Jennifer-Lee Thomas

Poste occupé:
Director of Communications
Philanthropic Foundations Canada (PFC)
Type de formation (1):
University (Bachelor's Degree)
Programme de formation (1):
BA in Journalism
Professional Types:
Professionnels-les dans les associations professionnelles
Organisation Sectors:
Organisation Types:

Can you present yourself?

I am the Director of Communications for Philanthropic Foundations Canada, a member association that promotes the growth and development of effective and responsible organized philanthropy across Canada. PFC brings grantmakers together, gives them a voice, inspires action and creates greater awareness of the impact of foundations in our communities. As the Communications Director I am responsible for creating the messaging for PFC and the benefits of membership to our members and messaging about the role of foundations in our communities to a broader audience.

What brought you to work in the philanthropic sector?

I worked in the non-profit sector for 6 years, prior to joining PFC. I like the challenge of working in philanthropy. There is little awareness of the sector and its role in our communities. As a communications professional, I welcome the opportunity to create more awareness and shape perceptions of the sector.

Can you define and explain what your activity and/or position consists of within your organization?

I manage all communications to members including a monthly newsletter, event promotion emails, public policy advisories and dissemination of research and publication of an annual report.
I manage the website, updating it daily with new blogs, new publications and new events.
I manage external communications about the role and value of philanthropy through our social media channels by curating and sharing informative material from other organizations and our members, by creating stories about foundation work published on the PFC hosted website called Philanthropy in Action and by creating material such as videos published on our YouTube channel. I created and manage the PFC brand. I manage communications of our yearly conference. I create the brand for the conference, I invite registrants, I send out daily recap communications at the conference and I manage any guest writers and articles post-conference.

What is your professional education? Is it relevant in the context of your philanthropic involvement? Why?

I have a BA in Journalism. Communications and Marketing is my passion. Philanthropy is facing disruption. There is a need to share effective practices, collaborate and communicate value and impact. All these goals require strategic communications.

Talk to us briefly about your professional background?

I started my career in the private sector by launching the employment website Monster in Canada. I spent 10 years as a marketing and communications professional at Monster in an emerging industry. I transitioned from Monster to the non- profit sector, helping Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada relaunch its brand. For six years, I used my communications skills to promote the value of mentorship before starting at PFC three years ago to help define its brand and create awareness for the role and impact of philanthropy. A reoccurring theme in my career has been my passion to define brands, create clear messaging and use a mix of traditional and digital media to communicate to the target audience to increase awareness of an organization or product.

What are the challenges and issues related to your position in philanthropy?

The practice of philanthropy is not well known, the work of foundations happens behind the scenes and the challenge is to relate that work to benefits in our communities. It is both a challenge and opportunity to share stories about the work of foundations and create more awareness about the role and impact of philanthropy across Canada.

How would you define philanthropy today? How does this definition influence your working methods?

Organized philanthropy is facing the same disruption as all other sectors. With new media, the power dynamics are changing. This is starting to affect organized philanthropy greatly as public policy makers and influencers are debating the economic systems that have created foundations and are exploring ways to dismantle them. Foundations today will need to demonstrate their value and the role that they play in helping our communities thrive more than ever before. This influences the communications work of PFC as the environment in which we operate is shifting. We have crafted our key messages to represent a voice for philanthropy as a result.

What advice would you give to someone who wishes to pursue a career in your profession/activity?

I think communication professionals focus a lot on the tools or media that we use as opposed to the basic principles of effective communications. Who is your audience? What is relevant to them? What do you want to say? The last piece is… How are you going to say it? You don’t need to be a social media expert to be effective in social media if you know the key principles of communications. In addition, be prepared to work collaboratively with others in your work. Communications is a support function for other areas in an organization and its value often needs to be highlighted as it is often overlooked

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