You don't have to be an art winner to have a great volunteer experience. Read about Nadine Rijhoff's experience finding the most rewarding job of her life at the Timeraiser. This piece was originally posted on the Sector in Conversation blog - thank you to the Trillium Foundation for allowing us to repost this piece.
It was particularly pleasing to connect with counterparts from United Way Toronto, United Way Canada, Delisle Youth Services, Centre for Social Innovation, UrbanCorp, New Path Foundation and Renewal Partners.
Outside of the networking opportunities, the conference featured over 30 site visits and panel discussions. As you can see from the illustration, a number of the Canadian delegates participated on the panels. When the conference concluded, there was an All-Canadian session. We were also asked how we might maintain the energy from the conference to our day-to-day work in Canada.
I took a few minutes to identify who was not present in my network and what opportunities had not surfaced (see info-graphic below). A number of co-location hubs that we engage with should be included in the future including @Hive Vancouver, @EpicYYC, @Hub Ottawa, and @Hub Halifax. Additionally, financing sources such as the Community Forward Fund and Community Foundation of Canada (CFC is encouraging its network to mobilize 10% of its assets to mission-related investments - pg 6) also need to be included in future discussions.
While Canada’s nonprofit sector pales in comparison to the philanthropic girth in America, we have way more activity ‘in play’ than was represented at the conference; and that was my biggest take away lesson from the week.
We are working in pockets of asymmetrical information within funder and grant-seeking networks and the digital era is doubling the number of places to search out information (e.g. case studies, websites) every two years.
This phenomenon is making it harder for people to search out information that is relevant to them, despite the advances in search engines (a few delegates were bemoaning that there are no sources of funding in Canada; which is just not true). That is why I am so excited about Timeraiser continuing to invest in our Open Architecture strategy: we are on the right track making most of our information available with one-click of a button.
My involvement with GrantBook, a new social purpose business focused on working with GrantMakers who are investing in the digital future and my involvement with Ashoka, a global movement of change-makers collectively round out the last two initiatives that will consume most of my time and energy. The future of philanthropy is about digital competency, real-time reporting and frictionless sharing. I’ll be writing more about this from difference perspectives - Timeraiser/GrantBook/Ashoka hats - in the coming weeks.
These students were involved in a variety of community-minded initiatives ranging from anti-bullying awareness groups to running a conference in conjunction with the International Day of the Girl. Common to all of their work was the willingness to give their time, energy, and optimism to causes they care about.
I was glad to be able to extend congratulations to these students and the scholarship's organizers on behalf of Timeraiser. We have been fortunate to have TD's support for our efforts to foster volunteerism across Canada. Investing in the education of these young people promises to yield great things as well.
By: Noorin Ladhani
Kate and I were at #JOLTdemofest on Tuesday representing Timeraiser at the Creator's Gallery. #JOLTdemofest launched JOLT's Winter 2013 cohort - 6 awesome startups developing apps in the web and mobile space.
The start-ups part of this cohort are listed below. Check out their profiles on the JOLT site.
The Creator's Gallery was a new addition to demo day and was designed showcase and honour innovative companies who have demonstrated an impact in the industries they compete in. We were honoured to be invited (a big thank you to Dom and our friend's at TWG for recommending us up) and pleased to be part of such an exciting event. We had many great conversations with JOLT mentors, entrepreneurs, and other people working in the Tech space.
The event was especially cool for us because our very own Framework Board Member, Ryan Poissent who is an adviser at MaRS and JOLT and was there supporting the start-up he worked with, Flee.
The entire event had such a great energy. Everyone that attended came away feeling a little bit more innovative and entrepreneurial (I came away with at least three ideas - I'm coming for you Jolt). It was a great evening had by all, congratulations JOLT on a graduating a great collection of companies and we look forward to following their success.
Rebecca Chelsey has an MBA Nonprofit Management from the Schulich School of Business (‘04). She is currently a Manager at United Way Toronto working on the GenNext program and has worked with Canadian Cancer Society. You can view her LinkedIn profile here.
Rebecca, Imagine Canada reports that Canadians give over 2 billion volunteer hours each year to causes they care about. 9% of these hours are for ‘governance’ related activities such as people sitting on Committees and/or as Board members. This is equivalent to 144 million volunteer hours. This is a lot. As a sector, we often laud this statistic, be rarely talk about quality of the volunteer hours. When we spoke last, we talked about how these ‘super volunteers’ are getting burned out. What are your thoughts on how the Sharing Imperative can play a role in redefining engagement in the digital economy?
We talk a lot about how much Canadians volunteer, but are we talking about how well they volunteer?
I meet a lot of people who want to volunteer, and one of the questions that I get asked is “how can I join a Board of Directors?” People might think that board or committee work is going to somehow be glamourous... I always have to caution people that it’s actually not glamourous at all. It’s a big commitment of time and energy, and can be just as frustrating as your day job, except that it’s during your precious off-hours.
For example, I know someone who is resigning from a nonprofit board because he is burnt out after only one two-year term. This is a high-energy person who feels he has spent the last two years doing nothing but pulling information from the staff of the organization and corralling the other board members to get up-to-date and on the same page.
And this is common: I find a lot of the time that people’s frustration with meetings is how much time is spent on process - they begin with a rehash of previous meetings for people who weren’t able to attend, then a synopsis of material that was provided in advance but not read by everyone, and updates to materials or situations that have changed since the last meeting. Then, eventually, once everyone is finally on the same page and up to speed, there is the opportunity for new and strategic discussions.
"Dare I suggest that this kind of continuous catching up is not the best use of everyone’s time?"
Especially the so-called skilled volunteers that we in the nonprofit sector are looking to attract to these most-senior and highly-engaged roles. These kinds of meetings (and we’ve all been in them), where the real substantive discussion is reduced to the last 10 or 15 minutes, are a great way to make our volunteers feel disengaged and under-used. For those individuals who are giving their time and wanting to provide the benefit of their expertise and knowledge, sitting around for three-quarters of a meeting to make sure that everyone knows what’s going on, does not make them feel useful. The attraction of skilled volunteers to governance roles is usually the opportunity to be strategic and affect change, and these kinds of meetings are not providing that opportunity. But what if, instead of using meeting time to catch everyone up, we were having those strategic discussions and solving problems? What if, everyone is already on the same page, before the meeting even starts?
When it comes to working with volunteers there are strategies that can be sued to ensure volunteer time is being used effectively:
Imagine this scenario: the CEO of an organization needs to give a very important presentation to secure new funding. The development of the presentation might start with a meeting of relevant stakeholders to discuss the strategy for the presentation and the approach to be taken. The staff of the organization begin crafting the presentation online, on a password protected minisite. Only those relevant stakeholders have access to this site; it’s not visible to the wider public. As the presentation is being developed, stakeholders are providing comments to slides - a lawyer might provide legal language commentary from her desk at work over lunch, a communications consultant might provide input on wording after putting his kids to bed - and all the while the staff are updating the slides in real time to make changes or provide answers to questions. Then, at the next scheduled meeting, the CEO is able to provide an update on outcomes from the presentation and the team is able to discuss the next strategic steps to be taken.
Doesn’t that sound better than hearing what happened at the last meeting over and over again? This is a way we can work smarter with our volunteers, not just harder. Nothing is going to replace face-to-face meetings, they are incredibly useful tools, but let’s use them more effectively, not just have them be something necessary to get through. That’s how we can keep our volunteers energized and engaged.