Interview with Amanda Mayer, Board Member at PFC
– Name, foundation & title
Hello, my name is Amanda Mayer and I’m a program director and the COO of the Lawson Foundation, a family foundation that focuses on the healthy development of children and youth. With a national mandate, the Foundation has its roots in London, Ontario, but is now based out of Foundation House in Toronto. I’m based in Cantley, Quebec, where I live with my partner Jean-Charles and our young daughter Daphné.
– Number of Years working in Philanthropy
I have 17 years of experience in the charitable and nonprofit sector, including both professional and volunteer experience with a number of organizations and causes.
– A quote that defines your work philosophy?
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
I am inspired by these words from Margaret Mead – a woman, an anthropologist and a student of humanity – shared when she was awarded the Planetary Citizen of the Year Award in 1978. Her sentiment rings especially true to me in the context of philanthropy – both at the grassroots and systemic levels.
I’m curious now, more than ever, about how we might find ways to ensure that more diverse people with rich and varied experiences and perspectives have the chance to contribute to this type of change within philanthropy.
– What brought you to work in Canadian philanthropy?
My journey in Canadian philanthropy and the charitable sector started like those of many others I am sure – a mix of personal commitment to community causes and a desire to learn and grow professionally, which has resulted in a somewhat unexpected, but entirely rewarding career so far. In addition to my current role at the Lawson Foundation, I’ve worked with several charities including Imagine Canada and the Canadian Council on Social Development. I’ve also shared my expertise as an instructor for a course on Nonprofit Governance and Leadership at Carleton University and assisted in the development of the Rideau Hall Foundation’s governance model. I’m also on the board of La Maison des Collines, a new palliative care home in my local community.
– As a new Board Member, share something that our PFC members should know about you.
Members of PFC should know that I’m the proud graduate of the first cohort of Carleton University’s Masters in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership Program (MPNL). I am also a governance geek, with a particular interest in streamlining and modernizing policies and practices – shifting the way that philanthropy works to be more nimble, agile and responsive to community needs. I am a caregiver at heart and have a soft spot for children and the elderly and therefore devote much of my time both professionally and on a voluntary basis to these causes.
– Separate from COVID-19, what are some of the most important emerging shifts in philanthropic practice that you are seeing in the field?
One of the most important shifts that I’m starting to see is the generational change in leadership in foundations – and I’m not just talking about CEOs and Executive Directors. It’s exciting to see new energy and perspectives informing and shaping the direction of foundation programs, investments, including impact investments and divestment strategies, and funding priorities.
Another shift I’m keen on is the move from power and decision-making being led by funders toward a model that centres the leadership and capacity of grantees and community partners. The Indigenous Peoples Resilience Fund and the work that the Lawson Foundation is a part of with a Diabetes Reduction Solutions Lab are two promising examples.
– What will you contribute to enhance PFC’s breadth of work and sector leadership?
As a new director, I will contribute perspectives and ideas from my experience as a woman, as a mother, as a French Canadian, and as a younger leader in the field of Canadian philanthropy. I hope to inspire and encourage the work of PFC and its members as well as amplify the important work that infrastructure organizations like PFC play in the philanthropic and charitable sector, and also advocate for foundations and funders to provide more unrestricted and core funding to charitable partners whose impact in communities are proven to go beyond projects that align neatly within a funder’s mandate.