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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.

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:



The Greatest Roller-Coaster – Volunteerism

Being dedicated to changing the world is like riding a roller-coaster of emotions. Sometimes it’s the kiddie-coaster in a mall parking lot, other times it is the biggest, fastest, most flashy roller-coaster in the world. For me, I choose to ride the change-the-world-roller-coaster by volunteering my time, talent and energy.

My entire life I’ve been riding these rails, volunteering in service to the world. For me the ‘world’ I aim to change is not just the planet we all share; it’s the world in which I live and whatever community I happen to be a part of. It’s about the people I intersect with in life on a daily basis, including friends, family and passersby. It is this part of our big ole planet that, through volunteering, I’m working to change.

Have you ever taken a ride on the change-the-world-roller-coaster? Join me for a second…let me know, can you relate? It feels a bit like this…

I love volunteering. It’s a fantastic way to give back. I met new people. I got to be creative. I gained experience.

Wait… I didn’t get thanked. I feel drained. Nothing changed. Nobody cares. I hate volunteering. Volunteering sucks.

Hold on now, I’ve been appreciated. I see my value to the cause. I have been thanked by a person whose life I impacted! Volunteering is pure awesome. Never stop! Who needs money? Just VOLUNTEER – FOREVER! Creativity and volunteerism are the way of the future.

Oops… look at that, rent is due. I seriously have no money and no time. Why am I doing this again? What am I thinking? Stop me before I volunteer again…

…no wait, I can feel it, and now I can see it…I’m changing the world!

Let’s DO this! MORE! AGAIN!


Feels a little chaotic just thinking about it, right?

But in all seriousness, if Steve Jobs is right and changing the world is for the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels and troublemakers, then maybe I am on the right roller-coaster. Changetheworld

I’ve volunteered as a creative, a photographer, a graphic designer, a writer, and an event coordinator. I’ve had doors slammed in my face and have been greeted with open, appreciative arms. I’ve donated time, money, energy, creativity. I’ve sacrificed sleep, time and money. I’ve signed myself up with friends and family. I’ve been “volun-told” here and there. I’ve been a slacktivist on social media. I’ve coordinated grassroots groups to enhance my local community. I’ve experienced ageism, had my skills overlooked and taken advantage of.

I’ve volunteered mainly because my heart swells so big with passion for a changing the world I live in, that if I don’t volunteer my creativity, energy and skills, I am pretty sure I would burst.

I know that volunteering is a transformative experience. Even though it has its bests and worsts, ups and downs, I know I’ve made a difference through volunteering. I found something to love and learn about in each and every experience.

During this National Volunteer Week, my advice to you is: volunteer in whatever way you can on the change-the-world-roller-coaster, and let it make you crazy… because if you are crazy enough, you can change the world!

And isn’t that the point?

To volunteer is to change whatever world you live in.

Katherine Topolniski
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!


Volunteer Recognition: Good & Cheap

Volunteer-HandshakeIn order for volunteer-run nonprofit organizations to be sustainable they often need to retain volunteers. The most important retention strategy (aside from safe working conditions) is volunteer recognition. Over the past few years the sector has begun to really stress the importance of volunteer recognition; not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because organizations likely stand to benefit from making their volunteers feel appreciated.

Last week, Volunteer Canada released their Volunteer Recognition Tool.  It is a 9-question survey for volunteers to identify how they prefer to be recognized. Volunteer managers can use this information to recognize their hard working volunteers in ways meaningful to those volunteers. Survey data published in Volunteer Canada’s 2013 Volunteer Recognition Study indicates an overwhelming 80% of volunteers simply want to know how their efforts have made a difference.

Here are a few observations we had about this statistic:

  • It is incredibly obvious. Research by Imagine Canada indicates that 95% of people chose “believe in the cause” as a primary motivation for volunteering. Of course, they want to see how their efforts made a difference – That’s why they volunteered in the first place!
  • This is good news. It’s good news because of all the ways to recognize volunteers this is among the least costly. For nonprofit organizations that often face funding challenges, it means they can adequately recognize volunteers without breaking the bank.

The Volunteer Recognition Study results are encouraging because it means volunteers generally prefer volunteer recognition methods that happen to be cheaper than others. Alberta’s nonprofits might not all have big budgets, but it’s safe to say they have lots of heart. A sincere heartfelt ‘thank-you’, whether in the form of a cup of coffee, phone call, letter, post-it note, or Volunteerville post, might be just what they are looking for.

Please keep in mind that volunteer appreciation events do have value and some people enjoy being recognized publicly. But, the survey results show that volunteers don’t necessarily volunteer their time expecting a public thank you along with a free burger. National Volunteer Week is an important opportunity for our sector to recognize volunteers. NVW Enhancement Funding, which is available to Volunteer Alberta members, can go a long way in helping communities rally around their volunteers without stretching their budgets. But volunteer recognition is a year-round activity and different approaches, whether formal or informal, are valuable. The important thing is that recognition efforts are personal and help connect the volunteer with the value of their role.

How do your volunteers prefer to be recognized? Have them use the Volunteer Recognition Tool and find out!


Tim Henderson, Program and Communications Coordinator

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