Developmental disabilities impact the person’s daily function, which begins during the developmental period and may last throughout a person’s lifetime. However, the Clements Centre for Families based in Duncan aims to bring hope, belonging, and independence to people with developmental disabilities and their families with their programs and services. In this episode, Dominic Rockall, the CEO of Clements Centre for Families, delves into his groundwork for keeping the organization to serve families with youth with developmental disabilities. As the leader, Dominic promotes a culture of inclusion and diversity to develop a culturally safe workspace for indigenous clients. He also touches on the new fundraising leader in the organization and what’s compelling about fundraising. Before you miss this opportunity, join Dominic Rockall and his mission and cause to help people with developmental disabilities.
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Clements Centre For Families With Dominic Rockall, CEO
In this episode, I have the pleasure of speaking with Dominic Rockall, the CEO of Clements Centre for Families based in Duncan in the beautiful Cowichan Valley. Dominic, thanks for joining me.
Christoph, it’s good to be here.
Thanks very much. It’s my pleasure. I’m really excited to speak to you about the director of development search that we have launched together. I want to speak to you more about it and learn more about you, Clements, and what this fundraiser is going to be doing. Without further ado, you can start off with a bit of context. For someone who isn’t familiar with Clements, can you tell me a little bit more about it?
On a provincial level, we’d be considered a medium-sized nonprofit society, but locally, we’d be considered a large nonprofit. We’re the largest in the Cowichan Valley. We have a budget of approximately $11 million with 150 employees, give or take. It changes from week to week. It goes up and down. We’re located in Downtown Duncan. We are a community living organization and a child development center.
Typically, BCD services are usually provided by separate organizations. You have one organization doing community living and another doing child development, but in a few cases, it’s one organization providing both sets of services. That’s what we are. Being a community living organization means that it provides services for adults with developmental disabilities. That includes housing, group homes, day programs, or community inclusion programs where people come each day to learn life skills and do recreational activities. We have employment services outreach supports that help people live independently.
As a child development center, we provide services that support the healthy development of children. For example, if a child is not developing or meeting the expected milestones that you would expect in terms of language or physical development, or if a child is identified as being at risk for delay at birth, maybe born premature, we have an array of services that support the development of children. These are therapy services for children from age 0 to 6. We also have some peripheral services like childcare resources and referrals, which are connected to the childcare world and after-school programs for children who have extra support needs.
That’s a great summary, from birth to the end of life of those adult services. I’ve heard a lot about that as I learned about Clements.
We call it Twinkle to Twilight.
In the spirit of life skills and employment, I’ve heard a lot about that fantastic social profit organization that you have, for that matter, your social enterprise or bakery. Do you want to talk a little bit more about that or are there specific programs you want to highlight that you’re particularly proud of?
That is one of the programs that I’m just proud of. We have a social enterprise that employs fourteen adults with developmental disabilities. We also have employment services that employ people in workplaces throughout the community, but for some people, working in a typical work site might be a bit challenging or they might need a lot of support. This program is for those folks. It’s really well-supported. It’s also for people who want to develop some work skills before going out into the regular working world. It’s a bakery social enterprise. We formed it in 2016.
It only comes to mind because I love a good morning muffin or something like that. It’s very self-serving for me in that essence.
Everybody who works in the building takes advantage of the cookies.
Dominic, you’ve been in the sector for some time now. You’ve been on the front lines of service delivery and social work yourself. You’ve been a leader of the organization for many years now. Why do you do this work? What draws you to it? What are you most proud of when you reflect on your career and the work you’re doing fundamentally?
There were quite a few things out. It’s great to be in a position where you can make a positive impact on people’s lives. The work we do directly goes to enhancing the quality of life for the people we serve. In some cases, it’s central to their quality of life. There’s that. That provides a sense of purpose in what you do. It’s great to have a sense of meaning and purpose in your work. It is making connections with people and being in a position where you can develop meaningful relationships both with the people you work with and then the people you support as well.
We work in the same building as the people we support. We see them every day and it’s just a great environment to be in. Personally, in terms of my values, I really value being in a position that promotes inclusion, equality, and equity. That’s central to what we do. I appreciate working in that environment. It makes for a very satisfying mix and extrinsically rewarding work.
Tell me a bit more about that from a work perspective or culture perspective. The director is going to be working with you, the other staff members on your team, and the other leaders at Clements. As Clements’ leader, ultimately, what is the culture you’re trying to create in your teams? How does it manifest itself?
It’s a culture of inclusion and diversity. It’s foremost in what we do. At the moment, we’re developing our ability to be a culturally safe workplace for indigenous clients. We’re trying to be inclusive in terms of having gender inclusivity. That’s something we’re working on. That drives everything. We believe in open communication in terms of how we interact with each other. We encourage open, transparent communication at all levels. We want employees to feel comfortable sharing ideas and concerns. It’s a respectful environment.We believe in open communication regarding how we interact with each other. We encourage open and transparent communication at all levels. We want employees to feel comfortable sharing ideas and concerns. It's a respectful environment. Click To Tweet
Empathy is big in terms of what we do and how we connect with each other naturally in a helping profession. People have those traits. That goes to collaboration and teamwork. As an organization, we promote learning and development. We really encourage that. We want people to develop in terms of their own learning and development personally, which also benefits the work we do. Work-life balance is very important.
We have an initiative to support that as well at this time. We just started with developing what’s called a psychological health and safety system. We went through a process called Guarding Minds at Work. It’s like an employee engagement process. That has led us to develop a psychological health and safety plan to promote health and safety in the workplace. That’s a new thing that we’re working on at this time. Trust is fundamental to what we do. We want the leaders to trust their teams and also be trustworthy. All this goes to being adaptable and being innovative. We try to create a culture where people feel free to be innovative and have new ideas.
Between what you’ve shared here, the inclusion, diversity, adaptability, work-life balance, and trusting environment sounds like you’re really echoing the values of the organization as well as how it is that you run your work in the public with your clients, communities, children, and adults in your programs for that matter. It’s pretty important to see that it’s pervasive throughout the organization. Let’s pivot to the director of development themselves. Thinking about the hierarchy of this new role, this new fundraising leader in the organization, why now? What’s exciting and what’s compelling about fundraising at Clements?
We’ve been building this role for a few years. It’s vacant at the moment because after the last person left, we did a reorganization of the senior management roles. We created a couple of new positions and moved responsibilities around. We wanted the dust to settle on that before we brought in a new person. AsI said, the position is relatively new for Clements from a few years ago, and it’s been developing to where we are now.
The reason for that is we do receive substantial funding from the government and other community living organizations and child development centers. We’re funded to provide the services. What we found is that this funding isn’t sufficient to stay ahead of the game in terms of being innovative in programming and having the equipment to provide the services, especially child development services. They require specialized equipment. There is a need to develop resources beyond what we’re funded by the government. We’re also considering to create a new building for some of our services. We would like somebody to take the lead on the fundraising for a new building.
That’s excellent. You are planting the seeds for that campaign, no matter what that looks like. I know there’s lots of groundwork to be done there, and that’s a longer-term initiative, but at the same time, it is something that is a need. That other piece, as you said, that innovation and equipment, a lot of organizations call that a margin of excellence. You’ve got some baseline, but to be superior and excellent and to provide the services that your clients really deserve and need, supplemental funding and diversifying funding. You never know the whims of government and they play out ultimately.
It’s nice to come from that position of stability in some ways, too, that you have some baseline funding and the fundraiser knows that they’re not fundraising ultimately to keep the doors open. That’s safe to say fundamentally. What do you see them doing, thinking about the work of the fundraiser? I know you’re not a professional fundraiser yourself. You and I have talked a little bit about this, but you’re learning on the job as you do it, too. How will you partner with this person? What are you looking for them to do?
We’d really like them to build out our major gifts program, build relationships with donors and donor stewardship, and implement our fundraising plans.
Also, developing those plans to some degree, too, because you had those baseline work done. This person is the strategist, the planner, as well as the door.
Exactly, somebody with experience in implementing a solid fundraising program.
How would someone earn a gold star on your team? What would make you say, “This was a great hire. This was a successful person,” aside from the obvious of raising some new dollars?
Right off the bat, I would say it would be to see the person building good relationships with the team. We were a very collaborative team. It’s a collaborative environment. We like to see the new person become part of that team.
That’s great. Thinking about employed fundraisers that might be reading this now, why do you think someone wants to leave their job and come join you at Clements? What do you think is compelling or exciting about taking on this opportunity?
I touched on it before. What’s great about working here is it’s making a positive impact. It’s just so rewarding. That attracts good people. You get to work alongside some remarkable people both in terms of your colleagues and also the people that you support. Like I said, we work in a building where we provide those services, so you get to meet those people. That makes for a unique work experience.
What stood out to me as I spoke to your staff and some of the leaders, even the board members for that matter, that I’ve been speaking with at Clements is they’re connected to the mission. They’re connected to the cause. They feel that their work is making a difference. I love that you focused on impact there because that is so important ultimately. Too many people are feeling at arm’s length or a bit removed from the work of the organization.
When you start meeting the folks that we support, it really hits home.
Speaking of attractiveness, tell me about the community. You’re based in Duncan as an organization. You serve the Cowichan Valley. I know some of your staff work in Nanaimo and Victoria, even in some cases. Tell me a little bit about the location. Tell me about Duncan and the Cowichan Valley because, presumably, somebody may be relocating or coming from another community. Tell me more about the place.
It’s on Vancouver Island. If you’re new to the island, the first thing you notice is everything slows down a little bit, depending on where you’re coming from. You’ve got the natural beauty. The Cowichan Valley is known for its natural scenery, mountains, forests, rivers, and lakes. People like hiking, biking, kayaking, nature, and all of those things. We’ve got that in abundance. It’s got a mild climate if you’re coming from the East.
Particularly now in the winter.
We’ve got that mild climate going on. It’s quite a diverse place in terms of festivals, events, arts, and things that happen here. It’s a good community spirit here. It’s a close-knit community. It’s very supportive. I’ve noticed that from working in communities. The Cowichan and the Duncan are an interconnected community. You get that feeling. It has a great market on the weekends. It’s got a great little downtown with boutiques and specialty shops. There’s lots here.
That’s excellent. I’ve heard somebody else describe it as the province of Vancouver Island. It has great food and great markets. I like how you describe that lifestyle, for that matter. The pace of life seems very reasonable compared to people coming from other cities, perhaps.
It’s close to Victoria. If people want to go to a bigger city, it’s a 45-minute drive to Victoria.
Big picture, thinking about the future of Clements, what excites you most about what’s on the horizon for Clements beyond fundraising? As an organization as a whole, what excites you about the future of the organization?
It’s really exciting to be a part of an organization that is dynamic and growing. In the past few years, the budget has grown by 30%. That happens by default. If you provide a good service in this sector, you’re going to grow because the demand keeps increasing. More people move into the region. Also, in the community living world, these services started in the ‘60s. It started with a group of parents because, before the ‘50s, if you had a child with special needs, you were advised to send them to an institution.
We had large institutions that existed. They weren’t really services in your community to support your child’s education and development. In the ‘50s, a group of parents got together across BC and formed these little schools, often in church basements. A little bit of funding was provided by the government and these little schools popped up for their children. It’s fascinating to read about it because it was across BC. It was the same story. In the ‘60s, they grew and these children started to grow up and needed more services. These children are still around nowadays.
They’re older now, but throughout that whole time, more people have been coming into the system, and they still are nowadays. It’s natural that it’s going to grow and there’s going to be a need for more and more services. That’s why we are poised to grow and develop. Now, we’ve been working on building the infrastructure to accommodate growth. We’ve moved a bunch of processes to digital cloud-based. We’re looking at our physical space to build that out. We changed our management structure to accommodate growth and development. It’s a vibrant, exciting time to be part of the organization.We changed our management structure to accommodate growth and development. It's a vibrant, exciting time to be part of the organization. Click To Tweet
That’s a great way of capturing it. You’ve certainly captured my attention and hopefully captured some attention of people who might be interested in joining such a dynamic exciting organization in such a highly collaborative environment in a beautiful part of the world. For that matter, is there anything more you want to say? Anything else you want to add in closing or any final messages for potential candidates or curious people?
In general, this sector is very fun and exciting to work in. It’s full of compassionate and caring people, both the people you work with and the people you support. It’s a great environment to work in.
That’s fantastic. I really appreciate your time here, Dominic. If anybody is interested in learning more, we certainly welcome and encourage curiosity. Even if someone has a few questions, they can contact me directly at Christoph@TheDiscoveryGroup.ca or have a look at our website. We are looking forward to working with you as we continue the search.
Thank you very much, Christoph.
Thanks, Dominic. Take care.