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 because… I 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.