As coaches and facilitators, we have watched our community members and their organizations experience tremendous challenges throughout 2020. We have also been inspired by the creativity and resilience both in our community and the nonprofit sector. Each December, the Fundraising Leadership team offers reflections on the past year. Michelle shared her reflections and rituals in 2019 and Janice did the same in 2018.
Reflection can be defined in many ways. It can represent careful thought being given to a topic. It can also mean the image of something in a mirror.
The metaphor of a mirror feels relevant this year as 2020 reflected many important things. It showed us more about ourselves, the nonprofit sector, and society as a whole. It reminded us all of the importance of connection and community.
In this spirit of connection, we decided to highlight some of the voices from the Fundraising Leadership Community. To honour the collective and personal experiences of 2020.
We were inspired by these words of our community members and we know you will be too.
What will forever be emblazoned on my heart and mind is the last 11 months. First, 2020 exposed us to a life-altering pandemic. What may seem ironic is that this created greater psychological and emotional safety for me. In May, a layoff and eventual termination rescued me, an Afro-Indigenous woman, from a racially hazardous workplace. This paved the way for me to finally align with my purpose. In fact, that exclusion catapulted me into entrepreneurship and many meaningful and necessary projects, including the co-editing and authoring of the book Collecting Courage: Joy, Pain, Freedom, Love. I’ve never been happier. But also, amidst these opportunities, 2020 burst open many painful truths for Black people.
On May 25, 2020, I stood in agony watching all 8 minutes and 46 seconds of blatant white savagery against our brother George Floyd. This was a turning point. It marked a rare moment in history, a witnessing of white people’s gaze and palpable outrage at the oppression of Black people. And so, what does this have to do with philanthropy or fundraising? It has everything to do with everything, even philanthropy. In the Introduction to Collecting Courage, I offer insights into where our sector sits in the historic realities of colonialism and racism. The book shares many stories about how racism manifests in our charities.
All told, when I look back on 2020, my heart mostly overflows with gratitude for the revelation of greater truth, the urgency for deeper connections and for what sounds like a growing steady drumbeat of footsteps in the direction of justice. I dedicate 2020 “to the oppressed and to those who suffer with them and fight at their side.” ˜ Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed
2020 is dedicated to freedom fighters.
Nneka Allen, Founder and Principal, The Empathy Agency
We make time for everything in the world but ourselves, especially those of us with family obligations (not just kids but the many caregivers out there). YOU are the only one who feeds you. YOU are the only one who is responsible for your career, what your boss does at work is called “performance development” even if you have the greatest manager in the world, the goal is to get you to perform as a better employee for your organization.
Early in my career I found out that managers and executives were investing in professional coaching, and while I agree this is the secret weapon for those who are ready and able to move ahead so many more of us just need a time and place to think. And so I started holding my own personal strategic planning retreats, as if I was CEO of ME.Inc (which we all are). I go to a quiet place away from home, in nature for only 24 hours and think out loud. Eileen Chadnick publishes these great 12 questions in the Globe & Mail each year that really help me on this retreat. I bring a whiteboard and notebooks and think, walk, meditate and write…sleep on it and review it before going home again the next day. Where are you at, where are you going and where do you want to go?
Few people make time to ask these simple questions and map out what is momentum, and where do they need to change course to get where they need to go. Make time, to think. If you don’t, who will?!
Paul Nazareth, Vice President, Education & Development, Canadian Association of Gift Planners
I love December. My husband and I married in December (25 years this year) and both of our children were born this month. As the year comes to an end, my intention turns to two things: what did I learn, and how will I be different as a result? I set business objectives for the coming year too, but for me, these are secondary to personal development. “Who” I am matters more than “what” I am.
This year I’ll ask myself: How will I engage differently in the world with a deeper understanding of the importance of active anti-racism work? How will I support my daughters as they work through the challenges that COVID 19 has brought us? How will I lead in the various lines of work in which I’m involved: governance, leadership, and the creation of kind, collaborative, inclusive and productive organizations where people can bring their whole selves to work.
December is a month for quiet contemplation and optimism about the year ahead. And this year, a new tradition, the reading of The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse by Charles Mackesy. I invite you to give it a listen.
Maryann Kerr, Chief Happiness Officer, The Medalist Group
I love engaging in reflection. How will you know you are successful if you don’t stop and reflect? How will you know what still needs to be done, or where there are opportunities, if there is no reflection? Celebrating success and identifying opportunity are fun – but they can’t happen without conscious, habitual reflection.
With my work team, I participate in various reflection exercises: daily, weekly monthly and quarterly. I am a fan of reflection to learn, grow, experience and celebrate.
At the end of each day, we share a Ta-Da! one thing we accomplished. The goal is to acknowledge our accomplishments, no matter how big or small.
Monthly we stop and reflect, completing two statement that reflect our work and efforts in the month. Those statements are:
1) I successfully completed [project or milestone] and, as a result, achieved [results]. 2) I recognize that I could improve in [area of improvement]. I plan to do so by [action].
Quarterly, we compile our reflections; highlighting and celebrating our accomplishments. We also articulate what work we want to start, stop or keep doing.
We are speeding through life, leaping from one task to the next. Reflection gives meaning to our experiences. It provides the brain an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos, untangle and sort through observations and experiences, consider multiple possible interpretations, and create meaning.
Liz Rejman, Director, Fundraising Operations, Pathways to Education Canada
No one is going to miss 2020, and for good reason. As tough as it has been, there have also been some silver linings and triumphs in our sector. It has been earned the hard way, but I think we have finally proven that one can work from home and be productive! This will be a tremendous victory for everyone moving forward. If we can maintain and offer this kind of flexibility in the future, we will be much more competitive as an industry. We are finally engaging in some critical conversations about race, diversity and equity. I am hopeful and optimistic that we can transform this moment into a movement in 2021 and beyond. I have seen so much resilience and innovation in organizations who have pivoted their fundraising programming overnight – it has really accelerated innovation in our sector and positioned us well for growth next year.
On a personal note, this year has really made me appreciate the things we so often take for granted- the privilege of living in a safe environment, with access to high-speed internet, the ability to be able to do work from home, the support of social networks albeit virtual, and an appreciation for nature and the outdoors!
Mariya Yurukova, President and CEO, Charity Search Group
As soon as the days become shorter and the end of the year approaches, I engage in purposeful moments of reflection and stillness where I can slow down, tune in, and take notice deep within myself. In this space, I am able to gain a deeper understanding of where I have been, where I am at, and where I would like to go next. I try to be as honest as possible in this practice as things may not have gone as previously hoped for (especially this year), but that’s okay! After clearing this out and acknowledging where I am, I look ahead and actively choose a word to set the tone for the upcoming year. This selection often serves as a focal point or a place to ground myself when the inevitable moments of uncertainty come about.
For 2020, I chose the word ‘energy’ so that I could gain greater understanding into how I am feeling and which activities feed or deplete my energy levels. This word selection last year proved to be so helpful through many moments this year, and as someone who makes all of my major life decisions based on feeling, this practice continues to be really important to me. After this year, I can say with certainty that my energy was and continues to be tested and pulled in many different directions; and I’ve learned how to shift and swerve with that.
Now looking ahead to 2021, the word emerging for me is ‘sweetness’ as I hope to seek out and create more of these moments of joy and celebration and then revel in them next year.
Nicole Thibideau, Director, Program & Operations, Future Possibilities for Kids