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3 ways being privacy conscious can improve your organization’s reputation

Typing Woman smallIn the twenty-first century, data and information are everywhere. Collecting information is truly foundational to everything we do in our daily work. Online activities that collect personal information, fundraising efforts, volunteer screening, and social media put a responsibility on nonprofits to consciously manage people’s privacy, information, and other data.

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.

If you want to maintain a positive perception of your organization and the important work you do, a solid practice is to have processes in place for managing information and personal records.

Here are a few simple ideas and actions your organization can take to be more privacy conscious and protect the personal information and privacy of those people who interact with your nonprofit.

Enhance your organization’s reputation

Protecting privacy and personal information can improve your organization’s reputation.

In general, nonprofits that manage personal information in accordance with privacy legislation (like PIPA or FOIP) are seen as more accountable and trustworthy, by clients, volunteers, donors, and potential partners.

An improved reputation may mean that other agencies will find opportunities to work together with your nonprofit more attractive, especially if operating joint programs or if a partnership requires information sharing.

By simply reviewing how your organization currently manages personal information, you can begin to establish more formalized processes.

A simple review of your current practices may provide other benefits like;

  • assist you in making better decisions about what information is reasonable to collect and only collecting what you need
  • guide you to use the information you collect more effectively and intentionally
  • improve how you protect the privacy of those people who are important to you

Trust in your staff

Not having good personal information protections in place could hurt how your staff are perceived and trusted by your donors, volunteers, and clients.

Simply because a few standardized processes are lacking in their work, your staff may not be perceived to have the same level of responsibility and accountability as people working in businesses.

While initially it may seem like added work, you can help improve the level of trust your donors, volunteers, and clients have in your staff by involving staff in the process of protecting personal information.

Simple ways your staff can be seen as part of protecting privacy while collecting information include;

  • staff being transparent about how a person’s personal information will be used, providing those people an opportunity to ask questions or make requests that help them feel their information is respected
  • staff explaining how information will be stored and/or destroyed, demonstrating a professional level of accountability in the staff person and helping to develop a relationship of trust between the individual and staff at your organization

Loyalty from your donors, participants, and volunteers

GlassesPeople are asked to share their personal information many times a day, from entering an email address, to sharing a postal code at a store check-out, to signing into social media websites. Personal information is increasingly valuable in today’s world.

People are concerned about what data is requested of them, how much of the requested information is required for the service they want to use, and how their data is eventually used. While they may have differing thoughts and feelings about their expected privacy when it comes to their own information, one thing often rings true, people generally place more trust and respect in those who work to protect their privacy.

People who your organization counts on to volunteer or donate are not only important to your work, but also champions who will share the experiences they have with your organizations with others. It is a good idea to be transparent with those people about the steps you have in place to protect and respect their privacy.

Some simple solutions that you can incorporate;

  • a “privacy practices and policy” notice on all donation forms or receipts
  • be upfront about the personal information that is required for volunteer screening processes (ex. is a police information check required, references, or employment history?)
  • set clear expectations during volunteer interviews or orientation about how their personal information will be used, stored, and destroyed

If your organization is already taking some of these steps for privacy protection – great work! Please keep it up and share any tips you might have about your processes in the comments.

Computer and glasses

The 3 best nonprofit blogs to boost your work and your organization

There are plenty of websites, blogs, and online magazines for the nonprofit sector. So when I started in my role as Communication Coordinator at Volunteer Alberta, it seemed like I was wading through websites forever to find the best of the best.

After months and months of wading, I’ve found some really great sites that consistently publish engaging, quality articles on topics of interest to nonprofits.

These are my top three go-to blogs for great nonprofit information and inspiration:



#1. Nonprofit with Balls

Nonprofit with Balls isn’t just my favourite nonprofit blog – it’s my favourite blog. Period.

Vu Le, Nonprofit with Balls’ author, is smart and fearless. He is always ahead of the curve on nonprofit sector issues, and not at all afraid to share his insights, even if they are uncomfortable or unpopular. He’s also a master storyteller with a quirky sense of humour and can make any topic entertaining, trust me.

Some of his best blogs (although it’s hard to choose):



#2. Charity Village

Charity Village’s collection of articles are full of personality and expertise.

It is always worth checking Charity Village’s website for new articles. They feature experts on topics from fundraising to human resources to communications. They set a high bar for themselves and routinely exceed it with rich, detailed, and timely articles.

Here are four that I found valuable:


SV#3. Social Velocity

If you find yourself thinking or wondering about the ‘big picture’, Social Velocity has you covered.

Social Velocity has great analysis of nonprofit obstacles and tips for how organizations can change for the better. Nell Edgington is excellent at zeroing in on nonprofit problems. She offers clear and intelligent opinions and strategies, and also recruits great guest contributors and interviewees.

Some big thinking topics to get you started:


BBHonorable Mention: Beth’s Blog

You’ve heard ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ – well this is a case of ‘don’t judge a blog by it’s website’.

I was wary the first time I visited Beth’s Blog – the website looks dated, and Beth Kanter’s chosen photo featuring a very loud cowboy hat didn’t instill confidence. But it turned out that there was a reason I kept running into her material – she’s great at sharing her knowledge from the nonprofit sector in easy-to-read, often bite-sized, articles!

Some of my favourites:


Now it’s your turn. What are your favourite blogs for nonprofits? I always love finding new gems to share with other Alberta nonprofits!


Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta


Syrian Refugee Resettlement: What does it mean for nonprofits and supporters?

Guest post by Paula Speevak from Volunteer Canada.

Visit our Supporting Newcomers page for resources, tools, and referrals for organizations and individuals who want to help welcome Syrian refugees to Alberta.

*** Le texte français suit ***

Canada flagWelcoming refugees to Canada has been called an “important part of Canada’s humanitarian tradition.” As Syrian refugees arrive in Canada, many Canadians have been inspired to help.

The generosity of Canadians from coast-to-coast has been outstanding. There have been countless offers of household items, clothing, money and time.

Yet, despite the obvious need for donations, some Canadians may be wondering why no one has taken them up on their offers.

In times of natural disasters, health emergencies and other humanitarian crises, Canadians respond with overwhelming generosity. However, engaging their acts of kindness is anything but simple.

Although having a surge of interested volunteers and donors is indeed a wonderful problem to have, there are two things we must tackle: how to help organizations build their capacity to engage the surge of volunteers and how to keep Canadians from getting frustrated when their offers aren’t answered.

A typical settlement organization may receive 10 calls a month from potential volunteers. In times of crisis, such as the resettlement of 25,000 Syrian refugees, they may find themselves receiving upwards of 200 calls a day.

Beyond that, a lot of work goes in to recruiting and onboarding volunteers. Who answers the flood of phone calls and emails? Who evaluates potential volunteers’ skills? Who screens them to ensure safety? Who provides orientation and training?

It’s human nature for Canadians to want to give back now, when planes full of refugees are arriving. And while many Canadians want to directly help refugees, right now, many organizations need assistance with volunteer coordination and administration.

But, as my colleagues in settlement and integration organizations remind me, there is often a great deal of focus on the immediate aspects of settlement: finding housing, registering for school, setting up bank accounts, learning a new language and accessing health care.

Young girlIntegration, on the other hand, is a years-long process.

The need for volunteers to help Syrian refugees connect with their new communities will continue – and that need goes beyond traditional settlement agencies.

Consider volunteering for schools, breakfast clubs, recreation and community centres, summer camps, health centres or neighbourhood associations. They will all face increased needs in service and program delivery as refugees begin integrating.

Volunteering is more than just giving time. It shapes the communities we want to live in and, by extension, creates the kind communities we want to welcome people to.

You can help Syrian refugees by making your community more vibrant and resilient. There is no shortage of organizations that will indirectly assist with integration. Take stock of your skills and interests to find the right fit. Be patient after submitting your application and don’t expect to start volunteering the next day. Volunteers will still be needed later in the year and beyond.

Paula Speevak
Volunteer Canada

BrothersOn a dit que l’accueil des réfugiés «  fait partie de la tradition humanitaire du Canada ». À mesure que les réfugiés syriens arrivent au Canada, beaucoup de Canadiens sont inspirés à aider.

D’un bout à l’autre du pays, les Canadiens font fait preuve d’une générosité extraordinaire, comme en témoignent les innombrables dons d’articles ménagers, de vêtements, d’argent et de temps.

Cela dit, malgré l’évidente nécessité de dons, certains Canadiens se demandent peut-être pourquoi personne n’a donné suite à leur offre d’aide.

Lors de catastrophes naturelles, d’urgences de santé et d’autres crises humanitaires, les Canadiens ont toujours réagi avec grande générosité.  Cependant, la concrétisation de leurs gestes de bonté est tout sauf simple.

Même si l’arrivée d’une grande vague de donateurs et de bénévoles intéressés constitue un heureux problème, deux difficultés se posent : comment renforcer l’aptitude des organismes à tirer profit du nombre accru de bénévoles et comment empêcher les Canadiens de se sentir frustrés quand on ne donne pas immédiatement suite à leur offre d’aide.

En temps normal, les organismes chargés de l’établissement reçoivent une dizaine d’appels par mois de la part de bénévoles désireux d’aider. En temps de crise, comme lors du rétablissement de 25 000 réfugiés syriens, ces organismes peuvent être inondés d’appels allant jusqu’à 200 par jour.

De surcroît, beaucoup d’efforts sont requis pour recruter et mettre à l’œuvre des bénévoles. Qui répond au tsunami d’appels téléphoniques et de courriels? Qui évalue les compétences des éventuels bénévoles? Qui s’occupe du filtrage de sécurité? Qui offre les séances d’orientation et de formation?

Il est dans la nature humaine des Canadiens de vouloir redonner à la société tandis que des avions pleins de réfugiés atterrissent en sol canadien. Mais alors que beaucoup de Canadiens veulent aider immédiatement et le faire directement, un grand nombre d’organismes ont besoin de soutien pour coordonner et gérer  leurs effectifs bénévoles.

Comme le soulignent mes collègues actifs au sein d’organismes chargés de l’établissement et de l’intégration, il faut souvent mettre  l’accent sur des aspects immédiats de l’établissement : trouver un logement, inscrire les enfants à l’école, ouvrir un compte de banque, apprendre une nouvelle langue, accéder aux soins de santé.

Par contre, l’intégration est un processus qui s’étale sur plusieurs années.

TogetherOn continue d’avoir besoin de bénévoles pour aider les réfugiés syriens à s’intégrer à leurs nouvelles collectivités – et ce besoin va au-delà du mandat des organismes d’établissement traditionnels.

Songez à faire du bénévolat au niveau des écoles, des clubs de petits déjeuners, des centres récréatifs et communautaires, des camps d’été ou des associations de quartier. Toutes ces organisations seront appelées à répondre à de nouveaux besoins en matière de services et de programmes à mesure que les réfugiés s’intégreront à leurs nouveaux milieux.

Le bénévolat suppose beaucoup plus qu’un simple don de temps. Il influence nos milieux de vie et, par ricochet, aide à créer les genres de collectivités au sein desquelles nous sommes heureux d’accueillir les gens.

Vous pouvez aider les réfugiés syriens et rendant votre collectivité plus dynamique et résiliente. Il y a plein d’organismes qui sont en mesure d’aider indirectement les réfugiés à s’intégrer. Tenez compte de vos compétences et intérêts particuliers pour trouver ce qui vous convient le mieux. Une fois votre demande de bénévolat envoyée, soyez patient et ne vous attendez pas à commencer du jour au lendemain.  L’aide des bénévoles sera encore requise au fil des mois et des années à venir.\

Paula Speevak
Bénévole Canada


From the Vault: 4 steps to telling our untold, yet remarkable, stories

Originally posted August 4, 2015.

MagicIn the nonprofit sector we put our energy into making the world a better place. Our impact spans the horizon of life; from addressing health, cultural, and societal challenges to creating excitement, entertainment, and activities that bring us all together in community.

We are doing big, important work that impacts the lives of the people we serve, the people who volunteer to help us serve, and all other people who show up to help us make it happen (whatever ‘it’ is).

These stories deserve to be heard! And it’s up to us to tell them.

While we measure our impact as nonprofits, often we don’t know how to make the numbers interesting. We know it’s true that people take action on behalf of a cause when they feel emotionally connected, and yet we fumble in sharing our impact in exciting and emotionally relevant ways.

This may be because, as Andy Goodman puts it, “Even if you have reams of evidence on your side, remember: numbers numb, jargon jars, and nobody ever marched on Washington because of a pie chart. If you want to connect with your audience, tell them a story.”

So how do we tell stories better? Here’s four steps to telling our remarkable stories:

1. Let’s talk evidence.

Telling great stories only happens when you understand the data. A truly great story starts with research which is used as evidence to back up (and inspire) your story. This research could be from your own data you are collecting in outcome measurements or surveys. Or you can use even broader-based sector statistics, like you will find in the New Narrative.

Imagine Canada published the New Narrative in 2014 as a core resource intended to inform a new perspective on the roles and contributions of nonprofits and charities in Canada.

the narrative

In it you will find this and much more:

  • Data reflecting the breadth of the nonprofit sector’s work
  • Employment and volunteer statistics
  • Revenue and economic impact data

2. Let’s talk stories.

We have many tools in our hands (literally) to help us share our stories. After you have discovered a ‘golden nugget’ through your research, you can start to think about how that story could best be told.

Capacity Canada published Stories Worth Telling – an invaluable tool for nonprofits who need to tell their stories.

stories worth tellling

It goes into detail and has lots of tips about:

  • Finding your story
  • Collecting and analyzing stories
  • Preparing and capturing stories
  • Telling the story
  • And, most excitingly, creating a storytelling culture in your organization!

This is another free resources that has immense value and could be a perfect complement to the New Narrative in your storytelling strategy.

3. It’s actually about people first!

Remember, stories have the most impact when they tug at a person’s heartstrings. If you are looking for your audience to donate, volunteer or support your cause in anyway, a story that gives an emotional response is the most effective. Look at the data and find the ‘heartstrings tale’ for your organization that needs to be told.

People love to see themselves in other people. And the nonprofit sector is all about people: people who work in the sector, people who volunteer in the sector and the people who benefit, in whatever way, from the sector.

4. Switch it and reverse it.

So you have your evidence, your storytelling tool, and your personal angle – when you sit down to actually tell your story, begin with the person and end on the evidence. This might seem counter-intuitive, but evidence works best as back up to the emotional impact.

If you sit down to try these steps, let us know how it goes and share your story with us!

Katherine Topolniski
Volunteer Alberta

Cafe work

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!

Not-for-profit Web Consulting & Digital Marketing by Adster Creative