Each month I attend a meeting of the Skills Society Board and each month I am blown away by the way the Skills Society community comes together to travel an unpredictable path through uncharted terrain.
Most days the path forward requires the many micro-choices each Skills Society team member makes to ensure people we support feel they are living meaningful lives in the community.
At other times, designing communities in which people with developmental disabilities feel they belong can require bold action, sustained effort into a longer-term view of the future. The development and implementation of Skills Society’s My Compass tool is a demonstration of this very idea.
Over the past year, Skills Society has been assessing the way it raises funds. It’s a path many not-for-profit organizations are treading to provide some shelter from uncertainty. Uncertainty in the economy. Uncertainty in government. Uncertainty in funding.
Although Skills Society is incredibly fortunate to have a community willing to donate time, talent and other resources, it’s clear improvements can be made. A shift from a fundraising mindset to a fund development mindset is the first step.
So how is fundraising different from fund development?
Fundraising happens when members of a not-for-profit organization make the choice to raise money for a specific purpose. Parents selling coupon books, or beef jerky, or air fresheners, or recipe books so their children have access to the supplies they need is a fundraising activity. Another is writing a grant application for a program addressing a specific need in their community. Yet another is raising money to fix the building boiler by asking volunteers to work a casino. Each is a separate effort designed to raise money to address a specific need over the short term.
Fund development, by contrast, is a way to get the broader community to engage with the organization’s mission over the longer-term by forging deeper relationships with potential donors while harmonizing multiple fund-raising elements. Fund development is the process of uncovering shared values. It is about cultivating meaningful relationships and then providing opportunities for people to invest in areas that are important to them. Making a plan to integrate grant applications, fund-raising sales (coupon books), public events, online donation pages, and any other efforts in ways that are meaningful to potential investors is one example of fund development.
Skills Society is standing on the path looking at the fork…
One path, the uncomfortable and unfamiliar path, points towards exploring fund development teeming with learning and possibilities while being fraught with unknowns and their inherent risks.
The other path, the more comfortable and familiar path, points towards continuing with the way we’ve always done things, providing a measure of predictability at the cost of developing greater possibilities for the future.
Fortunately, Skills Society is not known for resting its feathers. It is an authentic learning organization equipping itself with the tools to navigate anything unexpected in the new landscape. Further, Skills Society’s orientation towards learning extends to its broader community of passionate, dedicated, supportive stakeholders.
All that said, most vital for realizing the full potential offered by fund development is an engaged community willing to offer its ideas, talents and perspectives when the road gets bumpy or the bus gets a flat.
As we increase Skills Society’s capacity to develop funds, we are hoping you will join the journey. A journey where you will certainly learn and laugh while making the Skills Society community stronger and more resilient.
We are grateful to our greater community members and committed partners for joining us in our vision to foster a community where all individuals are valued citizens deserving respect, dignity and rights. We give our heartfelt thanks for your generous support!
- Frances Urtasun
- Robert & Catherine Defrece
- Anne-Marie Kallal
- Robert Herring
- Carol Ewanowich in honor of Graeme Szelewicki
- Kate Gunn
- Hub International
- Yoko Wong
- Peter Ashdown
- Kristine Ashdown
Grants & Endowments
Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation: $230,460
Future of Home: Inclusive Housing Solutions Lab
Edmonton Community Foundation
CommuniTEA Infusion Project: $10,000
Community Art Program: $16,900
Reusable masks for the citizens we serve
Support of the Edmonton Shift Lab Collaboration: $159,800
RBC Foundation: $10,000
CommuniTEA Infusion Project
Royal Alexandra Hospital Employees’ Charitable Donation Fund: $2,000
Skills Society Cable Family Endowment Fund at Edmonton Community Foundation
Interest earned in 2020: $8,296
Skills Society Endowment Fund at Edmonton Community Foundation
Interest earned in 2020: $9,445
United Way COVID-19 Emergency Community Support Fund: $34,000
Food hampers, tablets and sporting goods
Rotary Club of Edmonton Whyte Avenue
Christmas stockings for people supported by Skills Society’s Outreach program
The support of community members and committed partners goes a long way in supporting the inclusion and engaged citizenship of people with disabilities. Having access to digital tools and equipment is more important than ever during these times. Thanks to the support of the United Way, people we serve who face barriers to purchasing this equipment received tablets as a means of connecting with friends, family and community and accessing online opportunities and events during this time of physical distancing.
Full citizenship involves equal access to opportunities and the opportunity to share gifts and talents with others. Erica is a lovely, warm outgoing lady and for the past three years has been taking classes at the Orange Hub. Since the start of the pandemic classes have been moved online. Without access to a tablet or computer, it was challenging for Erica to participate. As Erica puts it, having a tablet has “opened up my whole world” – she actively participates in the online classes and is proud of how well she is doing in school. Erica is a valued member of her class, and her participation contributes to a rich learning experience for her and her classmates – offering one’s perspectives and insights, asking questions, connecting with others, and engaging in learning activities. Erica is very social and enjoys reaching out to and spending time with others; she is thrilled to be connecting with her classmates and friends through video, and continues to share her warmth with others: “I get to see everybody and she gives us time to talk to each other. …It’s a big difference to see people”.