Sarah MacDonald

Manager of Annual Giving, Saint Mary's University

What are you most proud of professionally? And who or why?

I am most proud of the work that I get to do on a daily basis. Living in Atlantic Canada allows me to be close to the things I want to help and make better - education, community, and my city. Every day I get to go to work and help students reach their potential, then I have the opportunity to do "good" in my community and in my city through serving on boards, leading groups, and working on projects with other amazing folks. It's very inspiring and it fits into my idea of what a full and exciting life is.

What's your vision for Atlantic Canada in 10 years? What’s our biggest opportunity now?

I envision Atlantic Canada building on the good that it has boasted for so long - welcoming, warm people that help each other.  I see us continuing to work hard on bringing this idea to everyone around us - especially newcomers. Welcoming and embracing the new, while retaining what we do well, will be our key for success. Practically speaking, Halifax, where I live, has a unique opportunity to continue to embrace change and growth in a smart way. There are lots of voices that have the right ideas, and the biggest opportunity is for policy makers and decision makers to hear these voices and learn.

What was your greatest stage of growth?  What made it a shift for you?  What's your favourite or most read book or podcast? Now or at each of your greatest stages of growth?

I really love podcasts! I love radio, too, but the ability to listen to the content I want when I am available is fantastic. One of my biggest stages of growth was when I was struggling to finish my Master's degree. I was working full-time and had a lot of conflicts in my life at the time. I was able to see a goal I really wanted for myself, and I did it. All that said, I really miss school! I love learning, and sometimes my podcast choices can reflect that. Some of my favourites are: Stuff Mom Never Told You, Stuff You Missed in History Class, This American Life (of course), Another Round, 30 for 30, Pop Culture Happy Hour, 99% Invisible, Every Little Thing, and just about any food podcast there is! I think it's really important to hear different voices with different experiences, and podcasts are a great way to do it without further burdening people. Podcast producers have created these ways for you to hear their stories and experiences and it's very important to listen.

What's your deepest learning from this past year? How did/will you apply it?

I've gained more and more patience in the last year, which is a big step for me. I've been tested in my professional life, and personal life. I've gained some perspective and empathy that I think has helped, and I hope that keeps happening.

I think the most physical manifestation of this is buying a small house and working on it constantly for about a year - and it's still not done! It's a great, and kind of silly example of how my patience has grown.

Who's inspired you, directly or indirectly? How have they inspired you?

Right now, the people that are inspiring me are the trailblazers around me that have had fantastic, rewarding lives while fighting difficult battles. At my day job, in my volunteer and community work, my family, and in my friendships, there are many people that are incredibly inspiring to me because they're doing excellent work to help others - all while they've experienced or are experiencing their own hardships and challenges.

It's the height of privilege to be able to reflect and see that and I hope that I can continue to help and use my voice.

What would you have done differently?

Nothing! Really - I know it's cheesy, but all my mistakes have taught me lessons and that's really important.

What were your priorities and how did they help you overcome some of the struggles you've faced? What motivated you to make the choices you've made? What are the principles you live by?

A big struggle I've faced is that of poor mental health - and I haven't always managed that well. A priority for me throughout my life has been to help others, and I realized as a young adult that in order to do that, I must be healthy. I've since seen it as cyclical - to help others, I need to help myself be as healthy as I can.  If I can sustain that, I can advocate for the community, which makes me feel stronger and healthier in turn.

Advocating for and talking about different manifestations of marginalization (like health-impacted poverty) can be a great step, however, tangible change in the way that we share wealth impacts lives more than anything. We can't help ourselves or each other without the means to do so (financial, education, and social capital, etc.) I've begun expressing these ideas through all of my work with women and gender programming, education, and city planning, with a hope that this can change.


Education, Fundraising, CFRE, PSE, Advocacy, Politics, Community Development, Gender, Women, DIY, cook, Crafter, Blogger, Social Media, Dog Mom, Cat Mom

Sarah MacDonald