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Ducks Unlimited Canada

Simplified advice
Ducks Unlimited Canada

By Jennifer Brown

Category: Law Department Leadership, Non-profit
Department size: Small
Company: Ducks Unlimited Canada

When it comes to leading in-house at Ducks Unlimited Canada, Gary Goodwin says he tries to act as a “choice architect” for the organization.

That means simplifying things as much as possible and providing a primary recommendation when it comes to business objectives.

“My primary approach to providing value for the organization is to look at the various departments requesting the information and provide a strategic answer based on their situation,” says Goodwin who has been executive corporate secretary and general counsel to the non-profit organization for 29 years.

“By making the correct choice easier, you have channeled your client to the correct choice. You have reduced not so much the monetary cost to the client but the stress cost of making that decision. In making an intuitive choice, clients want to know what other people did in similar situations,” he says.

Ducks Unlimited Canada has 27 offices across Canada with about 200 professional conservationist/scientists and biologists who are purchasing and leasing land and developing conservation easements. The annual budget is $95 million.

“They want a simplified means of accomplishing their business objectives,” he says.

Goodwin has a unique combination of skills including experience in IT management, which helped with the successful integration of DUC’s and Ducks Unlimited Inc’s (U.S.) membership and volunteer IT systems. This major strategic objective will provide $6 million in additional revenues and will facilitate achievement of DUC’s and DUI’s revenue goals.

“I was very hands on when it came to dealing with the IT requirements for membership and volunteers,” he says, noting the organization has 130,000 members and 8,000 volunteers.

Ducks Unlimited Inc. in the United States is also a not-for profit charitable organization but not related legally. It was going out to procure some IT systems in order to deal with its membership, which is 10 times the size of Canada’s. The Canadian IT team decided it could help with the requirements for DU Inc. so Goodwin was able to convince executive staff that by sharing IT resources and various in-house built applications they could have two separate databases and save having to procure their own IT systems.

He says he understands the need to align the organization’s business objectives and overall risk profile with legal services. His MBA work demonstrated how law can fit more holistically into the overall value chain required by a business to meet its own client’s needs.

Goodwin provides results-driven legal advice and guidance to all conservation regions, levels and sectors within Ducks Unlimited Canada and other strategic partners. This includes providing advice involving the agricultural sector including Viterra, Mosaic, Agrium, Cargill and Bayer.

In conjunction with the DUC directors, Goodwin developed a new governance model for the board including a new structure and improved policies and procedures. He is also responsible for various components of the enterprise risk management process development and compliance. Goodwin also participated in the creation of the Canadian Land Trusts Alliance and maintains their Standards and Practices for all land trusts across Canada.

Other initiatives include leading the development of new complex revenue streams such as the new Endowment Guidelines and Planned Giving opportunities.

Of significance as well was the realignment of retirement benefits, which reduced the balance sheet liability by approximately $2 million.

Goodwin holds an LLM from the University of London, emphasis on International Economic Regulation, IT Management from Queen’s University and an MBA from Athabasca University. He earned his LLB from the University of Manitoba.