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Alberta Provincial Budget – What does it mean for nonprofits?

Legislature 2On October 27, the new NDP Alberta Government announced the budget and revealed very few surprises. The NDP election platform is reflected in the Alberta budget.

Volunteer Alberta reflected on the budget and identified a few highlights – we have shared them with our members, and now are sharing them more broadly.

Thousands of Albertans gave their opinions through consultations leading up to Budget Day. Realizing that energy will continue to be the core of our economy, Albertans stated in the consultations that we need to diversify our economy and not remain completely reliant on the energy sector.

The three priorities outlined in the budget are:

  1. Stabilize public services – stabilizing frontline public services including health care, education and social services
  2. Plan a balanced budget
  3. Act on jobs and diversification – stimulating job creation, economic growth and diversification

What does this mean for the nonprofit sector?

The budget reflects the government’s commitment to family and community and services to vulnerable Albertans.

  • It includes a 25 million increase in Family and Community Support Services
  • $50 Million increase to Community Facility Enhancement grant budget and increases for the Alberta Foundation for the Arts
  • Job creation programs include a $5000 grant for new fulltime positions beginning January 1st 2016 which will support up to 27,000 new jobs each year, through to 2017
  • Nonprofit eligibility applies to the job creation grant. Also, STEP (Summer Temporary Employment Program) has been reinstated with $10 Million in 2016. This is a valuable nonprofit resource in supporting community based programs and services
  • In addition, $15 Million has been budgeted for women’s shelters to address family violence

For more information about the budget please visit the Government of Alberta 2015 Budget website.

Jennifer Esler
Volunteer Alberta

New Government, New Platform – Will it impact the nonprofit sector?

LeafOn Monday, Canada elected a new Liberal Government. The new government’s platform will impact our members, partners, and stakeholders. We have highlighted a few areas of the platform that may relate to nonprofit work, in all sub-sectors, across Alberta.

Nonprofit advocacy in particular is an element of the platform relevant to Volunteer Alberta.

Nonprofit Advocacy

From Volunteer Alberta Executive Director, Jann Beeston:

At Volunteer Alberta we believe, along with many others, that public policy is better when the nonprofit sector voice at the table.

Advocacy is a key part of Volunteer Alberta’s work. We can only do this work through the valuable input from our members, partners, and networks. We have worked in strategic partnership, with other nonprofit organizations, to influence direction related to;

  • privacy legislation,
  • vulnerable sector police information checks,
  • lobbyist act,
  • charitable donation tax credit,
  • nonprofit data,
  • funding mechanisms,
  • and the Alberta nonprofit incorporation review. 

Your voice is vital. It matters to our work, and to nonprofit advocacy and public policy work that impacts our sector and communities.

The Liberal platform promises to “modernize the rules” governing nonprofit advocacy, stating:

“We will allow charities to do their work on behalf of Canadians free from political harassment, and will modernize the rules governing the charitable and not-for-profit sectors. This will include clarifying the rules governing “political activity,” with an understanding that charities make an important contribution to public debate and public policy. A new legislative framework to strengthen the sector will emerge from this process.”

We will work to find opportunities for Alberta nonprofits to participate in the evolution of this and other new legislative frameworks. Volunteer Alberta will connect with both our strong provincial network of capacity building organizations, and national organization like Volunteer Canada and Imagine Canada. We look forward to working collaboratively and to communicating with the sector on issues that impact across Canada.

Other Areas of Interest

On addition to the Liberal platform promise regarding nonprofit advocacy, the platform includes many other promises that you may want to keep track of as the new government settles in.

The following promises may impact the nonprofit sector under our new federal government:

  • Employment:
    • Create youth jobs in the heritage sector through the Young Canada Works program.
    • Waive Employment Insurance premiums for 12 months for 18-24 years old hired into permanent positions in 2016, 2017, and 2018.
  • Technology and Data:
    • Crowdsource policy ideas from citizens using technology.
    • Increase data collection and availability, including reinstatement of the long-form census and changes to Statistics Canada.
  • Infrastructure:
    • Invest in affordable housing, seniors’ facilities, early learning and child care, and cultural and recreational infrastructure.
    • Create more infrastructure funding and loan opportunities for municipalities.
  • Arts:
    • Invest in cultural and creative industries, including doubling investment in the Canada Council for the Arts and increased funding for other arts bodies and programs.
  • Environment:
    • Work with provinces, territories, and other willing partners to address water and soil conservation and development issues.
    • Support innovation and the use of clean technologies in the forestry, fisheries, mining, energy, and agricultural sectors.
  • Indigenous Peoples:
    • Address housing, infrastructure, health and mental health care, community safety and policing, child welfare, and education through a nation-to-nation process with Indigenous Peoples.
    • New funding for Indigenous communities to promote and preserve Indigenous languages and cultures.
  • Women:
    • Work with experts and advocates to develop and implement a comprehensive federal gender violence strategy and action plan.
    • Increase investments in Canada’s network of shelters and transition houses for those fleeing domestic violence.
  • People with Disabilities:
    • Consult with provinces, territories, and other stakeholders to introduce a National Disabilities Act to eliminate systemic barriers for Canadians with disabilities.
  • Housing and Homelessness:
    • Commit funding for Housing First initiatives for homeless Canadians.
  • International Aid:
    • Consult with Canadian and international aid organizations to review current policies and funding frameworks.
    • Widen international aid reproductive health services and increase spending on international development.
  • Unions:
    • Repeal Bills C-377 and C-525 that diminished Canada’s labour movement.

Review the Liberal platform for more information on these promises.

The platform includes further promises on issues that nonprofit sub-sectors and organizations may care about. Find more information on these promises in the platform:

  • Funding for post-secondary students
  • Accessible mental health services
  • Poverty reduction for children and seniors
  • Investment in agricultural research and technical and marketing assistance
  • Gender equality in government and public policies
  • National inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls
  • Respect for Indigenous traditions in environmental stewardship
  • Climate change response framework and strengthened environmental protections
  • Quicker and increased immigration and refugee intake

What is your response to the Liberal government’s platform as it relates to the nonprofit sector and nonprofit organization issues in Alberta? Please share in the comments!

2015 Federal Election – Vote with nonprofits in mind

Canada flagEarlier this year, we encouraged Albertans to go to the polls in the Provincial Election. Once again we are calling on all Albertans and Canadians to vote, and to vote with nonprofits in mind in the Canadian Federal Election on Monday, October 19.

After all, we are all impacted by the work of nonprofits. The nonprofit sector includes social services, religious institutions, university and colleges, libraries, hospitals, environmental organizations, health research, cultural associations, legal aid, theatre and the arts, recreation and sports, advocacy, professional associations, and more.

For this reason, we have put together a list of resources to help you vote, to help you mobilize others to vote, and to show why the nonprofit sector is so important this election:

Vote!

Mobilize Others to Vote

#elxn42 Sharing your priorities, concerns, and voice during this election is important – Join the conversation about the upcoming election on Twitter with #elxn42.

#NPVote CCVO has created the first-ever Calgary Nonprofit Democratic Challenge. Join the challenge on Twitter by using the hashtag #NPVote and share the creative ways your organization is encouraging your staff, patrons, members and/or clients to vote. Challenge other nonprofit organizations to participate as well.

Vote Nation Voting is contagious — we know this. If you tell your friends and family you’re voting, they’re more likely to vote too. Add ‘I Will Vote October 19’ to your profile picture with this site. No matter what you are sharing on social media, your message of civic engagement will be included in every post!

Pledge to Vote Try out this CBC election engagement and interactive mapping tool to pledge to vote, share what you care about, and see why other Canadians are pledging to vote as well. Once you have pledged, share the call to action on social media.

Apathy is Boring Apathy is Boring is committed to getting young and first time voters out on Election Day. Visit their website for infographics, information, and tools to better engage these demographics – especially if you or your organization work with young people, immigrants, or marginalized groups.

Nonprofits and the Federal Election

Nonprofits Step Up! The Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) and Samara Canada have created an excellent infographic outlining how nonprofits can play a crucial role in strengthening our democracy. Read more about why they are asking nonprofits to start conversations about: what role does (and should) nonprofits play in democracy? How can the nonprofit sector build a healthier democracy?

Election 2015 Hub Imagine Canada has created this hub to keep charities informed and involved this election with information and resources. Find out why and how this federal election offers an excellent opportunity for charities and nonprofits to promote civic engagement and to talk bold about issues important to Canadians and our communities!

2015 Federal Election Resources CCVO has compiled a thorough list of information, resources, and link to support nonprofits, their staff and volunteers, and their clients with their election engagement strategies. Find it on their website.

Nonprofit Advocacy during Elections Check out Charity Village’s tips for engaging in advocacy this election. As long as your organization’s advocacy efforts are issue-based and non-partisan, elections offer unique and important opportunities for your nonprofit!

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

Working together to co-create a better future

tm-tm  photo on flickrThis September, Volunteer Alberta is hosting interCHANGE, a multi-sector event bringing together leaders from all sectors – government, business, nonprofit, and community – to collectively make a positive impact in Alberta communities.

We know collaborating is difficult. We know working together poses challenges. We also know that our communities are complex, and that we are all invested in their health and vitality. We originally published the following blog July 23, 2014 on the scope of what collaboration can achieve – and why it is so important that the nonprofit sector leads the way:

There has been a recent development in the world of electric cars that’s got me thinking about strengths and opportunities in the nonprofit/voluntary sector (NPVS). On June 12, 2014 Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, announced that the company “will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.”[i] Essentially Tesla released their patents for others to use, for me the questions are why and what is the broader lesson for us in the NPVS? One of the reasons cited as to why Musk chose to do this is that, due to the increased pace of technological innovation, there is a new challenge for innovators where the highest hurdle innovative organizations often face is no longer the theft of their ideas, but rather the development of new markets for those ideas to flourish[ii]. Tesla seems to be indicating that in order to move to electric car based transportation, we need to create the infrastructure and technology to support that market. In other words, Musk is basically saying is “the old system isn’t working, creating a new way of life is a big challenge, too big for one company/person to solve so let’s work together to co-create a better future.”  For me it is from this mindset that I see the connection to the NPVS and why I believe the sector is increasingly well positioned to be a strong voice and essential contributor in the emerging economy.

It seems to me that the NPVS is increasingly stating that the “challenge is bigger than me” (whatever that “challenge” may be) and is continually moving to a place where co-owning and sharing the burden of the challenge is the norm. There is the growing realisation that the challenges our communities face and the resources to sustain the fundamental structures of a resilient society are bigger than one organization, one program, one person, one sector. In fact with the NPVS, everywhere I turn collaboration is the word/approach mentioned as the way forward. We are all increasing familiar and participate in collective impact initiatives, social labs, cross-sector collaborations and partnerships, to mention a few. Although the constant barrage of these collaborative opportunities could make us weary and/or sceptical, there is growing evidence demonstrating that the NPVS is achieving measurable impact through collaboration.[iii] It is this collaborative mindset, the sharing of ideas/approaches, the scaling out and up of social innovation, which is the emerging economic model in the 21st century.  The sharing/collaborative economy is growing and turning the “traditional” economic and social systems on their heads in small but increasing pockets of our society.[iv]

I see Tesla and Elon Musk’s releasing of patents as a further indication that the collaborative/sharing economy has significant momentum. Now is the time for the sharing of ideas across and within sectors and the co-ownership and co-creation of innovative solutions (social and technological) for addressing large systemic challenges. The NPVS is an early adopter of this emerging model as we have an intrinsic understanding that the most effective approaches need to be shared, reused, and improved to have the most transformative impact. Let’s continue to share with each other and further overcome our need to act in a proprietary manner especially when we know that challenges we are trying to solve require constant innovation and the efforts of many.

[i] http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/all-our-patent-are-belong-you (July 23, 2014)
[ii] http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2014/07/17/rethinking-patent-enforcement-tesla-did-what/ (July 23, 2014)
[iii] http://www.fsg.org/KnowledgeExchange/FSGApproach/CollectiveImpact.aspx (July 23, 2014)
[iv] http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/category/collaborative-economy/ (July 23, 2014)

Annand Ollivierre
Volunteer Alberta

4 steps to telling our untold, yet remarkable, stories.

In 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

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