News: Crowdfunding and Bunnyhugs

Lots on the go! If you’re based in Saskatchewan and work in the area of poverty reduction (or even if you don’t and simply care about the issue, which really should apply to everyone!), I strongly recommend you check out the survey link in the second item below related to the provincial government’s poverty reduction strategy. The survey closes this Friday, so don’t delay!

Webinar on Board Diversity: Ideally, non-profit boards of directors are reflective of the communities they work in: this goal is not often met in practice. This Thursday, May 14 at 11am Sask time (1pm Eastern), a free webinar on Building Board Diversity and Inclusion (hat tip to Sheena Greer at Colludo!) will focus on “how to bring more diversity to your board and create a board culture that values diversity beyond the check box.”

Poverty Reduction Survey: Saskatchewan is one of two provinces in Canada without a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy. Last year, efforts by the Poverty Costs initiative brought this issue onto the public radar, leading the provincial government to form an Advisory Group on Poverty Reduction to provide input into the formation of a strategy. That group is now asking for public feedback from both individuals and organizations through a brief online survey. Act fast, as it closes this Friday, May 15.

Leadership Saskatoon is holding a Sandbox Lunch and Learn on Wednesday May 27. Using a World Cafe approach, participants will learn about the Canada300 project and discuss the future of Canada over the next 150 years. Given the scope of the topic, it’s a longer session than usual, running 11:30-1:30 at the Affinity Credit Union’s St Mary’s branch (20th Street West and Avenue P). RSVP’s are required by May 22 – contact information and more details on the poster.

Still on Leadership Saskatoon, the application period for 2015-16 Leadership Saskatoon cohort is open until June 1. If you’re interested in applying, don’t delay!

Crowdfunding! Two amazing Saskatoon initiatives are running crowdfunding campaigns – check them out, as they’re both worthy of your support!

Next Up, a great youth leadership program focusing on social and environmental justice issues1, is looking for support to host an intensive session for First Nations and Métis youth. This is the second time for this specific session, and last year’s offering saw an amazing response. Money raised for this year will help provide program supplies, honoraria, and travel and childcare subsidies.

Treaty 6 Justice Collective has launched a campaign in support of a new community space called The Stand. Located in the Nutana community, this space will become the new home for independent bookstore Turning the Tide and provide coworking and meeting space for community organizers and grassroots organizations. Money raised will go towards renovation and equipment expenses with additional funds going towards initial operating costs and an organizing fund to support new community organizations.

Kudos! Speaking of crowdfunding, you may remember that Affinity Credit Union ran a social enterprise contest last fall that combined traditional grant making with a crowdfunding approach that raised over $90,000. That success was recently recognized with a National Credit Union award for Community Economic Development from Credit Union Central of Canada. Congrats to Affinity’s community development team – looking forward to this year’s contest!

And just in case you need a laugh, Vu Le over at Nonprofit With Balls provides some great templates to answer that perennial grant application question: how will your program be sustainable after our funding ends? The “poetic existential” and “short and simple” versions at the end are my favourite, but I have to give bonus points for including bunnyhugs2 in the Canadian version!

  1. Full disclosure: I was a volunteer presenter at one of Next Up’s sessions this past year.
  2. A Saskatchewan term for a hooded sweatshirt, or hoodie – I’m surprised that an American is familiar with a term, as I have never heard that term used elsewhere in Canada!

Learning Experience

While I won’t go into the origins of Strong Roots here (sounds like a superhero backstory), suffice to say it was a bit of a twisty path going from wide-eyed student to the slightly less wide-eyed but more experienced consultant you see before you. Along that path, I was helped by numerous amazing people who acted as mentors in some way and provided opportunities for me to learn and grow. Early on in building Strong Roots, I recognized that I wanted to pay that support forward to those new to the for-impact field, be they students, newcomers to the city or country, or someone making the shift into the sector after working elsewhere.

Last August, an urban and regional planning student, Shannon McAvoy, came by the Two Twenty looking for an opportunity to work or volunteer here. We talked and determined we could figured something out, with an opportunity for her to see first-hand what life is like as a solo consultant, and for me to put my principles in action as well as to learn more about the field of urban planning.

One obstacle came up immediately: I didn’t have enough regular work at the time for Shannon to join in on or the funds to compensate her time, aside from paying for her Two Twenty coworking membership. Although the laws in Saskatchewan around unpaid internships are somewhat vague, my position was that I wouldn’t ask her to do work that I would normally pay somebody to do. Instead, we ended up creating a hybrid model that combined a job shadow with volunteering together on a community project.


Discovering a mutual interest in improving public transit in Saskatoon, we started an initiative called Better Transit YXE1, with the aim to encourage dialogue around the role that transit plays in a growing city. We blogged, handed out candy canes on a cold December day, and had many coffee meetings with transit staff, city councillors, and leaders of related organizations like Bus Riders of Saskatoon and Saskatoon Cycles. Those conversations in particular had an unexpected impact, bringing together a small group of committed people who recently held a citywide event, 10 Days for Transit, to spark change around how we think and talk about transportation in our city. While the long-term effects will undoubtedly play out in the months and years to come, the fact that we could contribute in some small way was a huge win for this partnership.

All good things come to an end, and that’s true for this experience as well. With her final exams complete, Shannon will be graduating later this spring and subsequently moving to the south of the province. Better Transit YXE, always intended to last only as long as Shannon’s time with Strong Roots, will officially wrap-up in the coming days. The work of Strong Roots Consulting will continue, but I will miss Shannon’s knowledge, enthusiasm, and positive attitude in the weeks and months to come.

Shannon, thank you for all that you have brought to these last seven months! I hope that you found it a worthwhile experience, and I wish you all the best in the months and years to come.

  1. Like most other Canadian cities, Saskatoon’s three-letter airport code begins with “Y” and has no obvious relation to the city’s name. In this era of hashtags, it’s become a convenient and quirky shorthand.