As we mark the 150th anniversary of confederation, The Philanthropist is profiling Canadians from across the non-profit sector and putting a face to 150 individuals who work or volunteer in Canada’s social sector.
Name: Ruth Pelletier
Current role in the sector: Community advocate and organizer through my work and volunteerism with several nonprofits. I am Past President and an active volunteer with Seniors Action Quebec and I serve as a member on the Seniors Council with my local M.P., Mr. Peter Schiefke.
Years working and/or volunteering in the non-profit sector: 45 years.
What was your first job in the sector or a defining moment?
I started volunteering 45 years ago as spokesperson for Up to the Neck newsletter. My first defining moment was having Doris Powers of the Just Society of Toronto come to live with me for four days and prep me to answer questions from the Senate Committee on Poverty in the late sixties. This was accomplished with some serious role playing. This was instrumental in helping a shy young woman to build self-confidence and directed much of my advocacy and volunteerism over the years to come. This experience showed me that you can speak to anyone, present your case and survive it.
Describe your desk/workspace.
Currently I work at home with many papers scattered throughout and if you clean it up, I’m lost. My phone is always busy with outgoing and incoming calls. I also spend time receiving and writing emails between calls, about 30 to 40 a day. I am definitely a Type A, as I like to tackle things immediately. When working at an office I was generally the first one in and enjoyed the quiet 30 minutes when I could get a good start to my day. I will do everything possible to avoid being late.
What are you reading or following that has expanded your understanding of the non-profit sector?
I’ve always been an avid follower of Charity Village and I recommend the book, The Management of Nonprofit and Charitable Organizations in Canada: Development Capacity and Sustainability for the 21st Century by Vic Murray, to understand non-profit governance and strategy in Canada.
What do you think our sector needs to be thinking about?
Sustainability and continuity are the two most important challenges non-profits are facing. In order to accomplish both of these, organizations must have the necessary funds and volunteers to carry out their work. Organizations know what they need but often do not have the people power to recruit, retain and recognize volunteers. Ensure the self care of volunteers, provide opportunities for volunteers to expand their knowledge base and appeal to younger volunteers to develop mentoring programs so continuity can be ensured. Similarly, sustainability is essential but most non-profits do not have the expertise or people power to work on finding resources, writing up their “Case for Support” and carrying out the necessary follow-up.
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