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Guest Blog: Time for Art

Interested in alternative ways to recruit volunteers? Learn more about Timeraiser in this guest blog post by Timeraiser Edmonton:

ArtistDoes art have value? We think it does – especially for nonprofits.

Timeraiser uses art as a way of bringing together volunteers with organizations in need of people power. It’s a silent art auction with a twist, asking attendees to bid their time to nonprofits in exchange for art that has been purchased from emerging Edmonton-area artists.

It’s a win-win scenario: artists are paid fair market value for their work, and nonprofits find the human capital they need.

The 2015 Edmonton Timeraiser is seeking local nonprofit organizations to participate in this year’s event.

Organizations will be given the chance to connect with potential volunteers in a fun and engaging atmosphere. Attendees can find out more about the work an organization does in the community as well as what types of roles are available. Nonprofits can learn what skills are available and whether a volunteer might make a good fit for their team.

VolunteersAfter the matchmaking is done, participants pledge up to 100 volunteer hours to the nonprofits of their choice in an attempt to out-bid other guests for a selected piece of art.

Last year’s Timeraiser helped raise more than 4,000 volunteer hours for the nearly 30 nonprofits in attendance. This year’s event, the 7th Edmonton Timeraiser, is on track to be just as successful and will feature 20 nonprofits from a variety of sectors.

Nonprofit selections will be 50% curated by Edmonton Timerasier and 50% selected by jury. The jury will consist of individuals that are involved in Edmonton’s nonprofit and volunteer communities.

The 2015 Edmonton Timeraiser will take place Thursday, November 5, 2015 in the lobby of the new EPCOR Tower. This volunteer fair and silent art auction will also feature music and entertainment from local performers and culinary delights to fuel the fun.

Calls for nonprofit applications close on Monday, September 14, 2015.

Apply today and let Timeraiser help you build your volunteer force!

Interested in Timeraiser’s approach to volunteer recruitment and want to learn more? Read the previous Volunteer Alberta blog on Sam’s experience with Timeraiser Edmonton.

Not in Edmonton? Learn more about Timeraiser Calgary and Timeraiser Wood Buffalo.

Stand out

Six Insights for Systems Leadership

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


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

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