Interview with Jane Potentier: Chair, AFP Foundation for Philanthropy - Canada
Jane Potentier, CFRE, became the new associate vice-president, alumni, and development, at the University of Victoria in 2020 after spending 18 years in various development roles at the University of Alberta. Throughout her career in Canada (she is originally from the U.K.), Jane has been involved in several roles within AFP, including president of the Edmonton & Area Chapter AFP (2009—2010); member of the AFP Canadian Council (2011—2016); and member of the board of AFP Foundation for Philanthropy - Canada (2016—2019). As she began her term as chair on July 1, 2021, we asked her about her thoughts about the new role and the current fundraising environment.
Deciding you’d like to try your hand at being chair of a national organization is a lot of work in anyone’s book, especially in addition to your day job. What made you decide you’d like to be the chair of AFP Foundation for Philanthropy - Canada? What were the personal factors that went into it? Professional?
It’s true, it’s a significant commitment, but one which I feel is incredibly important and from which I have so much to learn. I often think back to my first days arriving in Canada 20 years ago and how AFP provided me with the network and connections I needed to launch my career here in a new country. That’s what spurred me to get involved as a volunteer with AFP, initially with my chapter and then with the Canada Council before joining the foundation in 2016. I have personally learned so much through my time serving on the AFP boards and committees and had the opportunity to meet with incredible fundraising professionals from across Canada and the US. The opportunity to serve and provide education, research and to focus on issues of IDEA is a huge honour. I am excited to continue to give back to the profession that has given me so much. And so, I’m looking forward to this even though, yes, it will be busy!
What are your goals for the organization as you set out on your term as chair?
My priorities will focus around three areas: building credibility and ensuring relevance, learning leadership and enhanced communications. Building credibility starts with listening. The Board has recently started to delve deeper into topics of importance through facilitated generative discussions. The next phase will see us invite others to the table to share their expertise so that we are attuned to the key issues and context for our work. This is more important than ever as we respond to the changing environment and the events of the last 18 months. Finally, we will have an increased focus on communications to ensure connectivity and integration within the foundation and in our work with donors, AFP Canada, chapters and across the AFP community. I believe that through this we will increase our ability to attract the resources we need to fulfil our mission, as well as increase engagement with those we serve through our various programs.
Do you think the wealth inequity and racial injustice we witnessed since the pandemic and inequity faced by Black, Indigenous and people of colour has changed the way fundraisers look at their jobs?
Yes, I do. These issues have always been there and in the past few years these issues have certainly been on the rise, but the events of this past 18 months have brought them sharply into focus. As a sector we are having tough conversations and digging into what this means in ways we have never done before, and as tough as it is, it is critical. It is time for us to really examine the foundations of our work and the systems they are built upon. I also think that fundraisers are looking for support and for a venue to learn and to know they’re not alone in confronting these realities. This is what I refer to when I talk about the foundation having a renewed focus on learning – we need to take the time to learn and understand and ensure our work is relevant and responsive to the challenges we are facing together. On a personal note, as a white woman with immense privilege, I have so much to learn and unlearn. I must put in the work to do so.
What’s your experience of the difference about being the chair of a Board as opposed to being a board member?
One obvious difference is that you are in the spotlight and are the natural spokesperson for the Board. I also feel as chair a real responsibility for ensuring a meaningful experience for other board members and for helping to set the tone and vision for the foundation. Also, as chair I get to represent the Foundation on other Boards of AFP, including the AFP Global Board and AFP Canada. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn and to seek out opportunities for collaboration, and for being intentional in bringing that context back to share with our board, so we continue to grow and play an impactful role as part of the AFP Community.
What do you think are the biggest issues facing the foundation today?
As we are emerging from the pandemic, we are assessing what we have learned through the issues that have been revealed and highlighted—putting serious thought into the challenges this presents the sector and fundraisers, and seizing any opportunities coming out of the innovations and changes we were forced to embrace. With all that our society is facing now, we want to be credible and relevant, positioning the foundation to support the profession in Canada in these uncertain times. Working collaboratively and intentionally with AFP Canada we will ensure that we leverage our collective resources is a priority. We’ve brought new voices to the board this year and I am confident that we can learn and grow together to meet these challenges.
What is one challenge you anticipate in your new role as chair of AFP Foundation for Philanthropy - Canada?
Time management :-)
What’s the one thing you’re most looking forward to?
Learning and growing through my interactions with amazing volunteers.
One lesson learned in life that you can apply to this role?
Can I have two? Be curious not judgemental (thanks Ted Lasso). Pace yourself.
What books are you reading now?
I have three on the go on audible: Think Again by Adam Grant. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, and Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile. I am also a podcast junkie.
Are you binge watching anything right now?
I watched season one of Ted Lasso four times already – cannot wait for Season 2...
Do you have a message to the members of AFP?
You do amazing work for your organizations every day and enable incredible impact and outcomes for those you/we serve. The last 18 months have been challenging and have shone a spotlight on issues in ways we have never seen before, issues that we as fundraisers need to confront. AFP members in Canada have two great organizations working with and for them: AFP Canada and the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy - Canada. We will work together to support you and the profession and will strive to be relevant and attuned to your needs.