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Annex Cat Rescue: Twenty "Pawsome" Years of Grassroots Work

Posted By Jessica Pang-Parks, Education Coordinator - Grassroots Growth, February 23, 2017
Updated: February 23, 2017

 

Photo from the Annex Cat Rescue Facebook page

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

One of my favourite things about working on the Grassroots Growth team is the opportunity to connect with volunteer non-profit leaders across Ontario. There are so many amazing projects and people that we’ve worked with! Thank you to all the grassroots leaders who’ve come out to our workshops, interacted with us online, and participated in our initial research. Your ideas and enthusiasm never cease to amaze me.

 

One of the groups that participated in our initial research was Annex Cat Rescue (ACR); we profiled them as a case study in our From the Bottom Up report. This year, Annex Cat Rescue is celebrating its 20th anniversary. A lot changes over twenty years, but the organization is still 100% volunteer run. 

I recently sat down with Sky Lamothe, the Chair of the Board of Directors, and Raven Sun, one of the group’s longest-serving volunteers, to chat about ACR’s growth and tips for grassroots leadership and governance:

JPP: Congrats on your 20th anniversary! Since the inception of ACR, what has been the biggest shift in the scope of your work?

SL: When we first started, we didn’t realize how big the homeless cat situation was in Toronto. Initially ACR focussed on finding homes for kittens of feral cats, TNRing (Trapping-Neutering-Returning), and caring for several colonies of feral cats within a small area. Our group’s mission has not changed but our area of coverage has expanded to the entire city of Toronto.

Also, as resources are limited, the board is constantly discussing how to focus on cats that are not being cared for by other organizations and how best to fill in the gaps in service.

 

JPP: Can you tell me a bit about the Annex Cat Rescue’s history? I can see that you received charitable status in 1999, only two years after the group’s establishment!

RS: ACR had already applied for charitable status with Revenue Canada (as the CRA was known back then) before I joined as a volunteer (we received status within a few months). Applying for charitable status made a lot of sense for us. Potential supporters are far more likely to contribute when a charity is seen as a "legitimate" entity (not just a fly-by-night group). Also, donors are able to receive some financial incentive through their contributions by way of a charitable tax receipt.

 

There are also quite a few programs available to registered charities, from both the private and public sectors (e.g. corporate donation/grant programs and GST/HST rebate respectively). This allows the organization to do more with its limited financial resources and tap into programs for other kinds of assistance.

 

 
Volunteer Colony Feeder, Robin  

 

JPP: Maintaining charitable status means a lot of paperwork, and time! Is it worth the trouble?

RS: Absolutely! There are many advantages that we would miss out on if we didn't have charitable status. As for paperwork and documentation, it is not much different than running a small business; you need to keep track of your income and expenses. However, you do need to remain organized and keep track of all paperwork and transactions for audit purposes.

 

In our case, we have one volunteer (me!) who is dedicated to ensuring that we retain adequate paperwork. As the Volunteer Bookkeeper, I lay out the financial policies and procedures that our organization must follow. The Treasurer on our Board of Directors is jointly responsible for ensuring that our organization operates under charitable organization rules required by the CRA.

 

JPP: For groups who want to legitimize, but aren’t ready for incorporation or charitable status, we recommend putting policies and procedures and volunteer training documents in place. As your group continues to grow, have you had to re-evaluate these documents?

SL: Yes, we have had to re-evaluate. For example, our foster program has expanded over the years from about 20 homes to approximately 200 homes. 

It grew to the point where we needed a whole team of volunteers to coordinate it. So, we created a manual to ensure that everyone was consistent in understanding expectations and responsibilities. We also took larger roles that were found to be overwhelming for two people, and separated out specific tasks to reorganize into five different volunteer roles. 

Over the last two years, we’ve been inundated with requests for help as other local rescues claim their “niches”. Some have backed away from feral cats and now are focussing on other aspects of cat rescue. As a result, the board had to re-examine and tighten our intake policy to ensure we and independent rescuers understood which cats we might be able to take in and which ones should be given priority.

We’ve also had to put more formal volunteer position descriptions in place for various roles. This helps to ensure that people interested in those specific volunteer roles understand the level of commitment and skills required. Rescue can be a lot of work but it is also a lot of fun!

We developed a crisis communication plan a few years ago too and now our Board is looking into a social media policy as part of the content strategy. As social media has evolved, many of our volunteers want to share their involvement with ACR. One of our biggest challenges is to be pro-active, rather than re-active. But like many volunteer-run organizations, time is limited. It continues to be challenging!

 
Volunteer Trapper, Sasha with "Cookie" the kitten 

 

JPP: I bet! But having a group of dedicated and passionate volunteers must help to mitigate those challenges.

In our previous interview with your team, we learned that ACR doesn’t have an office. Where do you hold meetings? What are some tips for finding free or cheap community space that you can share?

SL: We hold board meetings at each other’s homes and I understand that various groups of volunteers (like a group that looks after a particular colony) might meet up at a volunteer’s home as well. It works well for us because we are a tight knit team.

For our Annual General Meeting, we rent a room at Trinity-St Paul’s Centre as it is in our founding neighbourhood. The Toronto Feral Cat Coalition meets at City Hall in one of the community rooms. Public libraries and community centres, such as the Scadding Court Community Centre, also have cheaper space rentals for non-profits.

 

TIP: If you’re looking for more information on meeting spaces for grassroots meetings, please visit grassrootsgrowth.ca and view the newly released online training module: “The Logistics of Getting Together”.

 

JPP: What advice would you give to volunteer-run groups that are growing very quickly and need to reorganize how they operate to accommodate this growth?

SL: I would suggest a few things:

First, listen to and value your volunteers. They are your greatest asset and have a wealth of knowledge. Our board works very hard to support our volunteers, easing barriers that might prevent them from participating.

Communication and clear policies and procedures are very important. Volunteers may have ideas that you have not yet considered. Also, volunteers are the ones who have to follow these policies and procedures, so wherever possible, engage them in the process.

Secondly, get access to grants that will fund a database management program. We recently applied for free licenses through the Salesforce Power of Us program for non-profits. We’re currently inputting the information we’ve compiled in Excel spreadsheets over the years for each area (Donors, Volunteers, Foster Cats, and Colony Cats).

Once everything is migrated to Salesforce, we will have all our information in one place and can use it more effectively. Unfortunately, the Salesforce Power of Us program was not available when we first started out. I recommend that newer groups integrate something like this sooner rather than later; it would be much easier to do!

Thirdly, network with other organizations  to see where your missions overlap and align.  There may be an opportunity to share resources.

We’re very pleased with our affiliation with the Toronto Feral Cat Coalition and encourage other groups to make connections where it makes sense. Because we’ve formed these relationships, cats and rescue organizations benefit from several low-cost spay-neuter programs in the city (both municipal- and charity-funded).  As well, rescue groups and city animal services regularly come together to discuss agreements and exchange resources.

 
The lovely Winston, who now has a forever home 

JPP: If you could go back to 1997 and meet with the founders of ACR, what advice would you share with them?

SL: Sometimes it’s hard to see positive change when dealing with a huge problem like homeless cat overpopulation in Toronto. However, when I look back at our 2002 Annual Highlights, I see how far we’ve come! I would tell them that everything they do makes a difference and to keep going!

RS: Yes, I agree. I would tell them to keep pursing their hard work. Grassroots work is tough sometimes, but don't get discouraged by challenges, try to learn from them instead.

JPP: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. Congrats again on your 20th year and keep us posted about your success!

 

Grassroots Growth Website

 

As the Education Coordinator, Jessica is responsible for developing and delivering workshops and online content to help build the capacity of grassroots organizations across Ontario. Contact Jessica

Tags:  animals  Annex Cat Rescue  cat rescue  cat shelter  grassroots groups  Grassroots Growth  grassroots organizations  volunteer with animals 

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Grassroots Leadership: How To Supervise Your Mom

Posted By Jessica Pang-Parks, Education Coordinator - Grassroots Growth, December 16, 2016
 

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

In the midst of this festive season, we are readily reminded of the support we get from friends and family. As grassroots leaders, we often lean on our friends and family to bake muffins for a fundraiser, proofread our grants, and babysit our kids during a meeting; the list can go on and on!

When many grassroots groups start out, the core volunteer team is made of the founder’s friends and family. There are lots of benefits to this!

First of all, you already know your volunteers and they already know you. You’re familiar with each other’s communication styles, strengths, skills, and weaknesses. Secondly, you don’t need to formally recruit, which will save you some time and effort. Most importantly, your existing relationships with these volunteers mean that they trust you and know that you are legitimate. Building legitimacy is hard work, and having volunteers who come in with confidence in you and your organization makes things a lot easier.

Having friends and family on your volunteer team is amazing, but beware of challenges that may arise. For example: in my family, my mom is the boss; what she says goes. But as the founder of my grassroots group, it’s my role to lead the volunteers.

If my mom joins my volunteer team, I know that I’ll have her support and her amazing communications skills, but our entire power dynamic will change! Also, how am I supposed to give constructive criticism to my mom? And what if my mom wants to come to meetings late, but I expect all volunteers to be on time? Finally, my mom is already doing fantastic volunteer work for her local theatre organization, and frankly just isn’t as excited about my gardening group. How do I make sure my group can be successful without her long-term commitment?

Thankfully, the Grassroots Growth project is here to help. The chart below outlines what you can do to mitigate common challenges to volunteering with friends and family.

How to supervise your friends and family

For more free resources on work-life balance, please visit grassrootsgrowth.ca. Today we are releasing two brand-new interactive training modules through this website: Preventing and Managing Burnout, Volunteering with Friends and Family. Our vibrant online community supports volunteer-run organizations across Ontario with informative handbooks, downloadable templates, and opportunities to share ideas with other grassroots leaders.

You can also register for one of our free workshops on a variety of subjects pertinent to grassroots leaders at www.volunteertoronto.ca/page/GrassrootsWorkshops. 

 

Grassroots Growth Website

 

As the Education Coordinator, Jessica is responsible for developing and delivering workshops and online content to help build the capacity of grassroots organizations across Ontario. Contact Jessica

Tags:  grassroots groups  Grassroots organizations  volunteerism  volunteer-run organizations  volunteers  volunteers supporting your cause 

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Grassroots Organizations Will Soon Come Together Online!

Posted By Claire McWatt, Grassroots Growth Coordinator, August 19, 2016
 Grassroots Growth Website

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

For the past year, Volunteer Toronto has been hard at work, finding new ways to spread volunteer management magic. The Grassroots Growth Project is a capacity-building initiative for volunteer-run non-profits in Ontario, and will provide free resources, tailored to the unique experience of grassroots groups. We are pleased to announce the launch of our website grassrootsgrowth.ca, on August 30th.

Tight on cash and other resources, grassroots groups struggle to access the non-profit sector best practices that help organizations manage volunteers effectively, fundraise, and execute strategic plans. The website will be a freely accessible space for groups to take advantage of different types of learning materials, and network with other groups from across the Province.


 Our 8 resource handbooks

During the research and development phase, our team engaged hundreds of groups from all different backgrounds, to learn about their unique needs and challenges. As a result of our report, we devised a set of training topics that cover everything from governance structures, to succession planning, burnout, and social media (and of course, volunteer management basics). What we learned is that volunteer management for volunteer-run groups is both the management of self, and the management of others.

Groups with no full-time paid staff and an annual budget of less than $75,000 per year, are welcome to join for free. They can then take advantage of our online resources, which include useful, editable templates, and a video series.

Not wanting to re-invent the wheel, we knew there would be a number of other free resources available online for groups, that were going unused simply due to lack of awareness. To address this, our team developed a Wiki Resource Directory that will house all kinds of links to helpful articles, websites, blogs and learning portals. Further, Grassroots Growth users can easily share other resources, by editing the Wikis and adding links.

GrassrootsGrowth Website Wiki 
grassrootsgrowth.ca wiki page 


Larger non-profits understand the benefits that can come from networking and partnering with other organizations. For grassroots groups, it can be hard to know who else is out there, and be able to share insight and support one another. The Grassroots Growth site has an interactive discussion forum, complete with a Peer Mentorship component, to allow groups to network, and learn from the experiences of those doing similar work. The forum will feature bi-monthly Reddit-style “Ask Me Anything” events, where users can speak with an experienced Grassroots Growth Peer Mentor, and get their important questions answered.

Look out for more great features for Grassroots Growth users, and new content, between September and April. To learn more or to become a Grassroots Growth Peer Mentor, contact Claire McWatt, Project Coordinator at cmcwatt@volunteertoronto.ca.

 

Claire leads the development of the Grassroots Growth project’s online community of practice, including the Peer Mentorship Forum and Wiki Resource Directory. She also manages relationships with Grassroots Growth partners, handles project administration, and collaborates with the Education Coordinator and Outreach Coordinator in research, training and outreach.


Tags:  community for grassroots group  discussion forum  grassroots groups  grassroots growth  grassroots organizations  online learning  wiki 

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Connecting The Grassroots: Building A Network Across Ontario

Posted By Louroz Mercader, Community Outreach Coordinator, June 17, 2016
 

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Collaboration starts with relationships; it’s all about interactions between people. Personal connections that already exist between groups and volunteers can be a great starting point, but sometimes groups need the opportunity to get out there and meet new people, identify common interests and figure out who is working towards the same goals.

 As we enter the next phase of the Grassroots Growth project, our goal is to focus on collaboration and partnerships amongst grassroots groups.  We’re building a network so groups from across the province can facilitate peer support, spark collaboration and develop strong local partnerships.

Collaborating with others can have a multitude of benefits:

Synergy
The synergy created from working collaboratively will result in greater accomplishments than each group working on its own could ever hope to achieve.

 

Resources
The sharing of knowledge and expertise can make goals more manageable, and ensures that resources get distributed appropriately.

 

Avoiding Duplication
Working together can help ensure efforts and services aren’t being duplicated in the community, increasing efficiency and eliminating unnecessary competition.

 

Funding Opportunities
It’s become increasingly common for funders to require that two or more groups collaborate together when submitting a grant proposal. By working as a collaborative these funds can be accessed to support your initiatives.

 

Coming in September 2016, we’ll be launching a new online community of practice for groups across Ontario to connect and collaborate together. The website will be an online learning centre, with specifically designed content and a wiki resource directory for volunteer leaders. It will also be a space to build capacity for groups to connect with peer mentors, through a discussion forum and with "Ask Me Anything" themed chats with exceptional grassroots leaders.

Join us as we explore the theme of collaboration with our exciting panel discussion with grassroots groups and sector leaders. Click the button below to learn more. 

 

Grassroots Growth Panel Discussion

 

 
As Community Outreach Coordinator for the Grassroots Growth project, Louroz reaches out to volunteer-run groups in Toronto and across Ontario to help spread the word about the project and get our services out to those who need them most.

Tags:  collaboration between non-profits  community groups  grassroots groups  Grassroots organizations  Ontario community groups 

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Bringing the Grassroots Together: Maximizing Capacity for Mentorship and Collaboration

Posted By Claire McWatt, Project Coordinator, Grassroots Growth , March 18, 2016
 

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

In grassroots groups, passion runs high, as dedicated volunteers commit their spare time to running an entire organization with very limited resources.

Limited access to resources is a problem shared not only by grassroots groups, but also by the entire non-profit sector (am I right?). It can be a major challenge to accomplish goals when stretched so thin. But for grassroots groups who have limited access to sector support and difficulty applying best practices to a grassroots context, this can be particularly challenging. Although grassroots groups find impressive ways to get crafty in a pinch, these tips are not readily available to all groups that could potentially benefit. By engaging in peer mentorship, grassroots groups can learn from each other, and share tips and tricks to facing the unique challenges of managing volunteer-run organizations.

Due to the entrepreneurial spirit of grassroots groups, often there are many initiatives operating at the same time, with similar goals and mandates. In light of this, it makes sense to explore how to foster more collaboration between groups, and build capacity for the development of partnerships and coalitions.

Collaboration can benefit groups in a number of ways, increasing efficiency, resources, support, reach, and legitimacy. However, for this to work, these partnerships need to be mutually beneficial, and that requires thoughtful preparation to ensure a smooth ride, and a strong outcome.

For more information on collaboration, check out this helpful article from the Stanford Social Innovation Review, that outlines different types of partnerships and the various pros and cons.

As with a lot of sector resources, many are focused on larger nonprofits. Luckily, in the coming weeks Grassroots Growth will begin developing our Peer Mentorship strategy, specifically designed to bring grassroots groups together in our Community of Practice. This will allow for the sharing of tips, as well as tailoring of helpful approaches to collaboration to better suit the specific needs of volunteer-run groups. To learn more about how to get involved in shaping this process, contact Claire McWatt.

 

Claire leads the development of the Grassroots Growth project’s online community of practice, including the Peer Mentorship Forum and Wiki Resource Directory. She also manages relationships with Grassroots Growth partners, handles project administration, and collaborates with the Education Coordinator and Outreach Coordinator in research, training and outreach.


Tags:  activist groups  Challenges for Grassroots Organizations  collaboration  collaboration for Grassroots  grassroots groups  Grassroots organizations  improving your community group  Toronto 

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From The Bottom Up: Grassroots Leadership Models

Posted By Louroz Mercader, Community Outreach Coordinator, Grassroots Growth, February 16, 2016
Updated: February 16, 2016
 

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Across our city and province today, reliance on grassroots leadership is growing. We expect ordinary citizens to take on our biggest challenges and help forge workable solutions. The Grassroots Growth project has taken the time to learn about who they are, what motivates them and what challenges they face, and now we want to help  support their efforts, .

Grassroots groups without a hierarchy usually devolve into anarchy.  While this may seem counterintuitive for a grassroots organization, the group will need a leadership and governance structure with defined responsibilities if it is going to succeed at a high level.

While there are the traditional forms of governance structures for volunteer-driven groups, such as having a formal Board of Directors, there are other less formal models that can be just as good, depending on the needs of the group.

Many groups use a “Leadership Team” or collective model, where power and decision-making is distributed evenly among a core group of volunteers. They often share responsibilities, they may rotate positions, and some operate by consensus, which can be challenging. While some groups function with a “Strong Leader Model”, where one person—usually the founder, who has a dynamic personality—drives the organization forward.

The leadership team and strong leader models are recommended as temporary measures that groups should employ.  We recommend that groups should use the model that works best for their group right now, and when ready, transition towards selecting a more traditional form of governance in order to increase their legitimacy and access resources that are only available to groups with particular governance structures.

If you are looking to start or grow your small grassroots organization, establishing the right governance and leadership structure will help you and your volunteers to successfully achieve your mission.

 

The Grassroots Growth Project is hosting two FREE pilot workshops on Grassroots Governance: Building A Structure That Fits:

 

Tuesday, February 23 from 6-9pm at Volunteer Toronto

Saturday, February 27 from 1:30 – 4:30pm at Fairview Public Library, North York.

 

To register and learn more visit the Grassroots Growth webpage.

 
As Community Outreach Coordinator for the Grassroots Growth project, Louroz reaches out to volunteer-run groups in Toronto and across Ontario to help spread the word about the project and get our services out to those who need them most.

Tags:  Governance  grassroots groups  Grassroots organizations  leadership  Non-profit strategy  non-profits  volunteer  volunteer engagement  volunteer-run organizations 

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3 Things Your Non-Profit Can Learn From Grassroots Groups

Posted By Jenn Jozwiak, VECTor 2015 Conference Presenter, January 28, 2016
Updated: January 27, 2016
 

Jenn Jozwiak presents “From Passion to Action: What Grassroots Groups Do Differently” at the 2016 VECTor Conference on March 9, 2016. Register now to choose her workshop, and check out some great tips below!


 

Ontario has a thriving community of volunteers: from film festivals in Toronto, animal rescue centres in Burlington, food banks across the province and all sorts of organizations in between, there are a variety of non-profits supported by volunteer efforts. Often, when we think about volunteerism, large agencies such as the United Way, Habitat for Humanity, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation may come to mind. But there are thousands of non-profit organizations operating across Ontario – and over half of them (53%) aren’t just assisted by volunteers, they’re completely run by them.

These organizations are what we’ve termed grassroots groups. In March 2015, Volunteer Toronto launched the Grassroots Growth Project to help these groups effectively manage their volunteers. After five months of research the Grassroots Growth team completed an in-depth report that outlines the unique challenges that volunteer-run non-profits face and the creative ways groups meet these challenges.

The report also identified 10 characteristics that distinguish grassroots groups from other non-profit organizations (aside from the fact that they have no paid staff!). Three of these characteristics showcase ways of doing things that might be productively applied to traditional volunteer management.


   

Grassroots groups create a supportive community for their members.

All organizations that engage volunteers work hard to support and sustain their members. However, grassroots groups completely rely on these relationships for their success, since everyone involved is a volunteer. Grassroots organizations frequently mentor each other, work together to build skills, and help one another to access other services. These supportive relationships encourage friendships within the organization and inspire long-term volunteerism.

   
   

Grassroots groups are built on community relationships.

Of course, all non-profit organizations are invested in building strong relationships within their communities. Grassroots groups, however, tend to blur the boundaries between professional and personal relationships in a highly productive way, forming working relationships out of personal community connections and developing friendships through a commitment to shared passions. Relationships are rooted in the desire to work collaboratively towards common goals, whether by partnering on particular projects or simply sharing supports and resources.

   
   

A shared mission and vision consistently motivates grassroots groups.

Non-profit organizations start with an idea of how to make things better. This is what inspires staff to join organizations, and mobilizes volunteers to lend a hand to groups they believe in. Sometimes, though, we forget the reason we wanted to do the work in the first place. Grassroots groups, on the other hand – because they remain “grassroots”  – tend to stay close to the passion that drove them from the start. Often, the people who came up with the original vision are still intimately involved in the group’s activities. Volunteers who assist the organization have an opportunity to connect with its founders. The result is that a shared mission and vision consistently links all members of the grassroots group.

 

Wondering how you might apply these characteristics to your own work with volunteers? Curious about how these approaches might benefit you? Then join me on March 9 at
VECTor, where I’ll cover strategies to incorporate a grassroots framework into more traditional volunteer coordination, and discuss in more depth the benefits to taking a grassroots approach volunteer management – at least some of the time.

  Jenn Jozwiak is currently the Education Coordinator with the Grassroots Growth project at Volunteer Toronto, where she is developing training workshops, a series of handbooks, and online content for volunteer-run non-profits. She has worked with volunteers at Hot Docs and TIFF, and established and managed her own grassroots film festival in Winnipeg. Jenn spends her days off drinking tea, watching movies, and reading about writing.

 

Tags:  grassroots groups  Grassroots organizations  Networking  Non-profits  Ontario  Professional Development  Toronto  VECTor 2016  VECTor Conference  VECTor Presenter 

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5 Questions Grassroots Leaders Should Ask Themselves

Posted By Camara Chambers, Director of Community Engagement, December 2, 2015
Updated: December 1, 2015
 Senior woman smiling
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes              

 

The Trailblazer Series is a set of leadership talks for people who run grassroots non-profits. On November 24th 2015, Volunteer Toronto held a session called “Great Leaders Ask The Right Questions”, facilitated by Edward Johnson, a consultant with broad international experience in leading teams and change in the finance and technology corporate sectors.

Here is a snapshot of what was covered.

  

The task of leading a team or a non-profit group can be a difficult one. Regardless of what type of leader you are or the qualities you possess, these five questions can ensure you’re the kind of leader people want to follow.

 

What do our stakeholders want?

Leaders need to be able to clearly define and understand their key stakeholders. Knowing their needs, interests and expectations is as important as being able to convey to stakeholders the benefits of being involved in your organization.

 

Am I hearing what’s being said?

When speaking with team members, leaders should aim to pay full attention to what is being communicated as well as make a conscious effort to understand the complete message being sent. The best way to do this when problem solving with your team, Johnson explains, is Listen, Ask, Decide. Asking provides the opportunity for you to summarize what you have heard and get clarification before a decision is made.

 

What motivates you?

“Motivation is on a personal level,” Johnson explains. “Leaders need to first understand what motivates that person. It is about avoiding assumptions and asking questions. It is about connecting.”

What motivates one person won’t motivate another, and so it’s necessary to get to the crux of what drives each member of your team.

 

What don’t I know?

At times, a leader will come across someone who is more skilled or knowledgeable than them in a particular area. It’s important to know your limitations and strengths. Nobody knows everything, and understanding your own blind spots and weak areas in itself is a strength.

 

What doesn’t matter?

There will be times when being a leader is going to be difficult. “When dealing with stress, a leader has to keep a clear head,” Johnson says.  “People are going to get things done, but it is about prioritization.” Knowing what’s important for your organization and what isn’t, and being able to clearly and consistently communicate that to your team to ensure they are on the same page is a crucial part of leading a group. Be highly focused, and focus determinedly on the right things. 

Looking for more great information? Attend our next Trailblazer Series on December 9th! The topic is "5 Tips For Securing Grants" with guest facilitator Anne Morais, who has over 15 years of experience writing successful grant applications. 


Camara Chambers manages Volunteer Toronto's public engagement strategy and team. This includes working with community partners, leading large-scale events and overseeing various programs that aim to encourage Torontonians to volunteer. In 2014, the community engagement team helped connect 550,000 people to volunteer positions in Toronto!

 

Tags:  charities  good leaders  grassroots groups  Grassroots organizations  how to be a leader  leadership  non-profit  questions leaders ask  Trailblazer Series 

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3 Little Books With Big Advice For Grassroots Organizations

Posted By Claire McWatt, Project Coordinator - Grassroots Growth, November 13, 2015
Updated: November 12, 2015
 
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes  

 

When just starting out, it can be extremely difficult to understand the basics of building the nonprofit of your dreams. Actually – this doesn’t just apply to new groups, but to all the small, volunteer-run community groups looking to expand. With resources stretched to the limit, and time as your largest hurdle, getting help with the logistics is a necessity.

Fortunately, Volunteer Toronto’s Grassroots Growth project is here to help! With a free suite of resources to support the little organizations that make a big impact, we are working to ensure this need is covered. The project is still in development, but until then, we have identified a few great resources that can take you from chaos to coordinated without breaking the bank.

American Nonprofit specialist Erik Hanberg has brought a refreshing spin to world of nonprofit management with his For Small Non-Profits series. The books can be purchased for less than $20 (or just $9.99 for the Kindle version), and provide a realistic, no-nonsense point of reference on essential topics such as Social Media and Fundraising.

His approach is simple – avoid using too much jargon, and recognize that not all nonprofits are built the same. Smaller groups face unique challenges, and thus the solutions should take that into account. Many grassroots groups are completely self-funded, and his guide, The Little Book of Gold: Fundraising for Small (and Very Small) Non-Profits is a great start for navigating the complicated but critical task of asking for money.

 

In The Little Book of Likes: Social Media for Small (and Very Small) Non-Profits, Hanberg uses this same relatable approach and applies it to designing a social media strategy. Often social media is a barrier for less established groups, and can be intimidating. The book, which is very small and straight to the point, is easy to read, and is useful for groups with a variety of experience levels.

  


The newest of the series, The Little Book of Boards: For Small (and Very Small) Non-Profits, is a perfect introduction to the confusing world of nonprofit governance, and can help smaller groups implement a structure that suits their unique needs. Policies and procedures are an important part of staying on track, and whether you need to implement new ones, update old ones or learn the basics before joining an established board, this book has you covered.

 

For more information, check out the author’s website, where you can find a useful blog, as well as occasional giveaways of his books for free!

 

Claire leads the development of the Grassroots Growth project’s online community of practice, including the Peer Mentorship Forum and Wiki Resource Directory. She also manages relationships with Grassroots Growth partners, handles project administration, and collaborates with the Education Coordinator and Outreach Coordinator in research, training and outreach.

 

Tags:  board of directors  fundraising  grassroots groups  Grassroots organizations  non-profits  social media  volunteerism  volunteer-run groups 

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