A Young Nonprofit Professional’s Guide to Vancouver (2016 updated)

New to the Vancouver nonprofit scene? Young in age or young in career? Here are some places for you to get yourself started.

Careers

Volunteering

Learn and network in person

Learn online

Formal learning

Blogs and news

Mentorship Programs

Upcoming events: Volunteers and technology; what the next gen wants from nonprofits

I’ll be speaking in three different places next month – hope to see you at one or more!

NET TUESDAY – MANAGING VOLUNTEERS WITH SOFTWARE AND SOFT SKILLS

Complete details here >

Tuesday, July 5 | 5:30pm | 306 Abbott St (upstairs) | FREE
Join me and Elijah van der Giessen (of Net Tuesday and David Suzuki Foundation) as we share strategies about the use of technology for effective volunteer engagement.


NEXT GENERATION ENGAGEMENT STRATEGIES

Complete details here >

This two-part series will introduce you to data and research on what the next generation wants from nonprofits, help you identify how your organization is currently performing, and encourage next steps you can take to achieve your goals. Sample topics include volunteer opportunities, new donors, staff retention, and social media.

No more guessing: Data and research on what the next generation wants from nonprofits

Wed, July 13 | 8:45am – 10:30am | 1183 Melville St.
$40, including light breakfast

Future engagement: Assessing your current practices and taking the next step to effective next generation engagement

Wed, July 27 | 8:45am – 10:30am | 1183 Melville St.
$40, including light breakfast

Upcoming events: Nonprofit leader development, Social Innovation/Finance, Getting the media’s attention

Three great learning events are coming up in downtown Vancouver — I invite you to join me at any or all.

Next Leaders Network

NLN Curriculum Development: Part 2
Hosted by Vantage Point
Monday, January 10th, 2011
5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
FREE

Part two of a participatory meeting that will guide the Next Leaders Network future curriculum.  You will also have the chance to meet and network with others in the not-for-profit sector through collaborative activities. (If you’re not a member, look into it!)

Social Finance

Hosted by Ashoka Canada, SIG, Plan Institute, and Causeway
Monday, January 10th, 2011
5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
Pay What You Can

Learn more about the world of social innovation and social finance from 4 distinguished leaders in the social innovation arena. Meet and network with other passionate and driven individuals involved in the social innovation space.

SFU Continuing Studies Open House 2011

How to Get the Media’s Attention
Hosted by SFU Continuing Studies
Saturday, February 5, 2011
1:00pm – 2:30pm, 2011
FREE

Even the smallest amount of media coverage can be a huge advantage. But getting the attention of busy journalists and editors isn’t easy. Discover what it really takes to get mentioned in print, broadcast, or online.

Your small Canadian nonprofit can’t afford professional development?

I’m a firm believer in on-the-job learning, including professional development. I believe it can not only strengthen an individual’s effectiveness in a job, but also can positively impact employee engagement and retention.

But conferences, workshops, courses and other professional development opportunities can be expensive for nonprofits on tight budgets. This is where the Leadership Grants Program from PricewaterhouseCoopers comes in.

Deadline for applications: October 29, 2010

The PricewaterhouseCoopers Canada Foundation Leadership Grants Program provides funding for professional development opportunities for staff and volunteers who work at small- to medium-registered charitable organizations in Canada.

The grants are available to both staff and volunteers, individuals or groups.

The application process requires some thinking as well as endorsement from highers-up in your organization, so be sure to take time to prepare your submission.

Nonprofit career tips by and for UBC students

Along with my colleague Roselynn Verwoord, fellow Next Leaders Network steering committee member, I presented on the topic of careers in the nonprofit sector at the latest University of British Columbia Student Leadership Conference (SLC 2010). As a UBC alum, I’ve presented at this conference before – I really enjoy meeting keen students interested in career development and the nonprofit sector.

The top tip I enjoy sharing with students is how a degree does not define you. You do. I demonstrate this by sharing my main post-university jobs (high school teacher, nonprofit gala event manager, and promoter of student engaged citizenship and community-university engagement) and asking what they think my undergrad degree was in. Chemistry and Biology are generally not the first guesses.

The workshop participants brainstormed different tips and resources related to finding employment in the nonprofit sector. They came up with a pile of suggestions in a really tight period of time – many that were new to me. Learning happens in every direction.

Looking for Jobs and Volunteer Roles

Networking and Mentorship

  • Arts Tri-Mentoring/Engineering Tri-Mentoring
  • Joining Clubs/Student Associations (e.g Emerging Leaders Group)
  • Sharing experience with other volunteers
  • Me Inc. – Commerce Conference (external networking)
  • Parents and family friends
  • Volunteer in residence
  • Professors
  • Friends of friends
  • Mailing Lists/talking to people at fairs
  • Make use of relevant LinkedIn groups (Non Profit & Philanthropic Job Board) and Twitter contacts (via Andrea)
  • Research ideal potential employers and conduct an informational interview (check out a WLU informational interviewing booklet) (via Andrea)

Resumes, Cover Letter and Interviews

  • Research company before interview
  • Career services (for help)
  • Hook for cover letter – be interesting
  • Be specific to job description
  • Be unique, passionate (to certain extent)
  • Interviews –
  • be down to earth
  • practice potential q’s
  • confidence
  • Don’t’ answer questions in conventional way
  • Situation, task, action, result, transfer (technique for answering interview q’s)
  • Reveal your transferable skills
  • Be honest

Learning and Workshops

  • Mentoring Programs
  • Involvement Showcase (CSI)
  • Green Book
  • SLC 2010
  • Google
  • Events UBC Site
  • Career Days
  • Community workshops
  • Company workshops
  • Clubs
  • Go Global (Exchange)
  • Read
  • Community centers/resources
  • Research seminars
  • Research the rules are for the part of the sector in which you’re looking (do you need a specific degree?) (via mjfrombuffalo)

Things NOT to Do

  • Don’t pick something you don’t find interesting
  • Don’t lie about your passion
  • Don’t be inconsistent in your approach (e.g. volunteer work can be just as important as paid work)
  • Don’t have ANY visible content online that’s questionable. Always manage your online personal/professional brand. (via Andrea)
  • Bashing – don’t criticize another organization
  • Don’t name drop
  • No assumptions
  • Don’t ask about wages (to begin with, anyway)
  • Don’t be in it for the money
  • Don’t burn bridges
  • Don’t do it just for the sake of your resume

What a fantastic list! You can find more ideas for young nonprofit professionals in Metro Vancouver here, including common mistakes made by new-to-nonprofit job seekers.

Staff are people, too.

At nonprofit organizations, staff members (or, often, volunteers) can be equated to the programs they administer.

Program coordinator = program.

Ergo, investment in program = investment in program coordinator, right? Right?

No.

Think about it this way. If organizational leadership/management doesn’t invest in a staff member, why should a staff member be invested in an organization? Why should they be loyal to organization leadership/management? Sure, in a tight economy people may feel more tied to a job that usual. But, if you were leading an organization, would you want people working with you to achieve your mission only because they were afraid of unemployment as an alternative? Doesn’t sound like a happy place to work to me.

Millennials, among many other characteristics made through broad, sweeping generalizations, have been said to be loyal to people, not organizations.

So how can we treat staff as people, not programs? How can loyalty be built with Millennials, the next generation of nonprofit leadership? Here are some proposals that spring to mind.

Ask for their opinion

Staff have ideas. But if the ideas are not related to their programs, it may be difficult to find an appropriate place to bring up an idea. So ask. “In your position, you work a lot on ABC. However, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on our work with XYZ as well.” Who knows, you might get some inspiring ideas out of it. People bring diverse work and life experience to a position, so tap into all of it and not just the parts related to their job.

Involve them outside their program area

Especially in the beginning, nonprofit workers are often drawn to an organization because of a belief in a mission. However, their jobs often only related to one small piece of that mission. If there is an appropriate space for committee work – an event that spans the organization’s mission, for example – create a committee to work on it. Granted, we’ve all been on committees that are just huge time sucks; however, speaking from experience, committee work that gets me involved with people and ideas outside of my daily routine can be invigorating.

Cross train

This is kind of an extension of the last point, I suppose. Cross training provides value to individuals, AND organizations. If work is siloed, ie where very clear boundaries are drawn between what is your work and what is mine, it means that losing one individual can cause paralysis to a program. However, especially for young staff that are trying to build their skill and knowledge base, cross training can be invaluable. If a staff member is responsible for communications, but is given an opportunity to learn a bit of grant writing, and maybe facilitate a workshop for program clients, the staff member has gained in experience, and the other program areas have a new person to reach out to in times of staff loss or time crunch.

Make investments in their personal development

I don’t just mean professional development. I mean personal development. Ask where they want to be in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years. While some people are fine with stability and constancy, many are looking ahead to the next move. That might be within the organization, but maybe not, and that’s OK.  What can they get involved with, inside or outside the organization, that can help them on that path? Some people may view this as setting people up for leaving; I believe it’ll keep them around a bit longer than they would have otherwise.

Staff turnover costs an organization money. One step to keep down these costs, and to keep moral up, is to treat staff like people, not just programs.

So, how do you invest in your staff? Or, how have you felt invested in?

Confirming my love for nonprofit at the ANSER conference

I heart NP

I had a revealing week last week.  I had travelled to Carleton University in Ottawa for the 2nd annual conference of the Association for Nonprofit and Social Economy Research as part of my job at SFU.  I went to learn about issues facing the nonprofit sector and about trends in community-university engagement and community-based learning. Sure, this happened too, but the most important piece of information was about myself.

I love being a part of the nonprofit community of learning and practice.

I am a bit of an introvert and generally find myself uncomfortable at conferences and large gatherings–drink in hand, eyes scanning the crowd as if I’m just waiting for someone to meet me. They’re late. I look at my watch. I take a sip. I scan the crowd.

But this time I met a great group of people that have done and are continuing to do great things for a diverse society. I engaged in dialogue with them, contributed my experience and opinions and soaked up those of others. Learned from academics and practitioners doing research – wait for it – with PRACTICAL implications for the nonprofit sector (warning: sometime cynical university staff member). I learned about the Centre for Voluntary Sector Research and Development at Carleton, whose research associates are almost all practitioners with on the ground experience, and whose research focuses on information that can help nonprofits fulfill their missions through practical information, tools and resources. I met interesting people like Ted Jackson, Keith Seel, Martha Parker, Naheed Nenshi, Wendy MacDonald, Paula Speevak Sladowski. I felt invigorated and was sad for it to be over.

So time for me to get started, living it up with this confirmed love of nonprofit. This blog had been floating around in my head for a while. I follow a large number of nonprofit blogs (see my blog roll) but find a gap in what’s offered to local Canadian nonprofits (context is important). Sometimes it’s nice to work within a community that is virtual AND local.

Next step: share the learning I gleam from my colleagues in their blogs and Twitter updates, from my work and research, from my academic studies, from my involvement with the nonprofit sector.

Future plans: further my studies in nonprofit, help mobilize knowledge and improve practice. Obviously not concrete goals yet – perhaps just musings…