Toronto Kiwanis Boys & Girls Clubs has many programs and provides so many different services. How does the organization prioritize its focus? 

What’s unique about the Toronto Kiwanis Boys & Girls Clubs (the “Club”) is that we do not take a “cookie-cutter” or “one-size-fits-all” approach to our programs and services. In that sense, the Club acts very much like a grassroots organization, we take direction from the bottom, listen to the needs of our families, the interests of our kids and the emerging trends in the communities that we serve. Part of the mission, vision, and values, of the Boys & Girls Clubs movement is advocating on behalf of children and youth. Providing safe-spaces for young people to interact with each other, take positive risks where they can learn, play, and grow is always the focus of any initiative the Club undertakes. We are committed to empowering young people to achieving their full potential.

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Your call to action for the fundraiser begins with the line, “You can help Toronto Kiwanis Boys & Girls clubs, provide at-risk children and youth with leadership opportunities, experiential trips and fun learning activities over the summer months at the 6th Annual Blueprint for the Future dinner and cocktail reception.” How effective was it to have a very specific and detailed focus for the event?  

We had a lot of fun with the 6th Annual Blueprint for the Future and Simon Remark’s beautiful photography capture the zeitgeist of this year’s event. We were looking for a theme that embodied the Boys & Girls Clubs experience, allowed us to tell our story and to be connected with our guests. Much like our summer camps, the 6th Annual Blueprint for the Future was also an experiential learning opportunity, transporting our guests to their own fond childhood memories of summer. Making a donation to supporting any non-profit is an emotional activity. People give for many reasons, and the underlying current for all of them can be summed up in one word: hope. By focusing on a particular relatable area of impact to tell our story we were able to successfully communicate the need for summer camp and for keeping young people active and learning during this important time of year.

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In finding sponsorship for your organization is it effective to segment specific services that the organization offers and seek sponsorship for each separate entity?

I would certainly agree with that. That approach creates a mutually beneficial outcome for both parties. Allowing the sponsor to find an area with the Club that aligns with their values, mission or corporate social responsibility framework.

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The event fully utilized the space of the Berkeley Church having a cocktail reception with the auction and live music in the mezzanine and then having the seated dinner on the open first floor of the church. Was this ability to straddle two locations a beneficial factor in the event? 

The Berkeley Church is absolutely beautiful. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I was able to take it all in during the event. It was only after the fact, while going through Simon’s photographs, that I was able to see what we managed to accomplish with a very lean budget. Being able to split the space into two distinct sections was a deciding factor while looking for venues. Because of the room split and two distinct spaces, we were able to offer a cocktail only ticket for guests who were unable to join us for dinner, but still wanted to bid on our 75+ silent auction items. The silent auction was a “timed” activity and only occurred during the cocktail reception portion of the evening.

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This year your organization held the 6th Annual Blueprint for the Future event at Berkeley Church. By all accounts the event was a great success. What were some of the key ingredients that made it work so well?

The most important key ingredient to the success of this event were the people involved. I am fortunate to work with a dynamic and committed team of volunteers that collectively provided more the 300+ hours of service to see the event come to fruition. The guests, donors, and key supporters who came out to support sending kids to camp. The staff at Berkeley Events, who were delightful, caring and helped along the way, especially our event coordinator, Kathy Lee. This was our first time hosting in the venue, so Kathy’s experience was helpful in fine tuning aspects of the event.  Also, I cannot forget, all of my colleagues at the Club who work hard every-single-day to make sure that our kids feel special.

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If you could have three wishes for the next Annual Blueprint for the Future event what would they be?

In 2016 will be hosting the 7th Annual Blueprint for the Future, but we are not going to camp. We are getting active and focusing on our programs that support physical literacy and playability. I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed that perhaps TSNs Cabbie, Cabral Richards, might be able to host and help us find a dynamic keynote speaker for the dinner portion. I would also love to be able to sell out the cocktail ticket portion and provide 100 kids with even more avenues to get active and brush off sedimentary lifestyle habits.

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Apart from raising funds what function does having an event such as the recent one at Berkeley Church fufill?

Events are as much about awareness as they are about fundraising. Our Club is the best kept non-secret in the downtown east and west. Events that are outward facing allow our organization to find likeminded individuals who are as equally committed to improving the lives of children and youth either through volunteerism, donations, or as guests in attendance.

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Your organization relies heavily on a large volunteer base. How do you build and sustain this group of active participants?

My colleague Marnie Smith is amazing at her job. She is, hands down, the best Manager of Volunteer Services. And I am not just saying that because I asked her to proof read my responses. At the Club, we embrace two-way communication throughout all facets of the agency. The Club is not a top down organizational structure. Through ongoing dialogue, we ensure that our volunteer experiences meet the interests and skill set of our volunteers. That includes volunteers on a board of directors, special committees, program volunteers, corporate impact groups and even placement students.

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Toronto Kiwanis Boys & Girls Clubs

Venue: Berkeley Church

Photographer: Ecstatic Photography