Festival du Voyageur Executive Director and I. H. Asper School of Business MBA alum Darrel Nadeau [BComm(Hons)07/MBA13] talks about the difficulties and success indicators of working in the nonprofit sector.
Nadeau learned about the advantages of working in the nonprofit sector from a speaker at the Asper Master of Business Administration programme.
She said that beginning my professional life in the nonprofit sector was the best decision I could have made. Working for a nonprofit requires more dedication and creativity than any other job.
Even though Nadeau had been working in the nonprofit sector for some time, he recognised the feeling.
Nadeau started his career after graduating from Asper with a Bachelor of Commerce in the private sector, but he soon realised he needed more from his job. A better fit, but still not quite what Nadeau was looking for, was his time spent working for the Canadian government.
Nadeau says, “It’s difficult to quantify the impact of your work in a company of this size.” When you’re just one part of a bigger whole, it can be difficult to see how your efforts are making an actual difference.
Nadeau didn’t find what he was looking for until he transferred to a smaller non-profit with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection and started working towards his MBA at the same time. Rather than shy away from the added pressures that nonprofits present, Nadeau seems to thrive in this environment. It is the requirement for originality in the service of a good cause that motivates him.
“You have to be creative with the resources you have—stretch every dollar,” he says, adding that it is also important to evaluate the results. Business-related metrics are straightforward, right? Bottom lines are typically profit. But in the nonprofit sector, results must be tied to a clear mission.
According to Nadeau, the nonprofit sector is in need of MBAs who are well-versed in the business world and have the foresight to see how those skills can be applied to achieve the greatest possible good in the world. He argues that “non-profits need people with skills because the work they do is so important to society.” The greater the number of people with these abilities within a nonprofit, the greater its chances of success and influence.
Nadeau’s current position at Festival du Voyageur makes use of many of the skills he acquired during his MBA studies.
Everything I’ve learned has been useful, he says. “In my role as Executive Director, I oversee the day-to-day operations of the company, including human resources, finance, and marketing. Then there’s the business end of things, where cost accounting stands out. My approach to using knowledge is slightly different, but it’s still comprehensive.
Festival du Voyageur is Western Canada’s largest winter festival, and Nadeau has led it through two years of hybrid activities. This year, from February 17 to 26, Nadeau is looking forward to leading the Festival in person for the first time. His work exemplifies the principles upon which Festival was founded, and he has brought the organisation great success.
St. Boniface locals and business owners came together to launch Festival du Voyageur as a way to honour Franco-Manitoban history and culture and encourage others to do the same. In exchange for the community’s support, Festival took on the responsibility of positively influencing that community.
From Voyageur Pride Night, which Nadeau initiated in his first year as Executive Director, to his work inviting newcomers from the Ukraine and West Africa to participate, Nadeau has continued this practise.
Nadeau says that he saw an opening to make an impact in the 2SLGBTQ+ community by investing in Voyageur Pride Night, and that his bet was well worth it.
I made it my business to serve that group, he says. This signature, annual must-see event returns this year after a successful debut the previous three years. Because of this, we were able to invite members of a previously unreachable community to the festival, and we’re using the same model to reach out to other underserved groups.
Nadeau has had a lot of success with Festival thanks to his business acumen, flexibility, and awareness of the community’s wants and needs. He expresses hope that one day he can return to the Asper School of Business to share his knowledge and philosophy with other MBA students and non-profit workers, thereby fostering a more compassionate and effective global community. Until then, however, Darrel Nadeau’s story can serve as a reminder of the difficulty, opportunity, and reward inherent in non-profit work and any endeavour with the aim of making a greater difference.