What’s Going on at Volunteer Calgary?

ImageWow. That’s a really big question we heard a lot of in 2012 and I’m so excited to share the really big answers with you.  I will break it down in three pieces: Renewing our Mission, Growing our Services, and Changing our Structure to serve you better. In this post, I’ll focus on Renewing our Mission. Watch for the other posts early in 2013.

Renewing our Mission

The acquisition of non-profit management programs and services in January 2012 prompted Volunteer Calgary to do a lot of reflection and to take stock of where we’ve been over 57 years, and where we are going in the next 20 years.

It all started with a conversation over coffee. It was a warm, Monday afternoon just one month after I started at Volunteer Calgary. I had run into Barb Ferguson, CEO of CentrePoint in the elevator in my first few weeks in The Kahanoff Centre and she suggested we connect over coffee. We set up a time to meet a few weeks later since I was still trying to get my feet wet in my new role. If you know Barb, it will come as no surprise we had a great conversation; she’s smart and funny and just all-around interesting. I was feeling excited at the prospect of how Barb and I could work together because I had heard lots of people talk about confusion between Volunteer Calgary and CentrePoint.

Towards the end of that first coffee, Barb shared that CentrePoint was facing the tough reality that they would be unable to continue operations past the end of the year and they were wondering if we were interested in some form of take over.

The answer to the question of some form of acquisition of CentrePoint programs and services wasn’t simple and the timeline to answer it was very short. Guided by the belief that the sector would benefit from the continued delivery of the services and encouraged by key funders who work across the sector, we worked to build a financially viable business model. The process was led by our Board and supported by the Leadership Team and involved many long hours assessing if our organization could provide the nonprofit management services the sector needed without risking our own financial future and long-term viability. In less than 5 months, we were able to do this analysis, plan and organize the acquisition and take over the delivery of services as of January 1, 2012 in addition to continuing to serve the community and operate our own $1.7M organization.

What we did not have time to do was to explore the broader implications of what the acquisition would mean for Volunteer Calgary. We knew it had to be more than the bolting on of new services but what that meant would have to be explored in 2012.

So, from an operations perspective, as of January 1, 2012, we  took over the delivery of the previously scheduled training programs of CentrePoint and  the consulting projects  already in progress. This immediately constituted about a 30% increase in our operations.

On the governance side, we began to review our vision, mission and values. To do this, we designed and then implemented a multi-stage process which included many facilitated sessions of the Board and the Leadership Team reviewing our vision and mission while the entire staff explored our culture and values. This was followed by the work of a brand consultant who conducted one-on-one interviews and focus groups with small, representative samples of our stakeholder groups. This initial research told us we needed to know more, so we have engaged the services of research firm to conduct more intensive brand and market research that is presently in the field and will be completed by the end of 2012. This will all culminate in the development of a new organizational strategy during Q1 2013 as well as the launch of a new brand, currently planned to roll out in Q2 2013.

In addition to the increased operations and renewal process in the first half of 2012, we completely revised our bylaws, which were approved by members at our Annual General Meeting (AGM) in June.  At the AGM, we also rolled out the first look at our philosophy and approach to our training programs and consulting services. (That’s a whole stream of work on its own – look for that in my next post.)

I am also excited to share that we are participating in Imagine Canada’s new Standards Program, launched in May 2012. Designed to strengthen public confidence in the charitable and nonprofit sector, the Standards Program is among the first of its kind at a national level. It offers accreditation to charities and nonprofits that can demonstrate excellence in five key areas:

  • board governance;
  • financial accountability & transparency;
  • fundraising;
  • staff management; and,
  • volunteer involvement.

Our application was submitted November 30th and now enters a rigorous peer review process which is expected to take 3 to 6 months. It has been a tremendous amount of work for all involved but our Board believes it is critical that we push ourselves to be the most we can be if we are going to be the best capacity building organization possible for our stakeholders.

As we look ahead to 2013, we plan to have our new vision, mission and values approved by our Board in the first quarter. This will be followed in the second quarter with a rollout of a new brand identity. (Until the brand and market research is completed, no decision will be made about a name change as part of the new brand.)

Any questions? Don’t hesitate to send me an email or give me call. Up next Growing our Services and Changing our Structure to serve you better. Look for these in January.



Jamie Niessen
President and CEO
Volunteer Calgary


About Propellus

Propellus is a non-profit organization that has been empowering organizations since 1955. Through a dynamic range of consulting, training and member services, it helps organizations envision and realize new paths, practices and possibilities. Propellus guides, mentors and educates clients, arming them with tools and resources to help boost organizational effectiveness. Propellus strengthens organizations; in doing so, it leads the way toward building thriving communities.
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