COVID-19 Update

VO is recruiting and deploying volunteers to respond to the volunteer needs specific to COVID-19 in Ottawa, Prescott-Russell, Lanark County and Renfrew County while ensuring proper screening and training protocals to safeguard the health of those volunteering and those they are assisting. Please see the intake portals for volunteers, for members, and for other agencies on our hompage. VO’s COVID 19 volunteer deployment program is supported by the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund and the Ottawa Community Foundation.

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How to Make a Histogram in Excel (Article)
By Maria Lahiffe Pivot tables are, hands-down, the best way to drill into a big mess of data and make sense of it. One of the cool things you can do is group data to help it make more sense. -- 1.     ... (posted January 2, 2020)

How to Keep your Google Ads Account Active (Article)
By David Bird Most of the information in this blog came from course notes for the Google Advertising course offered at Volunteer Ottawa by David Bird. David is a Marketing Consultant and owner of Birds... (posted December 6, 2019)

Save your Sandwiches for Lunch, not for Feedback (Article)
By Maria Lahiffe Most of us would rather have a root canal than give or receive feedback at work. It’s not surprising, since when feedback is given poorly, it can be insulting [1] [2] and confusing... (posted November 13, 2019)

What are Landing Pages and why do you need them? (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe You need the world to interact with your organization, whether it be to buy memberships, purchase your services, make a donation, or volunteer. Landing pages are an important tool for... (posted August 16, 2019)

Training isn’t just important. It is vital. (Article)
By Maria Lahiffe “Employers recognise the value in having a skilled workforce, but all too often, they treat training as something of an afterthought. Particularly when the finances are tight, skills... (posted July 31, 2019)

Reading Financial Statements, Part 2 (Article)
By Maria Lahiffe A while ago we taught you that if you can read a nutrition label, you can read a financial statement. Not only can you do it, you have to. Never, ever forget that all board members,... (posted June 19, 2019)

What can you say during an election? The rules have changed. (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Your organization does important work, for a group of people who really need it. You need to get the word out about your work, to bring in potential donors and volunteers, and to educate... (posted May 31, 2019)

What could go wrong? A lot, in fact. Learn to manage your risks. (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe “Not-for-profit organizations face unique risk management challenges. They are often held to the same standards as for-profit organizations but do not have the same resources and knowledge... (posted May 15, 2019)

What to ask in the lead-up to your annual audit (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Hands up everyone who looks forward to your annual audit. Anyone? Never forget that auditors actually want the same thing as the rest of us: evidence of an organization whose finances... (posted November 19, 2018)

If you can read a nutrition label, you can read a financial statement (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Financial statements look intimidating, with their dense columns of numbers. It can be really tempting to gloss it all over and leave the heavy lifting to the treasurer. This is a... (posted November 5, 2018)

How to make the best of the diversity on your team (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Diversity matters. Diverse teams demonstrate greater creativity [1] and objectivity [2], serve clients better [3], and achieve superior financial performance [4]. However, these benefits... (posted October 22, 2018)

Finding Data in Excel (Article)
Excel is a great tool for managing data, defined as “facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis.” [1] Data can be numbers or text. Numbers can tell how much or how many, measure... (posted August 16, 2018)

Managing Risk (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe We all take risks every day, from taking a shower, to driving to work, to developing a new program for our stakeholders. Risk is unavoidable, but it can be managed. -- What is a Risk?... (posted June 26, 2018)

Assessing Risk: Is your brain deceiving you? (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe We humans are terrible at assessing risk accurately. Basically, this is because the human brain evolved when we lived in caves, hunting and foraging to keep ourselves alive long enough... (posted June 1, 2018)

Adding Data to a Chart in Excel (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Charts are invaluable tools to visualize data, to turn it into information which can help you make strategic decisions. We went through the basics of chart-making in a previous post.... (posted May 22, 2018)

Visualizing Data: Creating Charts in Excel (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe It is irresponsible to make decisions without data; however, data on its own is next to useless. You need to turn it into information first. One of the most powerful ways to do that... (posted April 23, 2018)

Critical Path Analysis: How to make sure your project will finish on time (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Got a deadline? What would happen if you were late? Well if, say, you’re organizing an event, then worst case the event could flop. Not good. Okay, so how do you prevent that? An... (posted February 28, 2018)

Shifting your Charity to a Social Enterprise: The Earned Income Framework (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Donor dollars are drying up and government grants are harder to get, but your charity still serves a need which is not being served any other way. How do you keep going? Shift part of... (posted February 14, 2018)

Sophisticated Counting in Excel (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe A lot of questions you get from your manager, your board, and donors start with “how much” or how many”. How many clients did you serve in 2017? How many were women? How many women... (posted February 5, 2018)

8 Google Grants Policy Changes for NPOs' AdWords (Article)
 by David Bird If you’re a Not For Profit using Google Grants to fund your AdWords, there are some major policy changes that took effect January 1st 2018.  The Google Grants program entitles Not... (posted January 11, 2018)

Project Charter: start off right! (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Congratulations! You just won that big grant! Now you can get started on that big project you’ve always wanted to do. Start by writing your project charter. “A project charter... (posted January 4, 2018)

How to Sort Values in Excel (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Excel is an excellent program for organizing data of pretty much any kind, like dates, prices, names, and any other information. In order to take full advantage of this functionality,... (posted December 6, 2017)

How to use Mail Merge in MS Word (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe How long does it take you to create a bunch of thank-you letters to donors? Or certificates of achievement? Or bid sheets for your silent auction? What do you do when you’ve made... (posted October 25, 2017)

Using Cell References in Excel (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Cell references are extremely important in Excel. They really make the difference between using Excel as an expensive calculator and using it as a spreadsheet. A cell reference uses... (posted September 8, 2017)

What should you delegate? (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe According to Stanford University, 72% of chief executives need to improve their delegation skills. [1] Delegation is one of the hardest things for a leader to do, even though it can... (posted August 28, 2017)

An Audit is a good thing! (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Do you dread your annual audit? You’re not unusual. However, your annual audit is actually really valuable. It is the only tool of its kind which ensures your financial procedures... (posted August 8, 2017)

What is a Work Breakdown Structure and why do I need one? (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Be honest – how many times have you started in on a project with only a vague idea of where it was going to lead? How did that work for you? Did you end up having all the resources... (posted August 3, 2017)

Why use Google Analytics? (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Google Analytics is far and away the best and most-used digital analytics software in the world. [1] What is digital analytics software, you ask? -- What is digital analytics software?... (posted July 11, 2017)

What is evaluation, really? (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe “Evaluation is an important tool that your organization can use to demonstrate its accountability, improve its performance, increase its abilities for obtaining funds or future planning... (posted June 23, 2017)

Fancy Formatting - Tables in MS Word (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Most people know that it is easy to create tables in MS Word which will contain data. But fewer people know that MS Word tables are essential tools for sophisticated formatting, and... (posted June 16, 2017)

The 4 C’s of Teambuilding (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe There is a big difference between a group of employees and a team. “A group is a collection of individuals who coordinate their individual efforts. On the other hand, a team is a group... (posted May 25, 2017)

How to choose the right cloud storage (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Cloud storage is simply data storage in a central location which is specialized to store data, and which can be accessed online from any place with an internet connection. It is a really... (posted May 25, 2017)

Get Found! Google AdGrants for Non-Profits: $10,000 per MONTH. (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe You read that right: ten THOUSAND dollars of AdWords EVERY MONTH. That’s $120,000 of advertising per year, and eligible non-profits can get it for free. You need to get on this one.... (posted May 24, 2017)

The Canadian charity sector loses at least $12 MILLION a year to fraud. Are you sure you’re not exposing yourself to risk? (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Consider this: * 5-7% of gross annual revenue in all non-profits gets lost to fraud [1] * If an organization cannot pay its debt, the members of the Board of Directors can be held... (posted May 17, 2017)

Are you an Effective Listener? A Self-Assessment (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Most people think they are much better at listening than they actually are. Attentive or active listening is not difficult to learn; however, it does involve practice and patience, to... (posted May 11, 2017)

How to Set up Google Analytics Site Search Tracking (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Google Analytics is a free tool which you can use with any website, to give you insight on how visitors use your site, how they arrived, and how you can keep them coming back. Volunteer... (posted May 5, 2017)

Absolute WHAT? WordPress vocabulary for beginners, Part 1 (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe So you’ve got a new website. Huzzah! Now you just need to populate it with professional-looking content. You’ve picked WordPress as your content management system, right? If you’re... (posted May 1, 2017)

If you Fail to Plan, you Plan to Fail (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe A project plan gets everyone on the same page, working for the same goal. Importantly, it sets out what the expected resources are and schedules their use – so that you can get the... (posted May 1, 2017)

Excel Functions to Simplify your Life (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Excel is a very powerful tool which can help us do so many things with the data we’re inundated with, to make sense of it and use the data to make informed decisions. One of the ways... (posted April 12, 2017)

Financial Planning Basics in 9 Steps, Part 2 (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Working in the non-profit sector is rewarding. We all get out of bed every day because we know that our efforts are helping to make our community stronger. We generally get paid less,... (posted April 11, 2017)

Financial Planning Basics in 9 Steps, Part 1 (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Working in the non-profit sector is rewarding. We all get out of bed every day because we know that our efforts are helping to make our community stronger. We generally get paid less,... (posted April 7, 2017)

Free solutions to organizational challenges (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Running a non-profit organization is a lot like running any business, but generally with a much lower operational budget. You need to communicate with multiple stakeholders, gather and... (posted March 28, 2017)

The Ten Required Communication Skills (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Effective presentation skills are critical to individual success, and to the success of your organization. Your first presentation for your job was probably the one that got you the... (posted March 24, 2017)

Inspiring Action While in Conflict (Article)
Today’s post is cross-posted from Edwin Greenfield, Mediation Specialist with the March of Dimes. We are very grateful for his contribution. Please visit the March of Dimes website to learn more about... (posted March 16, 2017)

How to use a pivot table to create vlookup values in Excel (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Pivot tables are a great tool for drilling down into data to find relationships you may never have realized were there. Another thing pivot tables can do is help you clean up a data... (posted March 8, 2017)

Managing your financial records - No shoeboxes allowed! (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Do you keep your receipts in a shoebox? Managing your financial records is a bit like a trip to the dentist… few people enjoy it, but it is really important, especially around tax... (posted February 17, 2017)

Data is your Friend! (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe For many people, Excel can feel like a foreign land. Some people in your office may be able to speak the language, but you’re still labouring over a calculator and making decisions... (posted January 30, 2017)

Do your projects run away from you? We can help! (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Effective project management is a lot harder than it looks. It is also extremely important. Do you want to learn how to deliver 30% of your projects under budget? How about a 21% increase... (posted August 30, 2016)

Turning Data into Information – How to use Excel to make decisions (Article)
by Maria Lahiffe Jim Barksdale, former Netscape CEO, once quipped, “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.” More and more managers and funders... (posted June 8, 2016)