Top Seven Tips for Fundraising

Coldest Night of the Year is coming up quick – and no doubt this year has a lot of fundraising events in store. So whether you’re joining our February 25 Walk for Bissell or if you’ll be raising funds through an event of your own, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when you’re looking to raise money to make a difference in your community.

Check out these top seven fundraising tips and be sure to share your own tips on social media.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Many hands make light work. Recruit as many people onto your team as you can. More people can help you reach your team’s fundraising goal faster!

Ask Everyone

You won’t get a donation if you don’t ask for it. Sometimes the biggest donations come from the most unexpected places. Go beyond friends and family to ask co-workers, teachers, favourite businesses, your dentist, your lawyer, your boss or even your vet. Don’t be scared! Send them an email with your link and you’ll be surprised how many will happily contribute to your campaign.

Ask Directly

Write a short message and personalize it before sending it directly to each person via email, text, or direct message. People are much more likely to respond to something addressed to them. But this is only one touchpoint that can help you convince your friends, family, coworkers, and larger network to contribute to your cause.

Post On Social Media

Post on all your platforms often to reach as many people as possible. Don’t forget to include a link directly to your fundraising page. Use photos from previous events or even a photo of you participating in a campaign. Ask others to share with their followers to increase your reach further. And make sure to tag everyone relevant in the post and include any special hashtags for the event – in this case it’s #WalkforBissell.

Share Your Why

People are more likely to show their support when they understand why this cause is important to you. Tell the story of how you got involved with your cause and why you care about it so much. It helps people understand why they should care too.

Remind Them

Did they say they would donate, but the event is only a few days away and you haven’t seen a donation in their name? Politely ask them again. They won’t be annoyed – they likely just forgot.

Say Thank You

Thank every person individually who donates to you – and as soon as possible. After the event, share details of how much you raised and post photos of you participating. Write a message you can send to all your donors to update them on how the event went, how much money was raised, and most of all, why their contribution was so important.

Have any other fundraising tips to recommend? Any huge fundraising victories you want to share? Let’s keep the conversation on social media. Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Instagram and Twitter, and we hope to see you when we walk through downtown Edmonton on February 25!


Why we walk for Coldest Night of the Year

Spending a night outside in Edmonton’s harsh winters can take its toll on people. In 2021, it’s estimated that 222 people experiencing houselessness in Edmonton died – many from avoidable deaths such as from exposure. That is a 70 per cent increase from the year before. Between 2021 and 2022, there were 786 reported cases of extreme frostbite, with 91 leading to amputations.  

For countless Edmontonians, there is a very real prospect that they may experience houselessness. The Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser walk through downtown gives a small glimpse into what experiencing houselessness can be like. 

This Year’s Walk for Bissell 

Our goal in 2023 is to raise upwards of $120,000, after last year’s successful walk where we raised $140,000. Walkers are coming together on February 25, 2023, for either the two or five kilometre walk through downtown Edmonton – with teams raising funds since December and continuing to raise funds until one month after the walk. 

Not only is this a fun way to bring awareness to a serious issue in our city, but you can also see directly how those funds raised make a difference to the community. This is the sixth year that Bissell Centre is taking part in Coldest Night of the Year – and the first back in-person after the pandemic. 

The funds raised for the downtown Coldest Night of the Year walk go directly back to Bissell Centre’s programs, ensuring that our city’s most vulnerable have the services they need to live with a better quality of life.  

A History of Helping Those Experiencing Houselessness 

Coldest Night of the Year was established in 2011 when three Ontario Ministries wanted to bring attention to what folks who are experiencing houselessness need to endure over Canada’s harsh winters. They started with a goal to raise $40,000 – by the end of the walk, they had raised well over $111,000. 

This fundraiser was quickly adopted across Canada and the US, with 166 different locations hosting their own walks with funds going back to local community organizations. In 2022, more than $12 million was raised by more than 31,000 individual walkers in Canada and the US. 

You can still contribute to this amazing fundraiser. Donate to a team (or start your own!), donate to someone walking, or support us directly at Bissell Centre by donating to the Walk with Bissell team. Check out our local event site and contribute today. With your help, we can reach our $120,000 goal and continue serving those most vulnerable in our city.  

Take the 30-Day Minimalist Challenge

In 2010, two young guys from Ohio decided to quit their corporate jobs, downsize their lives, and focus on what’s most important to them.

Today, they tour the world spreading their ideas about minimalism and living a meaningful life. Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn now have multiple best-selling books, two highly successful Netflix documentaries, and a weekly podcast with guests ranging from celebrities to researchers and even members of their own families.

A Minimalist Lifestyle

As The Minimalists, these two do much more than talk about living with less. They provide valuable tools and ideas to help others find their ways of living with less. Local broadcaster Ryan Jespersen has started his journey, taking on the 30-day Minimalist Challenge and chronicling his progress on Twitter – making sure everyone knows he’s giving to Bissell Centre.

As we roll into a fresh year, countless Edmontonians are looking for their own fresh starts to a new year. And let’s be real, we all accumulated a lot of stuff over the pandemic. With the world opening again, it could be time to look at everything in our homes and refocus ourselves back to what’s most important.

The Minimalist Challenge

Jespersen isn’t the first locally-recognized name to chronicle this adventure in the Minimalist Challenge. The Edmonton Journal’s Fish Griwkowsky shared his experiences in the newspaper back in 2016 – clearing out a myriad of science-fiction novels, vintage action figures, and more!

How this month-long game works is simple: on the first day of the month, find one thing to let go of; on day two, find two things; and so on, and so on. By the end of the month, that’s close to 500 individual items to be let go.

And this is just one idea the two influencers devised. There’s also the packing party, where you pack up everything you own like you’re moving and only unpack the items you use. After three weeks, you start to see how little you need in your day-to-day. They also have a series of “rules,” which really are more like guidelines and can always shift depending on individual need.

Don’t Forget Bissell Centre as you downsize

Bissell Centre accepts donations of all kinds at both of our Thrift Shop locations, from books to clothes, kitchenware, unused toiletries and undergarments, winter clothing, and more! So, if you decide to take this plunge in trying to live with less, be sure to keep us in mind as a place where all these things can be put to good use and help those who need it most.

Share with us your own downsizing journey! Is there anything in your home you decided to minimize? What do you donate most often to organizations like Bissell Centre? Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to leave your thoughts. Let’s keep the Minimalist Challenge and the conversation going!

Time for a Financial Checkup: November is Financial Literacy Month

November is Financial Literacy Month (FLM). It’s the time of year when Canadians are encouraged to do a financial checkup. With new apps and online financial tools, it’s never been easier to assess your financial well-being. But where do you start, if you are missing basic financial literacy in subjects like debt, credit, financing, and budgeting? And where do you go if you want to understand your financial rights and responsibilities?

Theresa Baran is familiar with this dilemma. Growing up in Edmonton, Theresa’s father was her first financial mentor.  “My Dad,” she smiles, “was the first person to teach me about money.” Although her father focused on saving his money, Theresa never forgot the big, unexpected purchase he had made for his family.

As a nine-year-old girl, Theresa vividly recalled her father pulling into their driveway with a vehicle. “It was blue, had big wheels, and was beautiful,” she said. “It was the fanciest car I had ever seen. My dad was the first Native man in our neighbourhood to buy a car.” After years of saving, the family had its first vehicle for $2000. It was a large purchase for a young family, which included Theresa and her two siblings.

Theresa’s Dad imparted financial wisdom to his daughter that she carries to this day. “Always have money to put a roof over your head,” he reminded her, “and never be homeless.” Then, suddenly, on her 18th birthday, Theresa’s father died, and everything in her life changed.

Theresa had nobody to advise her on money management, and she didn’t know who to ask for guidance. Although her dad taught her so much about saving, he didn’t have time to explain credit, debt, and rules about income tax. Living on her own, she found work at a daycare, a career she held for 22 years. She tried to save her money but lacked basic financial literacy. Now at 48 years of age, Theresa is on Assured Income for the Severely Handicap (AISH), where she needs to survive on a fixed income where every dollar counts.

Bissell Centre offers a variety of programs on financial empowerment to improve the lives of people on low incomes. These free programs allow participants to feel empowered in their financial decision-making, helping them to avoid making poor financial choices or being taken advantage of by unscrupulous companies that offer easy financing and high-interest payments. Participants create budgets, file taxes, access government programs, and create realistic savings plans.

Katrina John-West, Team Lead of Financial Empowerment, says the program is providing financial information that many of us take for granted. John-West, who holds a business degree, covers topics ranging from debt and credit to budgeting and knowing your financial rights, giving participants the confidence to manage their money. “Bissell even helped me file my income taxes,” says Theresa, adding, “When I worked at the daycare, I had a T4. Now that I am on AISH, it’s different, and I have a T5.”

Thanks, in part, to her father’s advice, Theresa has never been homeless. “Do good things with your money and don’t cry away your blues by drinking and drug use,” guided her dad. For the first time in her life, Theresa says she feels like “an independent woman” having taken the Financial Empowerment program.

Theresa sitting in the Community Space sharing her story

Theresa Baran shares the financial skills she developed as part of the Bissell Centre’s Financial Empowerment Program for Financial Literacy Month.


Theresa and Katrina outside walking


The key to the Financial Empowerment Program is facilitators, like Katrina John-West, who possess social services and business backgrounds and spend time one-on-one with participants, including Theresa Baran.

Seeing FASD Through A Strengths-Based Lens

When we hear about FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) we often hear about the challenges and negative impacts on society. While there are challenges with this diagnosis, there are also plenty of positive traits and strengths to counteract the negatives that are more often discussed.

When thinking about individuals who are living with FASD, we need to take a people-first approach. There’s a great deal to learn about FASD. No diagnosis is the same; each individual experiences FASD differently and every individual can still live a full, robust life in the community with the right supports. Sound familiar? This is inherently true for every single human experience on this planet. A diagnosis shouldn’t create an “us” vs “them” narrative that builds walls between us. What it should do is encourage empathy and compassion.

Even the most neurotypical people benefit from focusing on their individual strengths. We talk about “math people” or being a “people person” all the time. We classify ourselves and others as introverts and extroverts and people who make decisions based on their hearts or their heads.  Neurodivergent individuals have all the same strengths, desires, wants and needs as anyone else. They also require supports from their community, friends, and family just like the rest of us.

Take JB, for example. This participant’s personal neurological FASD strengths come out when routine, order, and a fixed process are in place. He also thrives when incorporating movement into an activity. The participant applies these strengths to fixing bikes and shows significant skill in doing so. He has expanded his skills, using them to support the community by fixing broken walkers for people who are unable to access funding for walking aids. JB gets assistance sourcing the walkers, fixes them on his own time and then gives them back to be distributed in the community. In this way, he utilizes his neurological strengths to contribute uniquely to his community.

And then there’s KR – This participant’s social strengths allow her to be focused on those around her and sensitive to the needs of others. Utilizing this strength, she has supported occupational therapy students in understanding the strengths and challenges she has observed in herself and others with FASD. KR benefits from the use of organizational supports and pre-planning around sequences to support her cognition and prevent rushing, which can lead to feelings of frustration and make her more likely to make mistakes. As a result, the participant chose to teach the students through a pre-planned presentation using posters; this allowed her to best utilize her FASD strengths. In this way, KR is able to coach future occupational therapists on how to approach clients in her situation in a client-centred way that is more likely to lead to therapeutic success.

For other individuals learning to manage their FASD, starting with strengths has been a pathway through. One participant, JR, is skilled at repairing bikes but prefers to keep to himself and limit social situations. JR uses his strengths to contribute to his community by fixing bikes for Ukrainian refugees in his home.

FASD participant cooking

Then there is JW – This participant is strongest in an environment that has limited distractions, where information is presented 1-2 steps at a time and ideally is in a visual format. He also benefits from flexibility in time scheduling and is very creative. For him, a strength-focused approach is to channel this creativity through cooking. He frequently creates new flavours and recipes to share with the residents of his community.

Ultimately, if you boil these strengths and needs down, many of us can relate. We too benefit from routine, consistency and environments with few distractions. While many of us face a variety of challenges in our lives, in our strengths we are alike. Central to this are the supports in the community that we all need to live a full and prosperous life. People with a diagnosis of FASD often face stigma when, in actuality, we are far more similar than we may think. Some of us just need a little more support than others or different support to truly let our strengths shine.

We invite you to learn more about FASD over the month of September and beyond.  Let’s come together to create an equitable space together and foster an understanding of the challenges and strengths that our fellow community members live with.





Houselessness and Injuries: Using the Data to Improve our Services

At Bissell Centre, our mission is to end poverty and houselessness in the community. In order to achieve this we need to fully understand what barriers people experience receiving care, the stigma they are forced to wear, what injuries are they suffering with and how we can best build programs to support individuals while they work their way out of houselessness and poverty.

Injuries can happen to anyone, at any time, creating new obstacles to daily living and changes in circumstances. What if you’re already facing barriers and obstacles to prosperous daily living? What if new injuries will further decrease your chances of leaving poverty and improving your circumstances?

The Injury Prevention Centre gathered information from 2019 & 2020 to look at more than 11,600 emergency room visits. This report, Houselessness and Injuries in Alberta: 2019-2020, dives into what injuries are sustained and shows us which injuries are preventable. While no one can prepare and prevent all injuries, we can look at the data to determine priorities in programming.

One thing the data makes clear is that Housing First and harm reduction practices would prevent more than half of these injuries. We need to ensure we’re communicating this to the public, so that we can all work towards a community where people are safe no matter their circumstances.

We invite you to read the report below to learn more and see the data for yourself.

Cover of IPC Report on Houselessness and Injuries

Bill’s Story – Finding a Fresh Start

My name is Bill and I received a second chance at life after finding out about Bissell and the supports they offer. Bissell does amazing work helping those Edmontonians like me who are struggling to get by after life has kicked them down. And I’m so thankful I was able to access Bissell Centre’s programs back when I needed them most.

Back when Covid-19 first hit, I had a job at a restaurant, and plenty of experience in the industry. Then the restaurant closed without warning. It was total chaos for restaurants, like so many jobs, so finding work at another was impossible.

I didn’t have any savings, and soon I could no longer afford my rent. I had to give up my apartment and I moved into a rooming house. I didn’t know the people I was living with and there was no privacy. But hey, I had a roof over my head. I was grateful for that much at least.

Someone at that point told me about Bissell as a place to warm up and find something to eat. I didn’t think I’d ever end up going to a place like Bissell, but I’m glad I did. That first visit changed my life and it all started with a warm plate of food.

The food tasted great and the staff was even better. Everyone was so welcoming. That kept bringing me back.

But still, I found myself bored without a job, as I grew up on a farm where hard work is required and my motto has always been “if you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean.” As soon as the staff at Bissell knew of my urge to get back to work, they sent me to their Employment Services team, who were able to find me a steady job almost right away.

I wish I could say that’s the end of the story and everything worked out just fine.

Just as everything seemed to be falling into place and I felt like I had a second chance, I was hit with another blow: the rooming house I called home burned down. Everything I owned was now dust. I can’t begin to describe how I felt. I was scared, lonely, sad and angry all at once.

For the second time in one year, I was homeless. This time, thankfully I knew where to turn for help.

When I was homeless, all I could think about was how I was going to stay out of the cold, and where to find my next meal. Bissell was a warm place to go and always had a meal for me. After getting to know some of the staff, I reached out and asked for help finding a place to live and work.

The staff at Bissell got me connected with temporary lodging. Then I found another rooming house, but I didn’t feel safe there. Bissell Centre staff were able to connect me with their Community Bridge program and I found an apartment of my own.

I also now work full-time at the Bissell Centre Community Space and it’s so rewarding to work in the same space I once turned to for support. I don’t know where I would be without Bissell Centre and I am glad I never had to find out.

For me, all the support from Bissell started from a simple meal. Please make a donation to Bissell’s Easter meal and help others find the holiday meal that could be just the fresh start they’re looking for. Bissell’s Easter meal is an annual event and serves hundreds of Edmontonians. Your generosity (a single meal costs just $3.20) ensures that others receive the same helping hand that Bissell offered to me.

Tipinawâw – 24/7 Emergency Accommodation Amid COVID-19

In the fall of 2021, cold winter weather was looming, and there was reduced shelter capacity in the local sector as a result of COVID-19 spacing requirements, This created an emergent need to provide shelter and safety from the outside elements for people experiencing homelessness. The Edmonton Convention Centre was opened as Tipinawâw, a 24/7 emergency accommodation space which was operated by several local partnering agencies. This video series shows the challenges and triumphs faced.

Episode One – Mobilizing for Winter

With cold winter weather looming, and reduced shelter capacity in the local sector as a result of COVID-19 spacing requirements, there was an emergent need to provide shelter and safety from the outside elements for people experiencing homelessness. The Edmonton Convention Centre was opened as a 24/7 emergency accommodation space and operated by local partnering agencies. While this response faced some significant challenges, there were also some great triumphs. We invite you into Tipinawâw.

Episode Two – More Than Just a Name

Tipinawâw not only provided shelter and safety from the outside elements for people experiencing homelessness, Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society brought Indigenous culture to those at the 24/7 emergency accommodation space, allowing some to experience their own culture for the first time. This connectedness to one’s culture is a powerful step in their healing journey. We invite you into Tipinawâw.

Tipinawâw: Episode Three – Outbreak

Following public health guidelines like physical distancing is hard. It’s even harder when you don’t have a home to stay in. Tipinawâw provided a 24/7 space at the Edmonton Convention Centre for people experiencing homelessness to access day and night services as safely as possible. Boyle Street Community Services led Tipinawâw’s medical response to COVID-19, providing PPE, showers, wound care, and harm reduction services on-site. They developed a contact tracing system and helped clients access COVID-19 tests and isolation spaces. As COVID-19 cases rose across the province, measures at Tipinawâw helped slow the spread of COVID-19. We invite you into Tipinawâw.

Episode Four – Breaking the Cycle

Tipinawâw provided people experiencing homelessness with a warm, safe place to go over the fall and winter months. The 24/7 emergency accommodation space at the Edmonton Convention Centre did so much more than that; it also brought housing services to where people were at in their journey out of homelessness. Ultimately the solution to homelessness, is housing. We invite you into Tipinawâw.

Tipinawâw: Episode Five – Tomorrow

Through collaboration and caring, Tipinawâw provided vulnerable Edmontonians a warm, safe space to go this past winter, and directly connected them to housing options. In the final video of this series, we explore how the City and partner agencies came together quickly to help people experiencing homelessness during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. What were the lessons learned? What will it take to end homelessness in Edmonton? Ultimately, the solution to homelessness is housing, and we are all stronger as a community when we are not leaving anyone behind. We invite you into Tipinawâw one final time.

Videos made in partnership with Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, Bissell Centre, Boyle Street Community Services, The Mustard Seed, the City of Edmonton, Edmonton Convention Centre and Homeward Trust. Video production: PlanIT Sound

National Volunteer Week Feature: Meet Saroj Saher

Saroj Saher has volunteered with Bissell for an astounding 30 years and has seen Bissell grow substantially in that time. Over the course of phone conversation, Saroj told me about her earliest days at Bissell and the many roles she has filled as a volunteer.  

In the early 1990s, she said, Bissell Centre was very simple” with fewer services and programs than we have currently. Shortly after starting her volunteer tenure with Bissell, Saroj met with Bissell’s CEO, who raised the idea of hosting a dinner around the Christmas holidays. The CEO said that people typically donate much more food around Christmas which would build up and couldn’t be distributed quickly.  

So, Saroj quickly signed on to spearhead what would become a regular Bissell tradition, the New Year’s Day Dinner. It turned out that the dinner required more work and a much bigger kitchen than anticipated. Over the years Saroj has forged many contacts with enthusiastic organizations who want to contribute their time and skill to preparing the dinner, ranging from large restaurants to NAIT’s commercial kitchens. Planning an event as large as the New Year’s Day Dinner takes a lot of time for staff and volunteers alike, but by all accounts, Saroj is far from done giving her time and extensive expertise to the cause. 

The New Year’s Day Dinner has come a long way since it started, providing over 1200 meals in its most recent iteration. However, for Saroj, giving back goes beyond big events like the dinner. As she says, “If you do a kind gesture, it’s contagious. You can give 1 dollar, a quarter, someone will see you giving, and it continues.” However large or small the gesture, Saroj firmly believes that when one person gives, others are motivated to do the same. 

Volunteer work is a matter of both duty and passion for Saroj, “I believe that I am better off financially…why I can’t I help? I have more privileges, so why can’t I share?” Saroj’s passion for the work we do at Bissell is evident right away when you talk to her. I asked what the best part of volunteering with Bissell has been and immediately Saroj replied “oh, I love it, I just feel so happy...there is a lot of connection there. I felt connected to [participants].”  

That sense of connection goes both ways as Saroj shared stories of participants who will come running up to her at events to catch up and the many stories she has learned over the years. It’s evident from talking to Saroj that she cares deeply about people and has an incredible drive to serve.  

If there’s one thing Saroj wished people knew about Bissell it is simply that “Bissell Centre is there to help.” Her passion for Bissell Centre’s work comes from the variety of services and programs on offer and the way that staff and volunteers engage with participants, “a smile can make a lot of difference.” 

Finally, what would Saroj tell someone who is thinking about volunteering with Bissell? “I would say go ahead, go, go! Don’t be scared. Try once, at least once. That experience, you will never forget. As we end our call, Saroj reiterates her gratitude for the many people who have helped her at Bissell and tells me that whatever we need, she is there to help. After 30 years of volunteering with Bissell, Saroj seems more motivated than ever. I have no doubt that the next time we host New Year’s Day Dinner, Saroj will once again be in the thick of things, more than likely leading the way. 


Interview by Sam Goertz, Volunteer Services Team

Chance’s Story of Hope

My name is Chance. I’m 25 years old and live at Hope Terrace, a permanent supportive home that is run by Bissell Centre. I have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder—a type of brain injury with no cure—so I need help with things like coping with my emotions, keeping appointments, and cooking.

Before I moved into the Hope Terrace residence, life was frustrating and stressful. I used to live at my grandmother’s house, along with my mom and four other family members. When everyone was home, it was chaos, which made it even harder to manage my emotions—even happy emotions were too much at times.

A lot of times, I would blackout because my emotions got too intense. I do my best to keep my anxiety and bipolar symptoms under control, but it can feel impossible without proper support.

Mom and I knew I needed help, but we didn’t have money and we didn’t know where to start. So, a few years ago, I tagged along with my friend to Bissell Centre’s Easter meal. He was getting help from Bissell and seemed to like it enough. Maybe I could get help too?

It was at that very meal that I first heard about Bissell’s mental health resources and the Hope Terrace house.

When I was invited to move into Hope Terrace a few months later, Mom and I both agreed it would be a good decision. I finally felt some hope. Maybe life doesn’t have to be so hard all the time? Maybe I could have a better life?

The staff here help me with the things that overwhelm me most—like budgeting, cooking, and dealing with my emotions. They are awesome! They’re really good, kind people—they’re my family.

Without the support that I regularly get here, I don’t know where I’d be.

—Chance, Bissell Centre Participant

Reg Canadian Charity · 118810829RR0001