Professional fund raiser questions the approach Burlington has taken to collecting money for disaster relief - neighbourhoods seem to be doing better than established organizations.

News 100 greenBy Pepper

September 3, 2014



Part 3 of 3

I had occasion to take the GO train the day before Ribfest started and bumped into an old university friend who was once in the fund raising business in a big way. He got bought out by a large bank (go figure that one) and he moved on to other endeavours. I agreed not to identify the individual because he has a high public profile in the academic world.

He had some word comments on Burlington’s disaster experience. “It may be too late for Burlington to raise the funds they need” he said. The city has failed to adequately tell its story and without a story the wallets just don’t open. Giving money to people who need help is an emotional thing – raise the emotions and you raise the funds.

“And” he added “there has to be a consistent public voice. It has to be daily, the community leader – and it really doesn’t matter who that leader is – just as long as there is one the public can identify with – has to be out there daily with new information giving people the re-assurance they need.

“Focus on the activity, not on the outcomes and empower people to make decisions and say no to something they don’t feel is right” he said . “What is important in any fund raising initiative is determining who is at the table. Based on what I’ve seen there doesn’t appear to be all that much in the way of “grass roots” involvement. You seem to have all the established groups running the show” the source added.  He noted that the Red Cross was in the field very quickly – but asked – where was the Salvation Army?

“There is no place for the 9-5 mind set when raising funds for disaster relief and the effort has to involve the grass roots” said this source.
The biggest task is telling the story – the people impacted have stories to tell – and those stories matter.

“There is no place for the 9-5 mind set when raising funds for disaster relief and the effort has to involve the grass roots”Ron Foxcroft who can now walk around town with his head held high after the squeaker of a score in the annual Labour Day CFL game between Toronto and Hamilton – the Tiger cats took it by a point, tells the story of “a lady at the game, single mom, with a son in a wheel chair, Spinal Bifida since birth, handed my son Dave $10. She said, this is for the Burlington Flood Relief Victims. HOLY COW.”

Those are the stories that move people to dig deeper.

“I think Burlington’s city council is way outside their comfort zone with this one” said the former fund raiser. “My observation is that they are more involved in being self-congratulatory – how long are they going to talk about being the best mid-size city in Canada? Don’t get me wrong – Burlington is a fine city – it just doesn’t have all that much in the way of an identity which is why they need other organizations to define them.”
What has become evident to many is the lack of a Standing Committee with procedures in place ready to move in fifteen minutes into the community.

McMahon at Up Creek - side view - smile

There are people calling MPP Eleanor McMahon a “rock star” which would horrify her – but her contribution to the getting help from the province has been superb.

There has been some really great efforts by some people. Burlington’s MPP, Eleanor McMahon is being referred by people as a “rock star” with her consistent performance. At times it seemed as if she was everywhere. She has been tireless in her work at the provincial level – prodding the government she is a part of to deliver for the city. Publicly McMahon uses all the right words; privately she can be very direct and tart.
McMahon has that public touch – we saw it during the provincial election that brought her to public office and we are seeing it now as she works to get people the help people need. McMahon appears to believe that government is there to help people and if she has anything to do with it – government is going to deliver.

My fund raising source says “Burlington has less than 60 days to get this done and it may already be too late to capture the public’s imagination and emotions.

Ron Foxcroft tends to concur – “We have to drive this and we don’t have a lot of time” he said. This is going to be a private sector initiative and I am confident that the people who can help in a big way – will help in a big way. Great comment, but more than 30 days after the flood there was a total in the United Way account of $150,900 – which is a long, long way from the $2 million that is said to be needed.

There was the suggestion that the fund raising arm get in touch with Fortino’s and see if they would use their cash registers as a collection point. In the past Fortino’s has been the focal point for other fund raising efforts and while those may have been corporate decisions – Fortino’s is a franchise operation where the owners have a strong local identification.

Imagine if you were to be standing there with your wallet in your hand ready to pay for the groceries and the cashier asked if you would like to put a twoonie into the Disaster Relief fund? Do you know how many people walk through those cash registers? Of course you do – you are often one of the people in line waiting to pay for the food.

That idea was floated last Wednesday – waiting to hear an announcement.

Wednesday morning there will be a media event that will focus on the fund raising part of the drive and explain the process and procedures that will be in place for those who wish to apply for financial support.

Let’s see what the province has to say to the people of Burlington.

Part 1 of 3

Part 2 of 3


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