This post is part of a new series to profile some of the exceptional leaders driving #GivingTuesday movements in their countries and cities around the world. We hope that this series will inspire prospective leaders, connect and celebrate current leaders as they grow the movement locally, and spark new ideas amongst the entire #GivingTuesday community.
This week’s post features Amanda Burrows from #VanGives in Vancouver, Canada. Here’s what Amanda had to say about her experience so far championing #VanGives.
Q: Amanda, tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, and how did you get involved with the social good world?
Amanda: I’m from Victoria, British Columbia in Canada. Honestly, fundraising is the profession I never knew I always wanted. When you’re asked “what do you want to be when you grow up” five year olds you don’t generally respond with, “I want to ask people for money,” yet I believe some of us aspire to find a role that provides social good. And that’s what asking for “money” does. Being a fundraiser reconciles a variety of skill sets – relationship building, vision, achieving budgets and inviting our communities to participate in making social impact – whether that is volunteering, donating or advising. I have been a retail manager, activist and academic and it was in grad school while I was studying museum architecture and renovations that I was formally introduced to the Capital Campaign process and this profession called fundraising.
Once I began to identify as a fundraiser, I realized that it didn’t necessarily matter what industry I was in as long as I was helping communities to thrive and do good work.
Q: What inspired you to get involved in #GivingTuesday?
Amanda: I was working at Vancouver Opera when #GivingTuesday came onto my radar. I try to stay up to date on philanthropic trends and I started to think about how we could leverage the movement for our nonprofit. I also listened to some nonprofits and their disappointment over trying things out on #GivingTuesday that weren’t working for them, and I became fascinated with trying to understand how #GivingTuesday could work for different organizations.
I had begun my current role as a fundraising trainer for the venture philanthropy organization Social Venture Partners when I became the community leader for #VanGives. I was working with the nonprofits I serve to try and identify meaningful ways to leverage the movement, so I ran a session on #GivingTuesday. I showcased how I knew that others were doing community movements, and I realized that although Vancouver had VanGives, no one was actively leading it anymore. I got connected to the #GivingTuesday Canada team and decided to take the lead on #VanGives.
Q: What has worked well for #GivingTuesday in Vancouver so far?
Amanda: As a new community campaign in 2017, we had around 285 registered nonprofits who self-identified by registering with #VanGives, and almost 600 Vancouver-based nonprofits participating nationally. I took the time to personally introduce myself to all of nonprofits who registered in order to communicate the purpose of the initiative and how important it was to share their stories for media coverage. I also offered to coach them through that process. Because of the support we were able to offer, lots of nonprofits went through the exercise of understanding the “why” in terms of storytelling. We talked about how to position their involvement and what would make for interesting content. Taking the time to introduce myself to our participating nonprofits and working with them where I could proved to be invaluable. It strengthened affinity to the local movement and, I hope, let the #GivingTuesday leaders at their respective organizations know that they were supported.
Q: What challenges have you faced in getting #GivingTuesday in Vancouver off the ground?
Amanda: Some nonprofits expressed disappointment if they, for example, sent a #GivingTuesday e-blast but didn’t raise any money, or made a social media post but didn’t get any engagement. We’re trying to use these learnings to create awareness that it takes more than an email or a post to see success on #GivingTuesday, and looking for ways to brainstorm what might work well for different types of organizations to harness the power of #GivingTuesday.
Hopefully in the future the local and national media coverage in Canada will increase as well.
Q: What's the potential or impact of the movement in Vancouver?
Amanda: There is massive potential to have the nonprofits collaborating more and supporting each other. We hosted an event after our first #VanGives called Shareity, at which we invited participating nonprofits to come network and share who they are, what they did for #GivingTuesday and share stories. Some nonprofits came to learn more about the movement. It was a great collaboration, learning and support mechanism that we hope to host again this year.
Q: What is one of your favourite #GivingTuesday stories?
Amanda: Ballet BC did an activation to invite 200 children connected to the The KidSafe Project + Kids Up Front Foundation to a performance – providing access to art. As the #VanGives lead, I was incredibly thrilled to hear about it, though I did not know about it in advance, but that’s the beauty of #GivingTuesday. It takes on a life of its own and people take it on and run with it!
Also Science World did a free admission night. I have found that media and the public really like when arts, science and culture provide low-barrier entry or free for communities to attend, it’s that tangible value proposition. Vancouver’s beloved Stanley Park did an ecological activity through putting on a birdhouse-building workshop. There were so many great stories!
Q: What are you most looking forward to for #GivingTuesday 2018?
Amanda: Meeting more charities and nonprofits in Vancouver and really getting together in the nonprofit sector as a community to see the power and potential of the sharing economy in Vancouver.
Q: One of the reasons the #GivingTuesday movement has been so successful globally is because of the vision and leadership of country and community leaders like you, who step up in the name of social good. What does leadership mean to you?
Amanda: To me, leadership in terms of community-building is a vision for what resilience could look like in our communities. There’s no way that any one leader could encompass all of the various and diverse perspectives in a community, and having the humility to acknowledge that is important. Recognizing that they don’t know everything, good leaders are inclusive and invite people to the table to try to learn about all of the various experiences in a community. It’s been a privilege to accept a community leadership role for #GivingTuesday as the nonprofit sector in Vancouver serves so many diverse communities.
Q: Do you have any advice for leaders thinking about starting a #GivingTuesday movement in their country or city?
Amanda: Set some tangible goals for what you are trying to do in the community you’re serving. Try to identify a couple of priorities that you have. For example, my goal for year one was to introduce myself to all of the nonprofits who signed up for the #VanGives movement to let them know that there is someone on the other end of the movement to support them and to share in amplifying the community efforts and debriefing together. Also, be sure to get your politicians involved! Even though we were late to the game in 2017, we got the #GivingTuesday proclamation for the city of Vancouver but most of the politicians were too busy at that point in the year to participate in activation events. It’s important to get it in their calendars as early as possible.
Q: What is a quote by one of your favourite leaders? Or Who is someone you admire for their vision and leadership and why?
Amanda: Can I say a collective? I admire the Executive Directors in the small nonprofits I work with, who tirelessly try and make our communities better. It amazes me what they can get done with the resources they have, and their vision for our communities is inspiring.