Tell Me Why …

As a fundraiser for 30 years, it was not a surprise for me to end up in this career. 

I started at an early age mirroring my parents’ generosity. Girl Guide cookies when I was 6 years old, a UNICEF box every Halloween when pennies were still currency and all the school sales of chocolate bars and such. 

Every one of those I had to make my own pitch. My father would take me to the police station where he worked to sell cookies, but I had to ask every officer myself. One of my parents would walk with me door to door selling my wares but wait at the end of the driveway. What it taught me was to believe in the cause I was representing and to focus on what the result of my efforts would be. I needed to understand why I believed in what I was selling. 

As I got older and became a donor, results and impact continued to be important to me. What effect would my donation, usually modest, have on a charity I considered supporting? If I could not ‘change the world’ was it worth making? 

This is the time of year when donors of all ages and abilities reflect on questions like these as their mailboxes, both virtual and physical, are flooded with requests. What have the charities they supported in the past done with their gifts? What impact has their support had? Have they heard from the charities and understood the difference they made? 

When you choose a charity to support, how do you align it to your personal why 

Gifts at this time of year are often given for three reasons: timing, requests by charities and tax savings. 

While all of these are reasons for why people give at this time of year, none of them answer the true ‘why’ 

When I meet with a donor for the first time, I like to investigate their personal why for not only their support of the charity I work for but their philanthropy in general.  

Why are you philanthropic? How did it begin? Like me, did you learn it as a child or as an adult from your partner? Have you passed the teachings on to your children? Do you practice it as a family? What was the first significant gift you gave? What did it support and why did you give it? Do you continue to support that charity or have your interests changed?  

After most of my career in healthcare fundraising, which answered my why through the death of my father at 47 from heart disease, the loss of several close family members to cancer, and my own two-year journey with a brain tumor, I now find myself in the social service/education sector. Growing up in a single parent home, after my father’s death, on a fixed income, the teachings of JA are critically important to my why. 

I’m thrilled to be working and personally donating to Junior Achievement South Western Ontario because it aligns with my why. It’s far more than leadership, and financial literacy. JA addresses poverty proactively. It sets young people up with the skills and mentors they need to become successful at whatever path they choose.  

I hope that JA SWO connects with your why as you make your holiday gifts this year. Regardless of which charity you choose to support, I hope you are able to take a moment to connect to your why and make a gift in the true spirit of the season.  

  • Heather J. Scott, CFRE
    Director, Philanthropy
    JA South Western Ontario 

Thoughts from the Quiet Kid…

If you were to travel back in time to when I was in tenth grade and ask any of my teachers, coaches, or family friends to describe me, you would have gotten one resounding answer from all of them: quiet. I was mousy and painfully shy. I did everything in my power to not be seen, acknowledged, and definitely not heard. Tenth grade was also the year that I first participated in JA Company Program. It was on a complete whim – I had attended JA’s summer camps and was looking for something different to do in my spare time, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I quickly found out that my company members were full of confidence and entrepreneurial spirit, and were well prepared to bring our company to success. We decided to sell infinity scarves and set an initial goal of producing and selling 150 scarves. Following the lead of my President and Vice President of Sales, I made my own sales goal and immediately dreaded the idea of having to actually make any sales. Not only did I have to talk to people, but I had to convince them to buy our scarves. In a panic, I ignored all the sales training the team had given us, and spent all my own money buying the scarves I had in my inventory. I figured I would keep that up for as long as I could, and if I could make my sales goal without having to talk to anyone, I’d be in the clear! Lucky for quiet me, my fellow company members were sales experts and we ended up selling over 240 scarves in the eighteen-week period and won the Sales Company of the Year Award. I decided to take a break the year after, partly because I had emptied my bank account buying scarves, and mostly because I was terrified of stepping outside of my comfort zone. At that moment, I was happy to fade back into the background.  

In twelfth grade, one of my classes participated in an in-class JA program. On the first day, Karen Chafe, the program manager at the time, walked in and came right up to me. She remembered my name, my company, the product we did, and how successful our sales had been. I was shocked. It seemed surreal to me that people had remembered I was even there, let alone remember anything that I had done. The moment sparked something in me – maybe I didn’t have to simply fade into the background anymore. When a few weeks later Karen mentioned that Company Program registration had opened, I signed up during her talk. I was still painfully nervous when the first meeting came around, but far more curious and excited about the possibilities of the year. My mentors pushed me to try something new and put myself out there, and so I (very tentatively) went for a management position and to my surprise, was elected Vice President of Human Resources. As the program went on, I started to realize that I didn’t have to just be a quiet kid.  

Mid-December came around, and our production was in full swing. We were making bath bombs, and knew that Christmas-time was going to have a huge impact on our sales. From the suggestion of our mentors, the team agreed to do the one thing I was most scared of doing – door to door sales. While I was terrified, trudging through the snow and knocking on strangers’ doors, the faith that our mentors and entire team had made me fight against everything I knew to be true about myself, and I convinced myself that I was capable of being a salesperson. We didn’t make any sales that night. But still, I couldn’t believe that the shy kid from two short years ago was able to take that on. By the end of the year, my fear of speaking was overcome by a passion for our company and confidence in my team’s skillset and perseverance. I led team building activities, designed participation incentives, and even volunteered to be a speaker at the sales pitch competition.  

My love for JA has grown in new ways, as I’ve now worked on the programs and fundraising teams, and am now running Company Program myself. This year, I had the chance to speak to 30 classes of high school students from across London to get them excited about joining Company Program. For the first time, I got to be on the other side of the room, watching students’ faces as their interest grew and they asked questions. In early November, I got to see those same faces at the JA Centre, nervous and a little tentative, but with that same spark of curiosity and excitement that I remember so well. Every year, the best part of Company Program is seeing that spark bloom into confidence, and seeing those quiet, tentative students realize what they are capable of. I can’t wait to see what this year holds.  


Zoe Burness 

Program Manager
Company Program and Camps
JA South Western Ontario