Finding our Voice through an Affiliate Model

The Manitoba Federation of Non-Profit Organizations is looking at enhancing services to the non-profit sector and funding those enhancements through a voluntary, paid affiliate model. MFNPO is currently funded as a sector council by the provincial government. As a sector council, MFNPO is funded to focus exclusively on training and skills development for the non-profit sector.

“We’ve had some comments from non-profit organizations about providing more services,” says MFNPO Co-Chair Sandra Oakley. “I think there is a very real appetite in the sector for more programs to help non-profits and their leaders to perform better.”

With limited funds, MFNPO can only offer so much, says Oakley, so MFNPO is exploring the possibility of asking non-profits to pay a $100 affiliate fee to access a wider range of services while bolstering the Federation. “The model would be similar to the Manitoba Federation of Labour or the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce,” says Oakley. “MFNPO would be underpinned by a network of strong and engaged non-profits of all sizes.”

In October, MFNPO circulated an email survey to gather input from the sector about what services could be offered. Oakley expects that the results will validate current ideas and unearth some new ones. “We want to be able to provide more educational programs like ‘lunch-and-learn’ sessions that will reach broader audiences,” says Oakley. “We want to be seen as a primary source of information and education for people in the non-profit sector. To do that successfully, we need to offer more programs throughout the year.”

It is also expected that affiliates will have access to special events, access to expert advice, and will enjoy reduced fees on certain training programs. Oakley also believes that a sustainable affiliate model will help MFNPO serve as a more credible voice in the community.

“With the resources generated by the model and the sense of renewal we will feel as a Federation, we can represent the sector and advocate on its behalf more effectively,” says Oakley. A voluntary paid affiliate model, if advanced, will launch some time later in 2018.

“We’re excited about this initiative because if we’re successful, we will be a stronger voice for the sector,” says Oakley. “The non-profit sector is changing rapidly. The affiliate program will help turn many non-profits into active participants in keeping MFNPO nimble, responsive, and increasingly relevant.”

A Fundamental Impact

Clayton Robins knew the change was coming, but that didn’t make it any easier.

“The Department of Agriculture transferred some responsibilities to us a couple of years ago,” says Robins, Executive Director of the Manitoba 4-H Council in Brandon. “We knew it was coming and we had time to plan, but when your staff grows from two people to seven people in under two years, it’s a big change.”

Robins suddenly found himself spending far more time on human resources issues than ever before. “We needed some help in understanding how to manage the people in our organization,” he says. “We absolutely needed to spend more time on HR and I wanted to learn how to use that time effectively.”

So, Robins and his Office Manager enrolled in the Brandon session of the Fundamentals of Human Resources course offered by the Manitoba Federation of Non-Profit Organizations. The course is a recurring six-module program that has been delivered to full houses in Winnipeg, Brandon, and Thompson. It will be offered again in Winnipeg in January 2018, and in Brandon over three days in January–March.

For Robins, the course helped him advance HR practice at 4-H almost immediately, particularly around the issues of employee evaluation and conflict management. “The course was great. The instructor (Janice Goldsborough) welcomed questions and dialogue,” says Robins. “Much of the learning was peer-to-peer and now I feel I have a network down the road.”

John Hutton had a similar reaction to the course he took in Winnipeg in 2016.

“At a small agency like ours, there isn’t a separate person handling HR. That falls to me,” says Hutton, the Executive Director of the John Howard Society of Manitoba. “I’ve never had any HR training, so the course helped me clarify and sharpen some of the HR things we’ve been doing.”

Hutton, who oversees a staff of 20, says that where he felt an immediate impact was in the area of developing human resources policies for his agency. “It was a structured learning environment with opportunities for free-flowing dialogue and informal learning,” says Hutton. “I learned how to write some very coherent policy.”

Registration for the January 2018 course in Winnipeg  and the January–March course in Brandon is underway and only a few spots remain. The fee is $300 per person and registration is capped at 25 participants.

“Small organizations like ours are under pressure so it’s really nice to have resources like this available at an affordable rate,” says Hutton. “I like that it is professionally facilitated and aimed specifically at the non-profit sector.”

Fundamentals of Human Resources is based on materials originally produced by the HR Council for the Nonprofit Sector, work that is now housed within Community Foundations of Canada. MFNPO and Community Foundations of Canada are collaborating as partners in this initiative in Manitoba.

The six modules that comprise the course are: Policy Framework and Employment Legislation; Getting the Right People; Managing People and their Work; Health and Safety – Workplaces that Work; Training, Learning, and Development; and HR Planning and Wrap-up. The course will be held on January 10, 11, and 12, with two modules covered per day.

Learn more about the program and registration on the MFNPO website.

A Badge of Knowledge

A Winnipeg non-profit is dipping its toe into the waters of open badges, an increasingly popular system for recognizing professional development.

“We’re overfilling our workshops,” says Diana Rozos, Manager of Family and Child Care Resources at Family Dynamics. “I didn’t have to do much marketing to our students. There is a novelty factor here, too. Our participants are thrilled to help us pilot something new.”

Family Dynamics is using open badges as digital certificates to recognize learned skills and participation in their professional development program for licensed home-based childcare providers. Learners can receive badges in three different categories (Theory, Applied Learning, and Special Events) as well as Milestone and Leadership badges for participation in workshops about outdoor play, communications, and more.

“Most of our clients are new Canadians eager to learn and eager to succeed in their business,” says Rozos, who is implementing the badge program with the help of Margerit Roger of Eupraxia Training. “When they get a digital badge, they can display it on LinkedIn, Facebook, in an online ‘passport’, in their email signature, or on their own personal website. They can also print a version for display in their childcare space. The badge tells their clients and prospective clients that they care about professional development and lifelong learning.”

MFNPO is also experimenting with open badges to advance skills development in the non-profit sector by issuing them for successful completion of its Fundamentals of Human Resources program. To earn the badge, participants must complete the program and all the assignments, including the development of HR documents for their workplaces.

“Open badges are a good way to recognize specialized learning,” says Don Presant, President of Learning Agents and a consultant to MFNPO. “They recognize that learning today takes place in different ways, in different places, and through different media. When communities change and technology changes, the world needs ways to promote and recognize people’s efforts to keep pace.”

As open badges become more widely understood and embraced in Canada, the entire system will become increasingly credible and robust.

“Any organization can equip themselves with a badge system for its employees to recognize training and development,” says Presant. “There is plenty of evidence to support the notion that striving for and earning badges inspires and energizes employees and helps employers develop needed workforce skills.”

This video explains more about open badges and how they work.

“We run professional development programs, anyway,” adds Diana Rozos. “The badges initiative compels us to be more rigorous and more innovative in what we offer and in how we deliver it. It doesn’t only help the person who is participating, it enhances the organization offering the badges.”

To learn more about MFNPO’s discussions about open badges, contact the MFNPO office at info@mfnpo.org or (204) 272-6088.