Strategic Planning

Thought Leadership and Innovation in the Non-Profit Sector

Nonprofit Thought Leadership

We’ve got some big supporters of Envisio that we’re so proud to call customers, partners, and friends. One of our biggest advocates is none other than non-profit powerhouse Bruce MacDonald, the President and CEO of Imagine Canada. Prior to joining Imagine Canada, Bruce was the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada.

As the national charitable organization whose primary cause is the success of Canada’s charities, Bruce and his amazing team at Imagine Canada have three core goals in mind: To strengthen the charitable sector’s collective voice, to create opportunities to connect and learn from each other, and to build the sector’s capacity to succeed. And, Bruce is using Envisio to assist him in his efforts to align his team to his strategic plan – and achieve every single goal and objective on Imagine Canada’s horizon.

In a recent interview with Bruce, we asked him several key questions that have redefined how we view thought leadership, innovation, and change. We know you’ll enjoy the conversation just as much as we did:

What does innovation and thought leadership in the non-profit space mean to you?

Bruce: Thought leadership and innovation is responding to the people that you serve. It’s about being in touch with your customers and consumers, understanding what’s changing in their world, examining what’s truly important to them, and then adapting to their changing needs to best serve them.

How do you define success in the non-profit sector?

Bruce: Success is acting with Strategic Intention. Success is true active listening, engaging with the people that are the direct beneficiaries of your services, paying attention to what funders are telling you, and being aware of the changing behaviors of funders and beneficiaries.

Being the in the non-profit space means you have to listen, stay relevant, reinvent yourself, and deliver on what’s actually important and meaningful. Organizations in the charitable and non-profit space are often so busy trying to keep the doors open: They’re busy raising money, finding volunteers, and going through the standard motions of operating the non-profit that they haven’t stopped to notice that society is subtly changing.

How can non-profits ensure they stay relevant?

Bruce: Oftentimes, organizations might not be connected to or even aware of changes in the demands and needs of their beneficiaries until they’ve already occurred. They’ve forgotten to constantly check in with themselves and their staff by asking the important question of: “Are we consistently identifying emerging issues and trends that are important to our beneficiaries? Are we delivering on what we intended to when we first created the organization?”

It’s critical for a non-profit and charitable organization to stay relevant. What does this mean?

“It means these organizations need to make sure that the programs and services that are being offered are, in fact, relevant to a new and changing breed of “customers” and beneficiaries.” – Bruce MacDonald, CEO of Imagine Canada

In your opinion, what are the top 3 characteristics that separate good leaders from great leaders?

Bruce: Adaptability. A great leader understands what leadership style is appropriate for the circumstances they’re faced with. There are no prescriptions and no precise right or wrong way of handling things. Great leaders know when to loosen up, pull in, or be more authoritative. A great leader recognizes and anticipates changes.

Being An Excellent Listener. This one is really important. A great leader knows when to stay quiet, observe, watch, and actually listen to the people that matter. You might be surprised at the amount of insight you can get from a simple, honest, whole-hearted conversation with stakeholders, staff, or beneficiaries of your services.

Great Leaders Are The Ones That Inspire Their People To Do Great Things. Great leaders attract and inspire talent that transcends the leader himself or herself. The beauty of this concept is simple: Even if the leader disappears, the culture of engagement, accountability, trust, and empowerment have been defined, created, and established. This is the legacy that great leaders leave behind.

Imagine Canada and Envisio are both working towards defining – and refining – its own culture as “the best place to work”. A place where everyone has a voice and is valued. And, most importantly, where the staff knows they are contributing to a greater cause with every action they take. There are no ranks and titles when you speak about culture. When your staff and teammates wake up wanting to go to work…well, then you know you’ve achieved your goal of creating an organization that deserves the title of “best place to work.”

Can’t wait to hear the full interview? Stay tuned to the blog and enjoy the entire audio interview with Bruce MacDonald on thought leadership, innovation, and embracing change.

Cara Ong

Cara has over 15 years of experience in business and product management. She is a highly organized, results-driven, strategic executive and entrepreneur with a positive attitude towards work and life.Cara is passionate about helping organizations find effective solutions and providing forward-thinking strategies to help them achieve their goals of operational efficiency. In her free time, Cara enjoys acrylic painting and golf.

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