change lives.

Have a Clear North Star

I work in the community sector because I want to help make the world a better place. I also have a graduate degree that focussed on program evaluation. Taken together, this means I realize that to create the best possible impact and outcomes, we have to make tough decisions.


Our United Way has undergone a lot of change in a short period of time. I am often asked how we made the changes. I think the more important question is, ‘why did we make the changes?’.


I remember so clearly the eureka moment when we realized our purpose was not to raise money.  Our job and purpose is to make a positive difference in the lives of as many people possible and to make our communities as great as they can be. Don’t get me wrong, fundraising is a very big tool, but its a tool.


This purpose became our ‘North Star’, litmus test. Every time we were faced with a difficult decision, we asked ourselves whether the decision would help us get closer to our North Star. For example, when our Community Investment Advisory Committee (the team of tireless volunteers who reviews our funding applications) first asked themselves whether it was ‘our place’ to question organizations about how they are governed, it was decided this would help us make the best possible use of our funds. Our board believes it was not only our place, but our responsibility. This may sound subtle, but its profound. In this new reality we could not be a passive funder watching from the sidelines. We had to name and act on what we saw, from our vantage point. In other words, it deeply changed us.


I cannot imagine us having the courage or the fortitude to keep making difficult decisions and challenging ourselves, without this very clear destination.


What is your North Star?