Terri-Jane Yuzda

Does the Education Foundation
Need to Rework its Vision?


Education Foundation Columnist






Editor's Note: The APEGGA Education Foundation, which is separate and distinct from APEGGA, serves the professions by supporting the education and development of engineers, geologists and geophysicists, as well as those who might enter the three professions. It assembles and manages funds, builds endowments and encourages donations. The foundation distributes funds for scholarships and awards, and in support of special projects.

The APEGGA Education Foundation Board has struggled over the years with deciding what its vision is, and I have struggled with this too. Before I give you my personal view, I'll give a bit of history.

APEGGA has been in the scholarship business for a long time. The University of Alberta calendar as far back as 1958-59 records APEGGA sponsorship of five gold medals (probably real gold then!) and the H.R. Webb scholarship for $2000, named after an early registrar. That was before the University of Calgary existed.

By 1974 there were eight gold medals and scholarships in each of engineering, geology and geophysics. Medals and scholarships were added for Calgary early in its history and more recently so were scholarships for community college transfer candidates.

In 1996 APEGGA Council initiated a study in a sub-committee of the Honours and Awards Committee to consider another structure. The recommendation was to create a stand-alone foundation with authority to issue tax receipts for donations. In March 1997 a board was elected to run the foundation.

The mission of the foundation was quite expansive; see our tab under the APEGGA website, which lists it as it was formulated. I was not a party to those deliberations, and have only seen some of the related documents. They make a reference to our sister association's foundation in British Columbia.

What I have seen of the supporting documents shows the B.C. foundation to be quite different in concept from ours; it is much more under control of the association.

The tenor of studies and discussion in our organization, as I read it, is that APEGGA wanted to more or less get out of the scholarship business and let the foundation run it on its own. Funding changes since 1996 are along that line.

My vision is different. The principal objective is to attract bright, young candidates to our professions (as a colleague rightly put it) and to those professions which help nurture ours, such as education. I see the foundation as always being closely connected to APEGGA. After all, we both seek to enhance our professions. We should share the same offices while still having our own identity.

The foundation today is not in a financial position to stand alone and perhaps may never be. It needs financial and staffing support to survive. The best thing APEGGA could do for us is to pay for a part-time manager to give continuity and direction.

Since we are only allowed to put 20 per cent of receipted donations toward all expenses, including staffing, we will be a long time getting there. For example, to even cover $60,000 in total expense, the foundation would need some $300,000 a year in donations. Today we are at about $70,000 a year.

One of our problems is finding support staff with the range of skills we need - accounting, organizing and public relations. All of these skills can be found in APEGGA, but not in one person. We also need a person with some background in charitable activities.

Since APEGGA is not a bottomless money pit, perhaps their contribution should shift from direct funding of scholarships, to these areas of support as we gain strength. By support, I don't mean control; I believe the foundation can act responsibly to help achieve goals we have in common.

Today, we struggle to have an identity. When people phone our listed number, they get the APEGGA switchboard; the call is not answered as "the foundation." The way we are set up, it would hard to do this differently.

We don't have an e-mail address that can be responded to quickly and efficiently. And our office services are very inefficient. By that, I mean that foundation members, and board members themselves, are not linked in any meaningful way.

We need a "virtual office." If there is an inquiry from the public, we should be able to relay that almost immediately to any member of the foundation for action with controls in place to see that the "ball did not get dropped."

Foundation members could then work with each other at a distance - this would allow us have meaningful membership involvement in each of the APEGGA Branches (something absent now).

This would open up great possibilities for promotion of the foundation, sponsorship of events, fundraising activities, and internal work programs. I believe there is technology out there to enable this without jeopardizing the integrity of APEGGA's systems.

What do you think?

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