Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Oh, Canada!

What do the Olympics, kissing a halibut and new fundraising regulations have in common? Why, the AFP Canadian Leadership Retreat, of course!

I just got back from the retreat in Victoria, British Columbia, where some 50 chapter leaders from across the country came together to plot AFP’s course in Canada over the next 12 months. I was joined by our chair, Robbe Healey, our chair-elect, Andrea McManus (who will be our first Canadian chair ever) and several of our staff.

Canada hasn’t been affected by the recession in general as much as the United States, although certain areas have been hit hard. Overall, there was a stronger sense of optimism than what I’ve experienced at U.S. AFP chapters recently, but that may just be the typical Canadian spirit as well!

I love these sorts of smaller, intensive planning events where you can really get to know your colleagues and have some in-depth and detailed discussions on issues. Hats off to Mark Climie-Elliott, the chair of the Canada Council, for leading and facilitating the discussion. (Incidentally Mark and Tania Little, the secretary of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy-Canada, are obsessive about Facebook, so I’m sure you can find minute-by-minute details of the entire retreat on their pages !)

The theme of the event was “What if, what else and what’s possible,” and these ideas tied into all of our discussions. We had some great conversations about government relations, especially the Canada Revenue Agency’s fundraising costs guidelines. We’re planning on developing a major education initiative so that members are prepared and understand what these new regulations do—and don’t do! We also focused on media relations and how chapters can increase their work and awareness in this area, and there is a new goal coalescing around the need for create more collegiate chapters in Canada.

It wasn’t all work! Tying into the spirit of the Winter Olympics coming to Vancouver in 2010, Mark led an opening dinner session where each chapter brought up three accomplishments or best practices (gold, silver and bronze) it had achieved over the past year, in addition to silly and fun gifts for everyone. Ottawa took the cake with its little plastic bags filled with” hot air from Parliament.” In addition, an impromptu fundraising session during another dinner—with members offering money so yours truly, other staff and our chair Robbe Healey would kiss a halibut!—generated nearly $1,000 dollars for the foundation.

All in all, a great and energizing event, and many thanks to all of the chapter leaders that participated from across Canada. We’ve got a busy 12 months ahead of us!


  1. It was a great retreat, Paulette. Has a newcomer to the group I was immensely impressed with the enthusiasm and commitment to the profession shown by everyone there. Thanks for having me, Anne Melanson