Coconut Lagoon party for fundraising professionals proves priceless – Ottawa Business Journal

There were no pitches, no presentations, no big asks. Last night’s sold-out New Year social for the Ottawa chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) was purely a community of like-minded people coming together to talk, share insights and to learn from one another.

And here’s the best part: they got to do it while being hosted by Coconut Lagoon, the South Indian restaurant on St. Laurent Boulevard owned by Joe Thottungal, a multi-award-winning chef who’s been honoured for both his flavourful cuisine and his humanitarian work. In 2020, he was named outstanding individual philanthropist by AFP Ottawa. In 2022, he was chosen Newsmaker of the Year by Ottawa’s business community. 

“It was not an accident that we chose to hold it here,” AFP Ottawa’s new board president, Jeff Todd, said during his brief remarks with David Gourlay, who, as vice president of Shepherds of Good Hope Foundation, is the new head of membership with the AFP Ottawa board.

The Ottawa chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals held its New Year social on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, at Coconut Lagoon restaurant on St. Laurent Boulevard. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The social gathering attracted some 80 attendees, many of whom work in the charitable sector. There were also business leaders with a connection to non-profit groups. The time seemed to fly by, with one great conversation after another in the comfortable, elegant setting of Thottungal’s stunning restaurant, which was recently reconstructed due to fire.

It’s an important time for AFP Ottawa, in terms of bringing members together, building enthusiasm and creating a sense of community, Todd told OBJ.social. “I’m a firm believer in strength in numbers.

“The networking, the peer bonding, the sharing of ideas — it’s contagious,” he continued. “I think it creates a sense of excitement about what we’re doing in fundraising and in the non-profit sector. I think that’s going to make us better fundraisers. It’s going to make us more inspired and more educated when we go out to donors in the city and raise large amounts of money, because there are a lot of big asks out there and a lot of big capital campaigns.” 

Todd is also vice president of marketing and communications at Foundation WCPD. It’s the long-time presenting sponsor of AFP Ottawa’s annual Philanthropy Awards dinner. WCPD, a financial services business with a focus on philanthropic tax planning and tax reduction, is one of the more generous businesses in Ottawa, as well as in the Bahamas, where WCPD president Peter Nicholson owns Great Exuma’s Grand Isle Resort & Residences.

Jeff Todd, Solange Tuyishime Keita
Jeff Todd, board president of the Ottawa chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and vice president of marketing and communications with Foundation WCPD, with AFP Ottawa board member Solange Tuyishime Keita, president and owner of Elevate International, at Coconut Lagoon restaurant on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Chloe Hillier, John Bouza
Chloe Hillier, director of donor relations for environmental advocacy group Ottawa Riverkeeper, with her father, John Bouza, who’s worked in professional fundraising throughout his career, at the New Year social held by the Ottawa chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals at Coconut Lagoon restaurant. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Micah Garten, Deirdre Freiheit, Leslie Turcotte-Sher
Micah Garten, vice president of development for the Jewish Federation of Ottawa and the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation, with Deirdre Freiheit, president and CEO of Shepherds of Good Hope and Shepherds of Good Hope Foundation, and Leslie Turcotte-Sher, chief development officer at Hillel Lodge, at Coconut Lagoon for the New Year social held by the Ottawa chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Bernie Forestell, Leah McInnes-Eustace
Bernie Forestell, from Shepherds of Good Hope Foundation, with Leah McInnes-Eustace, president of Blue Canoe Philanthropy, at the  Ottawa chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ New Year social, hosted by Coconut Lagoon restaurant on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. Photo by Caroline Phillip
Graham Thompson, senior development officer for philanthropy at The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, with his colleagues, development officer Natasha De Sousa, donor experience officer Katherine LaPlante and manager of philanthropy Andrea Peponoulas at Coconut Lagoon restaurant for a New Year social held by the Ottawa chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Grace Xin, Angela Begin
From left, Grace Xin, interim president and CEO of Ottawa Community Foundation, with Angela Bégin, executive director of OCH (Ottawa Community Housing) Foundation, at AFP Ottawa’s New Year social hosted by Coconut Lagoon on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023 for the Ottawa chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Professional fundraisers are surprisingly collegial, the reception revealed. “What I always find is that, from the outside, you might imagine that we’re a competitive bunch,” Bronwen Dearlove, senior development officer with the National Arts Centre Foundation, told OBJ.social. “It’s a big community, there’s a lot of need, but there’s also a lot of heart. We learn from each other and help each other out, and it’s just amazing to be part of such a supportive group.”

That kind of support is important, especially as charities continue to fundraise on the edge of economic instability. 

 “We know that people right across the city are really feeling the pinch,” said Ottawa Food Bank president and CEO Rachel Wilson. The tough times aren’t limited to just her organization’s clients, either. “It’s every-day people who are seeing it in their grocery bills, in their housing bills.”

It’s become harder to raise money, she acknowledged. “We’re very concerned. If a recession comes in and there’s a loss of jobs, that’s going to mean even more people accessing the food bank but less donations to support the community.”

That’s also going to leave the Ottawa Food Bank working “as hard as we can”, said Wilson, who believes her organization and others in the same boat will pull through. “Fundraisers are some of the most resilient and amazing people in this city, and they work so hard. I’m confident they’ll be able to meet the demands.”

Christina Hunter Cadieux, Bronwen Dearlove, Rachel Wilson
From left, Christina Hunter Cadieux, planned giving officer at The Ottawa Mission, with NAC Foundation senior development officer Bronwen Dearlove, and Rachel Wilson, president and CEO of the Ottawa Food Bank, at the New Year social hosted by Coconut Lagoon restaurant for local members of the Association of Fundraising Professionals . Photo by Caroline Phillips 

 

While fundraising often gets described as one of the most difficult jobs, it can be very rewarding, say those who work in the industry.

“One of the most exciting things about being a professional fundraiser is the relationship building,” said Rob Gottschalk, the new CEO of the Canadian Nurses Foundation, which advances nursing knowledge and improves health care by providing research grants, awards and scholarships to nurses and nursing students. He was previously at The Ottawa Hospital Foundation for almost nine years. “Another is getting to show a donor their impact.

“Unfortunately, I’ll never be a nurse or a doctor — I was never blessed with the level of compassion, the skills or the level of intelligence needed in those roles to help those in their weakest time,” said Gottschalk, who does, however, have the experience and ability to build relationships, strategies and partnerships. “I am honoured to work alongside a dedicated group of volunteers, staff and donors to help Canadians through the advancement of nurses.”

Rob Gottschalk, Devinder Chaudhary
Canadian Nurses Foundation’s new CEO, Rob Gottschalk, with Devinder Chaudhary, owner of Aiāna Restaurant Collective, at AFP Ottawa’s New Year social hosted by Coconut Lagoon restaurant on St. Laurent Boulevard. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Providence Rakunudo, Annie Premachuk, Sohrab Shalileh
From left, BGC (Boys and Girls Club) Ottawa database specialist Providence Uwimana Rukunudo, with the organization’s advancement officer, Annie Premachuk, and Sohrab Shalileh, manager of advancement, at the New Year social for the Ottawa chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, held at Coconut Lagoon on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Lisa Davey, Derek deLouché, Ouida Loeffeholz
From left, Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Canada vice president Lisa Davey with Carleton University senior development officer Derek deLouché and University of Ottawa director of stakeholder engagement Ouida Loeffelholz at AFP Ottawa’s New Year social hosted by Coconut Lagoon restaurant on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Julia Canning, Aaron MacFarlane
Julia Canning, manager of faculty development at the University of Ottawa, with Aaron McFarlane, creator of the business social networking group RÄNDĀ VO͞O, at Coconut Lagoon restaurant for the New Year social held for the Ottawa chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Nicole Thibault, Marin Hawley
From left, Nicole Thibault, the Network CEO for Canadian Parents for French, with Marin Hawley, who works as network coordinator, membership and donor relations at CPF, at a New Year social held for the Ottawa chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, at Coconut Lagoon restaurant on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. Photo by Caroline Phillips
The Ottawa chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals held a New Year social at Coconut Lagoon restaurant on St. Laurent Boulevard on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. Photo by Caroline Phillips

caroline@obj.ca

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