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Advice for charity leaders

publication date: Jun 20, 2018
author/source: panel with Julia Gorman, Dianne Lister, Alayne Metrick with moderators Yunis Kariuki and Ken Mayhew

Three well-respected charity leaders, Julia Gorman, Dianne Lister, and Alayne Metrick, recently sat down to share their hard won expertise. While many things have changed over time, there were also areas of continuity.

How did you get your start?

Dianne: The biggest crossroads was to change careers. I felt I could make a bigger impact in the charity sector than I would in law.

Julia: It was hard to leap into management because it can mean leaving direct fundraising responsibilities. When I was offered this chance, I had to talk my mentor. My mentor supported me to make this leap. It was unclear to me how I would manage with 3 small children at home and my CEO let me continue to work 4 days a week.

Alayne: As a social worker, I raised some money more as a community-builder. From that I decided to go into fundraising. One month into my first fundraising job, my boss got fired. I took a course at Ryerson and worked with mentors and some colleagues who were more seasoned in fundraising.

How should we address the leadership gap?

Julia: This is a continuing problem in our sector. We need to build a ramp from middle-management to executive leadership. We need to build the strength of our teams not just at the start at their careers but through-out their work. People can be leery of leaving the day-to-day of donor relationships so it is important to build that connection to donors into middle management to bridge that gap.

Dianne: The pipeline of leadership of the people in 30s and 40s is very narrow because there are fewer people in that generation. There is both a profound challenge and opportunity. With our staff, we need to be unafraid to ask our staff where they are planning on going. We need to understand what they aspire to and then help them build the role they want for their career. People need to understand if they want to be a generalist manager or go deep and be really successful in one subject area.

There are tough issues in the workplace, how we encourage people to tackle those issues

Alayne: When you have someone working well at a level, it is great to give them a special project that would be the type of thing they would need to do in their next level. Once they see they can do it, they can build from there.

Julia: One of the tough issues as a leader is that issues affecting teams change over time. It is important to stay ahead of these issues over time. One issue is the importance of harassment in the sector. As a leader, you need to be willing to tackle tough issues and learn about them with your team together and that everyone is knowledgable and trained. (Julia)

Alayne: Sometimes you can coach your staff to tackle those tough issues and help them learn how to deal with them. That makes your team all the more capable the next time.

How do we ensure that the diversity of our communities is represented in our organizations

Alayne: We need to encourage people to get the education they need. In fact, we need to encourage more men to go into the business. We need to get people in at the bottom level and bring them up.

Julia: AFP is trying to address this through the Fellowship program. The CEO and Board have to be leaders on this issue. That intentionality is important. the whole issue of D&I has to be an intentional undertaking. It won't just happen organically. It takes a long time but the impact is very positive over time. 

Dianne: You can't represent a community in an organization unless they are on your board. If you go out and recruit someone, it can be a valuable but challenging to encourage people who are unfamiliar with Board work. 

What is your advice on if you had to predict how to prepare yourself for where you will be in 5 years?

Dianne: We need to be tackling what appear to be intractable problems. Registered charities are only one player and we are going to need to collaborate more. For example, working more closely with community foundation movement, social enterprise, and United Ways. It is valuable to use business constructs to build a better model of the business of philanthropy. We need to think about who needs to be at the table to fix problems and it is not just charities.

Julia: Technology is touching all our lives and is significantly changing what ways and techniques we can use to reach donors. Technology is going to have a huge impact how we will address problems in our sector by facilitating collaboration. Tech will also allow us to better evaluate and report on what we are doing.

Alayne: The sector seems more competitive. There are more charities doing good work. There needs to be a big investment in our young people. We need to let people have responsibility and let them be creative. We need to give people a chance to have opportunities to try new things and be a little different.

It sounds like, despite challenges, the future holds a lot of promise. All leaders, not just young leaders, would benefit from this advice.

Dianne Lister, LL.B is the Principal of The Dianne Lister Group and Senior Associate with Hutchison Group Inc. Dianne is one of Canada's top executive leaders in the charitable sector, providing consulting services to organizations and their leaders. A popular speaker, author and educator, Dianne brings 25 years experience in leading organizations that include Sick Kids Foundations, Trent University and the ROM Governors. 

Julia Gorman is a senior charitable sector professional with extensive leadership experience in organizational strategy and leadership. Julia’s career has focused on all aspects of non-profit sector management, resource development, communications, volunteer and donor relations. Julia was with United Way Toronto & York Region for over two decades in increasingly senior management roles, including SVP, Strategic Philanthropy and Chief Development Officer. 

Yunis Kariuki, CFRE, MPNL is the Senior Officer, Major Gifts, Dorothy Ley Hospice. Yunis’s drive for meaningful work led her to the non-profit sector where she has been for the last 9 years. Yunis currently oversees all aspects of the major gifts fundraising at the Dorothy Ley Hospice. Yunis has held several fundraising positions within the social services, health care, international development and faith-based organizations. 

Ken Mayhew is President & CEO of William Osler Health System Foundation. The Foundation has just finished its sixth consecutive year of significant revenue growth and is currently in a $100M Campaign supporting the redevelopment of Peel Memorial, Etobicoke General and Brampton Civic hospitals. Prior to joining Osler, Ken spent 20 years with the MS Society of Canada and was responsible for all aspects of marketing, communications and fund development for a program with almost 1 million active donors, raising over $50 million annually. 

L. Alayne Metrick, CFRE, FAHP Executive Director St. Michael's Foundation Alayne headed St. Michael’s Foundation for over two decades and during this time took the hospital from raising $3.5 million per year to a record-breaking $53.2 million in total revenue in fiscal year 2014/15. All of the capital campaigns she has led for St. Michael’s Hospital have exceeded their fundraising targets, including the most recent and most ambitious campaign, Inspire 2018, which had a goal of $210 million and raised a landmark $237 million. 

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