A million thanks to ONN’s outgoing executive director

This week ONN says goodbye to Cathy Taylor, our long-time, well-respected, and passionate executive director. 

As Cathy moves on to her next role as President and CEO of Lawson Foundation, I wanted to reflect on what ONN has become under Cathy’s leadership.

Cathy has spent the last twelve years building ONN from a resourceful start-up to a mature, impactful nonprofit sector hub. 

Cathy took over the leadership of ONN at a pivotal time, when it was struggling with its early successes, without sufficient resources, staff, or systems to manage the growth, and increased expectations. With a huge vision of what ONN could be, and supported by a determined steering committee, Cathy set to work, and in the succeeding years built ONN into the strong and well-established organization it is today.

Originally incubated by the Center for Innovation, Cathy moved ONN to independence, oversaw its incorporation as a nonprofit, negotiated ONN’s move to Foundation House, and diversified funding streams to support long-term sustainability. She recruited and cultivated a strong staff team, adding communications and government relations to its original policy and network engagement focus.

There are so many successes, projects, and important initiatives I could highlight that Cathy has led; it is difficult to know where to start for a reflection. What follows are a few areas that I think have been essential.

Nonprofit sector changes and impact

The Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act (ONCA), was ONN’s founding issue. From the day Cathy took on the Executive Director position, she worked tirelessly with partners and network colleagues, and advocated to government to ensure necessary amendments were incorporated to address concerns from the sector about the act. By the time the ONCA was proclaimed in 2021, the major issues had been fixed and the government provided funding to ONN’s partner, Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO), to create and run the Nonprofit Law Ontario (NPLO) project to help nonprofit organizations transition to the new legislation. After many years of growth and stewardship, CLEO and ONN recently announced that NPLO has now transitioned to become a project of ONN, run on a social enterprise model!

Advocating for decent work for the sector has been a major initiative. Over the years, decent work has focused on wages and benefits, equity and diversity, recruitment and retention, encouraging sector organizations to be decent work employers and advocating to government to fund the sector appropriately.

ONN has also developed a range of support for sector organizations to save them time and money, including liability insurance, health insurance, group purchasing, and, most importantly, a sector pension plan. These were all created to be accessible to small nonprofits who often cannot find coverage elsewhere, and the pension plan is a first in Canada, designed to be portable between sector organizations. Creative, innovative ideas have been vital to ONN’s success in providing shared resources and support to the sector.

Over the years, ONN has been noticed for its successes, with sector groups in other provinces seeking to copy its example. Cathy has always been generous with her time, advising and mentoring emerging networks across the country. In addition, ONN has provided administrative and coordinating leadership to the Canadian Federation of Nonprofit Networks for the past three years, supporting its growth as it has defined what’s possible in their work together.

Thank you for everything

Cathy departs at a time when ONN has never been stronger with senior managers in position, a healthy balance sheet, a new strategic framework and plan (stay tuned for the launch), and strong support from the sector throughout Ontario, and across Canada.

The board of directors of ONN are grateful to Cathy for her untiring work on behalf of ONN and the nonprofit sector in Ontario. She is truly an inspiring leader, and leaves the sector much stronger for her work. 

Cathy, best wishes on your new position and…a million thanks!

Angela Carter, Board Chair

March 25, 2024 at 9:40 am
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