Transitioning From Corporate to Non-Profit - Dave Addison

In the corporate sector, it's not always easy to find a job that you love. Dave Addison share his story of how he transitioned from the private sector to working for the not-for-profit organization, Toronto City Mission.

Before moving into the non-profit sector, Dave Addison did not believe that finding a job that he would love was possible.  When he considered non-profit options, he was unsure of if his current goals and skills would be transferable. Furthermore, he was concerned that to make a transition would mean starting over in an entry-level position and giving up a senior leadership role.

This was not the case and he now works as the executive director of the Toronto City Mission. To his surprise, sales, marketing and general management skills were exactly what Toronto City Mission needed. But most of all, he found a love, excitement and comfort in his role because his co-workers, as with most people in the non-profit sector, are helpers by nature. Everyone is there for a passionate purpose.

His advice on to how to transition from corporate to non-profit: be patient and seek the help of your professional network to find the not-for-profit work that matches your skill level, expertise and above all, your passion.

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Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About

You ain’t seen nothing yet.

In just 7 days, this PR stunt by a tiny UK Charity has achieved double the cumulative views over World Vision’s YouTube channel, has had their hashtag trending worldwide on twitter and is causing a commotion of commentary - all without any real brand, mission, reputation or even budget. When was the last time the charity you give to or work for did this?

Don’t worry. They will soon. 

The Pilion Trust is leading the conversation today, and five minutes ago, you never knew they existed. To debate the validity of the video, its message or impact is missing the point. It’s what the video is a product of, what it represents and the future it speaks of that’s worth the attention.

Is this a natural extension of 717, 000 British charities working in the UK all competing for the same relative size of the donation pool? With 60% of our charitable giving going to 1% of all charities, the need to raise your flag bigger than the charity next to you is a matter of survival. We’re in a (perceived) zero-sum charitable giving era, if I’m winning then you’re losing. Hoist your flag higher and you just may survive. 

Could this also be the natural extension of a multi-billion dollar fundraising industry who can’t, for the sake of their job security, shop anything but the cause they’re paid to sell? Could it be that having no voice to speak on behalf of ‘charity’ besides the ones who need you to give to their charity produces a mindset where we’re not interested in nurturing a more philanthropic or generous culture in Canada. The proverbial giving needle hasn’t really moved significantly as a percentage of GDP in decades, and that has to be in part because who is trying to actually do this without first trying to sell their cause? 

Or could this also be the result of the ‘industry’ often more concerned with self preservation than it is with provoking change and leading the conversation in innovative ways. The phrasing the Pillions Trust used for this video was ‘an experiment”, the website is nothing to rave about and really their staffing and infrastructure seem close to negligible. Yesterday you didn’t know they existed. But they’re super responsive in the channels that matter (Twitter and YouTube) and they’re leading the conversation for today. With less on the line they can look at what’s the best way to achieve the desired outcome, and not what’s best for our charity. The former is the question we need to be asking; all the time. So we do the same. We mass mail, use sad faces and over ask because the data tells us “it’s working.” And it is, it’s gaining more than it’s losing, for now. Innovation is for tomorrow. The Pillions Trust didn’t get me to see this video by spamming me, cold calling, or even through me going to their site. They did it by getting it by creating content that I sought out, that Buzzfeed wanted to cary, that friends wanted to post. 

In short, it’s some mix of having a perceived fixed pool of resources (16 billion in giving in Canada), few (if any) groups working to expand that pool in a cause neutral or truly donor focussed way, and an industry more generally interested in self preservation and walled gardens than desired outcome, that produces an environment where shock art like this is completely necessary. 

The future belongs to those who are willing to lead the conversation. I hope it can be led by measuring impact, telling the right stories and meeting donors where they are at (instead of where we’d like them to be). I hope we focus less on us and more on the ‘them’ we’re serving - the outcome we’re working for. If shock art like the above is a part of this conversation, so be it. The change we’re working for deserves to have more YouTube views than the Kardashians - and in today’s ADHD world, if it means wearing a profane sign around our neck, then perhaps that’s the game that needs to be played. Perhaps.

There are a number of things we can do as ‘regular people’ to reverse or at least slow these trends. If forced to fly over, to start: give in principle, with your head and with your heart: set aside regularly an amount month, have it pulled from your account into a separate fund reserved for benevolence (I use but I’m bias). With your own foundation you’re giving on principle not just when asked, it’ll help you establish a regular rhythm of giving that works for you, not based solely on a cycle of appeals. Second, be vocal with your charities - don’t let them get away with bad spam, gimmicks or other - unless of course you like it. Spam works because more people respond to it than don’t. We can help change this. We can get smarter. And third, lets reward the risky, and the causal focussed. Give to those taking the chances to create the change you want to be a part of. Give to those who are breaking status quo, are getting results or at least willing to try new approaches to get those results. 

There are a lot of things that are ‘right’ about this campaign. More than anything it’s a useful commentary on our culture at present, a foreshadowing of what’s to come and a proposal for a new direction. We have the opportunity to change the above: to help change a zero-sum giving model, to individually nurture a more charitable culture in Canada and to urge people to make giving, a part of everyday living. For now, congratulations F*** the Poor on leading the conversation - if only for today.

BIO: Jeff Golby works for Chimp Foundation, an online bank that allows people to manage and amplify their charitable giving. His role is to create a space where creativity, law, charity, money and trust come together in a way that inspires and motivates people to give.
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