AHP Connect Member Profile - Daina Porter
Director, Communications & Donor Relations
Lakeridge Health Foundation
AHP member since 2016
Congratulations on being named one of our 2019 40 Under 40 winners! I saw in your 40 Under 40 profile that one of your volunteer roles in university sparked your passion for nonprofit work. How did this experience encourage you to pursue health care philanthropy?
While at university, I started volunteering with a therapeutic horseback riding centre. At the same time, I was taking a number of health care-related courses in the hope that I might one day be a psychologist — one of my many pursuits, except I couldn’t do the calculus! I was trying to find an outlet for my interest in health care and this volunteer role steered me in the right direction. Western University had just created a postgrad diploma in not-for-profit management. I applied and we had only three people in our class. When it came time to secure an internship, I reached out to a few hospitals and was lucky to have a connection with someone at Women’s College Hospital Foundation. When you go to a place like that, a hospital that does so many incredible things for health care, you get hooked! Working in philanthropy in general has been a really neat way for me to be creative and to feel like I’m having impact. The fact that health care touches so many people during so many stages in their lives is a big bonus.
You’ve mentioned turning down opportunities in other fields — what about health care motivates you to be creative and stay in this career specifically?
I’ve always been a very creative person, and what’s incredible about working in philanthropy is that there are so many opportunities to use it — in marketing, in building relationships, sales and storytelling. Everything we do, every day — whether it’s opening the mail to writing a $1 million proposal — is helping to change someone’s life. This field in particular presents an interesting dichotomy between life and death that is so overwhelmingly amazing to be a part of. It makes you really humble. We see grateful patients come into the office to thank their care team with a small donation, and others make transformational donations after a loved one has passed. I get to tell stories about funding innovative research with national impact and in the same week talk about a little baby who’s kept warm in our NICU thanks to a donation from a community group. We’re never without content or meaningful stories to share.
Health care is also personal. Working in a community hospital foundation means everything we do is close to home for me. Family members have passed away here, I had my children here and just a few weeks ago I took method acting to a whole new level when I ended up in our Emergency Room just hours after working on a proposal for the same department. There is something very cool about living in the community where you work. You’re the fundraiser, the patient and the donor. There is no shortage of inspiration.
Engaging the community in a meaningful way can be difficult. Can you share a bit about how you came up with your NightShift event?
In 2015, I started working on developing a young professional’s group. I had some experience with a similar committee in Toronto and knew there was great opportunity in Durham Region for millennials and young leaders to get involved with the foundation.
We started ‘Launchpad’ by meeting with a few young leaders we knew of through colleagues and the local business chambers. We didn’t get a single ‘no’ and our first free networking event revealed just how many young professionals we had in the community, all eager for unique experiences that give back.
For our very first committee meeting, we brought the group to the Lakeridge Health Education and Research Network (LHEARN) where we house the Simulation Centre. It’s one of the most advanced state-of-the-art, high-fidelity simulation centres in Canada — right here in our community hospital. Our mannequins imitate breathing, talking and can mimic some human reactions. One of our committee members turned to us and asked, “Why aren’t we bringing people in here?” We quickly realized we didn’t have to do concerts or a big fitness event. We should be showcasing the simulation lab. It took us about five minutes after that meeting to get a concept. I remember telling a colleague, “It’s Grey’s Anatomy meets Worst Cooks in America. We have to find a way to put people in these simulation labs and do what doctors and nurses do, but they will have zero experience. They won’t know what they’re doing so it will need to be fun — no pressure… just blood pressure!” It was in that moment that we created NightShift: North America’s first and only medical simulation challenge for the public.
Things like gamification and experiential events are all the rage. It had to be a competition and it had to be something no one could buy or do on their own. People want to do something unique, it needs to be ‘instagrammable’ and they want to win. This event idea had it all — experiential fundraising, new audience acquisition and, even better, physician engagement.
Our teams would need coaches. And what better way to show off our incredible staff than to pair them up with participants. As we’ve evolved the event, we’ve brought in nurses and medical staff to craft the simulation scenarios and train teams during our mini-med school at the event. There are so many cool elements to NightShift that keep evolving every year from our pep rally, to fainting family members and introducing ‘moulage’ (special effects makeup). Last year we had to turn physicians away because we were full!
We’ve established some incredible relationships with our medical staff who have quickly become part of the NightShift team as simulation leaders, scenario actors and trainers. The scenarios we create are all pulled from their real experiences and it’s our nurses and therapists who suggest the crazy ideas like dying saline red and squeezing IV bags to make a fake wound bleed!
In the end, people see hospitals as stressful places. NightShift allows us to bring community members into the hospital in an unusual way that completely immerses them into the experience of health care, so they knew exactly where their money was going. All while having a beer with our chief of surgery.
What was it like planning an event that had never been done before?
A combination of excitement and pure terror. We were very lucky to have a CEO who trusted us to try something out of the ordinary and run with it. We pitched the idea to physicians with as much enthusiasm as possible and some gentle begging to bring on their colleagues. We soon formed a small group of doctors and experts who we convinced to teach us everything that was possible.
From a marketing perspective, the biggest challenge was that nobody had ever done this before — we were creating everything from scratch. There are medical simulation challenges for real medical professionals but nothing for the general public. We had to market the idea without any previous videos or photos. We staged a few funny photos with our committee and took to Instagram. Lucky for us, the group reached out to their networks and helped us sell out.
The day of the event was like a lucid dream. It all came together unusually well, granted there were some technology issues and tiny missteps as always. Teams were fascinated with the space and simulation area. The doctors all showed up in their lab coats and we’d never seen them so excited to show off their skills. They even stayed back after the event, drinks in hand, recalling their favourite moments and suggesting ideas for following years.
Another big challenge, specifically with the NightShift participants, is that millennials are not a long-game audience. When it comes to fundraising, this means a stressful few months leading up to the event. While it was a bit alarming the first year, we’ve come to learn almost all the fundraising for NightShift happens exclusively during the last two weeks before the event, and all online. With competition model at play, we see donations coming in minutes before our top team announcements at the pep rally.
I like to say that Launchpad, and NightShift specifically, are my longitudinal study in millennial engagement. Millennials, specifically late stage, are stretched every which way. They’re busy with work, with their families — so until something shows up on their immediate radar, they’re not going to do it. And what keeps them coming back is the idea that they are doing something that is unique, fun and directly benefits their family. On the Committee, they have an outlet to share their skills and networks to help meet our goals and the reward becomes so tangible when we bring them back into the hospital to present teams with the equipment they help fund.
Our biggest obstacle with NightShift moving forward is how to grow it. This is, however, where I get most inspired! We’ve been able to come up with some unique solutions using lower fidelity mannequins and taking over other hospital space like the library and meeting rooms to add more teams. I’m also working on a project that will help us share the NightShift model with other hospital foundations, something I’m excited to share with fellow AHP members.
What does being a part of the 2019 AHP 40 Under 40 class mean to you, and what are you most excited about leading up to the 2019 International Conference?
It’s an honor! Being one of only seven Canadians recognized in that group is really special. It gives me that warm and fuzzy feeling to know that the accomplishments and successes I’m really proud of are also things other people think are worthy.
I’m excited to meet all the other individuals on that list and learn more about their accomplishments and careers. It’s one of my favorite things about going to and speaking at conferences — idea sharing. If we’re all equally remarkable and worthy of being in the 40 Under 40, think about what we can do together — expanding our networks, talking to each other, bouncing ideas off one another — we are the future of the industry. If we have people like this group leading the way, I think we are in for some really exciting stuff.
What advice would you give to someone with aspirations to be a part of the AHP 40 Under 40 class in the years to come?
As a young leader in the industry, I think you have to not just feel ambitious, you have to exude it. So many of the opportunities I’ve had in my career have come because I’ve shared my goals and ambitions with my leaders so they know I have my sights set on growing with the organization. Always be collaborative, take every opportunity you can to learn from others and contribute to the success of your team. Never stop learning and find people who you admire and never lose touch. Try out new ideas, be creative and innovative, even when those ideas sound crazy and might fail. And don’t forget to throw your personality or a good pun into the conversation because no one ever pushed the envelope by being stationary!