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Family Services Of The North Shore With Julia Staub-French

By July 7th, 2023No Comments31 min read
Home » Family Services Of The North Shore With Julia Staub-French

Julia Staub-French is the Executive Director of Family Services of the North Shore, a nonprofit, community-based agency that has been providing support for families for over 60 years. Learn how Julia runs her business, especially during the pandemic. Discover their food delivery programs and outreaches to help people in this rough time. In this episode, she joins host Douglas Nelson to tell us all about how she is running a nonprofit business. Their vision? To create a healthy community where everyone can live full and meaningful lives. Discover her story today and find out her strategic plan and what core values she entrusts to people as a leader.

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Family Services Of The North Shore With Julia Staub-French

Our guest on the show is Julia Staub-French. She’s the Executive Director of Family Services of the North Shore. We’re thrilled to have her on the show. Welcome, Julia.

It’s great to be with you.

Julia, for our readers who may not know the great work that happens at Family Services of the North Shore, I’d like you to talk a little bit about that organization. Before you do that, I want to share the number of times I’ve heard from other organizations throughout the Lower Mainland and over the course of the pandemic, some tremendous compliments of the work that you’ve been able to do and the flexibility that your organization has been able to demonstrate. One of the things I’m so excited to have you on the show to talk about is how you’ve managed to continue and improve your services over the last months. Before we jumped into how you’ve made it even better, what is it you do at the organization?

I love that intro. It speaks to how proud I feel about the work that we do. Family Services of the North Shore has been around for years on the North Shore. We also have some provincial programs but primarily on the North Shore. Our vision is a healthy community where everyone can live full and meaningful lives. We have about 50 staff and contractors. Our budget is about $4 million-plus or minus.

One of the things that are hard about our work is that we do so much like counseling and other parent supports. We have the provincial contractor on eating disorder prevention. We help vulnerable families. I’ll talk more about what we’ve done during COVID. We’ve expanded. We have our Thrive Family Centers, Healthy Aging Program and Caregivers Connect helping seniors across the lifespan.

Our main focus when we created our strategic plan was around facilitating, caring connections between people, deepening our commitment to the most vulnerable and then developing new and innovative ways to approach mental health services. Once we got that center, we’ve been pushing on those edges. We’re very responsive.

One of the unique things about our organization is we live in a community with generous donors who support our work. We are responding to community needs and not only what government or grants tell us to do. That makes us have a lot of flexibility to do what we think in connection with our community, clients, volunteers and supporters that needs to happen on the North Shore. It’s been years but I feel like the good things about our organization come out and we’ve been successful. That makes me feel good after a very tiring year.

There are lots of questions I have based on your answer to that intro question. I want to start with that flexibility you mentioned. The role of philanthropy in your organization is that it gives you the space to respond first or faster or is it to respond differently than if you’re waiting on grants or government programs?

All of what you said. It was the vision of our board years ago where they decided we weren’t going to be more than 60% government-funded. That was what pushed it. There’s a lot of stress involved in fundraising over $1.5 million every year for a smaller organization like ours but an example is during COVID. Right away, when COVID hit, people didn’t have enough money. How are we going to reach people? We’re not going to go back and forth to do an intake with someone. They need immediate support.

I went to our board. We right away approved free counseling support for everyone in the community. We can only do that with the money that donors have given us in the past and also the confidence that they’re going to continue to support us in the future. It was scary but we had some faith in that. We went forward with that. That’s what we’re able to do that you don’t have to wait for a funder to tell you, “Go ahead and do it.” You can just do it because you know it’s the right thing to do. The funding will follow and it has. It bore out our strategy around doing the right thing first and then we’ll figure out how we’re going to sustain that later in the pandemic, that works well.

As an organization that is the recipient of about $1.5 million a year. Have your conversations with donors changed over the years as we’ve made our way through this pandemic?

What our donors mostly understand about us is that we are responsive to the North Shore. We’ve always had a more personal relationship with many of our donors and our donors feel a part of what we’re doing. We went from 300 to 600 volunteers during the pandemic. Many of them are donors. The engagement with donors over years has been very strong. They see the value and their part in making this community better. With that said, it’s been an interesting time to go through a pandemic where clients, donors, staff, volunteers and everyone is going through the same thing at the same time.

You’re not speaking about something unrelated to them. We’re all going through it at the same time. The ability to understand the issues and how we’re solving them was clear, quick and very easy to have. They could easily see what we were doing because they also could, in some ways, participate in it as well because a lot of what we ended up doing was also communicating out to people. We created our podcasts and other ways of communicating out. They had more of an experience of our services in a sense. Our donors respond to us doing good work and being clear about our values. That’s been true during the pandemic.

When working with clients, one of the things we talked about quite a bit is the need for credibility as an organization, as well as credibility in the leader and the lead fundraiser. When you say this is important and urgent, you don’t need to spend a lot of time educating or proving before you can ask donors to support. It sounds like you reap the benefit of a fair bit of that credibility over the years.

It takes years or decades to develop donors who stay with you. Many of our donors have been with us for ten-plus years. That’s great.

The other thing 2020 has taught us a lot about is the need for flexibility and to be able to respond through a mission to meet the needs that your clients and families that you serve require. That requires a level of flexibility within the organization. Could you talk a little bit about how you keep that flexibility in your leadership and staff team so that they have their eyes and ears open to what those needs might be?

I am a therapist by training. I believe that people can grow through authentic relationships and reach their best potential. That’s a general innate philosophy of mine. We put that together with what we do here. What we’ve done with our leaders, both our directors and our managers go through a developmental leadership training course. We’ve been leading from that philosophy, which is around leaders having to develop other leaders. That growth can happen.

At the beginning of the pandemic, conversations were right away. Our volunteers are already calling and saying, “What are we going to do? How are we going to respond?” It wasn’t waiting like, “Tell me what to do.” It was, “Here’s my idea about what we can do.” That’s neat to see in a team, especially during the pandemic where we are all going through this stressful time. If you remember, back in the beginning, as an executive director, the decisions we make could cause people harm. They could get COVID and potentially die. Why do we do that?

It’s the flexibility through our resources, our engagement with community, support and our staff’s ability to respond based on what’s needed because that’s where they come from and where we come from as an organization. What do we need to do to help people? We have to deal with a lot of logistics. There are lots of details that everyone does. I deal with a lot of that all the time but at the core of it, those are all things that have to be in place. We can respond based on need and stuff.

I’ll give you an example. We have a team, our therapists. They work out in the community. We were talking about the early days of the pandemic. They reminded me that they, as a team, didn’t miss a session with a family. They got on Zoom so quickly. Their mission was not to have these folks be alone. That’s motivating. I didn’t have to put anything in like, “This is the thing we’re going to do. No one must miss a session.” They were like, “We weren’t going to miss a session because our families needed us.” That gives me chills thinking about it.

Don't wait for a funder to tell you to do it. Just do it because it's the right thing to do. The funding will follow. Click To Tweet

That reflects the strength of culture and commitment to purpose within the organization. Does that flow to your board and to volunteers through that or does it flow back and forth?

It flows back and forth. It’s very iterative. We have a set of core values. Everyone can find them on the website. They’re very empowering that they came from us, the board and volunteers. We created our strategic plan years ago. It’s been enforced for years and it set us up for our values. We attract people based on those values and who we are. People find it attractive to be a part of Family Services of the North Shore. That includes board members.

Our current board members who lived through that attract other board members. Community brings people to us. It is a very iterative process, between all of that but at the end of the day, it’s clear that anyone who’s going to be involved with us is going to be attracted to our organization rather than another organization because of these values. We’re not perfect but being perfect is part of the values too.

I often speak with my teams about rupture and repair. If we make a mistake, we can repair it. If we have challenges within our relationships, we can repair them or be resilient. “Let’s go forward.” We don’t have to be scared about making a forward movement that might be wrong because we tried something. When you have that kind of environment, it’s not a scary treacherous environment. It’s hopeful and positive. “Let’s do something amazing together. If we mess up, we might mess up sometimes.”

As a leader, you’re the one protecting those values and living them. How do you protect those values with so much change in the world around you? The demands for services, I assume, are increasing dramatically. How do you hold onto those values and make sure that’s what every client is experiencing when they encounter the organization?

I’m not perfect so I don’t hold myself to the perfect standard but I do believe that I need to be constantly in a meditative state about who I am, how I’m treating people and how I’m being. I don’t know if you’ve heard the phrase, “Our work is a consequence of us.” This is what we talked about in our leadership program. If you think about that, who we are either opens up and pushes an organization forward or it can limit us.

If we are limited personally, we’re going to limit the organization in my own and my team’s growth and development. It’s usually the leader that’s the cause of the thing that won’t grow, develop or change. We have to do our own work. We had spent a lot of time doing our own work. The thread through that is as being a therapist myself, I believe in that. Sometimes leaders, when they get stressed, they’ll take the shortcut version. They’re very generous and empathic. Unless they get stressed or the organization is stressed, then they become different in some way.

If stuff is waiting for you to be different at any time, that’s completely a stressful environment. You can be yourself, be true, authentic, not try to take shortcuts and be careful about when you’re stressed yourself. I know it sounds a little bit of what we hear, Doug but I truly believe that you got to continue to stay in a relationship with everyone you work with in some form because that’s when we all can stay together and move forward. We have conflicts here. We’re not perfect but we try and work through those and prepare anything that’s gone on. We’re like a family. Families aren’t meant to be perfect, so we don’t do that either.

Being in a relationship with everyone that you work with is a powerful point. I don’t think it’s wooey at all. It reflects how we stay in alignment with values in our social profit sector and remain in service to mission and organizational purpose. What advice would you give to a leader who encountering members of her or his team that is somehow out of alignment with the organizational values or seems to be? How do you approach that?

As the leader, you’re truly in alignment with yourself. It’s not just you’re speaking this to other people and expecting them to be in a way that you’re not. That’s never going to work so you got to turn that mirror on yourself and look at yourself. If it is somewhere that’s not in alignment, you have to speak about this directly with people. This is a very simple thing. What’s hard for many people is to have a good, honest conversation about what’s going on.

People could tell if I’m not being honest or I’m making something up. You lose credibility in a relationship in those moments. I believe relationships are resilient and can sustain things. If you talk to people about that, you can get through those moments where you see those values or something going on that’s not going to fit. That certainly happened here. If you don’t speak about it, it becomes permissive and then that continues. If you do speak about it, it gives the person the ability to reflect a little bit and change. If they don’t ultimately change, then that becomes a longer-term issue. Usually, people self-select out of that.

The urgency of the leadership challenge in the sector, particularly over the last months but even before that, often causes leaders to not have those conversations. As leaders, we want things to go well and smoothly. When these bumps come in the road, sometimes we want to skip around them. How do you remind yourself that you need to have those conversations in time and in motion rather than putting them off until they almost always become something much greater to deal with?

As a leader, you have the privilege to decide whether or not you’re going to talk about things or not. You have the burden to know when you’re avoiding something even more. Sometimes it takes me a while, so I’m not saying I’m perfect in that regard at all. It’s the constant maintenance of organizations and health. I want to lead a healthy organization because I like being in a healthy organization.

I have every motivation myself to try and attend to those things that are going a bit sideways, work through them, not avoid them and not do unhealthy things like leaders will triangulate or join with other parts of the organization to get. You got to treat all of the people that are reporting to you the same and care for all of them. That helps too. You have to address things directly if things are going on.

It’s that awareness itself. We’ll say they’re not recent but I can think of examples of avoiding difficult conversations within organizations. I would think there’ll be easier when X or Y has happened or we’ve achieved, hit or announced. Over and over again, I learned that’s not how interpersonal relationships work. They’re not made better by hitting a particular milestone that is disconnected from that relationship. Those issues are problematic. We know that as leaders within our organizations and to a greater or lesser extent, leaders have awareness and act on it. Where I see a greater amount of disconnect is in the relationship with boards.

As an executive director, you’re working with your board. I learned long ago not to ask on this show how things are with your board because everyone I interviewed say, “I have the best board in the world.” Then it’s like it’s recorded, so I learned that lesson. I’m not asking specifically about your board. Being able to have those difficult conversations at the board table, from my perspective, is a hallmark of effective organizations.

Often as the Executive Director, you’re the one bringing those hard issues to the board table. How do you approach when you’ve got something difficult, maybe something hasn’t rolled out perfectly or the response hasn’t been what you’d hoped it would be? How do you bring those issues to your board table to make sure that you’re bringing the board along?

With my experience, the key has been who your chair or president of the board is, make sure you have a solid working relationship with that person and that you build a lot of trust. It’s incumbent upon the leader to be confident enough, to be honest. Where things go sideways is when boards don’t feel like there’s honesty and they don’t then have the information. All kinds of challenges can go from there.

It’s ironic that the key to getting through those tough times where you’ve had failures is to be honest about them because it builds confidence between the board, executive director and leadership team but I find that the relationship with the president is where those first conversations happen and then they happen with the full board.

It comes back to a bit of confidence in leaders too. If someone doesn’t feel quite up to the task and they’re hiding things, it becomes pretty apparent right away. If you feel like, “I’m doing a pretty good job. I’m not perfect. These things are not where they should be. We’re a blade on this. This didn’t happen,” you can explain those in the context of all of what’s going on. As an executive director, you can’t do anything past that. If a board is not receptive to that, then sometimes there’s a mismatch and that needs to be figured out.

People can grow through authentic relationships to reach their best potential. Click To Tweet

Your approach to that changed. You’ve had ten years as the executive director so then you could say, “I’m not perfect. I could show up.” You’ve got a deep well of credibility and trust with the board. For new leaders, thinking back to your first couple of years in the role, that can be intimidating to go in front of the board and say, “We missed on this.” No one wants to be doing that in their first couple of years in the role. How has your approach to that changed over the years?

I’ll say this for any new ED who’s reading. I can remember spending almost an hour on my first email out to my board, the first inaugural email out that I have must have rewrote ten times. I don’t think it was anything newsworthy that I was writing at the time. It’s true. Impressions are important. I should say boards also have a duty paying attention quite closely when a new ED or CEO comes on because that’s the most important person for them as a board to ensure that things are going on. It’s fair enough.

You have to show that you’re working hard, that you’re thinking through things and sharing how you’re thinking and how you’re solving problems, even if things aren’t going so well and be prepared. It comes back to that honesty, having a good plan and some sense of personal strength that they can feel. It’s almost a felt sense sometimes with the board. They can tell. “She’s figuring and working it out. She’s talking to us. This is how it’s going.”

You’re confident enough. Not giving over your power to your board either. That happens sometimes. You’re not going to make it if you’re doing that because that’s not what the board or the organization needs or wants. It’s a balance and it takes a while. It took me a while. I’m still learning that as we go forward. Boards keep changing. Different boards need different things.

When I was the first CEO of the BC Cancer Foundation, Sue Carruthers was the CEO of the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation at the time. She said, “Tell them the bad news. You’re going to want to tell them only the good news. You’re going to want to make sure that they know that you’re good at what you’re doing and they need a good hire but tell them the bad news because if they think you’re hiding it from them, they will not give you credit for what you say is working and they will assume a whole bunch more is wrong, then it’s wrong.”

It’s important to remember that each of your board members or their own leaders in their own organizations are succeeding and failing in their own roles. They understand that. Keep working on solving the problem. Don’t hide it. Let them know how you’re solving it. That’s good because there are lots to do in that regard. I love what you’re saying, Doug.

The idea that we encounter a lot when we’re doing work with boards on either planning or doing a governance review is we know there’s a big problem when we hear from more than one board member the dreaded phrase, “Rose-colored glasses.” “We’re getting things through rose-colored glasses.” That’s an indication that the board isn’t particularly engaged, that they don’t have that trust with the leader and they’re thinking something else is wrong.

Instead of looking to support, enhance and elevate your organization, they’re looking to find the faults. You got them looking for cracks, acting as an anchor and holding the organization back rather than picking it up. The rose-colored glasses are a dangerous phrase whenever we hear it talking to board members. We could all use a little bit of rose-colored glasses.

I want to take us back to your organization. There are some very difficult issues in the community. You provide essential support services to individuals on the North Shore. The pandemic hit. You don’t miss a therapy appointment because the therapist switched to Zoom right away but the demand, not only is it increasing but it changed. How did you figure out what you needed to be doing or what was the opportunity to provide that support as this pandemic rolled out?

I want to stop this for a sec because I want to be clear. It’s not that we didn’t miss any sessions. That was 1 out of 3 of our clinical teams.

I want to go back to the beginning of the pandemic. You have a role where you’re dealing with many of the very difficult issues in our community, providing essential services to individuals and families. Demand is going to spike as a result of this pandemic. The services needed are probably going to change. How did you assess that situation and make those first decisions to change what you were offering?

A little bit of what we knew was intuitive, knowing how much we live in and work on mental health. We had a good sense that people would need more support through counseling support. That’s why we created our COVID-19 lines. People can call in and reach directly into a counselor. Not go through an intake and it would be free for up to six sessions. We did it. It’s hard operationally but to the public, it’s simple. Call and you can get immediate support.

We knew we had 2,000 people who we support through our Christmas Bureau. We thought, “There’s how we’re going to find out what’s going on.” It is like that fog of war. You’re like, “I can’t tell what’s happening because everyone’s gone home.” We’ve all gone home. Our volunteers and staff started calling all of those families. “How are you? What do you need? What’s going on?” We started getting a good sense of what was happening for our more vulnerable clients and what they needed.

To be honest, a lot of what they need is to have someone call and say, “I’m thinking about you. I know you’re out there. I care. Are you okay? What do you need?” We started creating a spreadsheet on what all the needs were. We had this great data available to us. At the same point, I have a wonderful researcher who helps us. I said, “Can you please do a reveal of past pandemics or anything similar? Don’t make it too long, at least a 5, 6-page document that told us exactly what was going to happen over the year.”

It has lots of things. Violence has gone up, poverty, isolation and what that’s going to do to people and the long-term impacts. It was there from other kinds of disasters. We had that good information in front of us to start developing our response. It was that. I’m talking a lot about the heart but it’s about data, research and a good plan to respond. In our AGM, we went back over that. With what we knew was going to happen, we talked about our response to it. Things started coming on a bit later but we already had that information right at the beginning about the impact. It was helpful for us to guide our response.

The data helps with the diagnosis but the heart helps with the solution is what I take away from the way you’ve described your work.

One of the basic concepts, since we have been through the line here talking about leadership too, is that there’s a parallel process between our health, the health of our organization and our ability to provide services that will create health to people, also health in our volunteer and other groups out there. That’s right. You can know things in your head but until you come from a healthy solid space where you’re able to do good work with people, it’s not going to happen. In nonprofits like ours, we don’t have a product. We are the product. It’s in us. Words are the product most of the time.

That’s a powerful concept to think about the organizational purpose and how you fulfill it. I’m curious. You’ve talked a lot about looking within your organization and those that you serve, which is quite a broad swath of the population but you don’t operate in isolation. There’s a whole complex social profit and government level that you interact with. As an organization that does have a reputation for excellence in support and execution of what you do, how do you work with other organizations and ensure that the same value alignment is close to being fulfilled as possible?

We’re fortunate. You’re from the North Shore, Doug so you know the North Shore. We model ourselves after Canada. We’re on the other side of the water and there’s nothing above us. It’s a very protected space in a sense. Relationships are considered here between other nonprofit groups who are our key partners. For instance, North Shore Neighborhood House is a good example of us.

Julia, we’ve talked a lot about how, as an organization, you’ve managed to focus your team and those that you serve on fulfilling the organizational values. It’s a broad swath of the population but you also operate in a fairly complex environment of other social profit organizations, as well as different layers of government. How do you work to ensure those values that you hold continue or extended through your partnerships with other organizations?

For any business, words are the product most of the time. Click To Tweet

It is complex with federal, provincial, municipal relationships in government. We see them as partners. We’re trying to solve the same problem. We do that in that spirit. That’s been a positive way to approach it instead of funder server. We’re solving problems together. We partner with many different nonprofits. A good example is the North Shore Neighborhood House. They have the food bank. We don’t want to replicate or duplicate services.

When we realized we had a lot of people who couldn’t get out to get food, Neighborhood House had the food bank. They have food available. Our volunteers started partnering to go pick up food there. Our donors gave us some more money. The federal money started coming in. Some provincial money that was available to nonprofits was very helpful. It helped us supplement those food packages to then give out to people in the community.

The key to that is we’re not territorial. With our friends at Neighborhood House, we’re all trying to solve the same problem together. We gravitate towards those organizations. We’re looking at the problem together. We’re not looking at each other as competitors. They were at the house to nurture a multicultural society.

We have some long stands and many others like Silver Harbour. You can tell the organizations that are looking out to figure how we have to help and leaving some of the politics. People don’t know that the nonprofit world is a competitive sport as well. We’re competitors but we’re also together solving the problem. We try and live in that space with them as much as possible.

It’s almost always a win-win in the collaboration between the organizations. Defining what you’re trying to accomplish at the outset counts for a whole bunch in finding ultimately those being successful. There’s one question I have for you. Through our work, we’ve had the chance to work with a number of organizations that have partnered with your organization over the years. At the outset, there’s a strong reputation that you have.

One of the features of our sector that’s always bewildering to me is when an organization gets good at something, the expectation often from the board, sometimes from the leadership, is to expand. Geography helps contain but I’m sure you’ve had that conversation or it’s come up around your board table where it’s like, “We should be doing more. We should be a bigger organization, serving more people in different ways.” How have you managed to balance to meet the needs of the people you serve with those calls for, “We need to be bigger. We need to be doing more?”

We all have egos too. We all want to be successful. That seems you have to know that. How we did it is when we created our strategic plan, we spent a year doing it. It was not a weekend of sticky notes, string and tape and all that. It was a process of engagement. We created a strategy screen. We have to go through these different strategies. “Will this meet an unmet need? Do we have the capacity to do it?” There were all these strategies on it.

The key for us is we know why we’re doing something. Our goal is to have a bigger impact, not to just get bigger. That’s what contains that kind of empire-building that can cause mission drift for organizations where you start getting the things that you shouldn’t be getting into. That’s with our board and senior team. We put that strategy in place. We go through that every time. That can be down to whether we apply for a grant, whether we go after certain funding or not.

We will be competitive if it meets those strategy screens because we think the end result is it’s going to have a better impact on the community but we mostly try and operate from that space. It does help because what you don’t want to do as an ED is starting having interesting ideas that take the life of their own. I could have a lot of interesting ideas. They get vetted through the screen and it’s free. Impact, not just getting bigger for bigger sake.

Does having that 40% of your revenue that came from philanthropic sources allow you to make it a little easier to use that screen or to maintain that discipline that you don’t have to chase that government program or that government grant to that foundation grant because you do have the funding to deliver on what you need to do?

No. We purposely don’t have that. That’s what we’re not trying to have impact us, that sustainability scariness for lack of a better word. We know that if we’re growing impact, we’ll get bigger. We have gotten bigger. Since I started, we’re up about $1.5 million worth of our overall budget because we’ve added needed programs that are important for the community. That’s exactly what we’re trying not to do, even though you’re speaking to that.

It’s easier to think about our roles in a way as if we say we’re running a small business because then it validates the things that are also hard since you have other EDs reading or CEOs. We’re running a business. We have employees who we want to keep employed. We don’t want to fail at the business, lose people and harm their income. There’s all of it that’s true as our roles. You have to acknowledge that and then also not give into the fear, which makes you do things that are not good long-term.

Chasing grants from a scarcity mindset is highly problematic for organizations. It’s very good for our business when organizations do that. It’s potentially one of the most damaging strategies that growth for growth’s sake or because we can. It’s so hard to undo. When organizations get overextended, it’s not a matter of just walking back to where it was working before. You’re often well off the path and need an entirely different map back to sustainability or even functionality.

We look at scaling up or innovation. Sometimes you want to grow something you do well because you want to serve more people. There’s an innovation track too. We have gone for things that we’ve tried to be innovative on. We’ve decided they haven’t worked. They’ve been more test pilots. Go for those kinds of grants if they’re going to be test pilot kind of things and see that. Don’t bet the ranch on those things.

The good news and you would see this from your perspective, is that many donors, foundations and philanthropists are moving more towards a trusting relationship rather than a transactional relationship and grants. That has been the key to easing some of the stress internally where we have to over-promise for something that we shouldn’t be over-promising for. I hope that continues more with the government because the pandemic-related funds that have come out have been more in relationship to and trusting. Let’s hope that can continue a bit. Everyone is accountable to citizens and stakeholders, but it’s a better outcome for sure.

It’s usually boards that we need to convince of this but more is not a strategy. Bad things grow quickly too. Let’s not just pursue growth for its own sake. That’s not necessarily where excellence or mission fulfillment lies. I liked that idea of using those test pilot projects as a way to test something, that you would grow to meet that need if you were going to implement that and it becomes part of the core strategy but you can also let go of it if it doesn’t quite work. It helps keep the ego out a little bit.

Julia, as we come to the end of our conversation and I’m sad that we’re coming to the end because I’ve enjoyed what we’ve covered, I do want to ask you the magic wand question, one of my favorite questions to ask leaders. If you had one thing you could change about the sector, you wave the magic wand, what is it that you would change and why?

To me, it would be somehow magically having funders, government, everyone measuring our performance on two things and then having money flow from that. One would be measuring 100% on impact. Are you having an impact in your community? Also, having a personal relationship with those who got funded at the level of where decisions are being made. That is a huge thing to imagine with resources among government and funders but most of us on the ground can look around and see who’s doing great work.

Money doesn’t necessarily flow to those organizations without naming anyone or anything. Everyone would want that if there were enough time and there could be a sense of accountability for it because that’s when you see the magic work happening. I can say that because we’d be viewed in that way but not to incentivize this good and authentic work that’s going on and to see some funding go places where maybe it shouldn’t go, it is hard. I don’t think that’s the best value for money in some ways but you have to know who you’re funding well to do that.

It is the case that there are often some surprises in how different funders approach solving problems but it’s not surprising to hear you say that your solution is to have more close relationships with people because you’ve talked about relationships being so important throughout our conversation. Julia, thank you so much for being a part of the show. It’s been great having you on.

Thank you, Doug. It’s been a real pleasure to speak with you.

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About Julia Staub-French

Julia Staub-French is the Executive Director of Family Services of the North Shore, a non-profit, community-based agency that has been providing counselling, support and education for families and individuals for over 60 years. She has been in the role since 2011, and leads a team of 50 staff and contractors, 600 volunteers, serving over 10,000 children, youth, families and individuals each year.

Many North Shore residents know Family Services of the North Shore for it’s counselling work, drop-in groups, Thrive family centre, and Christmas Bureau, which provides holiday meals and children’s toys to low-income families, seniors and people with disabilities.

The Agency has also developed innovative approaches around gender-based violence, youth mental health, transgender youth and parents, eating disorder prevention, and reduced barriers to service for the community’s most vulnerable members.

The vision of Family Services of the North Shore is a healthy community where everyone can live full and meaningful lives. This vision has guided Family Services of the North Shore’s response to the Covid pandemic and its creation of new programming such as food and meal delivery, outreach calls to families and seniors, and expansion of its volunteer led services.

Julia was a 2018 nominee for the YWCA Women of Distinction Awards, serves as a Board member on the Federation of Community Social Services of BC, and past member of the United Way Campaign Cabinet. She holds a Master’s Degree in Counselling Psychology and is a Registered Clinical Counsellor in BC.

On a personal note, she shares her life with Sheryl, her spouse of 27 years, and their two kids, and enjoys coaching her son’s basketball team, walks with their dog, cooking, and the general business of life with a very active family.