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Three Future Leaders share their experiences

‘IT HAS BEEN AN ABSOLUTE GAME-CHANGER’: Three Future Leaders share their experiences

For the past four years, RBC has generously supported the AFP Future Leaders Program, an opportunity for young professionals to receive mentorship, skills training and networking opportunities in the fundraising sector. The first of its kind in Canada, the program provides full membership to AFP Ottawa and a host of exciting benefits.

Nearly 200 protégés (and 200 mentors) have benefited from the Future Leaders Program so far. We caught up with three protégés to hear about their experience.

Thor Simonsen

Why did you decide to sign up for the AFP

Future Leaders


I run an artist development record label in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Since the Arctic music industry is still in its infancy, our operations are almost entirely dependent on fundraising. I stumbled across the AFP Future Leaders Program by dumb luck, but I saw the potential right away. So far, it has been an absolute game-changer for me.

What have been your biggest takeaways from the program so far?

The program has opened my eyes to the amazing possibilities that exist when you’re able to effectively connect and communicate with “southern” (i.e., anything south of Yellowknife) and global stakeholders. I’ve also realized my own potential as a conduit between donors and the important causes and organizations that need (and deserve) support and how I can increase impact and scale by creating virtuous, win-win situations. The only limit is truly our imagination.

Tell us about your career goals. Where do you hope to be in the next five years?

Thanks to the AFP Future Leaders Program, we’ve decided to either launch a non-profit organization or partner with an existing one. This new organization will help us develop more artists, export more Nunavut-made music globally and empower more Inuit leaders in arts. Once this organization is up and running, I plan to use my newly developed skills to make a positive impact in other areas that I care about, including poverty reduction, food security, sustainable housing and, of course, the arts.

Élise Lapalme

Why did you decide to sign up for the

AFP Future Leaders Program?

I applied to AFP’s Future Leaders Program to feel more connected to the local fundraising culture in Ottawa and to receive guidance from a mentor who understands where I am in the early stages of my fundraising career. Additionally, I had heard my manager speak of her positive experience over the years as a member of AFP Ottawa.

Among the benefits of being a Future Leader are an AFP membership and complimentary attendance at AFP Ottawa’s Fundraising Day in May 2022; these were also big motivators.

What have been your biggest takeaways from the program so far?

Through the AFP Future Leaders Program, I’ve come to truly understand the importance of building relationships as a fundraiser. Throughout my career I’ve consistently made great efforts to build relationships within my organization – this has been particularly true where I currently work, as the WaterAid Federation has teams across 34 different countries. Through my experience as a Future Leader, I now realize how beneficial it is, both professionally and personally, to foster relationships with colleagues outside your organization. The AFP Future Leaders Program has opened many doors for me in this regard, and I’m excited to continue meeting new and inspiring people in the Ottawa fundraising community.

Tell us about your career goals. Where do you hope to be in the next five years?

The first few months as a protégé in the AFP Future Leaders Program have developed my interest in fundraising in a way I hadn’t envisioned. I joined the fundraising team at WaterAid Canada this past March, thinking that it would be a good way to learn more about the organization. I didn’t realize that over the next six months I’d become so passionate about fundraising, eager to learn more and grow within the field. Over the next five years, I plan on challenging myself to move beyond the familiar and undertake a learning journey through educational opportunities such as conferences and webinars, learning from this new network of professionals, and truly putting myself out there. In five years, I want to confidently respond to the question of, “What do you do for work?” with, “I am a fundraiser!”

Cameron Aitken

Why did you decide to sign up for the AFP Future Leaders Program?

I signed up for this program on the advice of a work colleague. Although I had some work experience in the grant writing process, I wanted more formal training and mentorship in the world of fundraising and donor stewardship. Coming from a 2SLGBTQ-focused NGO, the main source of revenue came from government grants and then corporate sponsorship, followed by individual donors. This also describes my familiarity with their fields of fundraising, from most to least knowledgeable. Enter stage left — Chelsea McIntyre! An industry professional coming from donor stewardship working with hospital foundations across Ontario. Through our conversations, we were able to chat about our pending work transitions and our passions.

What have been your biggest takeaways from the program so far?

Chelsea and I were able to discuss the great need for self-care in fundraisers. Fundraising fits within corporate services like HR and often does not get the glory that program staff or more frontfacing staff get. So there needs to be efforts made to make us all part of the team. As the program began virtually, it was a great opportunity to win an essay writing contest, which allowed me to attend the 2021 Philanthropy Awards in Ottawa. Meeting Chelsea at the awards allowed us to continue the mentorship experience. I am now in my second year participating in the program and am preparing to sit my CFRE exam in 2023.

Tell us about your career goals. Where do you hope to be in the next five years?

I would like to become the executive director for a small or medium-sized NGO. As a career generalist, I think this would be the best usage of my skill set and network. Just having earned my CHRP designation, I hope that becoming a CFRE will aid me in this journey.