There are close to 200 members in our Chapter and many more supporters. In this regular feature of the Pipeline, we will introduce you to long-serving members who have shaped the profession and the Chapter. Our Finders will introduce you to some of the newer Chapter members and people you may meet in one of our upcoming events
Member Profile – Founder:
Andrea McManus’ name has long been synonymous with AFP and particularly as one of the founding members of the AFP Calgary & Area Chapter. Originally from Charlottetown, PEI Andrea has made Calgary her home for the past 46 years. Remarkably, she has returned home to PEI every summer – wanting her three daughters to know their roots and the beauty of the island. She has been a frequent speaker at Chapter Lunch and Learns and always draws an attentive crowd. Andrea spoke to the Pipeline from her home in Calgary, where she was anxiously getting ready to go out to a movie as Calgary opens up in Phase 2 of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s our conversation:
What were your early career ambitions?
I wanted to be a lawyer. I grew up in PEI and attended Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Like others, I wanted to move away from home, but I didn’t want to go to Toronto. I had an uncle and cousins in Calgary, so I came here and started doing paralegal work. I went to the University of Calgary for some courses and after completion, went into marketing for a growing tech company.
How, and when, did you get your start in fundraising?
In 1988 I went to work for the Winter Olympics. I was one of the sponsorship liaisons. We worked in fulfillment with all of the large multi-nationals sponsors like Coco-Cola, 3M, VISA and RBC. We didn’t secure the sponsorships, which was the IOC’s job. We were responsible for the hospitality, ticketing, graphics around their marketing and branding representation.
During that time, I became pregnant with my first daughter. After she was born in August, a friend called me. She said, “You know how to raise money from companies, would you come to work at Calgary Handibus”? I agreed. So that is where I officially started in fundraising.
At Calgary Handibus everything was new to me. There was so much to learn. I figured there had to be other people out there doing this kind of work. I wanted to learn from their experience. At first there was a group of us that got together for brown bag lunches. We learned of another group, but they were a very closed group and eventually they shut down. We decided to affiliate with one of the fundraising associations. Our preference was to find a Canadian group. We did join such a group, but unfortunately that group also shut down. That’s when we joined with NSFRE (National Society of Fundraising Executives), the forerunner of AFP, and formed the Calgary chapter. That was when I got involved with AFP. That ultimately transformed how I approached fundraising. I went to my first international conference in Philadelphia in 1998 and there were over 3,000 fundraisers there! That was an eye-opener.
After that I went on to be the Executive Director of Grace Hospital Foundation. That was an interesting position, and one that I unfortunately left due to a conflict in ethics.
Did you have a great awakening or “aha!” moment that changed the trajectory of your fundraising career?
I attribute a great deal of my professional career success to AFP. Seeing all those professional fundraisers at the international conference wasn’t so much an awakening, but it did transform my approach to fundraising. I began to dig into the culture of philanthropy. I started learning everything I could about the psychology of philanthropy and the differences between fundraising and philanthropy. I am still intrigued by the topic and continue to read everything I can on power, wealth and privilege that comes with and through philanthropy.
After leaving Grace Hospital Foundation I took some time to think about my career and what I wanted to do. My husband at that time, was from the Ottawa area and we thought about relocating there. We decided to stay in Calgary, and I decided to stay in the non-profit sector. However, I wanted to be able to control my work – I guess I was an early adopter of work-life balance. I wanted to be able to go home to PEI with my daughters every summer. So, in 1997, I formed the Development Group with my partner Elaine Proulx. Elaine had been employed by Shell Canada as a community development manager and worked with Shell’s sponsorship during the 88 Olympics. After the Olympics, Elaine was seconded to work with ATP (Alberta Theatre Projects) and then went on to work at SAIT. Our paths seemed to always cross. We finally agreed to set up a consulting practice. That was a good fit for me. It suited by working style. I’m a builder, I like to work on things changing, and evolving. And if I have a superpower, it would be the ability to zero-in on strategic gaps in organizations. Consulting draws on that strength. I’m not one to get bogged down in the weeds. That always kept it exciting.
Who was your favourite client or employer?
That is the beauty of consulting, I get to work with so many great charities. However, if there is one cause that is dear to my heart it would have to be Hospice Calgary. I was involved in their early start up. They are doing such incredible work, and are driven by incredible people. I would also say that the Resolve Campaign was another favourite. I was involved with Resolve for seven years. It was truly such a unique concept of bringing together several charities in the area of homelessness on an impactful capital campaign. Right now I am the interim Chief Development Officer with the Banff Centre. They are beginning to pull forward after the COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions. It is an amazing organization and one of the best teams I have ever worked with.
Did you have a mentor, or someone whose advice you followed and appreciated?
Oh my yes, I have had many. Surrounding yourself with mentors is a must. Steven Batson was AFP Board chair prior to me and he was an incredible mentor as I worked through my two-year term as international board chair. Joan Black was another great mentor in my early years in the profession. And I love to mentor younger, newer fundraisers. You’re always learning in this profession.
In hindsight, is there anything you would have done differently?
No not really. I’ve loved the people I met along the way. I have loved the worldwide connections that AFP enabled. And I was able to build my leadership chops through AFP
How was it being the first Canadian Board Chair of AFP Global?
Well I had a great team at The Development Group and that enabled me to take on the role. It was very nice to travel to visit chapters all across North America. At that time, my oldest daughter, Sydney was finishing up at the University of Calgary and my twin daughters were at McGill. It was fortunate that AFP provided an annual travel stipend for the Board Chair. I guess one of the highlights of my term was interviewing Bill Clinton at the International Conference in Chicago. Andrew Watt, AFP President at the time, and I were the only ones allowed back stage with the former president. We had about 20 minutes to chat with him in the Green Room. Incredible opportunity and a life-long memory.
Any wise sage words for the people coming up the ranks in fund development?
“Stick to your guns” By that I mean, I have encountered a lot of people along the way that don’t respect what’s involved in what we do as professional fundraisers. I’m sure that’s a characteristic of any emerging profession, such as ours. But too many people see us as just those who ask for money and there is a lot more to this work than just asking for money. It’d like to see a continuation of solidifying the professional approach so that we can move beyond emerging. Utilize more of the research that is available in the field and there’s more and more of it all the time. Look at the research in marketing and sales in general.
What inspires you now?
What inspires me most is my young granddaughter in Australia. I am anxious to visit/ In terms of the profession, I am inspired by young fundraisers. I like to meet them and talk about how they are handling their career. I am inspired by the consulting work I am doing now. I am inspired by the really meaningful work these organizations are doing. I’m proud of what I’ve done for the profession, and paving the way for others. I hope my legacy will be that I helped to make the world a better place.
Andrea mentioned that she is an alumna of Mount Saint Vincent. The University motto states that they are “Committed to providing the best university experience for engaged citizens, who want to make a positive impact on the world” Andrea has certainly lived up to that standard.