Fundraising with Joy Interview – Christina Attard

Christina Attard, Ask Better | Give Smarter – Development Director & Blogger at

Christina photoChristina and I met at AFP Congress last year and recently discovered we grew up in the same small community north of Toronto. That lead to reminiscing – with lots of laughter – about school, not so great part time jobs (at local factories), and local hang outs. This is what happens when you connect with Christina. She goes deep and wants to learn who you are and share who she is. That leads to joyful conversations.

Christina sees herself beyond the role of fundraiser. She is an advisor who serves both donors and the organizations that they give to. She connects “the wishes and dreams of donors with the needs and vision of their charity of choice.” This is how she is helping charities Ask Better and donors Give Smarter. She is directing the fundraising efforts for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina, Saskatchewan and serving about 140,000 Roman Catholics in 160 parish communities.

On top of all that she has a secret super-power – she is a technical gift-planning nerd who can communicate in normal language.

The fundraising world is greatly enhanced from having people like Christina who are willing to use their superpowers to make the world a better place.

Connect with Christina at or on Twitter @GPtekkie

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

Like many people who entered the profession at the time that I did, it was a career that found me rather than something I sought out. However, after about five years of working in a development office, I took some time to step back and evaluate whether this was something that I would try to pursue as a more senior professional. The key was in reflecting on what I’d always done “for fun” and what my strengths are – I’d been a girl guide for many years as a youth, which has a strong focus on community involvement and I’d volunteered on fundraising committees through high school – these experiences were a lot of fun for me. I also reflected on the fact that I love writing, speaking and getting to know people, but I also like planning and strategy and had been successful so far in those things at work. Fundraising was a good fit and would give me a chance to get better at the things I already enjoyed.

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

The words “philanthropy” and “charity” for me are interchangeable. Philanthropy has its roots in Greek and charity has its roots in the Latin language. Both are connected to root-words for “love of others.” My definition is continuing to develop, but at this time, philanthropy is at its root a demand for greater love in our society. Love is not possible unless it takes place inside the structure of a relationship. When fundraising becomes focussed on the transactional – you purchase a ticket or an item, or “if everyone gave $1, we’d change the world,” or your gift will trigger tax savings – it restricts the work that philanthropy offers for the giver to enter into a relationship with the receiver, and vice-versa, and for both to effect a change in the other person’s life. “Relationship-building” can’t simply be a buzz-word for a fundraising technique that involves turning over a high-volume of cultivation and solicitation “calls.” To be true to its definition, philanthropy has to be about being a bridge-builder between individuals who may never meet but who can come to experience the world as a global village – a global village of not just economies or commerce, but one where love is the basic unit of exchange.

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

I work for a religious organization that happens to also be the religion that I practise personally, so it’s about as close of a fit as you can have professionally. As such, my organization is also capable of challenging my personal values. What faiths have in common is that they always call for a transformation of the believer, so there is a constant push to rethink the purpose of what I’m trying to achieve as a fundraiser and how our development office needs to operate to be in alignment with the organization’s mission.

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

I have a piece of paper on the wall over my desk that says: “Surprise and Delight.” The most joy comes for me when I know that something I’ve done or said or written has connected positively with someone. Few of my donors expect thanks, but I love every opportunity I can find to surprise them with gratitude and to leave them feeling important and delighted, because they are important to me.

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

I love riding horses. It’s an activity where if you over-think it, things don’t go well. If you under-think riding because you’re distracted by other things, it doesn’t go well. It’s an activity that brings me to that “zen” place of being aware enough to go through the training routine but also forces me to mentally let go of the rest of my thoughts. Fundraising can be a bit cerebral – it’s a talking, thinking, planning type of job – riding like many sports, is about making a physical connection. There’s a rare but wonderfully rewarding feeling when everything comes into sync between horse and rider.

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

Sometimes yes, but sometimes no. There is an ebb and a flow for me to the balance between family and community. Before family became busy with children, there was time to volunteer for 2 or 3 different groups in a week. Now, my focus is on 1 volunteer commitment and being available for my family the rest of the time. That will likely change as things evolve with family. The key for me is to remember that it’s all a balance between time, talent and treasure. All are precious resources and the distribution has to change to fit life’s circumstances. Right now, I invest time in family and in my profession, talent is shared between my professional position and my one volunteer commitment as a board member, and treasure is something that I can share with my family but also with several organizations each year. The balance and being honest about what’s possible is what brings me peace and happiness.

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?

This is a good question that I’m not ready to answer yet. It takes time to explore the sector. To experience different aspects and to step outside of the sector and see it from another perspective. To learn, read, connect with others and reflect before knowing where you can offer something unique. The leaders who I see doing this often wait 20-30 years before stepping out with their big idea that changes the landscape – I see this with leaders like Paul Alofs (Passion Capital) – my thoughts on this are still under development.

© 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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