Exactly the Same But Different

Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of taking part in a panel discussion with first year MBA students at the School of Business, University of Alberta. Sharing with me in leading the discussion about marketing in the not-for-profit sector was Terry Wickham, Producer of the Edmonton Folk Festival.  If you don’t know what the Edmonton Folk Festival is, I would dare to suggest you have been living a very sheltered life. 

This is the second year that Terry and I have had the opportunity to work together to present to this faculty, led by U of A lecturer, Webb Dussome, and for the second year in a row, the evening was enlightening and entertaining.  Terry Wickham is not only a purveyor of fine live music every summer in  Edmonton, he’s a smart businessman with a great (and very droll) Irish wit.   

I presented first, and was able to share our new website, followed by lots of thoughtful questions and discussion from the group. Many of the students, I discovered, worked for organizations or government who host a United Way campaign and were familiar with us as a community organization. 

Then, it was Terry’s turn to speak.  As usual, he engaged his audience and had them laughing – and thinking.  He is a diverse and well-educated man and also holds an MBA in the Arts.  As a lad growing up in Ireland he was given aptitude tests and following those, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up – his reply was, “I want to be a philanthropist.”  And today, he will tell you that’s what he does.  He gives back to his community – in his role as producer of the Edmonton Folk Festival, he gives back in many ways. 

Listening to him speak about his work with the Folk Fest was inspiring for me because it’s exactly the same way United Way works in the community.  We just have different products.  As I listened to Terry’s message and the passion he obviously feels for his work I realized how very fortunate we are to have people like him living in our city.  I share his passion, I love my job and the work I do, too. 

Terry stressed that even though he is the Festival producer, he works for his volunteers – and they work for their fellow citizens.  That’s the United Way model, too.   The Folk Festival Board is composed of volunteers – United Way’s Board of Directors is also led by volunteers.  The Folk Fest relies on nearly 2400 volunteers and countless volunteer hours to be successful year after year.  United Way has nearly 5,000 volunteers who devote their time each year to help make our fundraising campaign the success it is.

Ultimately, our work produces the same kind of result – because we’re all working for the same cause.  It’s about the coming together of community to a place where people of all ages, religion, beliefs and ethnic background are welcome. 

We really are the same because the work we all do makes a difference.     


Nancy Critchley is Director, Communications for United Way of the Alberta Capital Region.