Champion Stories

“Way to go Champions! Thank you for this amazing work in Nova Scotia!”


The Honourable Andy Fillmore (MP, Halifax)

Champion Stories: Enter a world of Innovation, Dedication and Caring

Congratulations to our award winners, the social architects who help people make transformational changes to their lives and build thriving communities. Read more about them and be inspired!

Here are a few of our featured stories. All stories are taken from the nomination forms.

All Award Winners – Stories that Spark a Smile

Explore our award winner stories by recipient name, by United Way location and/or by year. There are close to 1,000 stories (and counting!) that are sure to inspire.

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Your Champion Stories

Cathy Brothers, CEO of Capacity Canada

1. Cathy as a Founding Director of Capacity Canada you have a long history of successes. Please share a few achievements that you feel really proud of.

In the 50-plus years that I have worked in charitable organizations, I have had so many opportunities to be part of activities that truly make a positive difference for individuals, families and communities. Many of my achievements are due to circumstances beyond my personal talents. As a Perennial, I was born into a small cohort who quickly became leaders. Due to my good fortune, both my birth order and my birth year have given me continuous leadership opportunities. I have loved all aspects of my career, and I have thrived on seeing the successes of many colleagues over the years.

In some of my earlier positions, in longstanding institutions, many of my successes were in recognizing barriers and dumb things that did not work. I always tried to create environments where change was constant and new ideas rewarded. One of the daunting challenges as the Founding Director of Capacity Canada was that no dumb things preceded me. Remarkable community innovators gave me an opportunity to create a brand new capacity building organization where change and risk-taking were top priorities. My old-math-mind related to challenging the status quo was not going to work in this position. I found myself in a dream role of finding and supporting big, visionary ideas that embolden non-profit organizations in creating a future where individuals, families and communities care for one another, are strong, and are resilient.

The Capacity Canada achievements that I am really proud of include:
• A world-class team whose values and commitment to social good are extraordinary
• A Board of Directors who truly get the value of growing the amount of social good that non-profits are capable of; and, who love generative conversations imagining a new world order
• Relationships and trust of non-profits across Canada who have the courage of Big Ideas to create new solutions to complex social problems
• Powerful partnerships with corporations that support the engagement of their employees in doing social good
• Innovative and dynamic governance development programs that go beyond expectations in shaping the future of social good
• The sense of joy and fun that motivates Capacity Canada in all its internal and external relationships

2. Please share your vision of CC for the next five years.

The range of size and capacity of non-profit organizations is mind-boggling.
Traditionally, small and medium size non-profits have toiled in isolation with little appreciation for their capacity-building needs and limited peer support.
Over the next five years, my vision is that Capacity Canada will provide 10,000 non-profits with the inspiration and capacity supports to master huge social issues.
The vision of Capacity Canada is a non-profit sector energized by the courage of big ideas and a commitment to changing the world.

3. How is your organization adapting its structures and processes to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion are top of mind? What changes/adaptations do you foresee for the Sector moving forward?

Capacity Canada’s Board has drawn the line in the sand. Long-standing practices, fostered by ignorance and distorted beliefs related to diversity, equity and inclusion are no longer tolerated. Board and staff policies have been rewritten to ensure that all decisions are considered through a lens of diversity, equity and inclusion. Leadership is accountable for demonstrating progress as Capacity Canada become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Capacity Canada is seeking active engagement with diverse networks. A plan for continuous education of board and staff related to diversity, equity and inclusion is underway.

Changes/adaptations related to diversity, equity and inclusion are taking place in the sector, at local, national, and global levels, at a notable speed. There are daily examples in the media regarding diminishing tolerance for all kinds of ignorance, prejudices, and biases. There is reason to be optimistic as the sector moves forward. However, the Sector must be vigilant. We must support people in positions of power in ensuring inclusion and equity for all. The core of discriminatory structures and processes is very deep and rotten.

4. Your thoughts on increasing the proportion of women in leadership positions in the Sector would be appreciated. What needs to change and how can we build momentum to ensure changes are made?

I am the wrong person to answer this question. In my experience, women have long held leadership positions in the Social Sector. Now, because this Sector has not always been valued by the larger society, women leaders probably have not achieved the levels of power needed for real social change. We have come a long way from the concept of the “lady almoner”. However, we have a long way to go before we have shared values related to “the deserving poor”. Somehow, the power of women is tied up in that evolution.

5. Thank you for your support of the Ontario Week of Appreciation for the Nonprofit Sector. Did the staff feel recognized? Please share your thoughts/quotes/anecdotes on the impact it had particularly on the staff/organizations.

Capacity Canada is very grateful to the mighty band of warriors who brought about the Ontario Week of Appreciation for the Nonprofit Sector. We felt supported and understood by the rationale for this Appreciation.

Our Public Relations team had fun promoting the week vigorously on our little footprint of social media. Our Team members also liked the chance to tell their stories.

An underlying discomfort is the focus on the provider. We are much more enthusiastic about telling the stories of the folks who benefit from our work.

I wonder if/how we could ever measure the impact of such Appreciation Weeks? If the goal is to make members of the Sector feel proud, we probably succeeded to some extent. If the goal is to change attitudes or inform those outside the Sector, I am not so sure we accomplish much.

That said, Capacity Canada wants to be a part of celebrating so many aspects of the Nonprofit Sector, and we strongly encourage the continuation of this Week. You have our full support for it.

From the Heart: Words about and from our Award Winners

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"Those of us who are lucky enough to work with her know that she’s the definition of irreplaceable. She’s the epitome of dedication. She is the quintessential unsung hero. In nominating her for this award we hope that she finally gets her time in the spotlight."
"Before I entered Women Moving Forward, I was confused about how I was going to achieve goals in my life. While in the program, I realized that all the teachers never gave up on me. They always believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. They gave me a drive to keep moving forward and never look back."
"His compassionate heart is the pulse of the organization."
"The program challenges all the negative stereotypes and helps to generate an awareness of the positive roles Black men contribute to society. . . We have seen fathers go from not saying anything to getting the resources they need to help their children’s development. . . It’s important that programs such as More Than a Haircut be recognized for their great community partnership work."
"She is the glue that keeps our organization running smoothly. Her smile and positive attitude help keep team spirits up in the face of any challenge."
"When we think of dedication, we think immediately of the unsung heroes of the non-profit sector. The people who work outside of the spotlight, whose contributions to an organization’s success are significant, but often overlooked. These people provide the solid foundation that every organization needs to achieve a meaningful impact."

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