You have a long history as a volunteer with United Way, and chaired a successful Campaign in Windsor back in 2009. Ten years later, you’re back home to do it all again. What do you think will be different this time around?
Elgin-Middlesex is a different community but we’re dealing with some of the same upheaval. In 2009, Windsor was hit hard in the financial crisis. GM was closing and the city was in turmoil. There was a lot of anxiety around whether or not we were going to meet our goal.
But we did. I saw the Campaign team rally. The volunteers rallied. And labour rallied too, which was a huge part of the campaign there and still is. The community was generous and really came through. It was probably one of the best volunteer experiences I’ve ever had.
Rallying people to come together this Campaign will be very much like my experience in Windsor. I care deeply about this community. I was born in St. Thomas, went to Western and have lived my whole life in southwestern Ontario. I’ve been a volunteer for many years and I believe United Way is the best way to have the most impact locally. That will never change.
The biggest difference will be engaging our future donors. The next generation wants to see their impact immediately. Really, we all do.
Personally, why are you taking on this challenge?
You know that question: “What would you do even if you weren’t getting paid?” The non-profit sector has always been a passion of mine and I’m fortunate that Canada Life is 100% behind me in this volunteer role.
I’m chairing the 2019 Campaign because I was asked by two people I really respect. I was thrilled to be considered. It’s an honour to represent Canada Life and United Way on this next step in our long history of giving and collaboration.
Volunteering for United Way has given me the opportunity to see some different corners of the city. London is home to some vulnerable and at-risk people – similar to other communities across the region. I want to make sure help is there when our neighbours, friends and colleagues need it. I want to make sure it’s there when any of us needs it. Our community is counting on each and every one of us.
You have a demanding day job as Managing Director at Freedom 55 Financial, responsible for a sales team that spans from Windsor to Woodstock. What transferrable skills do you bring to the role?
For me, the intersection between finance and non-profit is 20-plus years of people leadership, culture building, talent development and mentoring. I don’t provide financial planning advice or bring in revenue, but I coach the people who do.
Leading the Campaign team is all about people leadership and building a culture of accountability: here’s why we’re doing this, here’s who we need to engage, here’s the target. We all want to feel like we’re part of the solution. My job is to make people feel connected to that.
No pressure, but you’re about to lead a multi-million dollar fundraising campaign. Is there anything you’re nervous about?
Oh sure! I think when you embark on anything that’s big, potentially scary and very important you worry about being successful.
Based on the Campaign team, the staff and volunteer talent, and the reputation United Way has built in our region over the years, I feel very confident.
If we’re a united team with a vision and we’re all pulling in the same direction, we have a really high probability of success.
Why is it a good fit for Canada Life and United Way to work together?
Canada Life and United Way are committed to this community, and are both in the business of keeping their promises. Canada Life is committed to the financial, mental and physical wellbeing of all Canadians. United Way is committed to building a community where everyone matters.
And we both love the colour red! I guess that speaks to our passion for this place we call home.
As Campaign Chair and Chief ChangeMaker, you’ll be leading a diverse group of very busy volunteers. What’s your leadership style?
My team would say I’m a very collaborative leader who wants to hear their ideas. I’m also very competitive. I want people to bring their best every day and I think a strong leader helps people do that.
My job is to quickly build a culture of success, identify the wins and go for it. I want the Campaign team to feel like they’re part of something bigger and share that energy with the community. That would be pretty amazing.
What’s your vision for the 2019 United Way Campaign? What unignorable issues do you want to move the needle on?
United Way is doing an outstanding job to create safe communities but more and more people are at risk in our region. We have a housing problem, we have a child poverty problem, a large percentage of people who still need to use food banks…I could go on. I want to move the needle on these issues.
We’ll know we’re successful when we can see that people are healthier and stronger, that children are staying in school because they’re engaged and fed, that seniors and newcomers are connected to their communities. That people feel safe. For me personally, if we could support one more family at Hospice, that’d be a win.
I may be Chief ChangeMaker of this year’s United Way Campaign, but I’m not the only one. We have hundreds of thousands of potential change makers in this region.
It doesn’t mean you have to give large amounts of money. Every little bit helps. If we all pull together, we’ll be able to improve that many more lives. I love where I live and want to make it even better.