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Sparking the Fire to Ignite Change

March 19, 2013

by Heather Smith

Heather Smith 200x215I recently had the pleasure of attending a portion of the Queen’s Conference on Philanthropy (QCOP),    organized by a group of Queen’s students and led by co-chairs Orietta Mukeza and Darren Cole. Now in its fifth year, this inspiring gathering of young people had at least 150 delegates in attendance from universities across Canada. 

The theme of the conference was “Spark Your Fire. Ignite Change.”  Keynote, workshop and panel speakers encouraged attendees to find what they were passionate about and to use that passion to create a better world. 

Speakers from Medecins Sans Frontieres, Student Reach International, Students Offering Support, War Child Canada/US,  Nyantende Foundation, and Hewitt & Johnston Consultants (just to name a few) spoke to delegates about  igniting change and how careers could be pursued with the aid of “philanthropic lenses.”

After speaking with about twenty students from a variety of universities, I had the sense that these students wanted to contribute to a world where old paradigms are challenged and knowledge, skill and passion are harnessed to hard evidence to create change.

The students were intensely interested in having a positive impact on others. They don’t believe making a living is good enough. They believe that as leaders of the future they must find a way to work for their causes, while pursuing careers and uniting with others to create meaningful change in our unstable and challenged world.

I was impressed with the confidence of the students and the intensity with which they participated in conversations and responded to questions about how they see themselves moving forward to create change. I recall myself at this age—I wanted to do good, I was just not quite sure where to begin. In fact, it took me twenty years to get into the not-for-profit world, but it’s never too late.

Delegates at this conference recognized that they are not yet in a position to contribute large sums of money to the causes in which they are motivated to work for. However, in speaking with them it quickly became clear that conference speakers had motivated the students to think about other ways to create the change they want, such as: creating partnerships and networks, using digital technologies integrated with more traditional fundraising practices or establishing social entrepreneurships to help.

Students recognize the value in traditional fundraising practices and fundraising organizations, but understand that the world is changing quickly and sometimes old methods of reaching out to stakeholders just aren’t all that effective or timely. This conference gave them food for thought on how they can lead the change they want to see in the world.

I came away from the conference energized that our future is in good hands with this next generation.  AFP, stay tuned. A new generation of leaders interested in our sector is on the horizon and wanting to work with us to make the world a better place!

Heather Smith is the Fund Development Manager of the YMCA of Central East Ontario. Prior to this she was the manager of Major Gifts for the $70 million Capital Campaign with the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation and manager of Planned Giving for the Ontario Lung Association. She has been a member of the South Eastern Ontario Chapter of AFP since 2004 and has served on the NPD Committee, Programming Committee and as Chapter President in 2012 and again in 2013. In 2012 she also became a member of the Canada Council for AFP.  

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