Staying on point with Fund Development 

by Andrew McCutcheon

We’re constantly asking the question, every week, what exactly is Kerby Centre? 

We’ve had 50 years to try to figure that out, but it’s hard to pinpoint. It’s very easy to name all the services and programming we offer to our amazing community of seniors. 

One thing that often gets forgotten, though, includes how we end up paying for all these things. 

It might not be as exciting as talking about the food we provide to vulnerable adults or how we fight isolation locally, but it’s important. 

For better or worse, money makes the world go round and we need funding to keep the lights on. 

We are funded by all levels of government – federal, provincial and municipal – but to provide the best services we can, we reach out to a variety of other avenues to get the money we need to make things happen. 

This includes private and corporate donors, selling advertising in Kerby News, and big fundraising events like our annual golf tournament. These avenues are in large part organized and facilitated by our incredible Fund Development department. 

They are the people who make the connections, sell the ads and coordinate donations. It is a hard balance to strike, going back and forth between “selling” the work that we do as Unison Alberta — showing folks why their hard-earned donation dollars matter — while also promoting the important work that we do. 

It is a balance that requires being graceful. Thankfully, we have the incredibly smart and graceful Lori Wilson on our Fund Development team. She knows more about striking balance than the average person – after all, she was a ballerina for ten years. 

Lori was born and raised in Calgary and started dance when she was six years old. Starting with tap and jazz, she eventually went into ballet. 

When she hit 14, Lori had an amazing opportunity: go to Edmonton to live in residence at ballet school, to study dance with like-minded students — away from parents for the first time! 

“There was one bathroom and 10 girls all getting ready for school at the same time,” Lori says. “We had a dorm mother that used to work for juvie … and you never would hear her coming.” 

“It was a hard time to live away from home, I went from junior school high into high school and I was there that whole time.” 

Lori had a balance to strike even then: going to school full time and then going to practice ballet until nine in the evening. Doing homework on the bus was a common occurrence, which was odd for Lori — a strong and hardworking student. 

“There’s no computers … this is back in the day,” Lori said. “So, I said, I’m out!” 

Lori knew she wanted to go to University. She has an older brother, just by about a year, of whom she often followed in the footsteps. He volunteer at the Zoo, she volunteered at the Zoo; he went to University, so Lori was absolutely going to go to University. She started at the University of Calgary getting a Bachelor of Arts in Geography. 

“Don’t ask me why!” Lori says. 

But Lori after her first degree, Lori went back and did a Master’s degree in Environmental Design.  

For those wondering what the heck environmental design is, don’t worry: this author had no idea either. 

“At the time, it was the only program at U of C that was only masters level… It’s just grad school,” Lori explains. “It’s a multi-disciplinary program that focuses on collaborative work and projects.” 

To further explain, Lori shares the different aspects that go into environmental design: everything from urban planning and architecture to industrial design and environmental science. Lori’s focus was on environmental science. 

 One of the projects Lori worked on, through her volunteer connections at the Zoo, was to design an educational display; a massive termite mound! 

They came up with the design, the comprehensive education plan, down to the smallest detail, and it would eventually get built and displayed at the Zoo for some time. 

It was a program that was all about working together with a variety of people from different backgrounds, with different strengths and weaknesses, to come together to make something more than the sum of their parts. 

And that persists in what Lori does today in fund development for Unison Alberta. Unison Alberta has dozens of different programs and initiatives, and it’s Lori’s job to show off why each of these different and disparate things are vital — and deserving of peoples’ attention and donations. 

“My role is very relational,” Lori says. “A lot of what I do is building relationships with individuals and foundations.”  

“We want people to feel engaged, we want them to feel a sense of purpose in where their money is going.”  

Lori works on building a community, an ambassador for getting folks to invest more than just their dollars. She wants people to be invested in Unison Alberta as a whole, combining everything we do and telling the incredible stories of our successes. 

It’s not an easy job. But when it comes to Lori’s work? It’s important that everything she does is always “on pointe.” 

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