Question: Why are we still talking about overhead and accountability?
The sector is obsessed with overhead, as is the public and everybody because it is about the integrity of who we are, accountability and transparency. But we do have to realize that it’s about being clear: our outcomes, our impact, this is how we’re going to solve the problem as best we can. I don’t think we’re ever going to solve it because it’s a back-brain kind of thing. But as long as we are having better discussions of outcomes and impact, I think we’ll get to the right place.
Question: When it comes to overhead what can charities do to combat this public issue?
Charities are worried about this overhead obsession, and they want to communicate effectively. This is where they need to turn to the leaders in the sector. So Imagine Canada is really helping with this, creating that narrative piece for charities. We’ve got organizations like the Ontario Nonprofit Network who are really bringing to the table better paradigms to understand. And the charity I work for, Canada Helps, has introduced a Canada-wide impact framework for every charity in this country from top to bottom, to help them understand how they talk about outcomes, how they prove impact, and then just drive dollars to partner with those donors.
Question: Charities are worried about crowdfunding but what can we learn from its popularity?
One of the things we have to remember is that the donors tell us that they care about accountability and transparency, and then crowdfunding surges and surges and surges. Small charities in all the corners in the rural areas say, we don’t have the money, and then a crowdfunding campaign raises $100,000. So we have to remember that as much as people say they care about one thing, when the story is told well when we’re using technology that is current, the donors show us that they will give. Those issues can be overcome if we focus on outcomes, impact, and storytelling.
Question: It’s getting harder to be a charity, your thoughts on competing with external sources?
So now 86,000 charities in Canada, over 175,000 nonprofits. It is getting harder to be a charity than ever before. More governance requirements with more reporting to funders, foundations, and donors. So this is where it’s time that organizations figure out how to bolster their capacity, how to use the resources we have, like Imagine Canada for governance, for organizations like the Ontario Nonprofit Network to help them. We have to scale our capacity, but we know it’s not easy. So it’s time to partner with the bodies that will help you do it cost-efficiently, but also effective for your organization’s size.
Question: What are your thoughts on fundraising evolving and smaller charities being left behind?
Canada Helps is a charity where we really worry about Canada’s small charities. We work with thousands of them, 70,000 across Canada. We see them getting left behind. If small charities don’t up to their game, and how they communicate, and how they fundraise, and how they talk to their stakeholders and donors, they will get left behind. So 2017 is a year people really need to build their organizational structure and operational capacity, both in programming and in fundraising.
Question: What are your thoughts on the merger culture?
I was listening recently to Bruce McDonald, the CEO of Imagine Canada, talking about this merger obsession that we are in right now. And it was a conversation with himself and Hillary Pearson, head of philanthropic foundations, the funders. So you’ve got governing and funders, and both of them agree it’s going to be less about mergers than it is about collaboration and smart shared platforms, and smart working together. And yes, maybe there’s a merger culture, but we still need to figure out the fit. It’s more about dating than it is forced marriage. This is where I look to leaders like Imagine and PFC to say, this is the case studies they’ve seen work. It’s testing and collaboration.
Question: What is the secret behind personal survival and resilience in this marketplace?
A lot of people know me in the digital realm, in social media, as supporting individuals. I really believe that the strength of the individual will be the strength of the organization. So it’s time for individuals to scale their personal resiliency. And from the networking side, to know that they have the support from the personal skill development side on fundraising, through AFP, from talking to donors through the gift planning group, through finance staff, talking to CPA and all of their governing bodies. We need to scale up our resiliency, but that third and key element is our personal emotional intelligence and mental resiliency. So resources like Brené Brown are often cited. It’s not a soft skill. Personal resiliency, mental health, all it means we can do better as individuals.
Question: What are your thoughts are skill development and professional survival?
Professional survival is based on growing those skills, on investing in oneself. This is where it’s time to turn back to the bodies that we know, the organizations we can volunteer with, we can lead-in. And if we can’t find a place in them, to start it ourselves. Again, this is a place where we really see millennials out front. They’re the generation of personal agency. They don’t wait for the world to give them what they need. They go out and they take it and they make it, and I really admire them for that. So it’s time we all start thinking about that. Again, low cost to entry, do it simply, keep it simple, but building your personal resilience is important.
Question: Do you believe now is the time for professionals to take control of their destiny?
I look at all the generations of people working in the charitable sector, they’re all worried. They’re worried about their present. They’re worried about their future. And if you take your own future into your own hands, don’t wait on your sector or your organization to protect you, and bring you the things you need. Really building up your own skill development, thinking about where your career is going, thinking about what it is that you want, and mapping it out yourself is the answer to really surviving, not just in shifting sands, but among the storms that attack us on a regular basis.