604-612-1312 alison@alisonbrewin.ca

True Purpose:

How purpose-driven non-profit management can save the world.

I’m writing a book! After years managing small non-profits and working with organizations of all sizes as a consultant and Board member, I can see a pattern that might help us all if we can uncover it together. We need to turn away from colonial corporatism toward a successful approach to building healthy communities.

Imagine if we ran the world economy the same way a successful non-profit theatre company is run:

  • There is a shared vision of the goal, articulated by the director and playwright, implemented by everyone (a play)
  • People are relying on the outcome being available according to a public commitment (audience and opening night)
  • The funds needed are raised in an entrepreneurial range of ways – part market (ticket sales), part community of care (donations), part government commitment to the arts (grants) etc
  • Everyone is paid properly according to their responsibility, skills sets and contributions (unions/professional associations/equitable contracts)
  • Funds raised cover the costs and any profit (surplus) goes to more great theatre, not stockpiling personal wealth (balanced budgets)
  • Everyone is clear on the skills they have been asked to apply to the vision (transparency and shared leadership)

Workshop: Purpose-Driven Governance

On April 8th, join me for a workshop on Purpose-Driven Governance. Learn about the 5 Principles, how it compares to common understanding of non-profit governance, and explore with peers the ways to apply it to your organizaton.

If non-profit leaders manage and lead their organizations around asking and answering the question ‘why?’ they, and the non-profit sector as a whole, will be positioned to take its rightful place in leading the transformation the world is desperate for. But first we need to get out from under the colonial corporatist way of doing and being.

This book will be part theory and part practice, explaining why and how the non-profit sector is going to save the world from itself. By focusing on purpose-driven management and letting go of the colonial corporatism that is driving us into the ground, non-profit leaders can get out from under the burnout and exhaustion. If our sector can push back against bizsplaining and embrace our organizations – and ourselves – as the innovative, dynamic economic and community drivers that we are, we can move mountains together. This book will make the case by sharing non-profit-created innovations in the successful management of organizations. It will dig into tips and tricks for purpose-driven governance, financial management, fundraising, human resources and other aspects for managing a successful non-profit without relying on models designed to maximize shareholder wealth..

Almost every book on non-profit (aka voluntary, charitable, social sector etc.) management is an adaptation of corporate management principles. Non-profit leaders are successfully meeting the needs of people and communities across the globe, protecting and conserving the environment, educating youth and adults, caring for the aged and vulnerable, preventing health crisis, and otherwise doing what needs to be done to heal and nurture humanity and the planet. They are hugely successful. But they are hampered by colonial corporatism that force non-profits to spend too much time battling to prove their worth. At a time when corporations are seeking purpose and governments are stretched thin, communities are organizing and demanding transformation. We seem to think old institutions — the very ones that have created the problems — will somehow find a way out of the mess we are in. Non-profits are maligned, patronized and ignored, but have been the drivers of change for decades. They are battling internally to take control of the agenda, but face constant barriers created and nurtured by colonial corporatism. 

This book will not ignore the myriad of ways non-profits have been active participants in colonial corporatism. I am an advocate for the sector, not an apologist! However, if we apply a JEDI lens to the sector as a whole, we can see the patterns that of strength, the innovations, the testing of different ways of doing things. Small example, collectives were not created by the private sector!

what they say

Shahnaz Rahman, Manager of Family Law Project, West Coast LEAF

I feel very fortunate to have had a work experience with Alison. In addition to being an amazing person, Alison also has a wealth of knowledge around the working of the non profit sector. She has made immense contributions to the law reform initiatives in her work with the West Coast LEAF. Her passion, expertise and a deep commitment in achieving equality for all women paved way for the many successful projects at West Coast LEAF. One such success is the development of the Family Law Project, which was developed to identify, acknowledge and work towards addressing the many barriers women face while going through the Family Law system. I honor the contributions Alison made to promote women’s equality in BC as well as in National and International arenas. She is missed by her colleagues at West Coast LEAF.”

Zahra Esmail, Executive Director South Vancouver and Marpole Neighbourhood Houses

“Alison Brewin is a principled leader with excellent skills related to governance, organizational planning, and facilitation. She makes people around her feel comfortable and valued, which enables them to fully contribute to important conversations that can lead to positive change. She is a visionary, and I would highly recommend her for any strategic, coaching, or leadership role.

Janice Abbott, CEO, Atira Women's Resource Society

Alison has a wicked sharp mind, is motivated, has a remarkable attention to detail and a steadfast devotion to deadlines. She is thoughtful, collaborative and transparent and most of all, easy to work with. I am honoured to provide this recommendation.”

Victoria Chen, Non-Profit Operations Manager

“Thank you again for meeting with us Alison! It was really validating to be able to talk through things with you and feel more confident in our understanding of the chaos… I have always appreciated how you really care about the people and that you have the organization’s best interest in mind. I’ve learned over the years that there’s no such thing as perfect so the best any human can hope for is to work with someone who tries and someone who truly cares, and I definitely appreciate that you do!

Jamie Maclaren, Executive Director, Access Pro Bono Society of BC

Alison is a highly conscientious and open-minded thought leader in diverse areas of social justice, particularly in those areas that touch upon the wrongful treatment of low-income women and other marginalized individuals.”

Jennifer Breakspear, Executive Director Sara for Women

“Hiring a consultant can feel like a shot in the dark. But hiring Alison is a sure thing. She knows the non-profit sector and our challenges, she has extensive experience supporting non-profits and non-profit leaders to excel, and she brings perspectives and insights that enrich and empower.”

Rebecca Darnell, President, Darnell & Company Law Offices

Alison is a relationship builder who not only builds but maintains and nourishes those relationships. She will be a great addition to any future organization with whom she is associated. I have no hesitation in recommending her.”

Amber Prince, Legal Advocate, Atira Women's Resource Society

Alison has been an effective leader in the non-profit sector for many years. I have had the pleasure of reviewing many of Alison’s written pieces (including articles, media pieces and legal analyses) over the past 7 years. She has the rare ability to articulate not only a “big picture” analysis but also the attention to detail needed to take theory to action. Alison does this all in a clear and accessible way. Any organization would be lucky to benefit from Alison’s wealth of non-profit and writing experience.”

get in touch

text/call +1 604 612 1312


1102 Stanley Point Road, Pender Island, BC V0N2M1