Category Archives: News

Breaking Volunteer Barriers: A Recap of November’s Think Tank Conversation

by Sharon Ruyter

Think Tank Conversations are bi-monthly communities of practice for those who manage, coordinate and engage volunteers in Edmonton. The space we’ve created is one of discussion, networking and working through the trends, challenges and success volunteer engagement specialists face in their roles. The Fall 2018 lineup of Think Tank Conversations are about Risk. First up was the September Think Tank where we tackled the question of risk and what it actually means in our organizations. The final Think Tank of 2018 explored risk through the lens of inclusion. Read on for what Think Tankers had to say…

When it comes to inclusion in our programs, we all want a diverse volunteer base that affirms and successfully engages eager people who want to give back. Often, we don’t accept certain volunteers based on perceived or assumed risks they pose for volunteer programs.

Common responses and justifications include:

“We don’t have the systems in place to support a volunteer with a disability”

“What I something goes wrong and we don’t know how to respond?”

“What if someone says something wrong and it negatively affects client or our organization?”

There are endless “what ifs” and those concerns are certainly real. Ideally, we should be taking extra time and consideration to make sure our programs support individuals with specific needs. However, we often let the potential risks stop us from engaging volunteers that would diversify our organizations and provide a meaningful experience for a volunteer. We all benefit from diversity, so how can we get to a place where we’re comfortable accepting volunteers with various needs?

The number one inquiry we at ECVO received in 2018 was about how to include volunteers with disabilities. So for the November Think Tank we tackled inclusion for people with disabilities but also used that as a jumping point to talk about inclusion and risk in general.

First, Think Tankers rated their organization’s capacity to support people with disabilities in volunteer roles with 1 being zero capacity and 5 being high capacity. Most marked themselves between a 3 and a 5 – wonderful! But, still room for learning and improvement.

Think Tankers discussed the fears, concerns and risks in engaging volunteers with special needs. The top concerns were:

  • Our organization and/or volunteer team doesn’t have the capacity to reimagine different roles for volunteers. It’s difficult to customize some tasks.
  • We are unsure how to work with support workers. How involved should they be in the volunteer role?
  • We are unsure how to educate other volunteers and staff about volunteers needs.

We acknowledged that each person is unique and there is a wide range of disabilities that require different supports.

The discussion also explored other types of volunteers, from newcomers with English as a second language to individuals in the LGBTQ+ community. One Think Tanker said it is important for volunteers to be representative of the population you serve. This should be reflected not only in your volunteer base but in the materials and systems you have in place.

What language are you using in your applications and resources? Do your promotional materials feature people from diverse backgrounds? How do you know where the gaps are in your organization?

“Awareness” was the key word the emerged from this discussion. It’s up to each volunteer engagement specialist to increase our awareness, be open minded and learn about how to be inclusive. One Think Tanker shared that her organization has a diversity committee made up of various members in the community (you could also have one of diverse volunteers) that help give feedback on how their organization can decrease barriers for entry into their volunteer program. What a great idea!

We were lucky to have incredible resources on hand for this Think Tank in the form of Lynn Wade, a Community Connector at Winnifred Stewart Association. In her role, Lynn helps match and connect people with disabilities to volunteer opportunities in the community. She shared tips and advice for those who want to included people with disabilities in their organization.

My biggest takeaway: You don’t have to wait to incorporate practices and policies for when you get a diverse volunteer in your organization. Include education in your orientation and training of prospective volunteers and build your organizations capacity from the start!

To Learn More…

This was a big topic with rich conversation and there are many resources to aid organizations:

As always, sometimes the biggest resource is the people around you. Have a question? Give us a call or connect with an organization that works with the population you’re trying to engage. Connect and collaborate!

Curious what’s been on the minds of Edmonton’s volunteer managers lately? Read more of our recent Think Tank recaps:

Volunteer Recruitment

Volunteer Recognition

Volunteer Retention


Risky Business: A Recap of September’s Think Tank Conversation

by Sharon Ruyter

Think Tank Conversations are bi-monthly communities of practice for those who manage, coordinate and engage volunteers in Edmonton. The space we’ve created is one of discussion, networking and working through the trends, challenges and success volunteer engagement specialists face in their roles. The Fall 2018 lineup of Think Tank Conversations are about Risk. First up was the September Think Tank where we tackled the question of risk and what it actually means in our organizations. Read on for what Think Tankers had to say. 

Risk looks different in every organization and the busy grind means we don’t take the time to actually examine all of its elements. The Volunteering Screening Handbook by Volunteer Canada has some definitions to help organizations think about risks. Think Tankers examined a few of those and explored what those definitions actually mean in practice. What are the implications of this definition for organizations?

Duty of care is a volunteer manager’s obligation to take reasonable measures to care for and protect staff, clients, participants, volunteers and the organization to an appropriate standard. The appropriate standard of care is dependent on the situation and risks. It is a legal principle that is designated to protect vulnerable individuals from manipulation or harm.”

Sounds intimidating, right?

Well for our Think Tankers it meant “always being up to date with best practices surrounding volunteering.” They felt duty of care sets the need for policies, screening practices and constant communication during a volunteer’s service to garner feedback. For one Think Tanker it meant continued training — orientation should not end on the day they start volunteering, instead it should be a constant practice that keeps communication channels open between volunteers and your organization.

How about this one:

Standard of care refers to the degree or level of service, attention, care and protection that one person owes another. Individuals and organizations are not legally required to absolutely guarantee that no harm will come to their client, their staff or the community at large. However, “the standard of care expected in individual circumstances is that of a reasonable or prudent person.”

For this one, they brainstormed actual processes and tools. In order to provide a good standard of care volunteers need to be aware of the risks. Do you know what the risks are for each volunteer role? Hazard or risk assessments are a good way to understand each volunteer role. Volunteer engagement should be reciprocal and two way- find out what volunteers know, explore ways to help them understand what you see as risks and what they see as a risk. Your volunteers might have boundaries and needs you haven’t considered. Volunteer Alberta has a great risk assessment matrix. We blew this up on a whiteboard and Think Tankers marked where their roles fell on the matrix:

There were a few “ahas” from the group. Some realized their roles actually had more risk than they thought and it was time to relook at policies and guidelines.

The truth is, we can’t stop bad things from happening in our organizations. This was a key takeaway from our meeting. The only solution to risk is doing everything to be prepared. Have a plan, do your assessments and, most importantly, keep communication lines open between yourself and volunteers. Here are some other key takeaways:

  • Risk is unavoidable
  • Professional helping relationships- that should be the foundation of volunteer’s interactions with your organization
  • Be reasonable
  • Take the time to craft a risk strategy/plan
  • Know what risk is associated with each role
  • Have a three-prong risk approach: volunteers, staff, client — they’re all involved.

Helpful Resources:

Curious what’s been on the minds of Edmonton’s volunteer managers lately? Read more of our recent Think Tank recaps:

Volunteer Recruitment

Volunteer Recognition

Volunteer Retention


Calling all ECVO members to the 2018 Annual General Meeting

We invite Edmonton’s non-profit and charitable community to join us for ECVO’s Annual General Meeting and discussions on the past and future of our non-profit landscape.


2:30 pm – AGM Business Meeting

3:00 pm – Guest speakers Graham Thomson & Brookes Merritt share their perspectives on Alberta’s political landscape

4:00 pm – Networking Reception


Graham Thomson  writes on Alberta politics for the Edmonton Journal. He began his journalism career as a reporter with CBC Radio in 1984 before switching to CBC Television in 1989. In the past 20 years he has covered stories across Canada and written investigative pieces from the United States, Mexico and Russia — and spent two ‘tours’ with Canadian troops in Afghanistan. In 2013, he travelled to the Middle East to report on the Syrian refugee crisis. Among his awards are a National Newspaper Award for his reporting and a nomination for his columns.

Brookes Merritt has more than 15 years’ experience in Alberta’s political, public service, and industry spheres, including work with private and non-profit organizations. Brookes is a former print journalist, director of communications for Alberta’s NDP, and social media and communications consultant for the Government of Alberta. At IMPACT, Brookes draws on experience in media, issues and reputation management, crisis communication, public relations, policy development and political advocacy to help clients achieve goals. He is also editor of the IMPACT Report, a weekly newsletter reporting and analyzing Alberta politics. Brookes lives in Edmonton with his wife and fellow journalist Eliza Barlow, and their three children.

The Business Meeting

At the business meeting, ECVO members will hear reports from ECVO’s 2017 year and vote to elect new directors.

Can’t make it to the meeting? No worries! You can still cast a vote with a proxy form. Forms can be downloaded here.

At the business meeting, ECVO members will hear reports from ECVO’s 2017 year and vote to elect new directors.


Partnership Brokers Training, Level 2

Advanced Skills in Partnership Brokering

Designed to build further confidence and competence in managing partnership brokering interventions.

This 5-day course takes Partnership Brokers Training to the next level. It is designed to build further confidence and competence in managing a range of partnership brokering interventions to promote really effective and potentially transformational partnering.

Such interventions can include:

  • Building deeper understanding between partners
  • Helping partners address their partnering anxieties
  • Facilitating open (sometimes difficult) conversations
  • Strengthening individual and organisational partnering capacity as well as
  • Taking on more formal coaching, mentoring and / or training roles*

The course involves:

  • Exploring a number of theoretical frameworks that underpin partnership brokering approaches
  • Framing interventions in the context of an action learning model
  • Considering some key issues in managing group processes
  • Deepening skills as facilitator-trainers and capacity to co-facilitate and
  • Working on themselves in terms of being ‘alert, prepared and ready’ to meet a range of partnership brokering challenges

Please note that Partnership Brokers Level 2 is open only to those who have completed Level 1.

View the brochure

Apply Now (download the DOCX form)

Note: Partnership Brokers Level 2 is eligible for the Canada-Alberta Job Grant.

Click here to download the CAJG Application form, partially filled to expedite the process! (Downloads as a PDF and must be opened with Adobe Reader)

Contact us if you have any questions.


2018 NGO Sustainability Champions Workshop Series


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 these needs 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


  1. Workshop #1 (May 16-17) 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 (September 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?

Register here via Eventbrite

Once you have registered, you will be contacted by Colleen Martin ( who will provide you with further instructions regarding the refundable deposit, letter of support and other information required to complete the registration.


Call for Speakers & Panelists: Fail Safe 2018

Note: this iteration of Fail Safe has been postponed to Fall 2018. Stay tuned for more information!

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.


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.



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.