Pick Your Spot

Your Working Girl loves newspapers.  The more the merrier she cheerfully proclaims when given the opportunity.  In print or online, she loves them all the same. In particular, she likes investigative journalism. It may come as a bit of a surprise to some Gentle Readers that, as a young woman, Your Working Girl herself wanted to be a part of that noble profession.  In her high school year book, she confidently announced ‘foreign correspondent’ as her future profession. (Sadly for Your Working Girl, Christianne Amanpour got the job.)  So sitting down at her dining room table on Saturday in front of a high protein, working-out working girl breakfast, she eagerly opened the Globe and Mail to feast (as it were) upon their much-anticipated series on philanthropy.  She was not disappointed.  She devoured (as it were) – page after page of comprehensive reportage. Here was the Fourth Estate at its best providing information and analysis on Your Working Girl’s very own sector, a sector once Canadian MP, Albina Guarnieri (she of Bill C470 fame) once referred to as ‘impenetrable’. 
To Your Working Girl’s weather eye, the charitable sector’s reluctance to answer questions about itself has ceased to be charming.  The coquettish communications strategy of not wanting to be perceived as blowing one’s own horn or appearing self-interested has grown both tired and is tilting to the alarming side.  Your Working Girl has said this before and will say it again:   transparency and accountability go so far beyond the simplistic analysis of cost to raise a dollar, it hurts. 
Because of her steadfast belief in the power of print and her own realization that her abilities to influence are finite, she knew it would be helpful to have the assistance of a major news outlet such as the Globe and Mail, relieve her from her own task of providing “commentary on the charitable sector.”
Then, while savouring a sense of relief and a lifting delicate forkful of her egg-white omelet to her lips, she read  Paul Waldie’s piece, A time of crisis, a moment of opportunity:
“The situation is so pressing that Imagine Canada, an umbrella organization for the nations’ non-profit sector has called its first ever emergency summit.  A month from today hundreds of delegates from across the country will gather in Ottawa to discuss everything from how to attract volunteers, recruit professional managers and engage more Canadians. The summit’s three days of debate will feature addressed by Governor-General David Johnston and Calgary Mayour, Naheed Nenshi, but the focus will be on the need to adapt to structural shifts in the charitable universe.”
What’s this? asked Your Working Girl.  An ‘emergency summit’ in Ottawa a month from today. My land! Today being October 29th,  Your Working Girl then did something she has not done in a very long time. She checked her calendar to count out the days.  What she saw did not re-assure her. A month from today is November 29th, the very date Canada’s largest gathering of fundraisers opens the AFP Congress, Fundraising Ideas worth sharing in Toronto and, coincidentally on the very day (!) Your Working Girl is delivering her much-anticipated lecture, “How we’ve shot ourselves in the foot.”
The country’s two largest philanthropic organizations meeting with two different agendas in two different cities over the three same days?  How could that happen? And what did it mean? 
Was Your Working Girl into the breach once more?
She immediately dashed off emails to Marcel Lauzière, CEO of Imagine Canada and Susan Horvath, President of AFP Toronto Chapter.
Your Working Girl and her Gentle Readers need to know.  Do you find it troublesome that the two events are happening at the same time?  Was AFP was consulted on this date? Does the timing decision by Imagine Canada indicate it does not want the input of professional fundraisers? Have you had any discussion with AFP staff or board about this ‘emergency summit’? 
Marcel Lauzière, Imagine Canada CEO, responded within the hour.  “This is not an emergency Summit,” he wrote, “This is how Paul Waldie characterized it for some reason. It is part of our National Engagement Strategy that has been ongoing for over two years now.  Unfortunately miscommunication between our two organizations has left in us in the very unfortunate and embarrassing position of having our two meetings coincide exactly.  [It’s] hard to believe that this would happen given our close links but it did.  Both AFP and Imagine Canada have made a commitment that this will never happen again.”
Susan Horvath, President of AFP Toronto, checked in on Sunday saying that AFP has worked more closely with Imagine Canada in the past year than ever before.   “We did endeavor to not have that occur but mis-communications took place and then neither organization was able to change the dates,” she offered.
Maria Dyck, this year’s Congress chair faults logistics at the AFP end, “It turned out that our Congress schedule changed slightly based on availability of space at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and this resulted in us both having the same dates . . . Next year, we’ll work harder to avoid any overlap.”
“Oh tomayto, tomahto said the side of Your Working Girl’s brain that governs letting it all hang loose.  What’s the big fuss? 
Well for better or for worse, Imagine Canada and AFP are ours.  They represent the sector and the fundraisers who work in it.   When the media comes looking for context and information, this is who gets called. (With the notable exception of Charity Intelligence to whom Your Working Girl will soon devote an entire blog).  And please believe Your Working Girl when she says that the charitable sector has just begun to see the scrutiny it will be subjected to over the next two or three years.   
And as the sector is scrutinized, so will its leadership.  And we have to do better than this.  It’s not acceptable.  Your Working Girl is sad to report that many charities measure their success in how much money they raise as opposed to positive impact on people’s lives.  And AFP conducted itself in a way that puts the event before what’s most beneficial for the delegates and the debate.  Imagine Canada, for its part, scheduled their summit very close to when the AFP traditionally holds Congress.  There are so many tails wagging so many dogs, we’ve lost sight of what we’re here to do.   Thumbs down says Your Working Girl.  People in the sector should not have to choose between an important national discussion on community engagement or hearing from some of the most interesting practitioners in the business. 
Even still, Your Working Girl’s teacup is raised to Marcel Lauzière, Susan Horvath and Maria Dyck who answered her questions when asked.  Now we know what happened and have a commitment that it won’t happen again.  Your Working Girl and her Gentle Readers are paying attention, and paying attention is a good thing.  The door is opening and the light coming in will shine on everyone.  Guaranteed. 

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