50 years in the community

Gordon Cressy is a community builder, fundraiser and eternal optimist. He shares his experiences of working with people from all backgrounds, combining his accomplishments with a healthy dose of humour. Simply put, Gordon’s stories re-energize the people who do good work on the ground.

Gordon began his career in 1963 as a young CUSO volunteer at the YMCA in Trinidad. Just 19, he ran a youth hostel, developed a swimming program, and mounted his first major fundraising project, selling 1500 Canadian Christmas trees on the Caribbean island.

After leaving Trinidad, Gordon studied in Chicago, where he was a youth worker and community organizer on the city’s South Side at the height of the civil rights movement. Back in Canada, he earned his Master of Social Work at the University of Toronto, before creating Toronto’s first after-school program and leading Opportunity House, a group home for youth.

In his 12 years as a local politician, Gordon was elected as a Toronto city councillor, Metropolitan Toronto councillor, school trustee and Chair of the Toronto Board of Education. Since leaving politics, he has led the United Way of Greater Toronto and the Canadian Tire Foundation, where he launched the Jumpstart charity. As president and founding CEO of the Learning Partnership, Gordon created the country’s first Take Our Kids to Work Day, which now involves more than 250,000 students and 75,000 businesses across Canada.

Gordon has chaired YMCA Canada and CUSO, and co-founded the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. He played a key role in bringing Nelson Mandela to Toronto to speak to 50,000 students at the Skydome. He was the founding co-chair of the Harmony Movement, which brings diversity training to schools across Canada, and has served on such boards as the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care and George Brown College.

Gordon spent more than 15 years teaching community-engagement courses at the University of Toronto. He has been vice president in charge of fundraising at both the University of Toronto and Ryerson University, and led U of T’s successful $125 million Breakthrough Campaign.

From 2008–2011 Gordon and his wife Joanne worked with the local community to establish the first ever YMCA in Tobago West Indies.

Gordon now serves as a Senior Advisor to the George Brown College Foundation and continues to volunteer with Trails Youth Initiatives and the Tobago YMCA.


Gordon has developed, using his unique blend of humour and storytelling, two major talks: one on community building in the not-for-profit world and the other based on fundraising at home and abroad. A central tenet of both talks is Gordon’s message that “you have to get the inside onside before you go outside.”

Using real-life experiences from both the grassroots and the wider community, Gordon shows by powerful example how to get good things done. He adapts his talks to his audience and has an uncanny ability to connect at a personal level with all participants.

Gordon Cressy is a first-rate communicator who shares powerful lessons learned from an extraordinary career spanning five decades in three different countries.


Photo of Anne Sado

Gordon Cressy creates positive energy. Quite simply, he makes things happen! Gordon inspires through his commitment, passion and compelling communication. He is genuine and sincere, relating to people with honesty and integrity.

Anne Sado
George Brown College

Photo of Ted Garrard

Gordon Cressy is a masterful and memorable storyteller. He will engage and enlighten any audience with his vast professional and volunteer experience and his unique ability to combine substance with warmth and humor. If you want to inspire an audience I can’t think of anyone better than Gordon.

Ted Garrard
President & CEO
Sick Kids Foundation

Photo of Beverly Joseph

Gordon has inspired our staff and young YMCA members. He is bright, articulate and very funny. When Gordon speaks, we listen.

Beverly Joseph
Aquatic Director
Tobago YMCA

Photo of David Naylor

For decades, Gordon Cressy has made a major difference in the non-profit realm as a leader and organizer, as a fund-raiser and advocate, and as a superb motivational communicator.

David Naylor
Past President
The University of Toronto


Please get in touch with Gordon directly to discuss speaking engagements.

Phone: (647) 500-9236