Partner & Practice Leader, Academic & Not-For-Profit Sector, at Four Corners Group, Inc.
GREATNESS: a self-professed women’s advocate who began her career in prospect research and now finds fundraising leaders for the non-profit sector through executive search.
Meet Jane Griffith, an accomplished and community-minded executive search consultant in Toronto. You’ll be impressed by her biography, between her diverse education credentials – from legal history to environmental studies – to her progressive move up the ranks of well-respected recruitment firms. It left me wondering when she found the time to found an advocacy group called Council for Women Executives and volunteer with AFP Toronto Congress (on the management team).
Jane started her career as a prospect researcher at the United Way of Greater Toronto.
“[The career path] is never a straight line,” she told me over a phone conversation earlier this week. “I fell into prospect research as a lot of people do.”
Fresh out of university, Jane was volunteering at the UWGT when a prospect research position came up. “I liked the idea of using my research skills from my master’s degree,” she said about her early career days.
I haven’t met Jane in person, but we share a kindred connection: APRA-Canada. Jane is one of the founding board members of APRA’s largest chapter which was first formed fifteen years ago. (By “largest,” I’m referring to both geographic expanse and membership numbers.) According to this chapter’s inaugural issue of The Scoop (2001), Jane helped establish a mentoring program and served on the professional development committee during her time on the board.
She moved on to prospect research positions at KCI (Ketcham Canada Inc.) and York University. Citing the need for a new challenge (and a shorter commute), Jane then turned to executive search consulting, a field with “strong parallels” to prospect research.
“The difference with [executive] search is you’re on the phone a lot, interviewing prospective candidates; it’s more extroverted work,” she noted.
It was Jane’s advocacy work that caught my gender-focused attention a few months ago. Delving further into her background – indeed, I created a kind of prospect profile on her, minus financial indicators! – I thought, here is a real woman’s woman.
Currently, she is part of the steering committee which is launching the 30% Club in Canada, later this month. Founded in the UK by Helena Morrissey, an asset management executive (who happens to rear nine children!), the 30% Club “believes that gender balance on boards not only encourages better leadership and governance, but diversity further contributes to better all-round board performance, and ultimately increased corporate performance for both companies and their shareholders.”
Simply put, gender equality makes sound business sense, and the Club believes that change should happen from within the sector itself without the use of mandatory quotas. Their goal is for 30% of board seats to be held by women by 2019.
Corporate Canada is well-positioned to meet this aspirational target in the coming years since women already comprise 20.8% of such positions, but groups like the 30% Club need to continuously apply pressure.
It’s Jane’s job to rally the search sector around women since she’s placed at the critical intersection between women leaders and the organizations who employ and champion them.
That led me to ask her why advocating for women is important to her.
“It’s a provocative question and it forces me to really think about what I’m doing,” Jane said.
“I’m a big believer that if we want to change and grow community, we need to get involved ourselves; whether it’s through fundraising, volunteering or helping people find meaningful work that is tied to mission.”
“I help women become more aligned with their aspirations. This is how I see myself helping community, the community of women.”
RESEARCH & FUNDRAISING TIPS
Towards the end of our conversation, I couldn’t help but ask this former prospect researcher for prospecting advice, specifically for women prospects, and how to get our fundraisers to act on them?
“Kind of in the same way that women aren’t seen to be qualified for board directorships or senior management roles, the same applies to fundraising. Women aren’t seen as the big donors,” she admitted.
“Research shows that women are key decision-makers when it comes to charitable giving. Women make up more than 50 per cent of the population, so we’d be foolish to ignore them in our fundraising efforts,” she said with determination.
Since her career focuses on finding great fundraising leaders for non-profit organizations, what are the character traits of a successful fundraiser? Jane offers a confidence boost for professionals in my own sector:
“Researchers make really strong fundraisers. They already know the basics, they know ‘the how.’ They understand the art [of fundraising].
I look for people that are honest, have motivation and drive, and know why they want to be successful.”
Jane emphasizes the mission and cause of the organization. A successful candidate will demonstrate how she intends to help fulfill that organization’s mission.
With more than a decade of experience talking to women candidates, Jane shares that “we tend to talk more about our weaknesses. We start with our weaknesses!”
She urges women fundraisers to change that conversation. Let’s talk about our strengths first.
“We need women in senior leadership roles. They have to want to step up. Be ready to take the next step. It’ll take more of your time, so make sure you’re doing what you love.”
Some good advice from a great woman!
A Few Relatable Sources:
Canadian Business Magazine: Women now hold one in five corporate board seats in Canada. [January 2015]
Read more about the 30% Club in Canada, by Jane Griffith on the Four Corners Group blog, here.
Hunt Scanlon recently interviewed Jane about her work with the 30% Club from an executive search perspective here.