Speaker Discovery Series Opens the Door to Next Generation

publication date: Oct 7, 2021
author/source: Ann Rosenfield

Trigger warning: Mental health, suicide, cancer

The innovative Speaker's Discovery gives professionals a chance to hone their skills and a chance to demonstrate their talents. This helps new professionals get their foot in the door to becoming conference speakers. This year's theme was Metamorphosis and each speaker gave us the gift of their own experience on this topic. Founder and emcee, Laura Champion, kept the evening lively and engaging.

Eric Winder, co-founder of Jack.Org, talked about transformation in the context fundraising and COVID. He noted that the key lessons they learned in COVID were

  • Enhancing stewardship
  • Re-thinking their annual bike-a-thon and transforming it into a virtual ride
  • Sustaining and growing personal stewardship

Alex Hilson kicked off with a story about a young person Alex met at a youth hockey event. This young man went on from that chance meeting to becoming a key volunteer. Thanks to this young man's hard work, he helped keep the local farmer's market going during COVID.

In contrast, Joanne Linka shared a very personal story about having cancer. She noted that for six years, she was always working hard, always running. She stated fundraisers are very committed to their work. She pointed out that there is a very high corrolation between stress and cancer for some people. She asked herself the question "At what cost is my 100% commitment to work?" The most significant thing she learned was to share the workload. Some key lessons she also learned were

  • Not everything is important
  • Stress is deadly and permanent
  • We can all make better choices

Ashlee Livingstone shared a different kind of personal story noting that her career began in a very "old school" setting. In that organization, she felt that the expectations was for her to be a "pretty young thing" and to pretend to be the kind of person she wasn't. During her pregnancy, she realized she needed to be true to herself. As part of this metamorphosis, she quit her job and started her own business during her maternity leave. She feels that this courage to be her authentic self gave her the ability to innovate and take risks during COVID.

Margaret Tannahill-Wade challenged listeners to reconsider the barrier "but we've always done it that way!" In her church, giving is an offering of oneself and one's resources. Ironically, the longstanding history of trust nearly destroyed the congregation when it was discovered that a key member had stolen nearly $600,000. Key in moving forward was open transparency and regular accountability.

Michael Ragsdale told the remarkable story of how his year off was cut short by COVID. Flying home from Vietnam. Fortunately, a strong workplace culture at Holland Bloorview, allowed him to easily transition into a brand new job that was completely virtual. But although he experienced many changes this year, he noted "All of us are constantly on our own personal journeys, transforming into our future selves." 

The final speaker was Allison Hill. Allison talked about trying to stay in control of her life and noted "the smell of bleach soothes me." AT the start, she felt she had the kind of personality that meant she was particularly ready for the pandemic. While she used to feel that self-help was self-indulgent she came to realize that balance and self care are key. As she commented, "there is a whole lot of deep breathing going on under that mask."


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