All posts by Ryan Stephens

The Recruitment Grind: Recapping Our Latest Think Tank Conversation

by Sharon Mvundura

Think Tank Conversations are a bi-monthly meetup of those who manage, coordinate and engage volunteers in Edmonton. The space we have created is one of discussion, networking and working through the trends, challenges and success volunteer coordinators face in their roles. We kicked off 2018 with a January discussion on Volunteer Recruitment and, as always, Think Tankers had a lot to say about this topic.

Here’s what we heard:

Edmonton organizations face a variety of challenges that affect their ability to successfully recruit volunteers. One organization found it difficult to recruit volunteers for the needed time slots  in their program. Others find it difficult to recruit during the “off season,” during the holidays there’s an excess amount of volunteer inquiries but the well dries up once January hits. For others, they are just simply finding it hard to recruit volunteers that will stay. In our fast paced society it seems the revolving door has arrived to volunteerism. So what can organizations do when faced with all those barriers?

While the morning was filled with sharing what isn’t working, there were some valuable learnings that led us to realize that maybesome solutions aren’t so out of reach.

One volunteer manager shared how, after facing challenges with scheduling or turnover, they decided to “rejig” some of their opportunities. They made some roles more flexible, shortened the commitment time, and worked with the feedback they were getting from prospective volunteers to adapt. This brings us to the first big unsurprising revelation:


Volunteer managers have little time between the daily grind of the volunteer cycle (recruit, train, orient, retain, recognize) to even think about changing up process. But what if it happened? What if looking at small or large tweaks to your program could fix some of the barriers of recruitment and retention you’re facing? It just might make the daily grind a little less… grindy.

Think Tankers shared a few other ways they achieved their recruitment goals. Don’t have recruitment goals? Then you should definitely start there. Figure out what outcome you want from recruitment. Do you want volunteers of a particular age group, or with particular skills? Decide, then figure out where those volunteers are and how to reach them.

One volunteer coordinator found success at some university career fairs; a great way to connect with young motivated volunteers.  Another one decided to let volunteers and clients recruit volunteers. They created videos and messaging with volunteers and clients to speaking about the impact of the program. Their campaign was a success and also used other tactics like local media.

We also spent a great deal of time talking about A/B testing. I first read about using this method for volunteer recruitment from an article by Erin R. Spink in the e-volunteerism Journal, which is unfortunately only available to subscribers. Basically, the method calls for taking aspects  of your recruitment ad such as a headline, colours, image or messaging and testing two different versions to see which one gets the most engagement. Here’s an example:

Which one are you more likely to click on?

These are two ads with the same image and a call to action, but using different messaging. This fake organization might use both these ads on their social media and track the number of clicks and engagements each of them get.  Social platforms like Twitter and Facebook have built in tools for you to track the engagement on your posts. You can also do this with physical advertising if you keep track of where you put certain ads and ask those who contact you how they heard about the opportunity. This means that you’ll be able to identify what’s working and what isn’t. Many organizations use the same ads, messaging and avenues for recruiting volunteers without ever analyzing whether it’s working. Using a simple A/B test might help refine your recruitment.

As our time came to end, Think Tankers mused on different questions for all of us to consider. How do we work collectively to educate the public on the various volunteer requirements? How can we be adaptive to meet the changing needs of volunteers? Questions that couldn’t be tackled then but… maybe at a future Think Tank!

To read past Think Tank recaps and catch up with what Edmonton volunteer managers are thinking, click here.

Want to join fellow volunteer managers at our next Think Tank on March 16th? RSVP Here!

Resources & Quick Tips:

  • If you’re getting a lot of volunteers that don’t quite fit your agency, why not recommend them to other local organizations?
  • Make it easier for people to find you and apply:
    • Develop an online application
    • Unique advertising: printing coasters and partnering with local eateries

Turn your organization into a Sustainability Champion

Non-profit organizations create positive social, environmental and economic impacts for their communities. At the same time, they are expected to be role models whose own staff and operations “walk the talk” in terms of sustainability. This can be a challenge given limited time, support and funding.

Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations and The Natural Step Canada are excited to offer the 2018 NGO Sustainability Champions Workshop Series to help NGOs address this need with two key outcomes:

  • Build the capacity of staff to develop and deliver a strategic plan by applying a world-class planning framework based on the award-winning approached pioneered by The Natural Step
  • Develop a sustainability-inspired strategic plan to improve sustainability performance.

The workshop is designed for staff from Edmonton-based NGOs who:

  • Are keen to build their own knowledge and skills on strategic and sustainability planning
  • Want to improve their organization’s sustainability performance
  • Enjoy connecting with peers to engage in dialogue and shared learning

How it plays out:

  1. Workshop #1 (April 4-5) is a two-day workshop with the main objectives of building capacity on strategic sustainability planning based on experiential learning, dialogue education and adult learning principles.
  2. After Workshop #1, participants will be expected to apply the lessons to engage their peers to develop a draft strategic plan. Participants will be supported by one online webinar and a one-hour coaching call from seasoned practitioners. Attendance is required for both.
  3. Workshop #2 (June 20) is a one-day workshop that will focus on sharing learning and refining the draft plan with the input of peers, and building a forum for ongoing collaboration.

Participants are provided a guidebook that they will apply to their organizations, as well as an eLearning course that they will complete before the first workshop.


There is no registration fee for the workshops, however, to maximize the learning experience there are three criteria for participation:

  1. A $1,000 commitment fee that is fully refundable based on full participation (i.e. workshops, webinar and coaching call), in addition to submitting a draft plan at the end.
  2. Two participants from each organization to participate in the workshop series.
  3. A written letter of support for their participation from the Executive Director.

The workshop will have limited spots. Coffee and lunch are provided.

How do I register?

First, if you have questions about the workshops, please write to either Pong Leung ( or Matt Mayer ( who will answer them.

Once you are ready to register, please write to Colleen Martin ( who will provide you with further instructions regarding the refundable deposit, letter of support and other information required to complete the two registrations.


Call for Speakers & Panelists: Fail Safe 2018

What can your experiences tell the non-profit community about overcoming failure?

At Fail Safe 2018, we’re connecting leaders from non-profits, businesses, and the public sector for open and honest discussions about embracing and overcoming failure. Fail Safe 2018 has two basic themes:

  • exploring the psychology of failure and how it manifests in organizations
  • how failure is linked to innovation, growth, and capacity building

Several opportunities are available to lead conversations on topics related to these themes, including keynotes, panel discussions, and short PechaKucha-style presentations at the opening reception.

This conference will be a safe space for leaders to share their stories and perspectives. Speakers will have opportunities to work with Ashley Good, CEO & Founder of Fail Forward to create thoughtful and inspiring presentations that emphasize the opportunities for growth and innovation in their stories of failure.

Interested in speaking at Fail Safe? Submit a proposal, detailing your topic, background, and the type of presentation (keynote, panel discussion, short Pecha Kucha presentation) to by Friday, February 2, 2018.


Failure is positive. It’s essential for building capacity and spurring experimentation and iterative growth in non-profits, governments, and private organizations alike. Fail Safe is a conference that creates safe and supportive spaces to discuss various aspects of failure—how it happens, how to learn from it, and how to use it to create success for your organization.


Delegates will be welcomed at a fun and casual Thursday evening reception, featuring PechaKucha-style short presentations delivered by delegates sharing their own stories of adversity. Friday features two informative keynote presentations and various breakout sessions in non-traditional formats, with opportunities to network and share insight throughout. For more information on the PechaKucha presenting style, visit


Delegates will leave Fail Safe informed about how failure can manifest in organizations and confident in utilizing failure for good. At Fail Safe, participants will learn how to become comfortable with the uncomfortable, to embrace and overcome failure, and to build strategic and resilient organizations.


Moving to Action: A Year in Review

In 2017, Moving to Action took several successful steps toward its goal of enhancing effectiveness and collaboration across Edmonton’s human services sector.

What began as a discussion in 2012 on how to foster collaboration and collective action in human services organizations has evolved into an ongoing and developing series of initiatives that support strong leadership, stimulate innovation, and strengthen strategic alignment throughout the community.

Here’s a rundown of what Moving to Action collaborators achieved in 2017:

  • A series of Leadership Labs facilitated by Think Jar Collective brought diverse representatives from Edmonton’s nonprofit and voluntary sector together to meet, discuss, explore, and experiment with ideas around sector leadership: where it is, where it is heading, and how it may be best guided. The Labs yielded three reports:
  • A project documenting the History of Edmonton’s Human Services Sector and its significant contributions to a growing and emerging city.
  • The launch of C5 Story, documenting the story of a collaborative that contains five agencies — Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, Boyle Street Community Services, Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, Norwood Child & Family Resource Centre, and the Terra Centre for Teen Parents — who collectively support, empower, and give voice to more the 30,000 Edmontonians.

We invite you to dive into any of these links to catch up on the ongoing work to strengthen human services organizations citywide. We’re excited to see how the many collaborators in Moving to Action can build on the foundation in 2018 and beyond.


Refresh Your Organization’s Bylaws with ECVO’s Bylaws Lab

Is your organization looking to update its bylaws to stay current in an evolving non-profit sector?

In Spring 2018, the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations is partnering with the Government of Alberta and the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission to deliver an interactive Bylaws Lab with non-profits registered under the Societies Act. Representatives from Edmonton non-profits will gather on four separate occasions to work through updating their bylaws while learning the best practices of doing so. The Lab dates are to be determined, but will likely be held in late-Q1 2018.

If you are interested in participating, please leave your information below and the ECVO will follow up with more details in the new year.

Create your own user feedback survey


Join the ECVO Board

If you believe in the value of Edmonton’s nonprofit sector and you would like be part of ECVO’s change agenda, we have a chair for you at our boardroom table.

ECVO is looking for energetic, passionate people to:

  • Influence policy decisions impacting the nonprofit sector
  • Build community networks
  • Act as change catalysts in the community
  • Serve as ambassadors for the nonprofit sector.

Our expectations are simple. Board members must:

  • Hold an ECVO membership.
  • Commit to a three-year term with an option to renew for one additional term.
  • Adhere to ECVO’s Code of Conduct for board members.
  • Attend five board meetings: June, September, November, January, March and the Annual General Meeting in May.
  • Actively participate in strategic planning and committee work.
  • Represent ECVO occasionally at external events.
  • Publicly support the work of the sector in the community.

Interested? Submit your Expression of Interest with an attached CV to by Wednesday, November 22, 2017.

Additional Information


The ECVO Leadership Series presents: High Spirits

Executive Directors, you’re invited to a night of insightful conversation, beer and delicious appetizers. This High Spirits event is your chance to connect and chat with fellow Executive Directors and learn about their experience in the nonprofit sector.

The theme of this High Spirits event is combatting burnout in non-profit leaders.

Research finds many nonprofit staff are at risk of burnout, given the tendency towards greater emotional involvement in their work and the feeling that what they do has direct impact on others.

Join Ione Challborn (CMHA Edmonton Region) & Kim Knull ( Momentum Walk in Counselling) as they discuss this important topic.

Don’t miss this opportunity to network with your peer and pick their brains on the issues Executive Directors face in the nonprofit sector.

High Spirits is an nonprofit Executive Director/CEO only event. We encourage organizations to share this invitation with other Executive Directors/CEOs in your network.

This event is sponsored by the ECVO Moving to Action program as a part of building leadership capacity.

This event is highly subsidised by ECVO. Please let us know 3 days in advance if you are unable to make it after registering.



The Benefits of being a Partnership Broker, with Executive Director Debbie Clark

To solve complex societal issues, more organizations are turning to collaboration, especially cross-sector partnerships. While receiving input from many different sectors is valuable, it can be difficult to adjudicate every opinion and personality that enters the partnership. The worst case scenario is making the effort to bring these voices together, but results falling short of expectations.

Because effective partnerships are both highly regarded and difficult to manage, the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations along with JS Daw & Associates and the International Partnership Brokers Association are hosting Partnership Brokers Training – a 4-day course that will teach you the knowledge and skills required for maintaining successful partnerships.

To understand the benefit of Partnership Brokers Training, ECVO spoke to Debbie Clark, executive director of Edmonton Community Adult Learning Association (ECALA), who took part in the course in October 2015. ECALA helps individuals access non-credit educational opportunities throughout the city and provides programs and services as well as grants and funding.

ECVO:  As an Executive Director, how do you use partnerships and collaboration in your workplace?

Debbie Clark: As a granting counsel, we work with many different agencies in the city and we see our role as building partnerships and strengthening the sector. We also deliver the best programs we can for our learners. This training is appropriate because it allows us to be in a partnership broker role, which is different from what I’ve done in the past. It’s looking at partnerships in a different way.

ECVO: How have partnerships changed throughout your time in the nonprofit industry?

Clark: The whole concept of partnership and collaboration has evolved and changed. The concept of being a partnership broker allows us now to take a hard stance when you need to move a partnership forward. This course really affirmed some emerging theory that has come out worldwide. The opportunity to experience this in Edmonton is invaluable.

ECVO: What was your experience taking Partnership Brokers Training?

Clark: It was a very full week! There were lots of different activities going on and there was something there for every style of learner. You meet people and make lots of connections you can use later in your work. There were people representing all different sectors.

Some of the information was affirming to what I was currently doing and some of it blew what I thought I knew out of the water.

Definitely a training that ranks high with me compared to some of the courses in my MBA research.

ECVO: What was your largest takeaway from the training?

Clark: The ability to work through so many case studies that were very realistic to our world here in Edmonton as nonprofits. The way they delivered the program, I’m often reflecting and encouraging conversation around the issues we run into here based on what I learned at training. The room was very rich in experience and knowledge, even from participants. I often reflect on those case studies and what I learned from training.

ECVO: Who do you recommend enroll in Partnership Brokers Training?

Clark: If you’re on the fence, or if you’re already partnering, you will still learn so much about how to broker partnerships in this program. The work will pile up, but it is well worth the time to be able to take this program and I can’t wait to take the second phase and get accredited. This is new and emerging theory and we are very fortunate to have this is Edmonton. This a great chance for anyone wanting to build more partnerships, getting into it for the first time, get promoted within an organization or build professional development. You can also use the training for your own personal development goals as an individual and a leader.


HR in a Box Returns!

HR in a Box Returns this Fall! ECVO, in partnership with the Talent Pool, is delighted to bring back last fall’s HR in a Box series. Series 2 will reinforce the foundations shared in 2016 but with a problem solving focus. Case studies will be at the core of the 2017 sessions to help you implement practical solutions in your everyday HR practices.

Workforce Planning

Retention Strategies

Strategic Performance Management

HR in a Box will share best practices and innovative solutions designed to help organizations of all sizes build knowledge and capacity. A new roster of HR experts, the usage of a video reference library, and highly interactive problem solving discussions, will enable you to implement solutions rapidly and effectively.

The series will include this cycle, three dynamic sessions. Register for one session or the entire series.

HR in a Box workshop #1 – September 26, 2017 –  Workforce Planning: Aligning Business & People with Marcie Kiziak, CPHR &  Ada Tai, CPHR

In our rapidly shifting workplace, strategic workforce planning has become the buzzword in HR circles. Join us for the kick off September session of HR in a Box series to learn from HR experts how to deepen your understanding of what constitutes effective workforce planning strategy and how to implement it into your organization.

This workshop will address:

  • How to align organization goals and the right people in the right places at the right time to deliver on those goals.
  • Strategies that deliver the right mix of attraction, selection, recruitment, and onboarding that result in an agile workforce to meet the demands of our labour market.

HR in a Box workshop #2 – October 24, 2017 – Retention Strategies: One size never fits all with Claudia Verburgh, CPHR & Doug Alloway, CPHR

Retention is the major concern of organizations of all sizes and in every economic sector. In order to retain top performers, effective strategies must take into consideration the impact of future changes, new required skills sets, create appropriate career ladders, explore new succession planning methodologies.

This workshop will address:

  • Designing innovative strategies to maintain a healthy employer-employee relationship that delivers retention.
  • Efficient employee engagement strategies; what will employee engagement look like in an age where “digital employees” will co-exist with a traditional workforce?
  • The evolving critical role of succession planning particularly with the incoming impact of technological advances that will reconfigure the way we all work

HR in a Box workshop  #3 – November 28, 2017 – Strategic Performance Management: Always an Integrated Process with Julianna Cantwell, CPHR & Barb Read  

Providing effective feedback has become a dynamic and ongoing process. Employees want to see the link between what they do and the organizational goals. As new skills emerge due to new ways we all work, organizations need to revisit their performance management existing processes.

This workshop will address:

  • What is Performance Management and how to integrate it into your organization?
  • What is the manager’s role and employee’s role?
  • Best Practices: before, during and after a review meeting
  • Steps of progressive discipline
  • Determine if you are paying your employees competitively in the market
  • Discover if you have internal pay equity issues
  • Identify employee benefits that will attract, retain, and engage the right staff to your organization

Earn CPD credits.

This series is sponsored by the Government of Alberta, CHRP Alberta, and ASET.


Principles, Not Playbooks Drive Partnerships

By Jocelyne Daw 

Multi-stakeholder partnerships are more and more seen as a key way to tackle the complicated and complex challenges we face as a society. I am a great champion of the power of partnership and believe that they can really make a significant difference. However, too many collaborations jump head first into the partnership without considering the complicated mechanics of ‘how’ to successfully partner.

The most effective partnerships are co-created and co-managed. They are fit for purpose solutions to a pressing issue in a specific context with a particular group of people and organizations – with all their respective capacities and imperfections.

While this co-creation approach is foundational, every partnership and context is different. What works in one circumstance will not necessarily work in another. The fact remains that there is no playbook or instructional guide that can ensure partnership success.

So what can you do to help give your partnerships the best chances at success? I believe that the following five ‘principles’ are the key to successful partner relationships. Principles can ensure that the challenges we face in partnerships are addressed through agreed upon values and core beliefs.

If partners live by core principles and use them as touchstones to guide and drive their partnership work, the chances of success are strong. So what are the five core principles of partnership?

Principles must address the underlying challenges of partnership and deliver positive outcomes. The Partnership Brokers Association through the direct experience of trainers and trainees, have identified five common challenges in the partnering experience. In turn, five principles have been identified as antidotes, critical ways to address these challenges and ensure outcomes that give partnerships the best chance of success.


These five principles are applicable to all partnerships. When partners commit to and hold each other accountable for these principles there is a strong chance that their partnership efforts will be rewarded with unexpected and imaginative responses and ideally, some truly breakthrough results.

A successful partnership requires highly skilled individuals that have the tools and skills to facilitate cross-sectorial collaborations.  If you’d like to strengthen your skills, register now for Partnership Brokers Training. This four-day course will provide you with the insights and tools you need to deliver positive partnering results. BONUS – the Canada-Alberta Job Grant can help cover the cost!  Contact Gemma Dunn to find out more.