Our community is better thanks to those who believe they are creating a better tomorrow by giving their time. From community organizations to minor sports teams to non-profit agencies, Calgary is fuelled by the hardworking people who dedicate their time to making our communities a better place.

This week is National Volunteer Week, and we’re tipping our hat to all volunteers in our community. However, we would like to shine a light on a group of highly motivated and ambitious United Way volunteers who lend their expertise to organizations and agencies to help them grow and prosper. The GAIN team is a group of highly-skilled professionals and leaders from the private and public sectors who partner with agencies to provide help where needed across four different areas:

  • Board Governance Assessment and Supports
  • Strategic Business and Financial Planning
  • Leadership Coaching
  • IT Assessment

Team Lead Ashley Popko says the volunteers collaborate to help non-profits navigate areas that can prove complicated and cost-intensive without the right expertise:

“Whether we are going in and helping a board of directors build their capacity to support a brand-new charity, or an established agency is going through some changes, and they’re not quite sure where to proceed, we help them get on the right track. In some situations, if the organization lacks a technology plan, we can help them in the IT outline process. There’s so many different pieces of governance, leadership, and technology where we can make an impact.”

The GAIN team has roughly 70 volunteers representing a large cross-section of professional services. While everyone has reasons for joining up, Ashley says it’s a great way to see your work and experience impact the community. She says the team also serves as an opportunity to network with a diverse group of like-minded professionals:

“We have members with all kinds of experience levels. Some are starting their careers, and others are past retirement. In addition, there are lots of former oil and gas employees who were part of boards or executive teams.”

The group was active in 2021, supporting 47 different agencies with a total investment of 2,000 volunteer hours, at zero cost to the organizations, with the bulk of their focus on board governance and IT support and planning. GAIN also facilitated leadership retreats, team-building exercises, and agency mergers.

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“We wanted guidance for our Strategic Planning session. As the discussion progressed during the session we developed a clear short-term plan, goals, and actions. The session went well. The GAIN team provided concrete input on the issues that went to the heart of the decisions. The input was appreciated, insightful, and on topic. The GAIN team was instrumental in focusing our discussion to determine firm goals for the future and steps to achieve those goals.”

Roc Spence, YouQuest

GAIN is still looking to grow in 2022, and Ashley’s recruiting pitch is simple:

“This is a great way to grow your skills and to give back to the community in a meaningful way, where you’re not only helping for the short term, but you’re building the long-term capacity (of those organizations), and you’re leaving them with a strong legacy. You’ve given the community something tangible, whether you are helping develop a board or creating a four-year IT plan. It’s a great way to use your skills to make a real difference.”

One of the biggest challenges for the team is finding new agencies for collaboration. So if your organization needs a helping hand, why not contact a team of professionals who are ready to help streamline your processes and set your team up for success? It doesn’t matter if your group is funded by United Way or not, the GAIN team is ready to help.

At United Way of Calgary and Area, we celebrate and thank the GAIN team for giving their time, expertise, and passion. You are helping community builders do what they do best and providing the foundations for a better tomorrow for everyone. You are truly an example of why, when we are United, we make the biggest difference.