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2017 CSAE Pinnacle Award Winner, Patrick Culhane

2017 CSAE Pinnacle Award Winner, Patrick Culhane

The CSAE Pinnacle Award recognizes exceptional and outstanding leadership in the not-for-profit sector. This year, the CSAE awards judges were thrilled to recognize Patrick Culhane, CAE of the Canadian Payroll Association as the 2017 CSAE Pinnacle Award Winner. This award was presented on October 4th during the CSAE Trillium Annual Awards Dinner. Here are Patrick’s remarks as he accepted this honour.

Good evening!

I am honoured and proud to be receiving the 2017 Pinnacle Award from CSAE. I accept it as a group award on behalf of the team that supports me at the CPA. I have been thinking about what to say and found it difficult because I am usually presenting awards, not receiving them. I came to conclusion that we are receiving this award for three reasons:

The knowledge and best practices learned through the CAE designation and my involvement with CSAE.

The building of the CPA into one of Canada’s top associations.

The support of many people at the Canadian Payroll Association, CSAE and my family.

I was very fortunate that Bill Easton, a previous recipient of this award, introduced me to CSAE and encouraged me to take the CAE designation in 1987. I was even more fortunate when the Canadian Payroll Association hired me in 2000 because they wanted a Certified Association Executive to lead them. I have been involved with CSAE throughout my career. I started in Vancouver in the late 80s, then I was Chair of the Hamilton Chapter in the 90s and led it to merge with Toronto to form the Trillium Chapter.

More recently I was on the CSAE’s Board of Directors for seven years and chaired its Government Relations Committee. I have contributed to CSAE at many levels and I learned a lot from many colleagues and at the CEO Symposiums in particular. So take the opportunity to learn more about association leadership by getting involved with CSAE in any way you can.

I encourage you to become a CAE and even more importantly support your staff in doing so.

People have asked me over the years how we developed the CPA into one of Canada’s top associations. The answer is a total focus on the strategic plan and engaging many people at all levels to support it. The Strategic Plan is the key responsibility of the Chief Staff Officer, the Board of Directors, the Management Team, Staff and key Volunteers. It must be used to guide decision making throughout the organization, develop the annual business plan, and its achievements must be regularly communicated to members.

Strategic leadership is the key role of the Chief Staff Officer. It must be based on market research of member needs, identification of what they value as customers and owners because the Board of Directors are not your average member. It is incumbent on you to get information about your average member and use it. Focus on providing the services members’ value most, this will produce revenues and earn the profits needed to constantly enhance services, and yes, I did say profit.

I suggest you remove the term “not-for-profit” from your vocabulary, because for many outside the association and charity worlds it means “not serious”. Not-for-Profit is not a viable business model.

I have had the support of many people in my career because Associations exist to bring people together. The collective knowledge, skills, and experiences of many people are greater than those of any individual. As the Chief Staff Officer, you are a leader of people.

This requires you to be -- a coach, a mentor, a facilitator of successes for members, staff, Board, volunteers and even external stakeholders such as government representatives.

I thank the individuals who nominated me for the Pinnacle Award:

Steven Van Alstine, CAE;
Sheila Erickson, CAE;
Edna Stack, PCP; and
Melissa Popadynec, CAP.

I thank the CPA Management Team, the Board of Directors, Staff, and also members for their constant support. A number of them are also here.

Finally, like most association executives, I travelled a lot over 30 years, building a career, identifying and responding to member needs, attending volunteer, Board of Directors and Government meetings. This required the love, patience and support of my family. So, I thank my children Sean, Nicholas and Kerry Ann, and my wife Eileen for their support during my career and this journey called life, they have joined us tonight. Thanks Guys!

Trillium, thank you for accommodating this award in tonight’s program – I will be in Scotland curling during the National Conference so I appreciate the inclusion.

CSAE, thank you for the recognition.

Receiving this award is the pinnacle of my career.

Thank you very much.


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Pinnacle Award, Patrick Culhane






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