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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

Recognize your Volunteers: Enter to Win!

National Volunteer Week is quickly approaching, and it’s all about volunteer recognition! National Volunteer Week runs April 12-18, 2015 and is a wonderful celebration of the AMAZING volunteers we have in Canada.  After all, here in Alberta more than 50% of Albertans volunteer their time and skills to nonprofit organizations in their communities! So, during National Volunteer Week how are you going to celebrate volunteerism and a volunteer?

Last year, Tim wrote a blog on Volunteer Canada’s Volunteer Recognition Tool. If you have the time, read it again – it is full of good information. One of the messages in the blog is that recognizing and thanking your organization’s volunteers doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. National Volunteer Week is all about volunteer recognition, so this is great news!

Volunteer Canada also highlights that what volunteers really want is to see how their work helps the community. One inexpensive way to show volunteers their impact is by using www.volunteerville.ca.


Volunteerville is an interactive way to visually celebrate the contributions of volunteers through social media. It’s easy! Share volunteer photos and stories using #volunteerville on Twitter and Instagram or upload them directly to www.volunteerville.ca, then watch your posts show alongside many more at www.volunteerville.ca!

This year, during National Volunteer Week we have put together a contest for Volunteerville. Join in on the Volunteerville Contest April 12-18, 2015 for your chance to win! We have a free ticket to Vitalize 2015 for 2 lucky organizations!

Every time you or a volunteer mentions your organization while using #volunteerville on Twitter or Instagram your organization is entered to win a free ticket to Vitalize 2015!  Or upload your images and stories to www.volunteerville.ca during National Volunteer Week (April 12-18, 2015). It’s a great opportunity to acknowledge and thank your volunteers while promoting your organization at the same time!

How to enter? It’s easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Take a picture of your volunteers! (they can be ‘in-action’ or a profile photo)
  2. Post it to Twitter/Instagram using #volunteerville or to www.volunteerville.ca during National Volunteer Week.
  3. Show everyone and your volunteers their impact makes a difference!

Organizations, don’t forget to encourage your volunteers to share their experiences with #volunteerville. Remind them to include your social media handle or add your organization’s name to their personal posts too, and their posts will count as entries for our prizes!

Volunteers, use #volunteerville to SHOW what moves you!


Get Up and Move: The Value of Changing Spaces

Tim Dorr / photo on flickr

Tim Dorr / photo on flickr

Volunteer Alberta is beginning a new chapter, we’ve moved! After about 10 years in a downtown Edmonton heritage building overlooking Jasper Ave we have moved four blocks east to a different downtown Edmonton heritage building overlooking Jasper Ave.

So I guess you could say not much has changed. However, I believe our move has shifted everything. I am not going to delve into a conversation on design and décor, as I don’t have the interior design acumen of my colleagues. Rather I will touch on the connection between how we listen, think, and act and how they are effected by the physical spaces we work in.

I believe that we often want to make changes at work, yet we rarely acknowledge that the familiar physical spaces we are in may be limiting how we listen and pay attention to others. For me, an example of the importance of this connection is the change process Volunteer Alberta has been going through. Connected to all the internal shifts over the past 24 months is the opportunity to reflect on who VA is, what we do, and how we do it, and, as a result, we have started to re-define our internal organizational culture. For anyone who has embarked on a journey of organizational culture change you will know it is complex but ideally rewarding.

As an initial step in our change process, we decided  to pull the staff team together to surface the current strengths and weakness in our organizational culture to help decide where we wanted to change. As I had the opportunity to influence this process, I insisted the first “big” conversation needed to happen in a different space other than our usual meeting room. We wouldn’t have had as good of a conversation in the usual meeting room and I wanted people to listen deeply to what others were saying. I anticipated that a different space would likely take us all out of our comfort zone and allow the opportunity for an open, honest, focussed and meaningful conversation. In the usual meeting room we would all likely fall into old patterns of listening and paying attention and the likelihood that we would have a truly rich conversation would be limited. For that meeting we were lucky enough to find a vacant space in our old building to borrow for a few hours.

During that meeting we had a very frank and open discussion where we empathetically listened to each other. It laid the foundation for us to renew and establish an organizational culture that reflects the values of the organization and now we are moving forward together. I know for me this meeting allowed me to pay more attention to how others felt, I was able to see things from others perspectives and heard many great ideas that I may have missed previously. The new room we went to wasn’t that remarkable; it was just different and that’s all it needed to be. I’m not saying we have figured it all out or that internal culture change process is complete but rather it got started on the right foot!

So like I said, we have moved and I think our new office changes everything. The whole space is new to all of us and we have already begun changing the way we communicate and work together in the short amount of time we’ve been here. There are things I miss things from the old office, but I think we’ve brought the best of that place with us, the people, and together we’ll build this new space into a supportive hub for our new organizational culture.

Annand Ollivierre
Program Manager

Alberta Nonprofits Play Hashtag

hashtagThe role of social media in the nonprofit/voluntary sector continues to evolve. Nonprofit organizations can use social media to fundraise, recruit volunteers, promote upcoming events, distribute resources or connect people to available programs. One thing that’s becoming clear is that social media is not simply a tool at the disposal of communications professionals in the sector, but rather a toolkit. One such tool in the social media toolkit is the hashtag, which can be used on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Hashtags are a way of categorizing a tweet or Instagram post so it is added to that online conversation. Adding a hashtag to your tweet or post makes it searchable! For example, if you want to read what people are saying about Canada Day, simply search #CanadaDay on whichever social media platform you happen to be using and you will be given a list of relevant posts.

Alberta nonprofits are becoming very adept at using social media to help achieve their mandate and communicate with stakeholders, and hashtags are one of the tools to help them succeed. There are a number of ways Alberta nonprofits are using hashtags. Here are a few examples:

Contest – Edmonton’s Bissell Centre recently had an Instagram photo contest to accompany a spring clothing drive they were hosting. They asked their followers to donate clothes and share a photo of their donation with the hashtag #clothes4bissell on Instagram, and they had prizes for the best photos. The #clothes4bissell hashtag successfully engaged Bissell Centre social media followers and helped collect a truckload of donations (and some great photos).

Conference or Event – In a few weeks Alberta’s nonprofit/voluntary sector will get together at Vitalize, Alberta’s Nonprofit Sector Conference. The hashtag #Vitalize2014 will help provide some order to the maze of knowledge transfer and networking. Conference delegates who want to effectively share a message with other delegates or presenters can do so by using the #Vitalize2014 hashtag on Twitter. Want to know what you missed in the other sessions? Search the hashtag and see what others thought.

Ongoing Initiative or Program – Volunteerville is another great use of the social media hashtag! This Volunteer Alberta program was launched during National Volunteer Week but is an ongoing initiative. When an organization or individual shares a photo or story of volunteerism on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #volunteerville, it will be posted to volunteerville.ca. In this instance the hashtag helps build a collective narrative about the impact of volunteerism in Alberta. More than half of Albertans volunteer, but it’s a story that goes largely untold. Until now!

Special Day – Every organization has certain days of the year that are extra meaningful. Some organizations will use a hashtag to accompany their social media posts to help raise awareness of a specific issue. Bell Canada, while not a nonprofit organization, is a perfect example. Once a year, they have Bell Let’s Talk Day, which raises awareness about the stigma associated with mental illness and raises money to support mental health initiatives across the country. The hashtag #BellLetsTalk is a huge part of the campaign and allows those on Twitter to follow along and join in the conversation.

These are just a handful of the ways hashtags are helping Alberta nonprofits reach a wider audience, build networks and achieve their mandates.

Is your organization active on social media? Do you use hashtags to your advantage? Tell us how!

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Tim Henderson, Communications/Program Coordinator

Are Today’s Youth Unengaged? Not according to SCiP

scipmixersamA few weeks ago, Sam (our resident Serving Communities Internship Program expert) and I got the chance to participate in the SCiP mixer at the University of Alberta, organized by CaPS (Career and Placement Services). Designed as a speed-networking event, the event matched four representatives from nonprofit organizations with 16 prospective interns for what turned out to be a dynamic and fruitful evening.

The evening’s guest speaker was Omar Yaqub, who was also manning a table that night in his capacity as Chair for IFSSA (Islamic Family Social Services Association). His presentation highlighted his varied experience in social innovation in the nonprofit sector and encouraged students to utilize their skills to create their own opportunities.


Also in attendance was Maggie Baird from NextFest, a great festival that offers a lot of opportunities for emerging artists. Sam and I headed up the last two tables. Sam discussing the internships available here at Volunteer Alberta and me answering student questions about the Serving Communities Internship Program. Groups of four students were seated at each table for a period of 20 minutes, after which they moved on to the next table.

As recent graduates ourselves, Sam and I often hear about a lack of youth engagement, in the nonprofit sector and otherwise. We were happy, and not at all surprised, to be met with students who were exceedingly eager to diversify their experience and learn more about the sector. What struck me most was their clear understanding of the required skills, such as flexibility, cooperation, resourcefulness, and their motivation to grow in these aspects. The $1000 bursary awarded to interns is a great incentive, but it was plain to see that these students sought benefit beyond the monetary. Furthermore, they really wanted to do the work.

The SCiP mixer was really SCiP at its best – bright, driven students and accomplished organizations working together for mutual benefit. Thanks to CaPS for hosting a great event – Sam and I are more convinced than ever that the future of SCiP is bright!

Visit the SCiP website for more information, or email Tim with any questions.

Rachel Pereira, Program Administrative Assistant

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