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From Mentee to Mentor

Full circle is the best way to describe Laurie Fagan’s experience in the Executive Director Mentorship program.

Jumped at the chance

Support, guidance, and information was what Laurie Fagan, Executive Director of Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre was looking for when she applied to ECVO’s Executive Director Mentorship program six years ago.

“Being an executive director of a non-profit organization can be a very lonely position,” says Laurie. “There’s no formal schooling or training to prepare EDs for the journey ahead, which is why when I heard about the ED program, just six months into this position, I jumped at the chance!”

The Executive Director Mentorship program partners newer executive directors/CEOs who have been in their role for under three years with established non-profit leaders to share knowledge, perspectives and learn from each other.  

“When I took over as ED, there were definitely gaps in my knowledge and education that I was looking to have filled, other than by using Google,” laughs Laurie.

The three-month program beings with a speed dating style meeting. All the mentors and mentees get a chance to meet one-on-one and ask each other questions.

Relationship is key

“I did my research ahead of time,” says Laurie. ”I knew going in who I wanted to mentor me because I was looking for somebody who was seasoned, well respected, and had been in the community in more than one capacity.”

Laurie was partnered with Martin Garber-Conrad, the CEO of the Edmonton Community Foundation and had leadership experience with similar organizations to Norwood.

“I was fortunate because he had been in the field for so long and was well known, well connected, and well-rounded in his CEO world,” explains Laurie.

Martin and Laurie set up monthly meetings which gave them a chance to get to know each other and for Laurie to build an agenda of items she needed support with.

“Anything that I was struggling with, I was able to take to Martin and know that I could get confidential support on issues such as governance, government relations, working with the board,” says Laurie. “These meetings helped build my confidence because we bounced around ideas and walked through problems together – good, bad and even the ugly.”

Six years later…

Although the program ended after three months, Martin and Laurie kept in regular contact.

“I just had lunch with Martin last month,” laughs Laurie. “He’s now retired and still willing to meet with me.”

Laurie is now one of 10 established non-profit leaders ready to mentor this year’s cohort of up-and-coming EDs.

“Once you know stuff, you want to share it,” says Laurie. “I see the steepest part of my learning curve as a new ED was in the first three years because you’ve got to go through a full cycle. Then year two you have a deeper understanding of the processes, the timing, and the whys. And then the third year you’ve arrived!”

When asked why she wants to be a mentor Laurie says, “You know I’ve been there, and I want other agencies to be successful, they’re all doing good work. You can see yourself in the situation of being a new ED and you know how challenging it can be and this program was one of the best leadership development programs I’ve been through.”

Executive Director Mentorship program is now accepting applications. Contact rhianna@ecvo.ca for more information.