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AFP Leadership Takes a Moment to Reflect: ‘There Is Light at the End of This Tunnel … What You Do Matters’

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ken and jane

FRANÇAIS

As we are about to enter our third year of pandemic conditions, the lives of many professional fundraisers have been turned upside down alongside the charities they work for.  

AFP Daily reached out to AFP Canada chair Ken Mayhew and AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada chair Jane Potentier, CFRE, to capture their reflections on what has been a taxing year for many with numerous challenges professionally and personally. Mayhew works as president & CEO of the William Osler Health System Foundation, and Potentier is associate vice-president, alumni, and development, at the University of Victoria.

“During 2021, I was one of many asking for help,” says Mayhew. 

“I did so to bolster my own resolve as a parent with discouraged daughters, as a leader within the institution at the epicentre of Covid in Ontario, and as the chair of AFP Canada seeking to hear, appreciate and thoughtfully respond to IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access), Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and social justice issues and concerns. I am not sure I could have gotten through without the advice and support of AFP friends. Similarly, I made time, often several times a week, for colleagues who reached out with questions that have no simple answer.”

“Fundraisers are human,” says Potentier. 

“They are passionate about the causes that they serve, and they were not always able to do the work they needed to do or in ways that were optimal. They also saw the cracks and the very serious issues we are facing in the realm of equity, diversity, and inclusion, in health, in climate change, and worked hard to do their part to help donors and their organizations create meaningful change. But they are tired, sometimes grieving, sometimes isolated, and stressed. Budgets are tight, organizations stopped hiring or let people go. It is a tough environment.”

Potentier emphasizes how AFP is there to provide community and a network, along with the education, ethics framework, research, and advocacy to support the work—a place to come together to find meaningful responses within our sector. And, she says, “that’s where the hope and inspiration come in.”

AFP continues to focus on its core work—providing opportunities for professional development to enable fundraisers to continue to build their skills and capacity, facilitating forums for networking and support, delivering research to Canadian fundraisers to help them be more effective and be informed about their work, and advocating on behalf of Canadian fundraisers. 

Federal wage subsidies included in Budget 2021 were used by about 54% of the charitable sector at some point during the pandemic. AFP advocated for an increase to the disbursement quota (DQ) and other supports for the sector. Leadership and training were provided when approximately 150 leaders attended the Narrative for Canadian Fundraising training, as well as our media tools workshops. The Virtual Retreat and other meetings with sector and AFP chapter leaders were well attended.

“If seeing the world differently today than we did yesterday denotes growth, then I think AFP Canada had a good year,” says Mayhew. “We reflected very frequently on what we were doing and how we were doing it. We listened more than we spoke and deliberately gave space for the voices of others. Numerous surveys indicated that our work was relevant and valuable to our members and chapter leaders.”

Both Mayhew and Potentier agree one of the most inspiring elements of 2021 was the AFP’s July Canadian Leadership Retreat.  

Co-hosted by AFP Canada and the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada, the annual Virtual Canadian Leadership Retreat brought together more than 125 AFP leaders from 21 chapters in Canada to focus on the fundraising profession.

“It was important for fundraisers to come together, to talk, to share experiences,” said Potentier, “and most importantly to connect with each other. This was a very tough year for so many reasons and just being together, even virtually, to talk about some of those tough subjects and hear from inspiring leaders was really important.”

Both Mayhew and Potentier said special guest Dr. Jackie Schleifer Taylor, PT, Ph.D., CHE, president and CEO of the London Health Sciences Centre, was exquisitely inspiring. 

“Her humility and vulnerability, and the story of her experience and journey as a BIPOC leader who become the president and CEO of the London Health Sciences Centre, left me in awe,” said Mayhew. 

“We must accept imperfection, including our own,” Taylor is quoted as saying to the virtual retreat attendees, “and we must walk in empathy with others every day. While there is a very real feeling of exhaustion, there is an equally strong sense of hope.”

“Her journey reminded us that ‘it’s okay not to be okay’ and that what we as fundraisers do matters,” says Mayhew.

Both Mayhew and Potentier are approaching the coming year with optimism but with a sense of realism. 

“We can’t charge ahead without considering the whole context,” says Potentier. “We need to be patient and kind—to ourselves and to each other. Some things will move more slowly, and there’s still so much that’s unknown and uncertain. But on the other hand, there’s much to be grateful for and optimistic about—organizations are hiring again, donors are still giving, progress is being made.”

Mayhew says he feels the same mix of emotions most are feeling these days…but he is grateful to be in the thick of it at AFP Canada and at an institution on the front lines serving one of the marginalized communities most impacted by the pandemic. 

The work of AFP Canada and the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada will be focused and intentional for 2022, continuing to cultivate the groundwork started in 2021, including:

  • Developing an implementation plan together for the AFP in Canada Strategic Plan, conducting generative discussions and identifying one or two key initiatives to move the needle in 2022;
  • Creating an authentic path to Truth and Reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples. A joint task force of AFP Canada and the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy - Canada, the Action Identification Working Group will report in early 2022 and we will move forward together on the agreed actions; 
  • Coming together, hopefully in person, with international colleagues in Las Vegas for AFP ICON;
  • Gathering, hopefully in person, at the annual Canadian Leadership Retreat scheduled for July in Montreal; and
  • Continuing to work to address systemic challenges with how philanthropy is structured and operates today.

Both Potentier and Mayhew have an important message for all AFP members. 

“You do not walk alone. You are seen and appreciated and matter,” says Mayhew. “Practice self-compassion and reach out if you need a hand. And if you are okay, please reach out to someone who may not be.”

“There is light at the end of this tunnel,” says Potentier. “I truly believe that it’s more important than ever to be part of a community and to look out for each other. Through AFP you have a community to lean on—I encourage you to stay connected and engaged.”

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