Meet Marina Glogovac, President and CEO of CanadaHelps and 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Excellence Finalist

Marina is the President & CEO of CanadaHelps, a unique social technology charity that connects donors with all Canadian charities, helping them to succeed in the digital age. Under her leadership since 2013, CanadaHelps has rapidly accelerated its growth trajectory, tripling the donations it facilitates for charities to $275 million a year, and dramatically expanding its offerings for both charities and donors. Marina is a 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards Excellence Finalist.

My first job ever was… a culture reporter at a local radio station, and I helped produce a weekly talk show while I was studying Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Belgrade.

I chose my career path becauseI am driven by a desire to expand my insights and learn more. I’ve had several career paths; I started out preparing to be a literary critic and academic, but ended up running a charity — definitely not a career trajectory I would have ever expected in my younger years. In between I was a media and technology executive. While they seem unrelated, my various paths are all framed by curiosity and a desire to build something good and lasting. 

The part of my role that I love the most is… meeting with people at different charities across Canada, and learning about the huge breadth and depth of the sector — there are so many charities operating in Canada that I didn’t know about before. I love that we get to enable and help amplify their impact and their passion.

The biggest challenge of running a not-for-profit is… the mindset and expectation (of charitable sector staff, funders, governments, and Canadians) that NFPs should not invest into their own capacity and infrastructure. Canadians have been misled to believe that lean administration spending is the best indicator of an efficient charity, when in fact, most charities are not spending enough. 

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that I initially came to Canada to join a modern dance company called Mobius.

My best advice from a mentor was… get comfortable saying “I don’t know”.

My best advice for anyone interested in a career in the not-for-profit sector is… be prepared for a huge infusion of meaning in your life. I’m proud of my career and the work that I have done, but feeling like what you do matters has a very unique way of making the stress and challenges worthwhile. But at the same time, anyone entering the sector must be willing to listen, unlearn what they know, and be open and flexible to learn new ways of doing things and being effective.

One thing for-profit businesses could learn from the not-for-profit world is… how to do a lot with little, and how social impact can be incorporated into a business model. 

A great leader is… one who is continually working on themselves. A leader must practice self-reflection, learn from mistakes, and be driven to grow and change for the better.

The future excites me because… leading with mission and achieving social good in addition to shareholder profits is becoming the norm. Young people are demanding change, and they expect social impact and profit from businesses. This energy from young people and the expansion of philanthropy is exciting. This is necessary to turn around the decline of the planet.

I stay inspired by… the stories of charities that are helping the world in so many ways, and the Canadians who generously support them. I’m inspired by being of service. 

It’s time to do more than just ditch ‘The Bad Apple Defense.’

Four years ago, I wrote what felt like a strongly worded open letter to the newly elected President Trump. I did not hesitate to call out his racism or misogyny, or mask my disappointment that America had failed to elect its first woman leader, who was — love her or hate her — unquestionably more qualified to lead the world’s biggest superpower.

And I remember thinking at the time, have I gone a tad too far? Am I giving in to emotionally-driven hyperbole?

Oh, Stephania of 2016, how naive you were. It’s been four years of “Did that really happen? How could this possibly get worse?” followed quickly by, “This, this is how it gets worse.” I am now beyond eloquent rage. A list of all the ineptitude and horror delivered by Trump and his regime during his first term would take up an entire article (if that’s too triggering, try this delightful song version instead); in the last week alone, we’ve seen police pepper-spraying peaceful voting marches and a Trump caravan attempting to run a Biden campaign bus off the highway.  

And someone, somewhere, is rationalizing that these are the acts of a few bad apples, and not indicative of his supporters as a whole.

It’s an excuse I’ve heard far too many times over the course of 2020. In a year in which we’ve had a nearly global reckoning on institutional racism, and plenty of proof of the toll it takes, there has been no shortage of talking heads explaining that the issue is actually just a few bad apples. Trump himself said it in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, and again during his visit to Kenosha after the shooting of Jacob Blake

And before I let Canadian exceptionalism rear its ugly head, let’s be clear that politicians and other public leaders have made the same claims here, and some have been relying on this defense for a long time. There’s plenty of evidence to show, as one recent survey did, that Canadians themselves “are more likely to view racial discrimination as the attitudes and actions of individuals, not a systemic issue embedded in Canadian institutions.” That’s fancy talk for ‘blame the bad apples.’ 

It’s not only wrong, it’s dangerous to assume that the problem is contained to this small group — and you only need to look as far as the origin of the saying to see why. For the past few decades, ‘bad apples’ have become most often used to denote a handful of people behaving unacceptably, thereby negatively affecting the reputation of the community or institution they belong to. That entirely eliminates the latter half of the phrase, which points out that these bad apples have the capacity to make an entire bunch rotten. (If you want to really dig into the history, the first recording dates all the way back to 1340, written as “A rotten apple quickly infects its neighbor.”)

There’s been plenty of think pieces written about how the ‘bad apples’ saying has morphed over the years, but here’s the part that I don’t think we pay enough attention to: pointing out how the meaning has morphed is about as effective as saying ‘the system is the problem’, as if stating what should be obvious is somehow the solution. 

It doesn’t matter if we recognize that a few bad apples can spoil the bunch, if we don’t actually take that as a call to action to change the system so that it no longer allows for bad apples to thrive or survive. 

Take the case of Donald Trump. It is not hyperbole to say he is one of the most rotten and infectious apples we’ve seen in modern times. (If you think his putrefaction is contained to the US, let me tell you about what it was like to watch a caravan of maskless Canadians, waving QAnon and Trump flags, drive down Yonge street.) If the community he belongs to does not vote him in the trash heap where he belongs, I shudder to think of what will happen to the world in the next four years (or more, if you listen to Trump).