Alberta Nonprofit Network News
As ABNN develops our priorities for the next year, the Workforce Development Steering Committee has identified the following emerging areas for exploration:
Our initial dialogue regarding mental health and well being was held on May 4th, and involved 32 participants representing a variety of experiences and perspectives related to mental health in the Alberta nonprofit sector. The dialogue was focused around:
We knew this is a complex issue, and the participants highlighted the magnitude of both the challenge and the opportunity before us. There is much more to explore as we work together to support staff and develop workplaces that place a priority on mental health and wellbeing.
We will be convening conversations to dive deeper into topics identified on May 4th, such as:
If you would like to join in the dialogue, please contact us!
As the pandemic drags on, ABNN’s sector survey shows nonprofits are increasingly worried about staff mental health. In fact, according to ABNN’s third Pulse Check on the Impact of COVID-19 on Nonprofits and Voluntary Organizations Report, more than half of nonprofit respondents said staff mental health was their greatest operational challenges.
From health and safety worries, to vanishing funding streams, to ever growing need and complexity, nonprofit staff have been dealing with a lot – all while working remotely and managing their own personal stresses,” says Mike Grogan, CEO and President of IntegralOrg and part of the team leading the ABNN survey.
“Concerns about staff mental health are pervasive across the sector.”
The survey data showed that almost three-quarters of nonprofit respondents saw revenues decrease this year, with many indicating they are struggling to fund core organizational activities. Organizations also indicated they are working in more complex environments, experiencing increased demand and losing capacity.
When asked about the impact of COVID-19 on the workforce, respondents indicated that the pandemic is having a significant impact on staff stress and workload. The workforce’s ability to engage has been further impacted by remote work and staff absences. Very few responding organizations were immune to these stresses.
Preserving the Health and Wellbeing of our Staff and Sector
While the survey (which included ~500 respondents) is not intended to be statistically representative of the sector, the findings are suggestive of the mounting challenges faced by organizations.
“The sector is typically very resilient, always finding ways to do more with less, but we need to rethink how we respond to demand and take care of our staff at the same time,” says Gemma Dunn, Executive Director of ECVO and also involved in the survey team. “We might need to reconsider how we work and the demands we put on ourselves. We may need to partner in different ways, change our offering or even say ‘no’ in order to protect the health of our employees.
"Nonprofits need to put the oxygen mask on first. As a sector, we need to make sure we’re healthy and resilient enough to get through this.”
~ Gemma Dunn, Executive Director, ECVO
Mental Health Resources
ABNN Workforce Development Committee is committed to taking a deep look at the survey results, and is reaching out to nonprofits and experts to better understand these mental health concerns and potential supports. Initial research and scans show that existing resources for organizations may not be readily apparent and there may not be enough clearly focused on the nonprofit sector.
However, greater attention is starting to turn to this issue and we anticipate more resources will be shared and/or developed from within and beyond the sector.
We have started compiling existing mental health resources and have created a new Mental Health Resources Page on our website. We will continue to add to this page as we identify resources, so please send us information about those that are helpful in your workplace. We also encourage organizations to share with us their stories of how they've successfully supported mental health and we will share them on social media.
While there is the bigger picture of addressing this systemic issue, Mike also reminds us there are things we can do in our day-to-day to help ourselves and others, “I’ve had some really hard days this last year, and it truly helps to call a friend or colleague and talk about it. If you’re struggling with a challenge or having a bad day, reach out to someone. And take a moment to ask your colleagues and staff how they are really doing. It can make a big difference.
For most of us across the sector, 2020 was a year that required adaptation, perseverance, and somehow balancing daily urgencies and mission-critical work.
ABNN was no different. While only in our second year as a network, ABNN and its partners found themselves responding to the critical needs of the sector, while also working to move our core priority areas forward.
Here are some of the highlights:
1. Data Strategy
2. Sector Value & Impact
3. Workforce Development
4. Government Relations
What's in store for 2021?
ABNN is focused on continuing to amplify the voices of the Alberta nonprofit sector, especially in the critical areas you’ve told us matter most right now - mental health, diversity, equity & inclusion, and financial sustainability. The data from our latest survey will help prioritize ABNN efforts for 2021, while ongoing engagement with you - the sector - will be a key in supporting transformative change.
Alberta's nonprofit sector is critical to the social and economic recovery of our communities. ABNN endeavours to empower collective action to address systemic challenges for our sector and strengthen our foundations for tomorrow. Thank you for inspiring our efforts and fueling our action!
Please join ABNN for an information session to learn more about the Government of Alberta’s new Civil Society Fund grant program. This fund provides $20 million to expand civil society’s capacity to address social problems for Albertans – of which $7 million is budgeted for 2020/21 to support civil society’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Join us on Wednesday, January 6 from 9:30 to 10:30a.m. to learn more about the fund, eligibility requirements and how your organization can apply. We will be joined by Ken Dropko and Glen Hughes of the Ministry of Community and Social Services, who will provide an overview of the program and answer your questions. Ken is the Executive Director, Family and Community Services Branch, Preventive Community Services Division; and Glen is Secretariat Director, Premier’s Council on Charities and Civil Society.
DATE: Wednesday, January 6
TIME: 9:30 – 10:30 a.m.
Fall Sector Survey Shows Nonprofit Challenges are Evolving
A survey is a snapshot in time – telling the story of what people and organizations were dealing with and feeling in a particular moment.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early March, ABNN has conducted three sector surveys. Each tells a different story of the daily realities and challenges Alberta nonprofits and charities have faced during the different stages of this pandemic.
The survey we conducted in November, we saw that many of the challenges nonprofits had predicted in the spring surveys, such as a decrease in financial resources and capacity, have come true. Other trends have also emerged, such as concerns for staff mental health, the growing complexity of clients’ needs and delivery, and an increase in demand for services.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to dominate the well-being of Albertans, nonprofits play a critical role in supporting our communities through the health and economic challenges. It is important to understand the issues facing nonprofits so that we can better anticipate what is needed to support a strong and viable future for the sector. Our hope is that the data from this survey will help inform government, funders and other stakeholders about how they can best aid the sector. Equally important, this report should inform our own sector priorities – how must we adjust and how can we support each other during these difficult times?
For our part, ABNN will be using the results of the survey to inform our priorities and activities for 2021. We will be sharing this report widely within and beyond the sector, and we encourage you to do the same. We also expect that there will be many other follow ups and opportunities to build on this data.
View full report on our Covid-19 Impacts page.
This survey is one of the many ways ABNN works to support a proactive, collaborative and resilient sector, and we share our work freely and transparently. If you would like access to the raw data set or have questions about the results, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In all we do, ABNN aims to be inclusive and relevant to Alberta nonprofits. That’s why we’re hitting the (virtual) road – participating in events, meetings and conferences across the province. We want to learn about your subsector/stakeholder’s needs and talk about common interests and opportunities for collaborating.
Our ABNN team can customize a presentation for you. We can speak to the current state of the sector, new research about the value and impact of Alberta’s nonprofit sector, and ABNN'S current priorities. We then kick off a discussion about your opportunities, challenges and ideas on how to advance nonprofits in Alberta. To have ABNN present at your next conference, subsector meeting or stakeholder event, please contact us at email@example.com.
When ABNN held its first gathering in 2018, the question was asked: What would be most valuable in advancing Alberta’s nonprofit sector as a whole?
One of the top answers: meaningful data.
Stakeholders said that having the right information at the right time would better equip nonprofit and voluntary organizations to understand, measure and communicate impact, make evidence-informed decisions, advocate for system-level changes and drive program and organizational outcomes. Acting on this expressed need, ABNN formed the Data Strategy Steering Committee.
Moving towards the strategic use of data requires coordinated efforts and stakeholder input and buy-in. With the oversight of the ABNN Data Strategy Committee, PolicyWise for Children & Families brought together more than 25 data champions to explore how to advance the sector’s strategic use of data. Split out into three Task Teams, these representatives came from government, disability sector, voluntary organizations, technology backgrounds, libraries and the immigrant and refugee sectors.
Each task team engaged with the nonprofit sector to develop recommendations for action:
Through the work of the Task Teams, eight projects concepts of varying scale were developed. These projects focus on capacity building, data sharing, Government of Alberta data and the development of an Alberta Nonprofit Data Hub. More detail on these eight projects and the full Data Strategy Report: Building a Knowledge-Driven Nonprofit Sector or snapshots can be found on the Data Strategy website.
“The process showed how collaboration among nonprofits and their partners can create the kind of data initiatives that will be useful to everyone,” said Robyn Robyn Blackadar, PolicyWise President & CEO. “We look forward to continuing this journey and supporting the nonprofit sector to realize the full potential of this project.”
Have a question or want to get involved? Email RTaylor@policywise.com.
In late March when the COVID-19 pandemic was still in its early weeks, ABNN conducted a flash survey to gain early insights into what nonprofits were experiencing and what they anticipated over the coming weeks. Now, three months later and as we start to see restriction ease, nonprofits are gaining a clearer view of the challenges and opportunities facing their organizations. To better understand the changing landscape, ABNN conducted a pulse check survey in mid-June. The results are summarized in Pulse Check Survey Report which can be found on our Covid-19 Impact Reports Page.
The report discusses top concerns, as well as the financial uncertainties that now face the sector. What the survey results also show is that nonprofits are finding that the path to recovery is a dance of interdependencies. They struggle to make independent decisions when a host of decisions and actions owned by others can delay, defer or potentially derail their own plans.
As nonprofits look to the future and how we may recover and even redefine our sector, ABNN believes that data, dialogue and advocacy will be critical. We recommend ongoing check-ins/surveys of Alberta’s nonprofits and charities so that we can understand and share current and changing impacts. We also believe that it is important to engage/survey funders and end-users. Sharing information about how nonprofits are adjusting and cross-sector engagement will be a catalyst for healthy, forward-thinking dialogue about what we need do to adapt.
The now familiar anthem that rose out of this pandemic, “We Are All In This Together”, continues to ring true. Advancing a strong, resilient nonprofit sector will require us to work together to reimagine how we organize ourselves, serve our community and co-create a bold and vibrant future.
During our ABNN Gathering on June 23 over 275 people from across the sector came together to hear different perspectives about how we can move “From Response to Recovery” together.
Thank you to all our panelists and participants - you made it an interesting and informative event!
You can listen to the recording of the event here (password: 3g*=E&x7).
You can view the results of the Pulse Check Survey which was conducted leading up to the event on our Covid Impact Report page.
What we learned at the Gathering
Our analysis of the Gathering dialogue, chat conversation and event feedback showed a few key themes:
1.Balancing long-term & short-term: There is equal concern about wanting long-term/strategic planning and wanting prevention/short-term support.
2.Data collection: You want us to continue to collect and share information about the sector (back to the sector but also to different audiences like government and media). You said that more dis-aggregated/sub-sector specific data would be helpful.
3.Government relations: From dealing with immediate concerns to restructuring recovery, you believe ABNN and the sector must continue to advocate and find effective ways to connect with government.
4.Support opportunities for collaboration: You told us you need help figuring out how you can more effectively partner or integrate with one another, especially given future funding challenges and concerns regarding duplication. In-person opportunities would be appreciated, when appropriate.
5.Information sharing/town halls: You want ABNN to host more regular webinars/town halls, and you recommended a number of topics. You asked that we include more diverse perspectives and leave more time for Q&A/two-way conversation.
6.Post-COVID action planning: Individual organizations need support to help move to action or strategic planning. There were a few suggestions on how ABNN could do this.
Almost all of your suggestions fell within the scope of ABNN’s current priorities areas, and many we already have plans to or have already started acting on. With others, we must explore whether we have the resources/collective energy to act now. We had 38 people indicate they are interested in being more involved with ABNN – we are incredibly excited to see this level of support and enthusiasm.
ABNN has always been driven by the needs of the sector; your perspective and ideas help guide our path forward. So again, our deepest thanks for your participation, engagement and feedback. We’re listening!
Problem 1: Many volunteer-based organizations are in desperate need of help.
Problem 2: Employers have employees whose time and skills are being under-
In seeing these two problems develop over the last few months, The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce saw a solution: bridge the gap by connecting employers with charitable organizations looking for help. They partnered with several nonprofits to create a COVID-19 Skill-sharing and Volunteering initiative.
Through this initiative, the Chamber will try to connect specialized, administrative or other volunteers with suitable organizations.
If you’re an Edmonton-based volunteer-based organization or charity and need professional assistance, please contact ECVO's Ilya Ushakov at 780-801-4720 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The hope is that this program will be extended to other parts of the province.
Many Ways to Connect
Despite the struggles and uncertainties, Alberta business and nonprofits are collaborating and getting creative in how we help each other. Some are giving in-kind donations, such as giving left-over food or donating equipment, while others are continuing to provide financial donations to the best of their ability.
And of course, volunteering. You don't need to live in Edmonton to connect your business to a nonprofit in need. Many employers are encouraging their employees to give their time either virtually or in physically-distanced ways (collecting food, calling community seniors, donating blood). Businesses and individuals are encouraged to visit VolunteerConnector.org or contact your local Volunteer Centre for opportunities.
In the face of challenge, we are working together because we know we are all stronger when we support one another.