Happy Holidays!

Hello and Happy Holidays to you!

We have had a great year and we’ve really enjoyed getting out to know more of you in our over 450 meetings in community. It’s been insightful, heartwarming, fun, funny, silly, sobering, thought-provoking, and enlightening. We feel really glad to know you. Thanks for taking us up on the offer for a coffee. You know how much we love our cozy, warm, beverages!

Our office will be taking some time to rest until 2017. We will be closed from December 23-January 2nd. We will catch up with you again on January 3rd.

If you need last minute volunteers, don’t forget about our twitter handle @volunteercal, which is run by our fabulous volunteer, Tyler.

As we sign off for 2016, we want to share with you our new volunteer recognition feature why.yyc on instagram. It features the stories of volunteers in Calgary. Want to feature someone? Contact Jeff.

That’s it from us in 2016!

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With love and warm wishes from:

Doug, Kelsey, Lori, Janet, Jeff, Andrea, and Tracy

The Value of Good Advice

by Yvonne Chenier, Charity Lawyer from http://drache.ca/

In just a couple of hours today all of the organizations that were represented at the Caterpillar to Butterfly: Turning Your Existing Non-profit Into a Registered Charity workshop a few weeks ago made some more progress on their transformative journey.  In one-on-one sessions with them today I rolled up my sleeves, drilled into the legal structures, and asked some pointed questions about why their non-profit caterpillar organization wanted to become a butterfly charity (it’s all about the money!).  Then I gave them some encouragement and tips and sent them on their way with homework to do to carry on their transformation. Most have to give serious thought to getting their members together for a special meeting to change their objects/purposes.  One organization has to make a decision as to how it will interact with and control (yes CRA will require that) its intermediary in a third world country.  Another has to highlight the education focus that it really does have.

I was happy to say to one organization that educating people about something near and dear to our community does not have to be so political after all.  They all have to change their bylaws and review their social media presence.

The transition stage is not painful but can be a challenge if you have left yourself exposed.  I hope to have one more visit with each of these organizations before they try to break out of the cocoon and apply to be that butterfly by filing that final application at CRA.  Stay tuned.

Sweet Way to Onboard!


As a Volunteer Coordinator, I am always looking for new ways to engage and recognize our amazing volunteers, and first impressions mean a lot.  I interview every candidate before they become volunteers, and during the interview I like to add a few fun questions like, ‘If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?’ as well as ‘What would you say is your all-time favourite chocolate bar?’.  I make note of the chocolate bar answer and when we onboard new volunteers, I make sure we have the paperwork, their nametags, and their favourite chocolate bar ready for them.  It is a fun and easy way to make new volunteers feel welcomed and appreciated right from the get-go.  I have gotten all kinds of positive responses from people when they see that we remembered their pick.  One of the best moments was over the summer, when we did a group onboarding for our Summer Camp volunteers.  The group of 19 youth walked into the room to see their welcome packages all made up, each with the chocolate bar of their choice.  I heard them talking to each other saying “they remembered!”, “that’s so nice!”, or “Remember when they asked us that question in the interviews?”.  It makes me smile every time.

  • Rachel Stelmach, Coordinator Volunteer Resources, Telus Spark

Doug’s Open Letter to Community


IMG_3264Six (well, ok, eight) months in – a reflection and a look forward.

I was asked the other day about what’s on for the next 12 months at Propellus. I thought that since I’ve only had coffee with 179 of you this year, the rest of you might be wondering what’s in our heads.

Let’s frame this up before jumping into it. So, a Volunteer Centre has four pillars. In short, they are Promote, Connect, Strengthen and Lead. You can read all about that here.

When we look back over the last few years, we’ve been very focused on the Strengthen pillar. You know this about us.  It’s allowed us to develop some really great stuff to help organizations get stronger. I’m really proud of how Propellus has focused on evaluations and assessment.

When we brought on the role of Evaluations Specialist, in addition to strengthening our own measurement, it led us to initiate an Evaluations Learning Community, which offers peer learning to our members. This year the Learning Community advisory council worked together to plan an evaluations conference. We are so pleased to be offering conference this fall where we host Michael Quinn Patton!

We’ve listened to you. So our assessment tool, which helps you get a quick snapshot into learning needs of your organization, has been up and running for almost a year. Also we’ve heard many of you describe yourselves as ‘the jack of all trades, master of none’ who needs quick access to tools you can use in your day to day job. We launched our resource bank earlier this year to provide you access to those tools!

Again, we want to go for coffee with you . . . Lori and Andrea would absolutely LOVE to hang out with you and review your assessment/point you to resources/connect you to opportunities for further learning!

As I’ve met with many of you this year I’ve heard the confusion and frustration you feel about this question, “where is the Volunteer Centre of Calgary?”

We’ve heard you. While we’ve continued to promote the volunteer opportunities on our database and host conversations, even a learning community for volunteer engagement, that is not enough.  After all, there are over 117 million hours spent volunteering in this amazing community of ours.  I agree, we can do more to support you!

So what does that mean? We haven’t got it figured out yet, but here are the steps we are taking:

  • We have expanded our volunteer team to include Tyler, Chandni, Shreya, and Manisha.
  • You can connect with Jeff as his role is changing and he is learning from the community what promoting volunteerism means.
  • We are exploring some fantastic opportunities to partner with organizations like MRU, Volunteer Alberta, Ignitech and more. Let Janet and Kelsey know who else we need to be meeting with. We’re listening!
  • Of course I’m still coming out for as many coffees (actually, it’s tea) and events with as many of you as possible because I love hearing your stories! Be sure to invite me to the places I don’t know about yet.

I hope you can see that we want to include you in shaping the future of this community organization.  What does the next twelve months look like for Propellus? Listening, acting on your advice and finding fantastic partners, so together we can continue to create a thriving engaged Calgary for each and every person!


Evaluation is More Than Just Tracking. It Matters How We Use and Share It.

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Written by: Andrea N. Young, Evaluation Specialist

At the beginning of April, I released my masterpiece: the ‘2015 Annual Report on our Evaluation Findings.’ For most of you non-data-nerds, this 43-page document probably sounds like the utmost snoozefest. And often you’d be right: data reports can be oh-so-boring and pointless. I mean, who wants to read a jillion pages of technical jargon if it just ultimately makes you say “oh, that’s vaguely interesting” a couple of times, and then gets put on the shelf until you need some scrap doodle paper? Continue reading

We Are One

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Written by: Jennifer Sanford*, Propellus Consultant

Over the last few days, we have watched the wildfires in Fort McMurray gain international attention. The numbers are staggering: more than 80,000 people were evacuated, 1,600 homes and business have been destroyed, more than 50 million dollars in aid has been received by the Red Cross. And the true cost of this environmental event will take years to fully materialize. Continue reading

It’s Back! Transform Your Story 2016 Now Open

You heard correctly. The fund is back thanks to our partners at Chevron Canada. Check out the project page for all the details.

And here’s some videos of 2015 participants on how they’re implementing their organizations newly built capacity in areas of program design, business planning and culture.


Continue reading