The Lankin legacy
Published On Fri Feb 19 2010
With the announcement yesterday that Frances Lankin is stepping down as its head within a year, United Way Toronto faces the task of replacing the irreplaceable. Through almost nine years at the United Way’s helm, Lankin transformed the charity into a powerhouse of strategic research and community activism.
Along the way, she pushed its fundraising capacity to new heights, including a 2009 campaign that raised $109 million – more than any other United Way on the continent.
Lankin is leaving to seek a change of pace and “more balance in life,” for which she cannot be begrudged. But to say she leaves at a high point is an understatement. Over its 54-year history, the United Way has never been stronger or more relevant. Through research, such as its landmark Poverty by Postal Code report, and programs aimed at building strong neighbourhoods, the United Way speaks louder now than ever.
Lankin owes her success to the support of a winning team, but she brought it all together. She has a rare ability to connect with people, whatever their background. That likely stems from her varied background, including work as a child care administrator and a guard at the notorious Don Jail. She has been a public service union negotiator. And as the Minister of Economic Development and Trade in the Rae government, she connected with business leaders, while never losing her social justice ideals. All that combined to make her an ideal leader for United Way Toronto.
“Some people would say I just can’t hold a job,” quips Lankin, underlining another key trait she brings to her task: a sense of humour. She has made this city a better place and will be missed.
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