Doing it the old-fashioned way…

In taking over the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada in the 1970s, we did it the old-fashioned way: We cared. There was no involvement for government. There was no need to institutionalize a voice for the charitable sector across government. And, if anyone thought to ask, we could have told them what a dumb idea it was to give one charity money to give out money to other charities to create short-term jobs.

One of the first moves I made as head of the MS Society was to sit down with the chief medical officer of health for Canada and ask a lot of questions. I remember my last question. I asked if there was anything I could do for him? He said keep asking questions.

At the time the basic research into MS was equalled by the government. We were both spending about $180,000. per year on multiple sclerosis-related research. The society’s fund-raisers had already raised the $180,000 for the next year and were coasting.  At least they did until they were told it looked like we would need at least $5 million.

What we had done was bring together all the top neurological disease research specialists in Canada at a Quebec resort. They were asked how much they would need if they could get serious about MS research. They saw $5 million as the going in guess. In three years, we were up to $15,000,000.

The next chore was to light a fire under the society across Canada. We built up the society where we were already strong. We reformed the weak links. We built new divisions. Cancer and Heart were the leaders in the charity sweepstakes but MS soon joined them.

And we did it without the expertise of the policy framework needed today. Opportunity was the challenge. Those who see the opportunity are the ones to get it done.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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