Taking Community Foundations on a journey

Fiona Cassidy presenting to Community Foundations

Community Foundations of New Zealand is the umbrella organisation for 16 member organisations that build endowment funds to support local causes. Executive officer Eleanor Cater requested a volunteer to facilitate a workshop at its national conference in September 2017. In our volunteer brief we clarified the need for a facilitator to explore themes members could collaborate on and develop shared key messages. Knowing we needed a very senior practitioner for this assignment, we approached volunteer Fiona Cassidy.

Fiona met with Eleanor to plan the workshop and explore the desired outcomes.

The challenge was getting buy in and agreement from the local entities, all with differing value statements, logos and mana.

Fiona sent out pre-workshop material from which she drew out starter themes. She facilitated the session, bringing together the ideas of the 40 participants and getting agreement on what worked. After the workshop Fiona wrote a report summarising the decisions and continued to liaise with Eleanor to refine concepts, recommending designers to progress these. She also provided measurement techniques so the work’s success can be assessed.

Eleanor confirmed Fiona more than delivered on the brief and that the themes and messages agreed at the workshop are now being used with measurement in place.

“Fiona ran the workshop in such a way that she had everyone participating.”

“She was working with a tough audience from across New Zealand, many of whom have firm (differing) ideas about local brands and messages. Fiona dealt with challenging questions with professionalism and a huge dollop of humour – she was rather superb in this workshop facilitator’s role.

“Although my background is in marketing I find a lot of people believe they are quite expert in this area. Bringing in a communications professional added enormous credibility to the process and it helped get the group working together in an area they may have thought they needed little input and/or had little interest.

“Fiona continues to be available for ongoing questions and advice. I truly have valued her guidance and support in what has become a bit of a mentoring role.”

Asked for constructive feedback, Eleanor said she couldn’t offer any as the process had been of “great value” and well run.

“Your work has actually inspired me to think of ways I can use my talents to give back more, in a kind of ‘pay it forward’ way to the for purpose sector!”

Fiona said she “loved this work for loads of reasons”.

This included the Foundation’s kaupapa aligning to her values and the difference it makes in local communities. Fiona said co-designing the workshop made it fun and everyone learnt from the interaction.

“You need to ensure you take people on a journey and they are comfortable with where it is heading.”

Research show volunteers are happier than non-volunteers and that it’s good for wellbeing. We see volunteers frequently reporting back broader benefits of volunteering. For example, Fiona said: “On a personal level Eleanor is amazing and we are on a journey of friendship – how great is that!”

Community Foundations of NZ logo

Community Foundations of New Zealand supports the new establishment and the fast accelerating growth of community foundations across New Zealand. Its member organisations are all local foundations building a permanent fund which will benefit their local community forever.


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“You need to ensure you take people on a journey and they are comfortable with where it is heading.”

Fiona Cassidy,volunteer