Gone Fishin’

If you have looked around your office and realized that no one else is there – you are not alone! It is the time of the year when staff, board members, and volunteers take vacations, stay-cations, and even the occasional fishing trip. 

We went fishing this month too – to catch a glimpse of the local non-profit community and to see what trends are emerging.

Now, you should know that this wasn’t a big, complex research study. This quick little survey resulted in a 15% response rate where nearly 60% of respondents have operational budgets between $100,000 and $500,000. The results are not statistically relevant or accurate but they did confirm what many of us already believe – that there are complex funding challenges ahead, non-profit leaders remain resilient but are pulled in many directions, and that many organizations have significant milestones to celebrate in 2014.

Here’s what we learned from survey respondents:
40% reported a 10% or greater drop in revenues from fundraising events
26% experienced a more than 10% reduction or a 100% loss of Government Contracts for Services. One organization articulated the seriousness of their loss, “Our organization is on the brink of serious layoffs, termination of staff and program cuts due to decreases in government funding.”
20% report that it is likely or very likely that they will reduce paid staff. More than 48% are planning to increase wages
78% plan on recruiting student interns to help and 92% are looking for volunteers to help
25% report a 10% or greater reduction in grant funding and 33% report a 10% or greater reduction in corporate donations
60% of respondents report that it is likely or very likely that they will increase grant funding and 45% think it likely that they will increase cash sponsorships in the coming year
Municipal funding is shifting – 23% reported more than a 10% reduction and 23% reported a more than 10% increase in funding
11% reported 1st time funding from Gaming
85% of organizations with non government contracts for services expect revenues to stay the same
United Way funding was the only funding source where 100% of respondents reported no change in revenues 
46% reported that they earned more self-generated revenues. 70% report that it is likely or very likely that they will  increase self-generated revenues in the coming year
89% expect individual monthly giving to stay the same or increase
62% are actively trying to reduce expenses and 70% are looking for partners to share costs and leverage resources
90% are looking for new program partners
38% of agencies report that it is challenging or very challenging to meet their mission and strategic goals
80% shared reasons for celebration – many organizations are celebrating anniversaries in 2014 – one 50 year and eight 25, 30, and 40 year anniversaries –  other celebrations include increased client outcomes, new partnerships, funders, and services, increased client registration in programs, and dedicated staff and volunteers


Book Review: The Abundant Non Profit

Volunteering trends vary greatly across the world and what may be true for most other nations is not always true in Canada; like the idea that there is a shortage of volunteers. Canada has the 2nd largest voluntary sector in the world – after the Netherlands – and with more than 12 million volunteers across the country we do not have a shortage of willing participants.

Vantage Point (Vancouver’s Volunteer Centre) has long advocated for the fact that in this continued environment of resource scarcity non profits have to think and behave differently. They believe so strongly in the idea that non profits need to shift our primary focus from allocating financial assets to developing human assets that staff members Colleen Kelly and Lynda Gerty put pen to paper (sorry, fingers to the keyboard) to write their book “The Abundant Non Profit.”  

The book is scattered with wise words and good ideas but if reading non profit management books is not top of your summer ‘to-do’ list, then here are some of the paraphrased highlights.  

  • Non profits cannot always wait for funding to start or finish key projects. Vantage Point believes we must expand our circle of experienced volunteers who can help by breaking down projects into bite sized chunks and getting the work done.
  • While all volunteers are created equal in terms of their value to an organization, some volunteer work is valued at a higher rate of return than others. For example: the value difference between using volunteers to copy newsletters or to build a new website.
  • All volunteers need to have work that meets their learning and engagement needs. Create project options with varying levels of complexity.
  • Create an annual plan for volunteer led and managed projects (and connect them to your strategic goals.) 
  • Integrate volunteers into every level of the organization
  • Turn project and program managers into people managers. One manager can only complete a limited number of projects or program objectives, but a people manager with 40 to 60 volunteers can increase their productivity exponentially.

You can purchase “The Abundant Non Profit” directly through the Vantage Point website or member agencies can sign the book out of the Volunteer Victoria library.


All On-Board

For many families June ushers in the end of the school year. For many non-profits June signals the beginning of a new year as we  wrap up last fiscal year’s audits and annual reports and ask our membership to approve our new slate of board members at our annual general meetings. In fact, June is one of the busiest AGM month’s of the year, and is probably the month when the greatest number of non profits are literally bringing people on-board.

Volunteer Victoria knows a lot about the process of recruiting and appointing board members. We have tons of tools and resources to help member agencies learn more about board governance and board members roles and responsibilities. And, each year, we help individual organizations address governance challenges or explore ways to recruit, engage, or train new/existing board members. As a whole, the local board community is strong, committed, and tremendously impactful. 

This being said, we know that recruiting new board members with all the skills you need to help your organization move forward is not always simple or fast and it can sometimes feel like a challenge. The statistics support the point. In 2012, 6% of all volunteer positions posted through Volunteer Victoria were board positions. These positions were viewed by potential volunteers just 4% of the time – suggesting that the local demand for board members may be greater than the the number of people willing to consider applying for the positions.

Board recruitment challenges may also intensify in the coming years as a larger number of board members reach retirement stage – the point at which individual board members wish to stop volunteering in board roles (regardless of their age) or choose to reduce their volume of board work. An informal survey of board members at a recent workshop revealed that close to 40% of attendees sit on more than 2 boards. Trends also suggest that the younger demographic of volunteers – while very capable, educated, and committed – favour volunteer positions with shorter durations.  

To help identify potential areas of risk, consider the following: 
How many of your current board members sit on more than 1 board? What strategies can you implement to help board members with multiple board commitments? 
How many current board members have reached retirement stage or are within 2 years of retirement? How will you proactively address these challenges? 
Which board positions in your organization are hardest to recruit for? What can you do to increase your pool of volunteers for this position? 
How can you diversify your board?  
How can you enhance board member engagement and satisfaction and make the most of the time you spend with board members?


Succession Planning – Is Your Organization Ready for the Future?

Today we’re pleased to feature a guest blog post by certified HR professional Ginger Brunner. Ginger is principal of Dynamic HR Solutions Inc and will be facilitating our upcoming “Succession Planning” workshop on February 17, 2011.

If the employees who currently hold key or critical positions within your organization were to leave tomorrow, would there be any qualified and/or experienced employees prepared to assume their role?

Many organizations are struggling to answer this question as the demographics of the workplace continue to shift. Succession planning is the process of identifying and developing internal employees with the potential to fill key or critical organizational positions. In the past, succession planning was something that only larger corporations did; it didn’t apply to smaller businesses or not-for-profit organizations … until now.

Consider this:

  • Forecasts show that by the year 2012, the first wave of baby boomers – individuals born between 1943 & 1965 and the largest generational demographic in today’s workforce – will start to retire.
  • In 2009, the rate of retirement in BC among senior managers was 42 retirements per 1,000 people in the labour force, compared to 23 out of 1,000 people in the labour force overall.
  • The highest retirement rates are in senior management positions and occupations requiring the greatest skill and experience. These occupations typically have an older labour force given the years of work experience and training required to fill the positions.
  • In 2009, the average age of senior managers in BC was 46.6, compared to 40.7 across all occupations.
  • Organizations that fail to prepare for the need to replace retiring employees could experience issues with productivity and product/service quality.
  • Unless organizations have programs and/or systems in place to ensure that corporate knowledge is not lost with departing employees, valuable time, energy and productivity will be wasted on re-learning processes and procedures.
If your organization is considering, or is in the process of implementing succession planning, here are a few key points to keep in mind:
  • In order to be fully effective, succession planning should be more than a stand-alone initiative. When developing succession planning strategies, they need to fit within the overall strategic direction of the organization. This helps strengthen the organization’s capacity for long term sustainability.
  • Succession planning is not just an HR initiative. Senior managers need to be responsible for identifying strong leaders within his or her organization and helping them develop in preparation for the next step in their career.
  • The “fear of being replaced” needs to be substituted by a “desire to be replaced”. Senior managers need to embrace the opportunity to mentor and prepare aspiring individuals to step into his or her position. Even if they are not retiring, this enables them to perhaps advance into another position in their own career path.
  • Succession planning may need to include looking outside of the organization. Although it is preferable to be able to develop individuals from within the organization, it is not always possible or realistic for a variety of reasons. In these cases, the organization may need to look outside of itself to recruit new talent.
  • Succession planning should be an ongoing process. Re-visit succession plans regularly to ensure that they are being followed, and make adjustments as required.
Whether or not organizations foresee a turnover of key leadership positions, implementing a proactive succession plan will help minimize the loss of corporate “memory”, increase employee engagement and, ultimately, strengthen the organization’s capacity for long term sustainability.

To reserve your space in the upcoming Succession Planning workshop offered by Volunteer Victoria, click here.


How Emerging Leaders are Learning

Summer turned into fall, fall turned into winter, and now I realize that I haven’t written an update about the Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) on this blog since late July last year. Wow, where did the time go? For me, time has really flown because I’ve been having fun coordinating numerous events for Victoria’s nonprofit emerging leaders this past half-year. In fact, we’ve had 28 separate ELN events since August!

Before I tell you more about what we’ve been up to, let me update you briefly on what the Network is and why it exists if you haven’t yet heard of it. The ELN was designed to give nonprofit professionals access to learning and networking opportunities to help them grow into top leadership positions in the near future. Now numbering 128 participants, it’s made up of individuals generally in their mid-20s to mid-40s. Most of the Network’s members are paid professionals working in our sector, and our common denominator is that we’re all interested in leading nonprofits. We have an online “home” and anyone who meets the criteria outlined above is welcome to join us for free.

Feedback about Network events has been extremely positive. It’s clear to me from what people have been saying – and the sheer number of people that have joined – that this is a Network that is extremely needed for this demographic. Emerging leaders are using the Network to meet each other, strengthen our connections, and learn what we need to know to lead nonprofits soon. For some members with more experience, “soon” is just around the corner, especially as more baby boomers decide to retire. For other members, gaining a top leadership position is a bit farther away – but they’re building excellent skills and connections in order to get themselves there faster.

So, you ask, what have we done since July last year? Well, we’ve started book discussion meetings and held social and networking events amongst ourselves and also with current leaders. We’ve met with current Executive Directors to learn from their experiences and we’ve attended workshops to learn how best to network and craft our “elevator speeches.” We’ve talked about self-care, building partnerships, governance, leadership and management, working with boards, and standing out from the crowd. Some of our members have even become students in an Emerging Leaders Series – a series of day-long workshops (five of them, held once a month for five months) that we created with Camosun College to get grounded in all the basics needed to become an Executive Director. We’ve had dinners, lunches, coffees and meetings. We’ve started making lasting connections and we’ve learned so much with all of the different things that we’ve done. And you know what?

We’ve got lots more planned for this year.

It’s a great time to say “thank you” to the community leaders who supported the Network last year with their time, actions and words. I’d like to also give kudos to the members themselves. In our Network, “leading from the middle” is not just a catch-phrase – it’s reality. The members have brainstormed and implemented great learning events to complement what my paid role of “Coordinator” has been able to do.

Some might ask, are we emerging leaders, or are we already leading?  The answer is – both!


Building Better Boards

As most non-profit boards will shortly be regrouping after the summer hiatus, this seems like a good time to highlight board development resources. This list includes both on-line and print materials that can be accessed through Volunteer Victoria’s library.

A very good on-line source for board governance information is the Voluntary Sector Knowledge Network that includes an extensive selection of board materials, from board roles and responsibilities to the board – CEO relationship.

Another excellent resource is the HR Council for the Non Profit Sector Toolkit. The site covers the full spectrum of human resources in non profits, one section of which focuses on the board’s role within HR. This section also includes information on hiring an Executive Director.

Among the myriad articles available on board governance, Becoming a More Effective Nonprofit Board, produced by the respected US non-profit think-tank Bridgespan, is a good short read. The article highlights 4 key areas in which the board must have clarity: oversight, leadership, how the board does its work (people, culture, structures) and role in helping the organization create social change.

A very interesting article that explores the role of the Executive Director in facilitating board leadership is the Vantage Point article, Leading Leaders, by Colleen Kelly. This lighlights the importance of ED’s role in facilitating the development of creative boards with strong leadership capabilities.

Within Volunteer Victoria’s extensive library of publications on boards, Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards (Chait et al), provides a forward thinking perspective on the role of boards. Going beyond the traditional fiduciary and strategic roles, the book introduces a third dimension of effective trusteeship, generative governance.

Also in our library is The Management of Nonprofit and Charitable Organizations in Canada, second edition. Written by an expert team led by Vic Murray, our resident expert in Non Profit Management, this text provides a very comprehensive look at non-profits in Canada today. Written after the recent economic downtown, the book addresses these trends and the new realities that non-profit leaders face these days.

And for those who haven’t ever read anything on the Carver model of governance, the series of books by John Carver are worth a look. We have the full series in our library and titles range from Basic Principles of Board Governance to Strategies for Board Leadership.

In addition to the on-line and print selections referenced here, there is also an excellent little booklet (35 pages) produced by Deloitte & Touche that we include in our board orientation kit at Volunteer Victoria.

This practical guide covers everything from board mandate and responsibilities to building a more effective board.

by Val Green, Executive Director
Volunteer Victoria

Join the conversation! Stay connected here (and through our online newsletter E-Link ) for the latest news.


Emerging Leaders Network: The first eight weeks

It’s only been eight weeks since we launched our Emerging Leaders Network but the group’s membership has already risen to 85 people and we’ve held several fantastic events so far.  This is an update on what has been happening with the Network since it began in late May, and is also a glimpse of the exciting events we’ve got planned for the next few months.

It didn’t take long after we announced the creation of the Network’s online community for younger nonprofit professionals in the Victoria area to start signing up in droves.  In fact, within a week 42 members had joined!  Two weeks after that, the membership had soared to 66 emerging leaders, and (as mentioned above) today the Network numbers almost 20 more.  It will continue to grow, I’m sure, as more individuals with an eye to leading a nonprofit organization in the future find out about this exciting new group.

As the Network’s project lead, I spent time in June and July getting together with Network members in five “Blue Sky Sessions.”  These brainstorming sessions (named after similar sessions at Disney) were casual get-togethers where all ideas about what the members would like the Network to look like were considered and discussed.  The ideas that came forward were incredible!  Emerging leaders proposed topics for workshops and meetings and suggested possible speakers, books, websites, and other resources that they felt were important to share with their colleagues.  Through these sessions I learned a lot about emerging leaders’ preferences, capabilities, worries, ambitions and needs – information that is going to help immensely with planning desirable activities for Network members this year.

On June 28 we held the first bi-monthly Emerging Leaders Network meeting which featured Volunteer Victoria’s Executive Director Val Green as the guest speaker and saw 34 emerging leaders attend to kick off the Network.  The buzz of excitement in the room was incredible as attendees started meeting their similar-age colleagues at other nonprofit organizations.  And Val, a true believer in the capabilities of emerging leaders, shared her leadership learnings from her more than 25 years of nonprofit experience and time as an Executive Director.  What a great start to the Network!  (Don’t worry, we audio-taped the session so new Network members can listen in, after they join, to all meetings.)

Next it was time to start connecting with current nonprofit leaders to see how they could get involved in the Network.  I already had information from the Blue Sky sessions about how emerging leaders would like to connect with current leaders, so I developed a checklist document to send to Executive Directors of local nonprofit organizations to gauge their level of interest in these connections.  The document was sent out to Volunteer Victoria’s Executive Director’s Network email list and soon the responses came flooding in.  It turns out that EDs are just as interested in connecting with emerging leaders to learn from them as the other way around – nice!  Now I’m organizing short coffee and lunch sessions to bring emerging leaders and current leaders together, have more ideas for future speakers for Network meetings and workshops, and will eventually be able to feature leader interviews in podcasts that will be made available to all Network members.  Speed networking events that will bring together emerging leaders and current leaders are also on the horizon.

What else have we been up to so far?  Well, we held our first casual mixer for emerging leaders only at a downtown pub in mid-July.  And, a sub-set of the Network membership is also helping me plan a five-day leadership course, to be offered over a five-month period from Fall 2010 to Spring 2011.  The program is intended to ground emerging leaders in the knowledge they need to have in order to lead nonprofit organizations.

All said, the first two months of the Emerging Leaders Network has been a whirlwind of activity and lots more is yet to come.


Speeches at Volunteer Victoria’s AGM: Beth Cougler Blom

NOTE: This post is part of the Embracing the Future-Leading for Change post regarding our Annual General Meeting.

Volunteer Victoria held its Annual General Meeting on June 24th, 2010.  The meeting featured a panel of three speakers talking about leadership in the nonprofit sector.  Our first presenter, Beth Cougler Blom, Manager of Training and Outreach at Volunteer Victoria, spoke on the recent creation of our Emerging Leaders Network in Victoria and what local emerging leaders think about sector leadership and the path to get there.  Here is the text of her speech:

About a year ago Val Green [Volunteer Victoria’s Executive Director] and I both received word that Vantage Point (formerly Volunteer Vancouver) had started up a Next Leaders Network for younger nonprofit professionals.  I think we both practically ran to each other at the same time and said, we should do this here in Victoria.  

I called Vantage Point to see how things were going for them and then quickly pulled together a focus group of nonprofit professionals around my age to see what they thought of the idea.  They all told me that this would be a great thing for Victoria and we brainstormed what a Network could look like.  So Val went out and – lo and behold – was able to find funding to make this vision happen. 

On May 24 we announced our creation of an Emerging Leaders Network for the next generation of nonprofit leaders.  We think it’s the second of its kind in Canada.  The Network is bringing together late 20 to early 40 somethings who all have the goal of leading in the nonprofit sector in the near future.  “Leadership” in this case could mean being Executive Directors, board chairs, board members, upper management, or other types of nonprofit professionals.   The Network is open to both people working in the nonprofit sector and significantly volunteering in it.  And on the agenda are bi-monthly meetings, professional development and networking opportunities, and opportunities to connect with today’s leaders in multiple ways. 

The response to the Network has been incredible.  Less than four weeks after we opened up the online community for the network we have 71 members … and more emerging leaders are joining every day.   And the general consensus about the Network that I’m hearing at this time is: “Wow, this is amazing, and I’m so excited to be a part of it.” 

But I think that I’m the most excited of all because, hey, I get to lead the project.  But coming up with the vision for the Network has been and will continue to be a group process.  That early focus group has now become an advisory group of emerging leaders for me, and I’ve been holding blue sky brainstorming sessions with some of the Network’s members to visualize what this first year is going to look like.  And, let me tell you, we have lots of ideas.  We have so many things we want to learn about, but there are also things we need to share with today’s leaders too. 

Some of our questions:

  • How do we network successfully?  How do we make connections with our peers and current leaders?
  • How did current leaders get to where they are?  What career path did they follow?
  • What does being an Executive Director involve? What do they do all day?
  • How do we learn about boards? What questions should we ask when picking a board to sit on?
  • What gaps do we need to fill in our own knowledge to be successful in a leadership position?  And how do we fill them before we get there?

We also want to know more about recruitment, hiring, supervising and managing people, budgeting, public relations, marketing, fundraising, sponsorships, grant writing, liability insurance, public speaking, group facilitation, volunteer management and, and, and the list goes on.  Not too much really … but I’m not sure we’re going to get it all done in the first year.

Oh we know there’s a lot to learn – there always is – but emerging leaders still know some stuff too.  We know what our needs are, and we know how we’d like leadership to look when we get there.  We think we can help organizations prepare for our arrival, when today’s leaders are ready to retire or move on from their positions.

Here’s a taste of what I’ve heard emerging leaders saying recently:

We’ll never know if we’re interested in being a leader if we’re not shown what it looks like – from the inside.  Emerging leaders are craving a glimpse into the work lives of Executive Directors.  What does it mean to be an ED?  Does it look different at different organizations?  Not a lot of us know the answers to these questions yet.  And we don’t want to find out only at the point when we’ve landed an ED position – scary!

We’re not sure how it looks on the inside, but we do know how it often looks from the outside.  And, let me tell you, the way leadership looks now may not be how we’d like it to look when we get there.  We want to work fewer and more flexible hours, and some of us want to work part-time or job-share an ED position if possible.  In fact, work/life balance is a huge concern for us – and we will ask for it when we get to the top of organizations.  We not only don’t want to work 12 hour days to get the job done (when we think it can be done in 8), many of us can’t.  We’re having kids later than previous generations have, and we have to balance work and family and then all the other things we want to do as well.  We’ve grown up being told that we can have it all, but you know what?  The reality is that we just can’t.  Flexibility will be key with us. 

Organizations need to be prepared for our arrival onto the leadership scene.  We won’t be afraid to make changes when we get there, and we just hope that the organizations who hire us will be open to those changes.  If not, you know what?  We won’t stay.  The culture of an organization will make a big difference to a leader of my generation. 

We believe there are enough opportunities around for all of us to be successful.  We share what we know and we don’t hold our information close.  If we help others, we think others will help us.  It sounds simple but not everybody thinks this way.  From what I’ve seen, emerging leaders do. I’ve had this conversation several times recently and to me, that’s exciting.  We’re all in this together, and we’re going to help each other. My generation of nonprofit professionals is committed, passionate, driven, and full of ideas and inspiration.  We thrive on change.  Some of us are already starting to lead organizations and the floodgates are about to open for the rest of us.  And we’ll be ready.  Especially if others share what they know to help us get there.

Good succession planning takes learning about the people who will fill your shoes.  Good leadership takes recognizing when you have emerging leaders working for you that have the potential to do more.  One emerging leader told me last week: “I want my boss to say, ‘I’m going to help you get to where you want to go with your career, even if it means leaving this organization.’”  That would be a powerful thing to hear for most of us.  Just imagine what we all could do if we had connections in our lives that were able to help us do what we want to do and also make a difference – wherever we chose to make it.

It is my belief that – no matter their age group – people still want and crave opportunities these days to connect with each other in person.  This is so crucial, especially in a place like Victoria where two degrees of separation is the norm!   Connections are what the Emerging Leaders Network is all about.  And, as I said, we’ve got lots of ideas to make connections happen, amongst ourselves and with current leaders.  Would it surprise you to learn that emerging leaders even want to make connections in different ways than our predecessors?

This past month starting up the Emerging Leaders Network has been amazing.  And what a difference a month has made!  A month ago I would have told you that I expected a bit of a leadership crunch in the sector in a few years.  I just wasn’t really that sure how many of my generation actually wanted to be leaders, especially Executive Directors.  But now I know there’s no shortage of people who want to be leaders in our community…but I also know that organizations have to be prepared that we may make a few changes to leadership when we get there.  And even before we get there.

I think it’s going to be an amazing year.





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