FAQs

You are a veteran in this business. What do you see as the main issue facing the charitable sector today?

With the amount of money flowing through charities, the vast majority of it being public money from government, I don’t think we can’t get away from a discussion of impact. Having spent 25 years working in, and observing, the charitable sector, I understand that charities in Canada and around the world have done a good job of being a much-needed Band-Aid solution. What has suffered as a result, however, is that charities have not spent as much time or talent focusing on the problems that bring people to their door—prevention and root causes. And it will be, in my view, a revolving door of suffering until we make a serious attempt at preventing problems and understanding the root causes of problems and directing resources to that area.

That sounds insurmountable—changing the way a whole sector operates. How do you propose to do that?

I don’t think it’s an insurmountable problem at all. Right now, this day, charities have it in them—with some externalized analysis, reflection and institutional resolution—to become agents of long-lasting change so that some day there may be no requirement for a better Band-Aid at all. There is no one better situated to do this work than charities.

If charities take on this mantle of transforming the systems that make people sick, sad, marginalized and poor—and are supported by their donors in doing that work—I am convinced it is within our grasp to turn charity into change, positive change that will impact millions of people in our country and around the world.

My professional mission is to help charities vastly improve their impact by better understanding the forces at play throughout sector and how charities intersect with public policy as a whole. I want to help them realize how much power they have to facilitate real solutions to some of the world’s most intransigent problems. And what specifically they can do to improve their impact.

If you could say one thing to a charity about impact, what would it be?

The most important thing any individual charity can do is realize there is so much more they can do on so many levels. Once that happens, they can take the steps necessary—and get the necessary help—to do it.

What’s the most common problem charities come to you with?

Money. Most charities feel they need to raise more money to execute their mission. Some of them are spending more money every year just to keep the same level of revenue. And most charities are interested in how to get big donors involved in their mission—donors who can give a hundred thousand or a million dollars. Many are spending huge amounts of money, mostly through staffing, trying to attract wealthy people to their cause, to raise a small number of large gifts. But most of the time I find that money isn’t the actual problem at all. It’s far more likely to be other aspects of their operation, aspects that are more controllable than they might imagine.

And what do you tell them?

I tell them that you have to be doing big things to raise big money. Big, impactful things.

What would you like a prospective client to know about you before they reach out to you?

I want them to know that if they come to me with a problem or a project that needs leadership, it could be any kind of problem or project—a stalled campaign or a new campaign, concern about impact, a program start-up, or maybe they have a sense of aimless or even a feeling there’s a problem, but they can’t put a name on it—I want them, first of all, to know that I will listen to them, and ask them questions to understand what’s happening. I am interested in their situation, whatever it is. My professional mission is to help them solve their problems. I am here to help my clients succeed and have the greatest possible impact they can. If that’s what they want.

What is most important thing for you to know about a client when they reach out to you?

That they are interested in solving problems … and that they want to succeed.

How can you best be reached?

You can reach me at gailpicco@gmail.com.