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An Inclusive Solution for Philanthropic Growth

October 9, 2017

by Stephanie Hughes, MBA, CFRE

Stephanie HughesMy own fundraising career evolved from cold-calling alumni as a part-time university job (I was terrible) to now directing multi-million dollar capital campaigns (much more fun). In between, I pursued marketing, a path that eventually led to teaching Entrepreneurial Marketing at the University of Saskatchewan. While I love my own story, I envision a sector which is a viable, attractive option seriously considered by high school and post-secondary students.

In Saskatchewan, we have a unique opportunity for our sector, given the province's cultural and demographic makeup and growth. One in ten Indigenous people in Canada currently live in Saskatchewan. In 13 short years, the Indigenous population will make up 25% of Saskatchewan’s population, the highest percentage of any province.

Furthermore, the Indigenous population is a young one. Canada’s median age is 40; within the First Nations population in Saskatchewan, it is 20—the youngest in the country. In fact, journalist Doug Cuthand has specifically written on how much of our future workforce, when Baby Boomers retire, will be First Nations and Métis.

Bruce Miller, senior development officer at Indspire, first introduced me to the idea of reciprocity of relationship and how this is a natural link between philanthropy and Indigenous cultures. Roberta Jamieson, Indigenous activist and CEO of Indspire, spoke at the IFIP World Summit on Indigenous Philanthropy about how reciprocity is deeply embedded in most Indigenous cultures and is more complex than a two-way exchange. What we do as fundraisers is all about people and relationships, so a culture that lives reciprocity is one we should be engaging with and learning from their experiences. 

"An Unexplored and Promising Opportunity"

An unexplored and promising opportunity exists at the intersection of our pending leadership gap, the reality of the future young Indigenous workforce in Saskatchewan, and this practice of reciprocity embedded in the Indigenous culture. I have no idea how to begin exploring this opportunity. But I believe we, as fundraisers and as AFP Canada, need to join the conversation, play a role and engage with Indigenous youth and leaders to seriously address the leadership gap. 

One bright young woman moving into this sector is Kara, a member of the Chakastaypasin Band from the James Smith Cree Nation. For my class project, Kara conceptualized a nonprofit connecting wellness with nutrition and physical activity in First Nations communities. Her vision is for every Saskatchewan child to have access to nutritional meals and appropriate exercise. She is now implementing this plan by traveling to First Nations communities and schools and meeting with some of Saskatoon’s most prominent business leaders, corporate sponsorship decision makers and philanthropists. Kara is truly driven by a desire to help others so that all children can achieve wellness in our province.

Kara is following this path now and is in the process of helping to fill the leadership gap.  Her story will be only one of many of young Indigenous fundraisers who will strengthen our communities. We need to find a way to connect with young Indigenous people who have a desire to work in this sector and equip them to become the competent fundraisers and leaders  that our communities need. And more importantly, we need to learn more about this value of reciprocity from Indigenous neighbours and friends who share the land on which we live together.

Stephanie Hughes joined DCG Philanthropic Services in 2011, to work alongside everyday heroes in the community. She currently directs the $40 million Thundering Ahead Campaign for Wanuskewin Heritage Park, that is pursuing a vision to be the first UNESCO site in Saskatchewan. She also teaches Entrepreneurial Marketing at the Edwards School of Business and serves on the Boards of AFP Saskatoon and Saskatoon Friendship Inn. Connect with her at @stefhughes