Collège La Cité: Spotlight on philanthropy

Photo Credit:  Mylène Desbiens

To celebrate its fifth anniversary, The Storyteller presents a series of portraits of clients and partners, highlighting their vision and commitment to a cause that is close to their heart.

This month, we spoke to Christiane Matte from Collège La Cité.

As someone who has wanted to help others ever since she was a child, Christiane Matte has made a career out of philanthropy. She is now the director of the Philanthropy and Alumni development office at Collège La Cité, Ontario’s largest French-language college, located in Ottawa. The office’s mission is to support the college by developing philanthropic relationships with the community, college staff, donors and alumni, for the benefit of students.

“Philanthropy not only allows us to dream, to dare, to support and to feel useful, it is also an essential tool for the economic and social development of our community.”

Christiane Matte, Collège La Cité

Investing in the next generation

According to La Cité’s vision, education should be accessible to all and is a fundamental right, hence the development office’s raison d’être to financially support the college and its students.

“Investing in tomorrow’s graduates means investing in a skilled future workforce that is trained on high‑quality equipment and meets the needs of the job market. Education helps to reduce poverty by enabling citizens to find jobs that will lead to upward mobility and greater stability,” says Christiane Matte. 

Many students have to give up their jobs – and their income – to focus on their studies. Supporting them with financial aid, mobility grants or merit scholarships helps increase motivation, reduce dropout rates and increase graduation rates.

A more human side to philanthropy

Philanthropy requires constant monitoring of the needs of the community, as well as the changing values of society.

The EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) approach is a good example of a reality that La Cité’s development office cannot afford to ignore. Even in philanthropy, everyone has a role to play in promoting respect, encouraging diversity and pushing for a variety of profiles on boards of directors, to give just a few examples.

According to Christiane Matte, philanthropy needs to be both agile and inclusive. Her many years of experience in the field have taught her that teams working in this area must constantly adapt to the changing needs and values of society. Minority advocacy and inclusion, inflation-related poverty, pandemic stress, labour shortages and the aging population are all current issues that development teams need to address.

“In philanthropy, we need to create a culture, raise awareness and push people to take action.”

Educate first, persuade later

Christiane Matte notes that although philanthropy is an essential aspect of many fields (health, education, environment, poverty, etc.), it remains an abstract and mysterious concept for many people. There’s still a lot of education and awareness work to be done to show that everyone can be a philanthropist in their own way, without having to be a millionaire.

For example, La Cité’s internal community fundraising campaign, featuring “superhero” employees, was based on the theme “Participation is what counts”. So the amount doesn’t really matter. But if someone can afford to buy a $4 coffee every day, they might consider donating a symbolic $2 per paycheck to help a student in need.

When you work in philanthropy, it’s clearly because you believe in the cause. There’s no doubt that Christiane and her team are passionate about their work, and their commitment is palpable. Their enthusiasm is so contagious that when they talk about their work to colleagues or people outside the organization, they sometimes persuade them to get involved without even asking!

They are aware, however, that not everyone is able to donate or even get involved, so they strive for due respect and dignity in their work.

Photo Credit:  Mylène Desbiens

Working with The Storyteller

What types of projects have you worked on with The Storyteller over the years?

We have collaborated with The Storyteller on several occasions over the past few years. This has included putting together a donation appeal package, reviewing our web content and strategy, as well as developing a storytelling campaign featuring stories about La Cité donors, staff and alumni.

What features or qualities do you appreciate most about The Storyteller?

Their competence, openness and understanding of our needs right from the start.

What are the positive impacts of working with The Storyteller?

We’re a small team, so working with The Storyteller has allowed us to delegate important tasks. It’s also great to work with someone who’s not part of our everyday work environment and who brings a new vision and a new approach to our organization. The Storyteller is taking us places we’d never dreamed of.

Many thanks to Christiane Matte for her time and her inspiring thoughts! To learn more about Collège La Cité’s Philanthropy and Alumni development office, or to make a donation, please visit their website.