A RMWB human service needs assessment in 2003 identified the need for better coordination and cooperation to improve the assessment, planning and delivery of human service need in the community. “What is lacking is not a willingness to work together, but rather the informational and organizational infrastructure required to support and strengthen this cooperation. In part, this requires a proactive agency or organization to assume a leadership role within the system to help provide this infrastructure”.
In 2006, a major community visioning exercise (Future Forward) identified non-profit space as a problem. Economic development in the region had increased property values significantly and created affordability issues. Nonprofit organizations were spending substantially more on space or could not find affordable space.
In 2007, the United Way of Fort McMurray began to move to a Community Impact Model. At its core, this transformation is about a fundamental shift from being known just as a very successful umbrella fundraising organization to a movement focused on community impact. Community Impact is about achieving meaningful, long-term improvements to quality of life in the community—addressing not just the symptoms of problems but also getting at the root causes. It’s about making fundamental changes to community conditions. Although the Community Impact model has several goals, the one which is most relevant to this project is to Strengthen the network of services and the capacity of nonprofits and the community.
Also that year, Suncor Energy Foundation increased its focus on community investment projects that have significant capacity impact in the community.
In the summer of 2007, Suncor Energy Foundation sponsored a focus group involving various representatives from the nonprofit sector in the community. The central question for the focus group was what their most pressing needs were. The major themes in response to this question were shared services, including office space and, more generally, collaboration and capacity-building. The result of this focus group was the initiation of a capacity-building project supported by Suncor Energy Foundation and The United Way of Fort McMurray.
In 2008, Ed Kamps, Human Resources Manager at Suncor Energy, was seconded to the United Way as Project manager for a capacity-building project. The project statement was “To develop a strategy, framework structure and processes to enable sustainable capacity-building and collaborative advocacy for the Wood Buffalo nonprofit sector. The project will include key elements for capacity-building at the individual, group, sector and community level.”
The first phase of the project led to the development of The Redpoll Centre which helps address the physical space needs of the nonprofit community. The second phase concentrated on building capacity in the people and organizations in the sector. One aspect of this need for capacity–building was the high number of nonprofit leaders in our region who were new to their role in the last two years (estimated to be at least 50%).
In May 2009, a group of executive directors began meeting once a month over breakfast to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing nonprofit organizations in our region, and how collaboration could make them stronger. The ‘breakfast club’ continued to meet over the summer and fall and led to the idea of a ‘network’ type of organization that could serve as a hub of information and professional development services.
Ed Kamps, project manager, was appointed to the Alberta Workforce Council, a province-wide body to focus on workforce issues in the nonprofit sector. www.workforceconnect.ca
Over the summer of 2009, members of the group were very involved in the consultation phase of the Municipality’s Social Plan, and saw opportunities for integration of the recommendations with its vision for the community.
By September the ‘breakfast club’ was incorporated as a nonprofit organization called the Wood Buffalo Nonprofit Network. In the fall of 2009, we began delivery of professional development workshops and seminars aimed at strengthening capacity at the individual and organization levels of nonprofits. Topics included:
* HR Management Standards
* What Charities Need to Know
* The 7 Habits of Effective Fundraising
* Practical Tips for Public Speaking
In October the board of this new organization held a communication workshop where the group adopted the name “Nonprofit Sector Link Wood Buffalo” to better describe our purpose. That month we held our 1st AGM and elected officers and directors to the board. We also participated in Revive and Renew, with a display table and information brochure which included a form of needs assessment. Later that month we participated in Career Week, sponsored by Alberta Employment & Immigration.
On an ongoing basis we participated in the monthly Community Network
meetings to continue our interactions with representatives for various agencies.
By December, we received funding to hire a person to act as project manager to deliver on our goals and objectives. Over December and January 2010 we held a Christmas social, did radio interviews with Mix 103 and KAOS, and presented to the Rotary club.
Winter of 2009-2010 saw a continuation of workshops, lunch bag sessions, and webinars. Several hundred participants took part in various networking and professional development events during the fall and winter.
In the spring of 2010, Sector Link Wood Buffalo continued with its offering of professional development activities. As well, the Link initiated the Executive Director Roundtable, a learning and networking group of nonprofit leaders who have staff as well as report to a board of directors.
Also in May, Ed Kamps was appointed to the Alberta Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Initiative, a body consisting of representatives from various provincial government ministries and from the Alberta nonprofit sector. http://culture.alberta.ca/anvsi/