By Angela Anderson, Sponsorships & Community Partnerships Director, IABC/Calgary

We all know Calgarians have huge hearts. We have a tight community of volunteers in our city, and while they may stay behind the scenes, working at charities and non-profits, including IABC/Calgary, their impact can be very apparent. For example, when events like the 2013 floods or the Fort McMurray fires of this year occur, they always show up full of support. Calgarians tend to come out in droves, wanting to give back in any way they can.

This spring, a group of our IABC community gave a boost to a local non-profit, giving back in a slightly different way than usual.

In April, IABC/Calgary launched Gift of Communications, a program that pairs trusted senior communicators with non-profit organizations to help them with a significant communications challenge.“The group really understood the organization and its goals and have presented ideas that are creative, professional – and most importantly – achievable,” said Shirley Penner, CEO of Youth Singers of Calgary.

Helping Youth Singers with enrolment
Youth Singers of Calgary (YSC) was the non-profit chosen to participate in the pilot project for Gift of Communications. The YSC was established in 1985 and has worked with thousands of children, youth and adults over the past 30 years to foster their passion for performing arts, music and dance.

Forced to relocate due to rising rental fees in 2010, the Youth Singers scrambled to find a new space suitable to host its programs. With the focus suddenly on a search for a new facility, and no consistent meeting place for its groups during the transition, the organization noticed a drop in enrolment in its programs. Once the Youth Singers were settled in the new permanent home they began working on enrolment, bringing their numbers back up somewhat, but still seeing a gap.

IABC/Calgary volunteer and local consultant Marnie McMillan worked closely with the non-profit’s CEO to understand the challenge and how the Gift of Communications program could benefit Youth Singers. She brought back the challenge to a workshop and co-facilitated with Jolene Ondrik, fellow consultant and IABC/Calgary board member, where IABC/Calgary’s Company of One group of consultants were invited to brainstorm and workshop a solution to boosting enrolment.

“I’m so excited to launch this new program that works with organizations, such as the Youth Singers of Calgary, to help elevate the amazing work they are doing in the community. It’s a great way to work with other consultants to give back while also raising awareness of our own organization,” said Marnie. “We had 10 consultants attend the first workshop and we worked together to develop four main areas of strategic focus that will have the greatest return in increasing student memberships.”

After some follow up work to provide Youth Singers with a strategy as well as a few plug-and-play tactics, McMillan delivered the package back to the non-profit in an in-person meeting. Youth Singers have already started using many of the strategies and tactics and so far have reported they are seeing results.

A special thank you to Andy Kubrin, Susan Blanchard, Doug Downs, Jo Moss, Kathy Daeninck, Rachel Nuytten, Michelle Cook and Sheila Carruthers for supporting the Youth Singers’ session.

What’s next for Gift of Communications?
IABC/Calgary really wants to get this right. Therefore, we hosted an additional pilot workshop in June with KidSport Calgary and Area – stay tuned for more details from this session. We are trying a few tweaks to the program, before launching fully to the wider membership next year, in anticipation and celebration of IABC/Calgary’s upcoming 50th Anniversary.

Watch for more details and ways that you as a member can get involved!

Interested in learning more about Youth Singers?
Visit, check out their kids’ summer camp options, register for fall programs, or catch a live performance this July.
July 1 – SHINE division’s Canada Day performance at Eau Claire Market at 11:00 a.m. and on the Stephen Avenue Stage at 1:15 p.m.
July 12 – ONCUE division performs at Rope Square, Olympic Plaza at 10:30 a.m.

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