteered with, or benefited from one Alberta’s 25,000 nonprofit organizations. After all, the breadth and reach of our nonprofit sector is extensive:


Nonprofits are the fabric of Alberta, creating communities through culture and sports, education and housing, support and opportunity. Which is why, in today’s election, we are calling on all Albertans to vote, and to vote with nonprofits in mind. Here are some resources you might find interesting:

If you have already voted, thank you! Your vote does make a difference! Encourage your friends, family, and coworkers to vote as well. Remind them that government impacts nonprofits, and nonprofits are the building blocks of our communities.

If you haven’t voted yet, visit the resources below, and make sure you cast your ballot before the polls close at 8pm!

Now that you have the information you need to make an informed decision, all that’s left to do is get out to the polls! Let’s beat last provincial election’s turnout of 54% and ensure nonprofits have a strong voice in this election!

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta



Building Up Alberta’s Nonprofit Sector

BUANP1Last month at the Volunteer Alberta Open House, we invited our guests to help Build Up Alberta’s Nonprofit Sector by building a skyline of well-wishes and gratitude. The instructions were simple: write a thank-you or a wish for the sector on a ‘brick’ and add it to our wall. The result was a lot of love and appreciation for Alberta’s volunteers, organizations, partnerships, and communities!


Some ‘bricks’ featured compliments:

“ECVO are great partners!”

“I volunteer for ACTSS (Animal Cancer Therapy Subsidization Society). They are GREAT to their volunteers!”

“Shout out to the Volunteer Centres for community leadership and support”

“Alberta’s EcoTrust – great leadership around mapping the environmental sector!”

Others left messages of thanks and gratitude:

“Thank you to all of the amazing volunteers from YWCA Edmonton.”

“Much love to Calgary Outlink and Edmonton Pride Centre! Thanks for fighting for warm and welcoming communities.”

“Thank you to Banff Life for making a difference in the lives of youth in Banff.”

“Thank you to everyone in ALL sectors who reach out and build and support Alberta collaboratively.”

Still others reflected on the larger scale impact of volunteers and the nonprofit sector in Alberta:

“Where would society be without the nonprofit/voluntary sector? Thank-you for all the great work being done… in spite of the challenges facing the sector!”

“So many doing so much good!

“Volunteers make the world go ‘round.”

“I am proud to be a part of the nonprofit sector!! Thanks.”

A few of our contributors looked forward and dreamed big with their wishes for the nonprofit sector:

“My wish for the sector: to be valued, sustainable, and HUGELY SUCCESSFUL!”

“I wish the nonprofit sector a very PROFITABLE future!”

All in all, we think we did a good job of building up Alberta’s nonprofit sector! Now we want to keep it going: in order to spread all of the warm feelings, we will be tweeting the contributions we received over the next weeks – just follow @VolunteerAB to stay updated.

If you weren’t able to attend our open house and would like to join in, you are welcome to add your own virtual ‘bricks’ by tweeting back at us, or leave them in the comment section below. We would love to share your positive messages with the Alberta nonprofit sector!

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

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