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Thinking of taking on a volunteer leadership role? ‘Do it,’ say current leaders of AFP

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AFP Global is a volunteer-based organization with 26,000 members in more than 180 chapters throughout the world. Each of the chapters has volunteer boards and committees as do AFP Canada and the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada. There are hundreds of opportunities that exist for volunteers who feel the call to lead.

Jane Potentier“If you are thinking you’d like to take on a leadership role at the local or national level, do it,” says Jane Potentier, CFRE, immediate past chair of AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada and chair of the committee on directorship for the foundation’s 2024 board.

“To learn more, you can reach out to current members of the board and, if you have not already done so, get involved with a committee,” she says. “If you’re not sure what’s right for you we can give you a sense of the future trajectory of the foundation and where you can make a difference. Don’t wait for the annual nominations cycle to reach out—we love to hear from interested volunteers all year round.”

Ken Mayhew“Many people have some hesitancy when they first put their names forward for volunteer leadership roles. I know I did,” says Ken Mayhew, immediate past chair of AFP Canada and chair of the AFP Canada nominating committee. “I encourage members who are considering a leadership role to think about what they’re interested in. Some people decide to join a committee at the national level such as communications or government relations. Others are more interested in overall national issues, so they consider the AFP Canada board, which opens nominations in July every year.”

The nominating committee of AFP Canada is chaired by the past chair, who is joined by the current chair and the chair-elect as well as three AFP non-board members chosen by the committee chair. The directorship committee of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada is made up of the past chair, current chair, chair-elect and two-non board members also appointed by the chair. Each committee reviews all nominations and is “responsible for ensuring that the board is composed of qualified and skilled members capable of and committed to providing effective governance and leadership” according to the terms of reference for these committees.

One of the stated objectives in the AFP in Canada strategic plan is demonstrating that membership on the AFP in Canada national boards, committees and task forces reflects a diverse and inclusive community in the Canadian context.

“We have a matrix of skill sets we’re looking for on the board,” says Potentier. “We want to ensure we reflect the diverse aspects of our profession which includes the types of fundraising and types of organizations we serve, the specific skill sets we need such has financial or governance experience as well as lived experience, geographic representation, and a range of demographic representation, as we strive towards a more diverse and inclusive volunteer board.”

“In the past two years, the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy - Canada has been more intentional in its calls for nominations on recruiting new board members from equity seeking groups and diverse communities,” says Potentier. “We still have work to do, and it is time to be bold and look at ways of accelerating our IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access) work, considering new leadership models and ways of working.”

“AFP Canada continues to imbed IDEA throughout its work, including board nominations,” says Mayhew. “We strive to create a diverse board that reflects various forms of diversity. In addition, we focus on creating an inclusive board where all members can fully participate and share a sense of belonging.”

All AFP members are encouraged to consider volunteering. Each will have a different path to leadership.

Both Potentier and Mayhew began their fundraising careers decades ago in front-facing, high impact jobs. Potentier’s first job in Canada – she arrived from the UK in 2001 – was in Edmonton for her university’s alumni advancement phone bank, and Mayhew as a part-time employee at the MS Society of Canada helping to organize their Read-a-Thon.

Potentier joined AFP because, being new to the country, she wanted to meet people and build a network.

“I started out on the communications committee of the local chapter in Edmonton in 2004. I went on to join the board of directors and eventually, after serving as the Every Member Campaign chair and secretary, became the chapter president in 2010. Subsequently, I became involved with Canada Council—the entity that pre-dated AFP Canada—and then put in a nomination to be on the board of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada in 2016, where I served as scholarships committee chair, and then board secretary before eventually becoming chair of the foundation.”

Mayhew got involved in AFP because, he says, within the first year of working for MS, he became frustrated with the media coverage of the cost of fundraising.

“I was hired as a part-time coordinator for the MS Read-a-Thon. My job was to give talks to school students about multiple sclerosis and fundraising,” he says. “I became frustrated with the media coverage of the cost of fundraising because what I was experiencing was the opposite of what was being portrayed. People were working very hard for very little. I had lunch with someone who felt the same and they suggested joining AFP, so I did. I started helping with media issues about our profession in Canada and I still do today. I find work to change public perceptions extremely fulfilling.”

Mayhew also got involved with the Canada Council, the precursor of AFP Canada, which he advocated for. “I wanted all of the elements of the AFP entity—AFP Global, Chapters and the Canada Council or AFP Canada—to leverage the efforts and strength of the other and felt we could be more effective in lifting up and advocating for issues in the Canadian context,” he says now. When AFP Canada was formed in 2017, Mayhew joined as an inaugural board member. He served as the chair of AFP Canada’s revenue generation task force, the communications committee, the board and now the nominating committee.

Both Potentier and Mayhew see four key ingredients that can make volunteers most successful:

  1. “Have more questions than answers,” says Mayhew, “Be an active listener.”
  2. “Be present, and available for meetings, and come prepared, so you can contribute effectively and engage in a meaningful dialogue,” says Potentier.
  3. “It’s not just issue identification,” adds Mayhew, “It’s trying to find solutions.”
  4. “Engage members in their committees,” adds Potentier, “and bring your ideas and forward thinking.”

“I’m pleased with the amount of work being done by emerging leaders, especially to see what’s happening at the chapter level,” says Mayhew. “It blows me away. I also think we are making a measurable difference in critical discussions that affect the sector that were happening without us. These discussions are now happening with AFP Canada at the table.”

After a nomination process that began in summer 2023, the 2024 boards of directors for AFP Canada and AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada began serving their terms on January 1, 2024.

“I am very excited to serve with our 2024 AFP Canada board of directors representing a broad diversity of lived and learned experience that will meaningfully inform our work in service to the fundraising profession and AFP members all across Canada,” says Jennifer Johnstone, current chair of AFP Canada.

“Our new cohort of new board members for AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada brings diverse talent—culturally, geographically, and in their professional experience,” says Vincent Duckworth, current chair AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada. “We are lucky to have these dedicated professionals who are interested in providing resources for our members and the fundraising profession throughout Canada.” 

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