Mar 2018


Earlier this year, Marnie Spears announced her retirement as head of KCI (Ketchum Canada Inc.). A celebrated and highly accomplished figure in Canadian fundraising and philanthropy, Marnie has built an impressive resume over the course of her career, including serving as Executive Director, Development and Public Relations for McMaster University as well as her ground-breaking work leading KCI for the past 23 years. On the eve of her retirement, she joins Nicole Nakoneshny in this episode of The Ask to share her thoughts about philanthropy in Canada today and what she believes the future of fundraising will look like.



“State of the Nation” in Fundraising

Fundraising is more complex and complicated

Over the years fundraising has gone from very simple in terms of asking for money through things like direct mail, telethons, and face to face to today where the degree of complexity required to be successful is simply incredible.

Donor attitudes and motivations are changing

Donors are becoming increasingly agnostic when it comes to organizations and institutions and they now care far more about causes and issues than they do about organizations. The concept of what is charity is changing. Happily, the concept of doing good appears to be important to the new generations of donors, but their thinking about how to ‘do good’ is quite different from the older donor.

Reliance on philanthropy as core funding

There is increasing reliance on fundraising to support organizations, which conflicts with the trends of changing definitions and growing agnosticism.

Business Intelligence, investment and new models required

Given the degree of complexity and change facing the sector, fundraising professionals will increasingly need to rely on data and business intelligence to be successful, which will require investment. Some smaller and medium sized charities may not have invested enough in this. Therefore, I believe that more and more charities are going to have to look at mergers and at collaborating together.

Need to focus on government

Consulting has afforded me a bird’s eye view of the sector as a whole and also to have a more in-depth view of many sectors within it. I am concerned that governments don’t have that view and don’t understand what is happening in the sector. I am becoming more interested in the need for advocacy from organizations like AFP, AHP, CCAE and Imagine Canada. I think its up to them to ensure government officials, be they elected politicians or bureaucrats, understand and commit to support the not-for-profit sector as a whole.

Enhancing and strengthening the case for the sector

We need to strengthen the case for the sector. I’ve referenced this earlier with respect to my comments about governments’ understanding of what the case for the sector really is. With that is the case for fundraising.

Giving is voluntary and must be encouraged

Giving is voluntary. Nobody is putting a tax on citizens to give. We have to motivate them to give. And to me it’s incredibly important that we value the fact that we’re taking someone’s discretionary dollars and using them, hopefully in a way that they were meant to be used. But we have to remember that they don’t need to give.

Time to Practice Adaptive Leadership

Our sector and the organizations in it need to be nimble and flexible going forward. I think there is so much changing when it comes to fundraising that there is a need to look at issues through various lenses. Those that practice adaptive leadership are the ones that are going to survive in this very complex environment.”

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