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?

What I Learned as a Guinea Pig in Las Vegas

We’d like to welcome guest blogger Claire Doherty to the Volunteer Victoria blog! Claire is a board member with the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society (VIRCS), and has worked and volunteered for a wide variety of non-profit organizations. She wrote this blog post about attending our recent Board Q&A Sessions in February, 2012.

Image credit to www.bootifultings.blogspot.ca

I am a newbie board member, having been elected to the board of the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society (VIRCS) in July 2011. I have learned a lot about my duties from my fellow VIRCS board members, but it is always helpful to know where to turn for further guidance.

My first board member education session was “Serving on a Board”, hosted by Volunteer Victoria’s Emerging Leaders’ Network. The presenter recommended that we attend “Boot Camp for Board Members”,  a two-day workshop that the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce historically offered in March each year.

In January, I discovered that “Boot Camp for Board Members” had been replaced, in part, by four Board Q&A Sessions hosted by Volunteer Victoria on Tuesday evenings in February. At $15 a piece, these sessions seemed like a good deal, and I was able to attend them after work. I managed to register for each of them just before the 15 spaces filled up.

Each session started with Lisa Mort-Putland, the Executive Director of Volunteer Victoria, welcoming us. She told us that we were guinea pigs, as Volunteer Victoria was just starting to experiment with providing board member education in this format. She also informed us that “Las Vegas Rules” applied; with respect to anything anyone shared about their own board: what was said in the room would stay in the room.

Having attended all four Board Q&A Sessions, I am a happy guinea pig and I consider the experiment a great success. I promise to abide by Vegas Rules and not tell anyone which presenter incorporated an Elvis impersonation into his session…just kidding, that never happened…although I might put it in the suggestion box for next year.

Here are some of the lessons I learned at each session…

Session #1: Strategic Planning and the Board’s Role in Monitoring Organizational Performance
Presenter: Patti Hunter, Principal, The Benchmark Group

– Four stages of strategic planning:
 1. Situation analysis: taking stock of the general characteristics and status of the organization, such as budget, number of staff, number of members and number of clients.
2. Environmental scan: includes an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT).
3. Planning priorities: setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, resourced and time-lined (SMART); and identifying strategies to achieve them.
4. Measurement and monitoring: build this  into board meeting agendas.

– Each board needs to choose whether to follow a program model or a policy model.

– The Policy Governance Model was developed by John Carver. If your board chooses to use it, adopt all of the principles. Do not try to pick and choose among them. See www.carvergovernance.com

– In the Carver policy model, board policies fit into one of four quadrants:
1. Board self-governance
2. Board relationship with executive director
3. Mission, vision, outcomes
4. Management constraints

Session #2: Avoiding the Dysfunctional Board
Presenter: Dr. Jim Ricks, a retired psychologist who has served on many non-profit boards

(My boyfriend did not understand why I was so keen to attend a session on dysfunctional boards on Valentine’s Day, but he did let me schedule our romantic dinner for later in the evening!)

– A functional board requires clarity of roles, expectations and boundaries.

– If something is wrong in your board, ask yourself how you are contributing to the problem.

– Sometimes asking intelligent questions about a problem is more helpful than giving direct advice about it.

– Most of this session involved discussing real-world examples of board challenges so Vegas Rules apply.

Session #3: The Structure, Governance, and Operation of Incorporated Societies – It Works Differently than Most Societies Think it Does
Presenter: Donald Golob, Principal, Donald Golob Consulting

– You need to understand the BC Society Act, which is available here: www.bclaws.ca/EPLibraries/bclaws_new/document/ID/freeside/00_96433_01

-An incorporated society in BC is a non-profit organization registered with BC Registry Services.

– A Canadian charity is registered with the Canada Revenue Agency, and is generally an incorporated society as well.

– Be aware of the following hierarchy:
1. BC Society Act and other laws, such as privacy, tax and labour laws.
2. Society’s constitution, which is like a birth certificate.
3. Society’s by-laws, which can only be changed at a general meeting of the members.
4. Society’s policies, which can be changed at a board meeting.

– It is important to know when to seek legal advice, which is available to non-profit organizations for free through organizations such as the Access Pro Bono Society of BC: www.accessprobono.ca/node/97

Session #4: Igniting your Entrepreneurial Mindset – Social Enterprises and More!
Presenters: Christy Anderson and Susan Low of Directis Consulting

– According to the Canadian Social Enterprise Guide, “social enterprises are businesses operated by non-profits with the dual purpose of generating income by selling a product or service in the marketplace and creating a social, environmental or cultural value.”

– There are three types of social enterprise models:
1. Employment development enterprises
2. Mission-based businesses
3. Ancillary or asset-based businesses

– Starting and maintaining social enterprises takes a lot of time and effort, and the legal framework surrounding them is evolving. Use the resources available to you, such as:
• www.enterprisingnonprofits.ca
• www.centreforsocialenterprise.com

Thanks again to Claire for writing this great recap of the Board Q&A Sessions! And don’t forget to mark your calendars for our full-day Board Governance 101 workshop coming up in Victoria on June 13, 2012. Registration for this event will be open soon at www.volunteervictoria.eventbrite.ca.

Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) Kicks Off Another Successful Year!

The following is a guest post written by our new ELN Social Mavens, Yasmin Rampuri and Liz Hallett. Thank you Liz and Yasmin for hosting this very successful Fall Mingle, and for stepping up and sharing your skills and enthusiasm. It was a great event!

Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) Fall Mingle

After enjoying the lovely summer weather when it finally happened, the ELN ushered in the new season with a bang at the Fall Mingle.

The event hovered at full from days after it was posted, until the day of the event on September 15th, and we had 29 enthusiastic networkers attend in the end.

Veneto Café provided a most excellent space, truly delicious finger foods and great service over the course of the event.  We are grateful to them for their part in what proved to be a very successful night.

As guests arrived they were welcomed, given a nametag, and steered towards the cash bar and plentiful appetizers.  We also pointed out a suggestion board, with a nearby pad of sticky notes, for attendees to indicate any ideas they might have for the Network (either for further professional development opportunities and/or future social events).  Many great suggestions were garnered this way.

When most of the expected folks had arrived, the hostesses for the evening got everyone’s attention, welcomed them to the event and gave a short overview of the purpose of the Emerging Leaders Network, along with what’s coming up on our calendar.

Discussion, new friendships, ideas and connections flowed freely all evening.  We expected the event to last just an hour or two, but when the last stragglers left the building it was after 8pm and we’d gone nearly 3 hours!  We loved watching the way everyone was included in circles of conversation and how friendly a group we are.  There is nothing threatening or scary about an ELN mingle!

We have lots of ideas for upcoming social events, and we hope to see you at the next one.  These opportunities to grow your network are not to be missed!

Your Event Organizers,

Yasmin and Liz

VV’s Emerging Leaders Network: Engagement in action

I’m pleased to introduce guest blogger Zuzanna Szkudlarek, a Volunteer Victoria board member and member of our Emerging Leaders Network. In this post, Zuzanna writes about her great experiences (so far) as a member of the ELN. We’ve been truly fortunate to have Zuzanna participate in this Network as she is a true leader in action in our community.

Recently I was at a retreat with like minded people interested in bettering the community in Victoria. At the retreat were individuals from all sectors (nonprofits, government, and industry) ages ranging from 25-50 whereby five of us all had the commonality of being part of the Emerging Leaders Network (ELN). What struck me as amazing is the unspoken connection that already existed between us.

Throughout carefully planned workshops, inspiring seminars and informal social events over the last year and a bit, we have connected to the point where we have become more than simply a network of emerging leaders; we have grown to rely on each other for the support it takes to make effective changes in our community. The ELN has become a venue for aspiring leaders to bounce ideas, share frustration, celebrate successes, exchange resources and envision together what our communities can really look like with these partnerships – and frankly for many of us – this looks entirely more positive than it did a year and a half ago.

For many of us, the ELN has become an invaluable tool in self promotion, personal effectiveness, and professional development. I have had the opportunity myself to engage with the network on many different levels. Over the last year I was able to practice networking skills, challenge myself in a public speaking course, become proficient in decision making, get inspired by Victoria greatest past and current leaders, and have learned countless new skills. For me the ELN has opened the door to many opportunities and gave me the confidence and tools to move to the perfect job, which a year ago what not so obvious.

Being a part of this group empowers each and every one of us in different ways. I have met many wonderful people, some of which have moved on to greater roles in our community. Our community is ever changing and at lightning speed. The issues facing the sustainability of our community require a strong and present core of individual who truly care about our future. The Emerging Leaders Network is in my humble opinion an effective venue in creating a strong community and civil society. I am so happy that Volunteer Victoria had the foresight in knowing that individual leadership development contributes to a strong society.

I am truly excited to be a part of this movement for community change and ever so please that the ELN is there to guide the process be the agent for change.


A Question of Accountability

This article first appeared in Volunteer Victoria’s E-Link newsletter on July 29th , 2011. Sign up for E-Link and keep current with news and information from Volunteer Victoria.

A Question of Accountability

The national media recently turned its attention to charitable spending and highlighted the outcomes of a grading system that measures how Canadian charities of various shapes and sizes use donated funds. The report provides a valuable service, benchmark comparisons, and some important answers and also raised many questions, identified gaps in evaluation methodologies and stakeholder communications, and potentially planted seeds of doubt for donors and stakeholders that extend beyond the 100 organizations involved in the grading exercise and the realm of fundraising.

Some stakeholders are now looking to the non-profit community to bolster confidence and demonstrate that we are fully invested in accountability and oversight in all areas of our operations – from fund and friend-raising to governance and volunteer and staff management and everything in between. So where do we find a useful frame of reference that could address potential concerns of stakeholders?

The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance created ‘Standards for Charitable Accountability’ to assist donors in making sound giving decisions and to encourage fair and honest solicitation practices, to promote ethical conduct by charitable organizations, and to advance support of philanthropy.

The 20+ standards help stakeholders explore themes related to measuring effectiveness, finances, fundraising and informational material, and how an organization answers questions about itself and its practices. By working through the standards, an organization should be able to help stakeholders gain a clearer understanding of how an organization:

· is governed
· spends its money
· applies truthfulness in their representations, and
· discloses basic information to the public

To learn more visit http://www.bbb.org/us/Charity-Standards/

Social Media Policies to Share

This article first appeared in Volunteer Victoria’s E-Link newsletter on March 11, 2011. Sign up for E-Link and keep current with news and information from Volunteer Victoria.

When Volunteer Victoria developed its Social Media Policies a year ago we shared these widely with our member agencies as we realized that few organizations had guidelines in place.

Since that time there has been a virtual explosion in non-profit uptake of social media tools for everything from information sharing to marketing and fundraising. With this rapidly increased use of social networking, we’re frequently being asked again about our policies.

So, this seems like a good time to redistribute these documents. The first is our Social Media Communications Guidelines that lays out what can and what can’t be posted on our Blog, Facebook pages, Twitter, etc.

The second is our Social Media Personnel Policies. We approached policy development from a positive and proactive stance, believing that our staff and volunteers are our best ambassadors and promoters.

As such, we recognized there were new opportunities to share our story. Through their external relationships, our staff and volunteer team have the potential to add value to the work of our organization and enhance our image.

In addition to our own policies and guidelines,  we’ve also provided links to a few sites that we thought had useful information on this topic:

– Numerous examples of social media policies from Social Media Governance

– Social Media Policy Elements from Mashable

– A listing of social media policies from 100 organizations by Social Media Today

– Best Practices for Social Media Policy from Society for New Communications Research

Imagine Canada: Sector Monitor

This post first appeared in Volunteer Victoria’s E-Link newsletter on February 11, 2011. Sign up for E-Link and keep current with news and information from Volunteer Victoria.

Imagine Canada released its third Sector Monitor report last week. This ongoing project tracks the health and vitality of Canada’s nonprofit sector, with a focus on the impact of the economic downturn.

The first survey was conducted in late 2009, the second in mid-2010 and the third in fall 2010. The findings of this latest report are compared to those of the previous two.

Key findings are:

Challenges for Service Demand – over half of the organizations continue to experience increased demand for service, up 10% from late 2009.

Stress Levels – the percentage of agencies reporting high stress levels is down slightly from mid 2010 (14% of agencies compared to 17% in mid 2010). However, looking at the findings by province, BC has the greatest percentage of nonprofits reporting high stress (19% of agencies).

Revenues Stagnating, Expenses Increasing – organizations were most likely to report that their revenues are unchanged and their expenses have increased. Twenty percent of those surveyed anticipate that they will have difficulty covering their expenses this year and 24% anticipate difficulty for next year.

In comparison, businesses reported increased operating revenues over the past year.

Small Organizations Losing Staff – over half of the organizations report that staff levels have held steady over the period surveyed. However, organizations with between 1 – 4 staff have consistently reported decreases since 2009.

Confidence in the Future – over a quarter of the organizations predict they will be stronger in 3 -4 months, while just under half predict they will be stronger in a year.

Excerpted from Imagine Canada’s Sector Monitor.

New Policy on Criminal Record Checks

As we have been hearing from our agencies, this screening enhancement has had a significant impact on their volunteer recruitment process.

Due to the extra work volume generated, there have been lengthy delays in getting criminal records checks processed. This has resulted in programming delays and in some cases loss of prospective volunteers.

Apparently, there have also been some challenges at the other end for the RCMP who manage this piece. There have been issues, in particular, where private screening companies are contracted by the agency to process the PRCs. Other issues are with regard to incomplete information provided by the agency/volunteer.

Volunteer Canada, on behalf of the sector is meeting with representatives of the RCMP branch that is stewarding this screening initiative to endeavour to address some of these issues.

In the interim, some information resources are now available that may answer some questions for agencies.

One of these is the Criminal Records Factsheet produced by the Canadian Police Information Centre. This Q and A sheet provides information on the new policy for criminal records checks and vulnerable sector verifications.

Volunteer Canada has also provided an information sheet on this new policy implementation, that was produced by Volunteer Alberta for its members.

The full policy on Canadian Criminal Real Time Identification Services is also available for download. This is the policy that mandates how dissemination of criminal record information is managed.

Volunteer Canada hopes to have further information available in the near future and when this is available we will pass this along to our agencies.

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