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Our Rebrand Journey

There are many journeys in life, but none quite like a rebrand journey.

logoOver the last four years Volunteer Alberta, our staff and board have been on the long and winding rebrand-road with our 25 year-old organization. Typically a rebrand adventure like ours can take between 3-5 years from start to finish. And there are times it will seem like you aren’t moving at all, while others times it can feel like you are on a runaway train.

For us, our rebrand is more than changing our visual identity. It’s about changing the way we work, the way we talk about ourselves, and the way others interact with us. The organizations and people we serve are important to us. To get to where we are today we included the people we work with because we know we’re all in this together; serving the common good in Alberta and working toward connected, engaged and vibrant communities.

First, let’s take a step backward to 2010, when board and staff created new mission and vision statements, and the idea of a rebrand was first introduced. We understood that VA had grown to be more than our original purpose and, to stay relevant, we needed to adapt and change.

Not an easy place to arrive at, but a necessary one.

We listened to our stakeholders, surveyed members and engaged in lots of conversations. We conducted a communications audit of our internal and external communications to see what was working and what needed changing.

Recommendations we heard were:

  • improve our website (which we’re working on this summer)
  • refresh our visual identity (which we launched at our AGM at Vitalize in June)
  • we needed to tell our story better, to clarify our what, how and why.

In 2013 we created the opportunity to change our thinking with Unstoppable Conversations. We adopted ‘new’ thinking and the Board set new strategic directions. We started focusing on network stewardship and workforce development.

By the beginning of 2014 we implemented our rebrand strategy and really started moving! In the fall we brought in The Met Agency who guided us through visual identity and brand story processes. The pace continued to pick up. The staff did a lot of internal work, diving deep into our ‘what’, how’, and ‘why’; seeking to better understand our members, methods, and messages.

We actually started to look and feel different by the spring of 2015. We moved to our new headquarters at the Empire Building on Jasper Ave, our brand story and new visual identity came together and we began implementing a new operational approach which we hope will really transform the way we serve Alberta.

Our journey certainly took us down a winding road, which is why we are so excited to reveal our new visual identity! This is Volunteer Alberta, refreshed!


Our vision for a strong, engaged and connected society serving the common good in Alberta is being reflected like never before, and we couldn’t be more delighted. We invite you to share your opinions and let us know what you think in this short survey.

Stay tuned for an upcoming blog featuring our Brand Story.

Katherine Topolniski and Jennifer Esler
Volunteer Alberta

Please Sir, May I Have Some Statistics?

statisticsI subscribe to The Daily from Statistics Canada and I think you should too! For those wondering what I am talking about, everyday, StatsCan releases a list of up-to-date statistics and data related to a wide range of sectors, as well as economic and social indicators that reflect and affect our lives.  As an employee in the nonprofit/voluntary sector (NPVS) within a capacity/backbone organization, I am most interested in information related to this sector. What I find is that the existing statistics on the NPVS are not widely available and the nonprofit sector is often a lens that is not used when reporting statistics.

Why do I care? Simply put, it is about context and opportunity. I am often asked fairly basic contextual questions that can be more difficult to answer than they should be. Questions like: how many Alberta nonprofits are there? What is the economic impact of the sector in Alberta? How many employees? What are the rates of volunteerism? This information is often inadequately collected, what is available is often outdated, not well reported and not regionally specific (Alberta vs Canada). Without consistent and reliable contextual information, the NPVS finds itself saying different things (is it 19,000 nonprofits or 23,000?) and struggling with the perennial issue of demonstrating the scope and size of the sector. Additionally, it is not just about trends and size of the sector, but about having accessible statistics to help identify opportunities and challenges. Statistics are what other sectors use to spot future challenges and proactively shift to mitigate or capitalize on them. By paying attention to shifts in labour market attitudes, economic indicators, increases or decreases in certain social indicators, among other information, the NPVS will be better positioned to be an integrated partner in designing our future communities and economies.

The solutions as I see them are at least two-fold. First, better data collection on a reasonably frequent basis is required. For example, in a world where data is collected constantly, it is surprising to me that basic information on the economic impact of the sector is not easy to find. I recognize this is easier said than done; however, if the system to collect this type of data is not in place – let’s work together to develop it. The second solution is openness. I know a number of institutions collect information on the NPVS. Governments collect nonprofit and charity registration information, academia is always conducting research and studies, and banks and other large private sector organizations collect information on NPVS as well. The thing about all the information collected is that it is our information; it is about us as a sector: who we are, what we do, and how we do it. But it seems like the nonprofit/voluntary sector is the last to find out what others know. A greater commitment by these large organizations to making the information they collect available and open for the NPVS to look at and analyze would go a long way in addressing the information deficit.

In recognizing the data challenges the NPVS faces, some sector organizations have taken it upon themselves to fill the void. There is great research and information available through CCVO, Imagine Canada, Volunteer Canada and our own CSGVP analysis, please use it. Also, I would encourage all of us to assist in the efforts of these organizations and commit to participating in surveys and interviews when asked so as to help paint the picture of our sector. In our current rush to demonstrate impact, let’s not forget that numbers combined with stories have the most influence. Let’s make sure we use statistics that are available and consistently advocate for more information to be collected and shared with us.

Annand Ollivierre, Program Manager

Number of Canadians Concerned about Charity Fraud Up Considerably

CanadaHelps and Capital One Canada launch the second annual charity fraud awareness quiz with $20,000 grand prize

Toronto, ON (February 24, 2011) – Canadians are generous donors, but two-thirds (65%) of them are worried about fraudulent charities, which is up considerably from a survey done in November 2009 (51%). These beliefs, coupled with the difficulty in recovering their lost donation, ultimately results in more than half of Canadians (53%) stating they are less likely to give to charities because of concerns about fraud.

A large proportion, (41%) say they do not take simple steps to check if a charity is registered, ask the solicitor for ID, or visit the charity’s website before making a donation and instead rely on the reputation of the charity, and/or, past personal experience with the charity. The survey also found that just over half of Canadians (52%) say they are not confident they would know where to turn to in the event their donation did not go to a legitimate cause.

“What concerns us most is the growing number of Canadians who are worried about these crimes,” said Owen Charters, CEO of CanadaHelps. “In educating Canadians to understand the warning signs of these scams, we hope that the well-earned trust in legitimate charities will remain high and Canadians’ eagerness to donate will continue to grow.”

Today’s survey also found that up to 22% of Canadians say they prefer to donate online – an 8 point climb from a similar study conducted in November 2009. In contrast the number of Canadians who say they prefer to donate by cheque is down 7 points over the same time period (from 32% to 25%). Younger Canadians appear to be a driving force behind this change – nearly a third of Canadians aged 18-34 (31%) say online donations are their preferred method.

“With more and more Canadians preferring to donate online, it is increasingly important for credit card users to understand what to look for to ensure they are donating through a legitimate and secure website,” said Laurel Ostfield, spokesperson, Capital One Canada. “We know that awareness is key in helping Canadians protect themselves from fraud. By partnering with CanadaHelps on this campaign, we hope to educate as many Canadians as possible so they are empowered to make safe, charitable donations.”

To educate the public about charity fraud, Capital One Canada and CanadaHelps are teaming up during Fraud Prevention Month for the second annual Charity Fraud Awareness Quiz. This quiz will help participants identify the signs of charity fraud to hopefully avoid these malicious schemes.

The online Charity Fraud Awareness Quiz is designed to inform Canadians about the risk of charity fraud and how to prevent it. Accessible at www.canadahelps.org, every participant who completes the quiz will be eligible to enter into a draw to win a $20,000 grand prize donation, or one of $1,000 weekly donations from Capital One, to be made to the winner’s charity of choice. The Charity Fraud Awareness Quiz runs from March 1-31, 2011.

Capital One and CanadaHelps offer the following charity fraud prevention tips:

  • Make sure the charity is registered with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and provides you with their charitable registration number. CanadaHelps.org only lists charities registered with the CRA.
  • Ask to see a charity’s financial statements. These should be readily available to anyone who asks and give you a sense of how the charity spends their money.
  • Understand the impact the charity has and what difference they make in the community. Charities should be able to give you clear outcomes of the programs or services they provide.
  • Research the causes you want to support and how much of your budget you want to donate to charity. You will feel less pressured to give when solicited if you have already planned your giving.
  • Avoid any charity that pressures you into making a donation or isn’t open to sharing more information about their organization.

Additional Survey Results

  • 77% of Canadians made a charitable donation in the past 12 months with women being more charitable (81%) than men (72%)
  • Over one-quarter (28%) of people report they are solicited for charitable donations at least weekly, with 45% saying they get solicited more often in the event of a natural disaster
  • In the wake of a natural disaster, the majority of Canadians (61%) report an increased concern over the possibility of charity fraud
  • While only 5% of Canadians overall prefer to donate via door-to-door solicitation, a surprising 22% of Atlantic Canadians prefer this method of solicitation
  • In terms of deciding who to trust, respondents said the most important factor is a charity’s reputation (53%) followed by its media coverage/advertising (31%) and being asked to donate by a friend or colleague (30%)

About the survey

From February 2nd to 3rd, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 1,008 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error-which measures sampling variability-is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

About the Charity Fraud Awareness Quiz No purchase necessary. Each person who completes the online quiz on charity fraud at www.canadahelps.org and provides the name of their preferred charity is automatically given one entry. Organizations must be federally registered charities with the Canadian Revenue Agency. Contest begins at 9:00:00 a.m. ET on March 1, 2011 and closes at 9:00:00 p.m. ET on March 31, 2011. Full contest details atwww.canadahelps.org. Skill testing question required. Four prizes of a $1,000 donation and one grand prize of a $20,000 donation available to be won. Not open to residents of the Territories.

About Capital One Located in Toronto, Ontario, Capital One has offered Canadian consumers a range of competitive MasterCard credit cards since 1996, when the company first introduced the Platinum MasterCard in Canada. Capital One Canada is a division of Capital One Bank, a subsidiary of Capital One Financial Corporation of McLean, Virginia (NYSE: COF).

About CanadaHelps CanadaHelps is an online donations website where donors can give safely and securely to all charities in Canada that are registered with the Canada Revenue Agency. The mission of CanadaHelps is to engage Canadians in the charitable sector and provide accessible and affordable online technology to both donors and charities to promote – and ultimately increase – charitable giving in Canada.

Contact: Laurel Ostfield, Capital One 416-549-2753 laurel.ostfield@capitalone.com

Owen Charters, CanadaHelps 416-628-6948 ext. 2384 owen@canadahelps.org


National Study Finds Pitfalls and Opportunities in Changing Volunteer Landscape

Organizations Urged to Strengthen Strategies to Improve Volunteer Satisfaction

 A new national study shows that while Canada’s voluntary sector is the second largest in the world after the Netherlands, a significant number of volunteers report an experience that is less than satisfying.   The latest data on the changing culture of Canada’s voluntary sector was released today by Volunteer Canada, the national leader on volunteerism, in partnership with Manulife Financial.

The study found that 62 percent of Canadians who volunteer on a regular basis indicated they had at least one ‘negative experience’ either due to perceived organizational politics, the belief that their skills were not being put to  best use, feeling like they were not making a difference, or frustration with lack of support related to the volunteer activity.

The national research study gathered practical information for use by organizations to attract and retain skilled, dedicated volunteers.  The study revealed there are significant gaps between the opportunities organizations are providing and the meaningful experiences today’s volunteers are seeking.

“The primary gaps include the fact that many Canadians are looking for group or short-term activities but few organizations have the capacity to offer them or prefer a longer-term commitment,” said Ruth MacKenzie, President & CEO of Volunteer Canada. “In addition, many of those with professional skills are looking for volunteer tasks that involve something different from their work life.  While organizations are expected to clearly define the roles and boundaries of volunteers, many Canadians want to create their own volunteer opportunity,” she said.

Other respondents indicated that they would like to achieve some personal goals through volunteer work while at the same time help meet the needs of the organization.

Engaging volunteers in strategic roles in organizations will help nonprofit/voluntary sector organizations advance their mandates, and will create opportunities for individuals choosing to apply their skills sets to make a bigger difference in their communities,” said Karen Lynch, Executive Director of Volunteer Alberta. “We provide a number of programs, services and resources (through the Resource Centre for Voluntary Organizations at Volunteer Alberta) that will assist nonprofit/voluntary organizations across Alberta implement some of the ideas and trends captured in this study.”

Unlike earlier surveys that emphasized overall participation rates, this new research captured what Canadians want in their volunteer experiences, how easy it is for them to find satisfying volunteer roles, and what organizations can do to enhance their volunteer base and ultimately build stronger communities.

“Advances in technology, shifting demographics and increased resource pressures mean today’s organizations must re-evaluate all facets of their volunteer policies and practices, and ultimately embrace different approaches,” added MacKenzie.   “The findings suggest the optimal formula for engaging volunteers is one where organizations are well organized but not too bureaucratic and open to letting volunteers determine the scope of what they can offer.”

“The results also clearly indicate that it’s important to match a volunteer’s skills to the needs of the organization but not assume that the volunteer wants to use the skills specifically related to their profession, trade, or education,” she said.

Conducted on behalf of Volunteer Canada in the summer of 2010 by the Centre for Voluntary Sector Research & Development at Carleton University and Harris/Decima, the study provides the most current national data about the changing culture of Canada’s voluntary sector and the perspectives of four key groups:  youth, baby boomers, families, and employer-supported volunteers.

Respondents in these four groups revealed that the volunteer experiences individuals are looking for change significantly as Canadians move through the different stages of their lives.  The results also pointed to an increasing number of recent immigrants of boomer age, who could play a pivotal volunteer role in helping to integrate and support new immigrants into Canadian society, thanks to their unique cultural and linguistic skills.

Compounding the need for new approaches is the fact that Canadians are not necessarily following in the footsteps of Canada’s ‘uber volunteers’ who are getting older.  These uber volunteers represent about seven per cent of Canadians who contribute approximately 78 per cent of the volunteer time in Canada.

The research study results offer practical information that Canadian organizations can use to improve the way they involve volunteers by exploring the characteristics, motivations, and experiences of current volunteers, past volunteers, and those who have yet to try volunteering.

Overall, respondents indicated that organizations could improve the volunteer experience by: getting to know volunteers’ unique needs and talents; using a human resources approach that integrates both paid employees and volunteers; being flexible and accommodating to recognize volunteers’ other time commitments; respecting volunteers’ gender, culture, language and age differences; as well as providing more online volunteer opportunities.

“As Canada marks 10 years since we celebrated the United Nations International Year of Volunteers in 2001, applying the lessons learned from this research can help bridge the gap to more meaningful volunteer engagement in the future, and solidify volunteerism not just as a fundamental value of a civil society but as a true act of Canadian citizenship,” said Rosemary Byrne, Board Chair of Volunteer Canada.

The study was conducted on behalf of Volunteer Canada and in partnership with corporate leader in the sector Manulife Financial.  The research initiative is part of a multi-year program Manulife Financial is implementing to strengthen volunteerism in Canada in order to help build strong and sustainable communities for Canadians.

See the full study: Bridging the Gap


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