Posts Tagged ‘JohnFerguson’


As a woman on my personal journey of discovery, exploring my talents and looking for the best fit for my skills and unique experiences, I recently had the good fortune to spend two days in a dynamic and interactive learning environment. Although I have frequently been involved as a volunteer in personal Philanthropic interests, this was my opportunity to learn from the Masters at a BoardMatch Leaders seminar.
My attendance at this seminar was very generously arranged by Donna Messer, Founder and President of ConnectUs Communications Canada www.connectuscanada.com and Robert Harris Cheif Executive Officer of Altruvest Charitable Services www.altruvest.org .  ConnectUs supports the professional and business community through effective relationship building. Altruvest runs the BoardMatch programs.
Rob Follows is the Founder and Chair of Altruvest Charitable Services.

The BoardMatch Leaders program is a Leadership Development Program for current and prospective Volunteer Board Members. BoardMatch is open to anyone who may have an interest in joining a Non Profit Board ranging from professional people currently in the Canadian workplace to skilled New Canadians who wish to become more involved in the Canadian community. BoardMatch educates on the roles and responsibilities of sitting on a Board and de-mystifies the role. BoardMatch believes that “stronger leaders develop stronger charities which results in stronger communities”. Employers generally sponsor the cost of the BoardMatch program as part of a training plan. Otherwise the cost is met by the individual participant.

And so it was on a cold, crisp morning mid last week that I gingerly made my way into Toronto, from Oakville, filled with a sense of excitement and apprehension, very much aware of the incredible opportunity I had been given. A sense of adventure prevailed. I was stepping into the unknown…

All trepidation was allayed immediately when I arrived at Osgoode Hall Law School by a warm welcome from Susan Dunne, Director of Programs and Administration at Altruvest. Susan expertly ensured our every personal need was met from a comfortable room temperature to the punctual serving of gourmet meals and refreshments. It was here, in this spacious room, overlooking Lake Ontario and with panoramic views of the City, that I was about to embark on a stimulating meeting of minds.

16 eager attendees arrived that morning. There was an air of mystery and enthusiasm in the room. We were a diverse and cosmopolitan crowd ranging from three Managers from Manulife Financial to an Actor whose recent film won an award for best Canadian Short film at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. We formally introduced ourselves and shared who we were. We were asked to open an exciting window into our personal lives with the question, “If only they knew…”. Interestingly,  the most common ground amongst the group was the love of motorbikes and some fascinating  journeys on them, for example riding in the Himalayas! This broke the ice and a wonderful rapport developed amongst us.

Ruth Armstrong, Founder and President of VISION Management Services www.vision-management.ca ,
a company which helps build accountable organizations through strategic leadership, was our Instructor. Ruth’s combination of excellent facilitation skills and first hand experience created a stimulating learning environment directing us on a fun and factual journey of discovery and opening new ideas as to where our public role could be. She created an atmosphere of camaderie amongst the attendees – like a true teacher she guided and instructed her pupils, encouraged us to stretch our minds, explore and share ideas and, above all, to learn. Ruth orchestrated the two days like a Maestro building a culture of inquiry, creativity and support amongst us.

Ruth’s instruction was punctuated with presentations by various speakers who kindly took time out from their busy schedules to address us and share their valuable experiences and knowledge with us.
The Guest presenters covered a wide range of topics:
John Ferguson, Board Member of Altruvest explained how Altruvest has met a need in this sector and how BoardMatch is continually innovating and evolving programs to fill the cracks.
Jeffrey Litwin, Associate Dean at George Brown College gave us valuable insights to the complexities, competition and art of Fundraising – an integral mandate on most Boards.
• We were privileged to hear William Dimma, a seasoned veteran having sat on numerous Boards and possessing a wealth of experience and knowledge, speak to us on Profit vs. Charitable Boards. His energy and passion filled the room and we were in awe that after all these years he still continues to give.
Marissa Bastidas, Executive Director and Ellis Martin, Board President of Accommodation Information and Support Inc. (AIS) www.aistoronto.ca , illustrated the phenomenal difference a small organization is making in the area of mental health accommodation, information and support and raising awareness of mental illness in their local community.
Gina Haggett, Vice President Winning Kids Inc. www.winningkidsinc.ca portrayed the importance of organizations taking steps to prevent abuse and provide protection for children through training and planning in order to create safer environments.
David Hartley, Director of Insurance & Liability Resource Centre http://nonprofitrisk.imaginecanada.ca delivered excellent information and awareness regarding protecting yourself and your people and serving confidently whilst on a Board.

It seemed that the two days had passed by in a flash. Our minds had been stretched and saturated with knowledge. The experience was a fantastic introduction to the world of Non Profit Boards. It raised awareness and serious questions one should ask before making the commitment to join a Board. We were grateful to both Robert Harris and Susan Dunne for having organized and hosted the event. However, at the grand finale, the ultimate applause, rising to a heavenly crescendo, was for Ruth Armstrong whose rare talent and genius had found a way to enlighten us all.

The result of what I have learnt has led me to think deeper into areas I would not have previously considered as viable options. I had been awakened to a new understanding. And so two days later, as I stepped off the GO train in Oakville, into an indigo coloured starry night, I noticed a blanket of snow on the ground – the start of another season, fresh beginnings and new hope. The air was clean and crisp. The last two days had been an exceptional journey of growth and learning. A shift had occurred and the cosmos was smiling! I realized I had witnessed, and been part of, a STELLAR experience!


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