Fundraising with Joy Interview – Allison Howell Quinton

Allison Howell Quinton, Senior Advancement Officer, United Way Toronto

Allison headshot2What first strikes people about Allison is her passion for social justice and her desire to make the City of Toronto a better place for us all to live. Every time someone I know meets Allison, they comment on this passion. Other fundraisers have told me that talking to her inspires them to recapture that spark that connects them to their work. What a beautiful gift. I personally know that her laughter and enthusiasm energizes the United Way Toronto team. Allison shares the activities that help her connect with her “rose tinted glasses.” Sharing this view, she helps other fundraisers, volunteers and donors experience the joy that comes from city building.

Janice: What made you choose a career in the social profit sector?

I started out working in the criminal justice field and found it was really frustrating and ultimately draining to work in a system with so many barriers. Some of the social service agencies I worked with were so hard working and well intentioned, but were constantly worrying about securing the next grant. It gave me an appreciation for the need for sustainable funding and the value of building a philanthropic culture within an organization.

Like many fundraisers, I didn’t deliberately choose this field, but started writing proposals, and case for supports, and then got involved with a capital campaign and really loved it. It’s enabled me to work with extraordinarily generous people who care deeply about our community. It’s inspiring to learn about their concerns and hopes to make an impact, and I’m lucky to have found a role that can provide them with avenues to share their personal values and beliefs.

Janice: What does philanthropy mean to you? Has your definition changed over time?

I like to think of philanthropy as a “love of humankind.” It’s broad and inclusive, yet simple. When I started my career, I looked at philanthropy as another way of saying fundraising, but over time it’s taken on a much broader emotional context for me. It looks at the underlying motivations for actions, and our common humanity in connecting with and supporting one another.

Janice: How does your organization’s mission connect to your personal values?

The initial reason I wanted to get involved with United Way Toronto was because of the mission. I had worked on several capital campaigns with organizations that I identified with, but wasn’t necessarily passionate about. With United Way, there’s a real passion, and a personal commitment to our work. It’s about meeting urgent human needs so that people mitigate crisis. It’s also about helping people to help themselves by providing tools to sustain them for the long-term. It’s about offering early childhood education, parenting classes, meaningful youth employment and early alternatives to the justice system so that we give our next leaders a fighting chance. It’s about offering positive role models and peer groups. It’s about equity in the distribution of our resources, such as healthcare services and healthy foods. United Way works on such a large scale in every corner of this city and I’m constantly blown away by the impact it has.

Janice: What brings you the most joy in your work?

Working with people from all walks of life brings me a lot of joy. I get energized working with a group of volunteers who have the passion, commitment, the position to influence decision makers in the city for good. I’m also incredibly encouraged when I hear from agency and resident leaders about how they are changing our city, one neighbourhood at a time.

But when I’m able to connect donors with the people leading and benefiting from grassroots programs it brings it to another level. To see the pride and gratitude for the shared experience is hard to describe in words.

Janice: Your job focuses on cultivating relationships and supporting others, what do you do to recharge your batteries?

Yoga! That’s my go-to for down time, for energizing, for working through problems and for rediscovering my rose tinted glasses. I also find it grounding (even though it can also be exhausting), to spend time playing with my toddler. It’s a true joy to share his awe and amazement for the world.

Janice: Research shows that philanthropy and volunteerism are proven ways to increase happiness. How have you experienced this in your work and life?

In my personal life I know that giving something has a longer term effect on my happiness than receiving something. When I give to something to someone I feel great for weeks! Whether it’s a personal gift or a charitable gift, the act of giving is powerful and positive.

Volunteering has been a great way to connect with people I may not have met in other avenues. From networking with other fundraisers, to local community initiatives, to small non profit boards I’ve learned a lot through my experiences. It gives me a sense of connection and commonality that’s important to me.

Janice: Our work in the social profit sector allows us to make a contribution. What is the lasting impact you want to make during your career?

I’d like to encourage everyone regardless of income or availability to contribute in a way that has meaning to them. From rebuilding public parks, to volunteering to look after your neighbour’s kids, to organizing fundraising events and making donations you feel in your budget, all of these actions for the greater good are critical to building the charge we seek in our world. I would also seek to change the way organizations value the contributions of all types of gifts and encourage all types of activism and engagement. Without the active participation of people and the social profit sector, there are huge risks, and facilitating greater participation on all levels is critical to a happy healthy society.

© 2013, Janice Cunning. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this posting if you include my contact information. Please contact me if you wish to reprint any portion of it in any periodical or on a website

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About Janice Cunning

As a certified coach and fundraiser, I am passionate about partnering with people and teams to increase their personal and professional Joy Quota.

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