Are you an ECVO Member? We have created an ECVO membership button for you to display on your website! ECVO members are a collective voice working together to empower, strengthen and sustain the regions nonprofit sector. By placing this button on your website, you’re proudly showcasing your membership to the largest nonprofit network in Edmonton.
If you’re not a member yet, sign up now! Not only will you be a part of this nonprofit collective, there are a number of perks and discounts that come with joining, too.
In some ways, working in the nonprofit is similar to working for a typical business: they maintain similar departments like administration, human resources and management and employees are expected to have the same skill sets as they would working for-profit. The major difference of course, is the bottom line. A nonprofit’s goal is to further their mission while a typical business aims to make a profit.
If you’re thinking about dipping your toes in the nonprofit sector, here are a few things you should know before you apply.
- Increased job satisfaction: Those who choose to work in the nonprofit sector are typically passionate about helping others and bettering their community. If you’re hired at an organization that’s mission you are genuinely interested in, you’ll experience immense job satisfaction when you see your hard work come to fruition. For instance, if you’ve had a hand in creating an initiative to decrease homelessness in your city, you’ll be gratified to see those numbers reduce.
- Your skills are transferable: Before you dismiss a nonprofit position because you don’t have experience in the sector, understand that past work or university experience is valuable to the sector. While it is useful to be knowledgeable of the sector and acquire special skills such as fundraising, capacity-building and grant-writing, nonprofit organizations operate similar to businesses and therefore, need individuals with similar skills. Do you have experience in a management or leadership role? Apply to be a volunteer manager. Are you an English or Communication major interested in working for a nonprofit? Organizations need people like you to further their message and reach their target audience.
- Relationships are vital: This is standard in any organization, but in the nonprofit sector, relationships are crucial to move your organization’s mission forward. Nonprofits cannot operate sufficiently if they are sequestered into their own bubble. Prepare to become familiar with those working towards similar goals, meet workers in your field you can bounce ideas off of and maintain relationships through networking events. It makes all the difference when you need help spreading your message!
- Be wary of burnout: Because nonprofit employees are so passionate about the cause they are working for, they often don’t know when to slow down. Employees can only work at full capacity if they’re well rested and anxiety-free. Take your vacation days, don’t come in when you’re unwell and ensure you can manage your workload.
- You won’t get rich: Unfortunately, this is the bad news. Nonprofits work with minimal budgets and you won’t be striking gold when working for an organization where profit isn’t the end-all-be-all. And, many nonprofits are funded by external sources (different levels of government, larger organizations, etc.) and this funding can fluctuate. Nonprofits are not averse to job and financial insecurity
So you want to volunteer. That’s great! Have you decided how to launch yourself into the unknown world of volunteerism? Here are some tips to get you started.
Step 1: Self-reflect:
Take the time to answer these three easy questions.
- What are you passionate about?
- What skills do you have?
- How much time do you have to commit?
After reflecting, your passion for animals and photography could lead you to volunteering as an event photographer for a local animal organization. Alternatively, your reflection could lead you to discover other skills you want develop and different causes to explore. Self-reflection is a great way to frame your volunteer search and help lead you in the right direction.
Step 2: Do some research:
Now that you know what might interest you, its time to find an organization that matches. You can skip to step three if you already know were you want to volunteer. If you’re not sure, search volunteer matching sites such as govolunteer.ca or do an internet search of the volunteer area you want to pursue in your city. There are many organizations looking for volunteers so you could be overwhelmed with the results. However taking the time to search “animal organizations Edmonton” could very well lead you to discovering an organization you did not know existed.
Step 3: Ask questions
Once you’ve found an organization you like, contact them about their available volunteer opportunities. Be sure to ask questions to understand what the volunteer role entails. Here are some basic questions to frame your conversation with the organization’s volunteer coordinator.
- What activities will you be performing?
- Is there an interview process?
- What is the length of commitment to this organization?
- What is the schedule you will be working?
- What flexibility exists around doctor’s appointments, emergencies etc.?
- Is there any additional training or an orientation session that you have to attend?
Just like any new commitment, choosing the right volunteer opportunity doesn’t happen by accident. Be patient. Know what you want to give and what you want to get from the experience. Your first volunteer experience may be the beginning of a wonderful adventure.
For those who attended our Annual General Meeting on May 10, you will recall the lessons Beth Kanter taught us on how to remain calm and collected while working at a nonprofit organization. The nonprofit expert and co-author of The Healthy Happy Nonprofit, discussed how to prevent burnout and maintain optimal job performance.
So, why are those working in the nonprofit industry susceptible to burnout? Kanter says “sacrificing one’s health in service of a cause is a common narrative in the nonprofit sector.” People who work in the nonprofit sector are (most likely) not in it for the money. They are passion-fueled individuals who believe in the cause they are working for. Kanter says this can be a double-edged sword as nonprofit workers can be “so driven, they don’t stop to refuel or smell the proverbial roses or even notice they are experiencing symptoms of burnout.” Those working in the nonprofit sector view self-care as an indulgence when really, it is a necessity.
If you’re a nonprofit worker who hasn’t given self-care a second thought, it’s time you start. When is the last time you took a vacation or a personal day? If you can’t remember, you should assess yourself for common symptoms of burnout:
In the Healthy Happy Nonprofit Kanter outlines common symptoms of burnout in nonprofit workers:
- Increased illness
- Loss of enjoyment
- Feelings of apathy/hopelessness
- Lack of productivity or poor performance
If this sounds like you, don’t panic. It happens more often than we think. A number of factors cause burnout; some can be personal while others are directly related to working in the nonprofit industry. For instance, the “Nonprofit Starvation Cycle” which Kanter explains is a consequence of inadequate infrastructure that leave nonprofits barely functioning as organizations. “The vicious cycle begins with funders’ unrealistic expectations about how much money running a nonprofit takes and results in nonprofits misrepresenting their costs while skimping on vital systems.” And for many nonprofits, that puts personal health and wellness low on the priority list. Then, there is “Funder-Driven Stress” which is a lack of foundation funding for nonprofit talent infrastructure. If a nonprofit’s foundation is weak, it makes it difficult to provide support and meet the needs of the communities that organization serves. Other causes of burnout in the nonprofit sector include: lack of leadership development, overwork, overuse of technology and information overload.
Understanding that nonprofit workers are susceptible to burnout and stress is important when evaluating your own personal wellness. If you, or your organization as a whole, operates as a never-ending machine, it’s time to take a moment and reflect on your health, because in reality, if you are healthier as an organization and an individual you will be happier and more productive in the workplace.
It’s difficult to sum up a year’s worth of work in a single brochure. Last year, the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations spearheaded a number of projects and initiatives to strengthen the nonprofit sector in our city. The 2016 annual report showcases our past work such as the Moving to Action initiative, board-to-board networking and capacity building workshops, while focusing on what lays ahead for the nonprofit sector in Edmonton. Within the annual report there are four key themes:
- Leading: Connecting boards and asking the question, how can the nonprofit sector work together province-wide and nationally on issues of importance?
- Capacity Building: Tackling evaluation and funding, providing resources and skill building opportunities
- Giving Voice: Speaking on behalf of Edmonton nonprofit organizations, researching issues that impact the sector, sharing opportunities for individuals and organizations
- Volunteerism: Volunteer screening, recruitment and collecting and sharing volunteer stories
At the Annual General Meeting, ECVO Russ Dahms explained in short, why our organization focuses on these key points: “It’s really about a strong vibrant community that is strengthened by an effective voluntary sector working with government and business.”
As for what’s ahead, ECVO recognizes that complacency is impractical in a rapidly shifting society; To be sustainable, organizations must adapt to these shifts. “When you think about the your organization and the work that you do, think down the road and ask the question what will sustainability look like?” asks Dahms. “It’s far better to create your path forward than to sit and stay static, old tight to the status quo.”
See the 2016 annual report.