Since arriving at CANFAR a year ago, I have had numerous conversations with individuals who are surprised by the relatively small size of our organization.
Many assume, given our stature in the country, and our mission as Canada’s only national charitable foundation raising awareness and funds to support research into all aspects of HIV infection and AIDS , that we would be a large organization with offices from coast to coast. In fact, there are only ten full-time employees at CANFAR, and our little office is located in downtown Toronto. We are, however, very much a national charity.
Our national reputation, influence and impact is actually the outcome of the efforts of an army of volunteers and donors who support us in numerous ways. From our Scientific Advisory Committee, who ensure CANFAR funds are distributed to the most deserving Canadian Researchers – to the thousands of teachers who utilize our curriculum materials to support HIV and AIDS education awareness – CANFAR has a reputation for being relevant, progressive and professional from coast to coast. We have a choir of voices who support our mandate and cause on a daily basis.
I recently had the pleasure of attending a workshop with a group of our CANFAR volunteers in Ottawa for an afternoon of collaboration and forward thinking. This gathering was organized by our Director of Events and Stewardship, Debbie Osske. What made this meeting unique was the purposefulness of the gathering, in that we currently have two distinct groups of Ottawa volunteers – both executing outstanding events, and both generating significant funds for CANFAR, despite having very little contact with each other.
Harvey Slack, a CANFAR donor and Legacy Group Steering Committee member (a group of volunteers raising funds to specifically support research about HIV prevention in gay men) triggered the meeting by posing a simple question, “What are the ladies doing next year?”. The ladies in question being Sheila O’Gorman, Owner of Triumphant Productions, and Tara Shields, the Vice President of Weber Shandwick, who co-chair CANFAR’s “Can You Do Lunch?”, the wildly successful luncheon held annually at the Rideau Club. In true Capital fashion, our entire volunteer leadership in Ottawa put aside an afternoon for a brainstorming and information sharing meeting to plan out next year’s activities. Top of mind was the concern that the activities of one group might negatively impact the participation of the public in the activities of the other. In reality, nothing could have been further from the truth. A couple scheduling changes, a confirmation of a venue or two, and clarifying the purpose of each event resulted in a well-planned annual calendar for CANFAR in Ottawa.
Jason Sordi, Regional Sales Manager at RBC and Co-chair of the Ottawa Legacy Group hosted the meeting at RBC headquarters on Sparks Street. Ottawa Realtor and fellow Co-chair Michael Gennis commented on the productivity of the meeting saying that, “It was really helpful to discuss how we were going to address the challenge of scheduling CANFAR events in Ottawa, a city that has an exhausting event calendar and already has a couple very successful events in support of local HIV agencies. Our challenge was like solving a jig saw puzzle”. With outstanding insight from CANFAR supporter and local entrepreneur/retailer Chantal Biro-Schad, as well as branding guru and outgoing Legacy Chair David Moore, the group was able to map out a schedule of events for the upcoming year, as well as setting fundraising targets that are reasonable, and achievable. Bravo team Ottawa!
I am planning a trip to Vancouver in August to meet with several of our most committed CANFAR supporters and friends. My goal on that trip is to establish a similar volunteer committee to what we have in Ottawa, with programming and impact goals that are appropriate for the west coast. If you are located in the greater Vancouver area, and interested in discussing how you might assist CANFAR in continuing to grow its Canadian impact.
Authored by Kyle Winters, Vice-President and COO