Reflecting on the Past, Riding the Wave Forward

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Maria Turnbull's reflections on the legacy of Vantage Point’s recently retired Executive Director, Colleen Kelly, at last night’s 69th Annual General Meeting.

My daily water taxi commute from Bowen Island is a wonderful opportunity to think and reflect. Rather than scroll through email, I gaze across English Bay and allow my thoughts to wander. Not surprisingly, water images and metaphors have been on my mind in the weeks leading up to our 69th Annual General Meeting. Today, I invite you to join me and gaze at that blue sky reflection.

Each year in the life of a not-for-profit organization holds unique meaning. 2012 is particularly significant to our team, because it was our final year with Vantage Point “founding” executive director Colleen Kelly at the helm. Over the last decade, Colleen envisioned and established a strong, resilient people lens culture here at Vantage Point. She created a completely new way of engaging talented people from the community in our mission. In the process of reinventing our organization, Colleen paved a new road forward for the sector.

Colleen also experimented with a variety of ways to model true continuity of leadership. She was determined to “fill the organization with leaders (with and without positional power) who are effective, knowledgeable, and aligned around the organization’s mission and strategy.”1 For instance, Colleen handed me her leadership reins for a year while she stepped away to research and write our new book. The lessons I learned during that year were plentiful, and remain with me today in my role as Interim Executive Director.

Colleen also created a physical legacy, our recently released book, The Abundant Not-for-Profit. She deliberately shared the process and final product with a team of people – including our salaried employee leadership team, many knowledge philanthropists and co-author Lynda Gerty. This book is a gift that will propel us forward in the years ahead. It will act as an invaluable guide to nurturing our own people lens culture – one that will allow us to walk the talk and bring others along for the ride.

Finally, Colleen ensured continuity of leadership by structuring our organization to integrate knowledge philanthropists in significant, meaningful roles across all programs and management functions. These talent team members bring invaluable passion, expertise and consistency as Vantage Point moves into its next stage in its life cycle.

With these actions, Colleen has positioned us to keep our hands on the wheel and feet on the gas pedal during this time of transition. Her legacy will remain a key source of inspiration to our team going forward – not only in theory, but in daily practice. Together, we can turn that legacy into renewed momentum and energy to inspire and build leadership in the voluntary sector.

We believe if we build strong organizations, the talented people will come. And when they do, they exponentially increase our resources – and bring tremendous joy to our work. And so, as we reflect on our successes and our strengths, let’s allow Colleen’s vision to inspire us and ride the wave forward in forging this path to abundance. We hope you will join us!

Please visit our annual report at for success stories, key accomplishments and exciting metrics highlighting how we delivered our mission in 2012.

1 NPQ Quarterly, 21 June 2008, Preparing an Organization to Sustain Capable Leadership

About the Author

Maria Turnbull brings over 20 years of leadership experience in staff and director roles within the not-for-profit sector, both here in Canada and in the UK. With a BA in International Relations and MBA, Maria is a skilled facilitator and consultant in board governance, organizational development,...
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