Female Leaders Who Made a Difference

by Kat Mooney


From an early age, I heard negative messages about being bossy. “It’s not nice for little girls to be bossy,” I was often told. Little did I realize that being bossy was a leadership skill in training. I wish it could have been encouraged instead of being silenced.

As a little girl, I was prone to being bossy; aren’t most little girls bossy? When my niece Vanessa Mooney was a baby, I witnessed her sitting in my brother Jay’s arms, reaching for the light switch and assertively with a heightened direct voice saying, “Up!,” telling her dad to turn it on. To me, Vanessa was showing early signs of leadership, signs that I continue to encourage and support every day.

Words from A Friend

In addition to being bossy, my good friend and colleague, Ingrid Schifer, Alpha of the Pack at Schif And The City in Edmonton, Alberta, shared her perspective. According to Ingrid, I am also incredibly detail-oriented, very analytical, and fiercely stubborn; all three attributes Ingrid accredited to be very positive, highlighting some of my significant strengths without any negativity. When I heard those words flow from Ingrid’s mouth, I immediately laughed and made a joke, “I guess I’m a true Virgo!” I laughed and we continued to chat about some priorities coming down the work pipeline.

That evening and the next morning, I kept thinking about what Ingrid said. Her words resonated with me in a new positive way. Quite unlike what I would have assumed in the past, it was now like a fantastic sunrise beginning to shine the light on a new way of seeing how I often misinterpret words about myself.

Stephen R. Covey said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. Most people listen with the intent to reply.” I started to think. Maybe, I can give myself permission to listen and hear, then understand and not just reply. Perhaps not all things people say are judgmental and critical. Sometimes, I need a reminder that my personality and character traits are just that – mine, without putting any adjectives before it.

Three Amazing Women

I am immensely blessed to have many strong women in my life who I see as role models. For example, when I was ten years old, Grace Galley, my social worker, was firm yet gentle. I would often ask her about what it was like to be a social worker and she would openly share it with me. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to work with people, make a difference and change the world.

When I was about 14 years old, my dad, the late John Henry Mooney, gave me the money for dance classes at the YMCA around the corner from where we lived. There I met a beautiful, tall, and slender glowing woman; a professional ballet dancer dressed in what I saw was a well-worn-in light pink bodysuit, wool tights walking barefoot on the floor.

Heather MacKenzie, my dance teacher, was an authentic influence in my life. She too, like my social worker, was firm and gentle. Heather, saw something special in me and took me under her dance wing. She was a strict teacher. She made me practice the moves over and over again until my feet hurt. She taught me how to be a dance teacher. And I taught creative movement and ballet-jazz to children and aerobics and fitness classes to adults. I have not seen her in years, nor do I know where she is, but I want to thank her for instilling a world of confidence within me.

At 22, I worked at the YMCA full time. There I met my supervisor, Susan Garand who would eventually become affectionately known as Smoo and would become my mentor, confidante and friend. She had very high work expectations of me and made them very clear. She always pushed me further and challenged my abilities yet gave me the opportunities to learn and create my vision. With a vibrant personality and a heart of gold more significant than life, Smoo would drive in to work every morning in her convertible blue mustang. She too, was like my dance teacher, firm and gentle. Thanks to the power of Facebook, we are still connected!

Be Firm Yet Gentle

So, as you can see, somewhere along the way on my journey, I learned the importance of being firm and gentle. It is essential to be clear with people and let them know what you expect. You can gently do this without crushing the person in the process, which is a vital lesson, one that I will continue to share and pay it forward.


11 Things Fundraising Taught Me

by Kat Mooney

Like many of us, I never sought out to be a fundraiser. When our seasonal government-funded program for teenagers at risk of dropping out of school at Dawson Boys & Girls Club in Montreal took on a new direction, I was left with the responsibility to tell a group of invested young people that their program would cease to exist because we didn’t have any more program funding. It was truly heartbreaking and one of the most difficult things I had to do. It was at that very moment I knew my career would change.  I heard the whispers from within and made a very conscious effort to absorb and learn everything I could about building mutually beneficial relationships with people and raising money. My career took on a dramatic change as I catapulted into the ever-challenging, amazingly interesting means of bringing people together for the common good.

This experience remains close to me and I carry it every day because it keeps me grounded, reminds me of why I am a fundraiser, and continually encourages me to go further. Now, more than 25 years later, these are some of the most important things I’ve learned:

  1. NEVER TREAT ANY DONOR LIKE A CHEQUE BOOK – In conversations with donors over the years too many have disclosed feelings of charity staff calling only when they need money…and that’s not o.k. Donors are people and people have feelings. The Golden Rule applies, be sure to treat people the way you want to be treated. As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
  2. HAVE FUN WITH CREATIVITY – It is one of the biggest strengths we develop in ourselves while working in a charitable organization. Too often we work within a “do more with less human, financial and material resources” frame of mind, no judgment. Explore your creative side, nurture it. Talk about creativity, take a look at the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge where in 2014 Canadians raised more than $16.2 million Source:
  3. SHARE YOUR ORGANIZATION’S STORY – Because it is one of the most powerful ways to communicate how your charity has impact. Remember these stories aim to inspire people to give and pull heavily on the strings of the heart. The more people know about your organization, the chances of them donating becomes higher.
  4. FUNDRAISING IS A CONTACT SPORT – Get out of your office and meet with your donors and potential donors. Ask them to join you for lunch.  Tell them about your most recent success and what you are working on and where you need help. Learn more about their interests and be genuine.
  5. SELF CARE COMES FIRST – We too often hear and apply the words ‘burn out’ to many working in the charitable sector and we need to take these words seriously. If we do not lean in and take good care of ourselves by having good routines and boundaries, and at times the ability to say NO, we may not be in the best position to help others. Keeping a close circle of colleagues that you can talk to can help as well.
  6. HAVE CONFIDENCE – You are the expert when it comes to the cause – share it confidently, shake hands with a firm grip, no one likes a wimpy handshake – you got this!
  7. HANDWRITTEN NOTES GO A LONG WAY – With the lack of hours in a day and the chaotic lifestyles we have donors are impressed that someone actually took the time to write a personal note.
  8. LISTEN TO YOUR DONORS – We have two ears and one mouth for a reason; that means listening more to your donors and talking less. Remember it’s about them, not you.
  9. IF YOU DON’T ASK YOU WON’T GET Did you know the number one reason why donors don’t give is because they were not asked?
  10. BE HONEST & ETHICAL ALWAYS – Regardless of the outcome, you never want to put your reputation and the reputation of the organization you are working with at risk. I sleep with ease knowing that I did the right thing; you can too.
  11. IF YOU DON’T HAVE MONEY YOU CAN’T HELP PEOPLE – The President & CEO of Global Philanthropic Guy Mallabone says, “money drives mission” and I could not agree more. Regardless of how incredible your program is or how many awards it has received, the bottom line remains, if you don’t have money you can’t help people.