I had the privilege of spending December 1 and 2 (ie my last weekend) at a Board meeting of Canadian Crossroads International.  Here are some personal thoughts.

I had the privilege of spending December 1 and 2 (ie my last weekend) at a Board meeting of Canadian Crossroads International.  Here are some personal thoughts. 

First thank you Lisa for taking care of the kids during the whole weekend so that I could go to the meetings!.  What an exhilarating experience.[to be on the board and at the board meeting, not to be away from my two demanding boys!]  This organization is not really about “cross cultural experiences” but is a very committed group of people interested in development and specifically supporting the work of about 30 foreign NGOs working in the area of women’s rights, AIDS and community economic development.  They are focused and concentrating their efforts on a small number of countries to have maximum impact.

While sending an idealistic, unprepared and inappropriate Canadian volunteer to the developing world will probably result in that volunteer learning a lot it is unlikely that the foreign NGO or developing country will have as positive an experience.  Crossroads works closely with Southern partners to send volunteers that they need, who are well prepared and vetted to provide support that the partners want.  This is more effective.  It is also more sustainable to support the NGO sector to become independent rather than providing handouts.  More exciting than well screened Canadians going abroad is volunteers from developing country NGOs coming to Canada and “Southern” volunteers working in other developing countries (what they call “South-South” volunteers. Many of the Southern volunteers will have language, cultural and other skills that a Canadian volunteer may lack and the cost of putting them into a placement is less than having a Canadian sent abroad for a year or two. 

The partnerships are not only between Crossroads and the developing country NGOs.  Instead they are tripartite – developing country NGO, Crossroads and another Canadian NGO working in a similar sector.  The interaction between the Canadian NGO, the developing country NGO, and Crossroads, is beneficial to all parties.

The board is a very interesting, committed and accomplished group.  You might ask how did I get on – well every organization is entitled to make one mistake!  The staff really knows their stuff.  I tried my hardest to ask tough questions but Karen Takacs, the ED, with ease always had a well thought out response.

One difference from many Canadian boards is the representation of the South on the board.  On this board and at the meeting was an ED from Swaziland and a expert on microfinance from Bolivia.  Most of the board members have international volunteer experience and many have and continue to work in development. 

The board received a very interesting and useful presentation from Moe Davies on “Fundraising and Boards”.  I learned a few things including that special events are the highest cost to raise a dollar while face to face solicitations and bequests are probably the best way to raise money for a charity.  Moe focused on the importance of targeting donors who have significant linkage and interest in the charity and financial ability when soliciting major gifts.