Wisdom from Canada
This year in Ottawa I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet representatives from community foundations in New Zealand, where community foundations are fairly new by world standards and growing. It made me think of Canada decades ago and I’m excited for New Zealand as it heads into the next stages of growing the movement.
I was honoured to then be invited to run a workshop for community foundations in New Zealand, I gather on the strength of my experience as the first Executive Director of the Niagara Community Foundation in Canada. I started there in 2001 and we were housed in an office that was donated by a local newspaper. We had raised enough operating funds to cover the first three years of operation and I was the only staff person. It was very small beginnings and, looking back, quite terrifying at times when you are expected to do everything.
I left Niagara Community Foundation in May 2016 and it was through the support and commitment of so many wonderful volunteers, donors, and supporters that our foundation increased our assets to $30 million and our annual grants being made are at more than $1.3 million.
I’m looking forward to leading and participating in sessions at the New Zealand workshop, I am sure that I will learn lots from New Zealand community foundations and am looking forward to sharing lessons learned and best practices from the Canadian community foundation movement. I believe that much of what I learned along the way will be particularly relevant as the movement grows in New Zealand.
During the years that we were building our community foundation in Niagara the support that we received from Community Foundations of Canada, as well as our peers across the country, was instrumental to our success. We shared resources, policies, and practices so we didn’t have to invent the wheel every step of the way. We could also ask dumb questions to our colleagues and it was their answers that made us appear brilliant to our Trustees!
There is a saying in the community foundation movement that “when you see one community foundation you see one community foundation”. While we fundamentally are in the same business, we are all unique in how we reflect our own communities within our community foundation.
See you in Wellington in September, I am so looking forward to doing what I can to assist in building momentum in New Zealand.