Donor Profile: November

Neilson Strategies

Allan Neilson, Principal

November’s Mini-Matching Campaign Lead Donor is Neilson Strategies. Neilson Strategies is headed by Allan Neilson, an advisor with 25 years’ experience in British Columbia’s local government system, both as a consultant and a senior manager.

Allan is a recognized authority on local government service design and delivery, as well as local governance and administration. He is a strong facilitator, regularly engaged by clients to guide strategic planning processes, to assist decision-makers in developing collaborative, inter-jurisdictional services, and to guide public processes. He is an excellent communicator, skilled in producing clear, comprehensive and insightful reports for a wide range of audiences. He regularly makes presentations to Councils, Boards and communities on service issues, local governance and local government restructure.

Allan is also the Chair of Opera Kelowna’s Board of Directors, and he sat down with our Artistic Director, Rosemary Thomson, to talk some shop about opera.



One-on-One: Rosemary Thomson speaks with Allan Neilson


Rosemary: When were you first introduced to opera?

Allan: I have always loved musical theatre and actually my whole family sings, but other than Bugs Bunny, my first opera experience was Opera Kelowna’s 2018 production of Carmen, which I attended with my wife Shauna. I loved the way the story is both really small and intimate, but also so big in the depth of feeling it evokes.

Rosemary: What surprised you at your first opera experience?

Allan: No mics! I didn’t know that those singers can project their voices like that just using their natural acoustics and a whole lot of training. They have to be so fit! More like athletes than you might think.


Rosemary: Why do you think live opera is important in our community?

Allan: I work with local governments and communities for a living. We deal with all kinds of questions, but one that always sticks out for me is why people love where they live. And to me, having vibrant professional arts in our home brings us together, makes us proud of who we are, and invites us to learn more about living / being together.


Rosemary: How would you persuade someone to try opera for the first time?

Allan: I think people often feel like they have to know a lot in order to enjoy an opera, so I would say a few things. First, opera has something for everyone. It has these compelling, heartbreaking, inspiring stories; it has music that can transport you (and literally move you), and frankly, it has an excuse to get dressed up, if you like that kind of thing! Finally, I’d say, “I’ll sit with you” – sometimes all we need is a friend to try something new. That’s what happened for me!


Rosemary: Why is Opera Kelowna doing this matching campaign?

Allan: We know all too well that everyone is experiencing difficulties in this very hard time. Opera Kelowna’s mini-matching campaign takes those challenges seriously, for both companies and individuals. Instead of asking one organization or donor to swoop in with a massive gift to offset the losses we suffered this year, we are inviting everyone to give what they can to help us get back on stage and out in the community (as and when it’s safe to do so!) in 2021. With a small monthly goal of $5000, including the lead donor and matching contributions, we’re asking everyone who has a bit that they can share to invest a small amount in the company’s future. I felt I should “put my money where my mouth is”, so my company took the first month as a leader with a $2500 commitment.