Dear Future National Coordinator
DEAR FUTURE NATIONAL COORDINATOR
From September 2016 to December 2018, I had the rare and exciting opportunity to be the National Coordinator, a new position created for the Ukrainian Canadian Students’ Union (SUSK) and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC). This marked my first professional role in the non-profit world and brought me to Canada’s capital. I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to strengthen the Ukrainian Canadian youth community while making new contacts in Ottawa, where I aspire to continue building my career.
Starting a new job without predecessors, a long job description, and short-term funding can be a daunting task. However, with support from SUSK and UCC, generous donors, peers and intuition, we created a new model that will serve the needs of SUSK for years to come as it continues to grow across Canada. As SUSK’s first staff personnel in decades, here are a few things I learned on the job that I would like to pass on to my successors.
Relationship-building will determine your success
Success in just about any field will depend on your ability to forge authentic relationships with people; I find this to be especially true for the Ukrainian community. How can you
convince the overworked student to join a member Ukrainian student club? How can you guarantee a successful turnout at SUSK conferences (‘Congress’) to provide value for its sponsors? How can you earn the trust from SUSK alumni and potential donors who can help further the organization’s mandate? This all boils down to the power of building relationships. While prior experience with the organization can
help provide you with a network and credibility (I had five years’ worth of relationship-building before the job), this does not have to be the end-all. Cultivating your personal brand and reflecting why you believe in SUSK’s mission will mark your ability to connect with Canada’s large and diverse community of Ukrainian youth.
Listen and learn
You belong to an organization with over 65 years of expertise and contacts – use them! SUSK has a rich network of people who live in Canada, the United States, Ukraine, and beyond. If want to learn how SUSK mobilized
itself for protests, organized lobbies on Parliament Hill, or even why it stagnated over certain periods of time, your alumni are the best people to engage. You would be surprised by how many established people were willing to take my calls and provide me and fellow SUSK peers with advice! My personal and professional life have been enriched by the generous and accomplished individuals who answered my calls, and I will always remain grateful to them.
As for technical skills, there is a wealth of information and skills you can build while working for a non-for-profit. My first two recommendations would be to take the Nonprofit Fundamentals course on Lynda.com (tip: it might still be free through your alma mater) as well as the Iowa Principles and Practices for Charitable Nonprofit Excellence. You will soon learn that grant writing, donor stewardship, sponsorship relations, and general fundraising are all distinct but necessary components of building a robust fundraising strategy for SUSK.
Finally, don’t be afraid to think outside the box; you can find inspiration and learn best practices by also looking beyond the Ukrainian community. For instance, the Jewish community does a tremendous job in engaging university students, college
fraternities are successful in building a sense of belonging, and other communities in Canada succeed in receiving federal government funding. There are lots of opportunities to grow and innovate SUSK. Use your best judgment and learn from as many people and organizations around you as you can. Following social media feeds, reading annual reports, going to new events, and joining mailing lists are just a few short and tangible ways to connect with diverse groups.
You will never have enough time: only priorities
Now that we’ve entertained new opportunities and ways to make SUSK different, let’s return to the short-term reality of SUSK: you work for a small non-for-profit that is looking to grow with limited resources. This sometimes means that while
you may have good (or even great ideas), some of them may have to go on the back burner while you handle other jobs that simply must get done in a timely fashion (eg meet that grant application deadline, organize Congress, help that student club with a last-minute request, assist that board member who may not be able to complete one task because they were up all night writing a paper). Learning to prioritize is key to effective time management. Understanding SUSK’s mission, and what will best support that mission in the short and long term, will help inform you as you rank your to-do list. Task managers (Trello, Asana, Google Doc) will help you and your team stay focused.
Your organization deserves a staff – let’s make sure we can make it sustainable
Repeat after me: you work for a great organization that is absolutely deserving of support! Too often in the non-profit industry do we hear the same adages: there is too much competition to fundraise, we are too small to receive large gifts, or even we are too young to know what we’re doing (believe me, you’ll hear that one). These negative thoughts are the biggest hurdles anyone could face in the world of non-forprofits. SUSK truly stands out in a variety of ways – here’s just a few off the top of my head:
1) SUSK is truly a national organization with over 25 active student clubs in the country. You are not limited to only the GTA and/or the Prairies. It is easy to start a university club in just about any corner of the country, and universities are major institutions that are not going anywhere;
2) SUSK is inclusive and welcomes Ukrainians from all backgrounds: newcomers, dancers, people from scouting organizations (CYM/Plast), people who do not identify as any of those (myself being one of them) as well as non- Ukrainians;
3) SUSK poses as a great model to mobilize other multicultural communities in Canada;
4) SUSK impacts youth to become leaders of tomorrow through Ukrainian community involvement and professional development;
It requires a great deal of work and commitment to pull off SUSK’s mandate. Your role as the next National Coordinator is to maintain continuity of the organization as it continues to grow and welcome new students into leadership roles. Do not be shy to tell people about SUSK’s ongoing work to build an endowment that will secure the National Coordinator position for generations to come. Remember, SUSK has come a long way since its revival in 2007 and this is just the beginning of what the organization can accomplish!