Empowering Community with Knowledge

Empowering Community with Knowledge

by Lisa Severn

If you’ve been paying attention to the results of the surveys around town, then you’ve probably noticed that many survey participants crave opportunities for education. I suppose it’s not surprising that we have a community full of motivated learners.

We’ll have some stats about community learning in our Vital Signs launch. Stay tuned to Facebook or our Community Foundation of Whistler newsletter (click to sign up) for the launch date. We’ll also let you know where you can pick up your copy of the Vital Signs report.

Since starting at the Community Foundation of Whistler a few months back, I’ve been working with Executive Director, Carol Coffee to inform the community of the amazing workshops that Carol’s been co-hosting with other non-profits for more than 5 years now. I’ve even attended a few.

Estate Planning Seminar (18 Of 21)

We learned from great case studies by Errin Mechler of E Mechler & Associates Inc. & Faizel Shivji of Scully Insurance Brokers Inc. 


Estate Planning Seminar (10 Of 21)

Mark McKenzie, Squamish Funeral Chapel & Crematorium filled our minds with useful planning details.


The “Preparing for your Departure” seminar was incredibly helpful, and I wished I’d been to a detailed seminar like that prior to my experience as an executor of an estate. There are just so many ways to help your family save time, money and stress, prior to your departure, especially in the ways that you just don’t think about if you don’t have a team of estate experts in the wings.

Financial Seminar (1 Of 1)

Paul Fripp from BDO Canada filling us in on what the numbers tell us.


I also went to the well-attended (sold out weeks in advance) “Understanding Financial Statements for Non-profits”. While reading numbers is hardly a part of my normal workday, I found it to be a comprehensive look at accounting for non-profit team members, like executive directors or bookkeepers.

As I am always curious, I just had to know more about Carol Coffee, the Non-Profit Network and the growing list of seminars put on by the Community Foundation of Whistler and local co-hosts.

BDO Learning (1 Of 1)Carol, I appreciate that you took the time to answer these questions. It’s helpful to our community to know the history and direction of the program.

When did you start offering seminars in the Whistler area?

The Whistler Non-Profit Network began in 2012. We focused on peer learning but also occasionally brought in a local expert as a guest to share learning in particular areas that affect community organizations. Such as marketing, financial management, legal tips for non-profits.

The Foundation then began to expand into providing and creating learning opportunities for the wider community. This comes from the Foundation’s strategic plan in which we decided that a large part of our role is to foster knowledge among community members and build connections between people in the community.

What motivated you to get the ball rolling? 

In 2003, I took the job of Shelter Director at WAG. This was my first venture into the world of non-profits. There was a huge learning curve for me in terms of management of a charitable organization as well as other matters that are part of life in a non-profit organization, such as working with volunteers and fundraising. I was a relative new comer to Whistler as well. I felt very alone and without a network of professional support.

Fast forward to 2011 when I began working for the Community Foundation of Whistler, I found myself wanting to find a way to support small community organizations so that staff and volunteers don’t feel so alone. The Whistler Non-profit Network came from a wish to create a peer support group of sorts for the non-profit sector.

What problems were you solving by adding these seminars?

I wanted first and foremost for the Whistler Non-Profit Network to be a network of support for non-profit workers. The group is invaluable to the Foundation in helping us to deepen our understanding of the issues in the community, the successes and the challenges faced by the charities that we are supporting.

The learning and friendships that have bloomed out of the group has been really beneficial to everyone involved. Most community groups have little to no funds to support staff training and development. The group meetings and seminars aim to bring people together to share a learning experience at no cost (or very low cost). It has also been a nice way to form more bridges with the business community as Whistler has many experts who can share their skills and knowledge with non-profits.

Who are your main partners?

We now partner with the Mature Action Community, Whistler Public Library, Better at Home, Arts Whistler, the Chamber of Commerce, Whistler Learning Centre and various businesses.

Do you have a plan for future workshops?

Yes, we will be hosting further workshops in partnership with MAC and hope to hold another workshop on wills.

Be sure to sign up to our non-profit newsletter by clicking here, especially if you're volunteering or working within one (or more) of Whistler's non-profits. You'll receive updates on learning opportunities and other happenings within Whister's Non-Profit Network.

Also, please sign up to our community newsletter by clicking here, if you're interested in other seminars, like our recent Brain Matters or Preparing for your Departure.

Posted on Wednesday, August 08, 2018