AHP Connect Member Profile - Maria Dyck
President, St. Joseph’s Health Centre Foundation
AHP member since 2005
How did you come into a career in health care development?
I actually fell into fundraising as a summer student. It wasn't a very good economic year and summer jobs were hard to come by. I was very fortunate that I was hired by one of the very first fundraising consultants in Canada. This was a long time ago, but to be a young person in a younger industry was just a fantastic opportunity because you were given a lot of important work to do. There was nobody else to do it. I was given my own set of clients. I worked in Canada, the U.S. and Australia. I fell in love with both the industry and with all the different organizations I had the opportunity to work for. I worked for a number of different hospitals. I worked for a number of different health charities -- both national and local. I learned a lot in a very short period of time because the opportunity was there. I love a good opportunity and I love a good challenge. For me, it was a tremendous fit.
Eventually, I went back to school and I got an MBA because there weren't a lot of people then with MBAs working in the charitable sector. After working as a consultant, I thought it would be a great experience to not only advise people and work with them on raising the funds, but to work for an organization so I could have a line of sight to how the funds were used. I could see the donors’ interests represented all the way through the process.
I worked in politics for a while, and I ended up being a director of communications for the government caucus operations. It wasn't a fundraising job, but I had to do all different types of communications. I had to do direct mail. We had a radio studio and television studio. I think to be able to tell a story effectively and represent the causes that you work for, you need to be a good communicator. When I finished that job, I ended up working for a national health charity. After that was the first time I worked for a hospital foundation. So I've had an interesting career. I've worked about 50 percent of my career in fundraising and about 50 percent in communications. I think that's made me stronger in both areas. It has made for a pretty interesting journey so far.
What draws you to the health care sector specifically?
If you want to see the impact of giving, there's nowhere better to work than in the health care sector. I'm surrounded every day by people who come to our hospital looking for care and I can see the difference that donors make for those people every day. The immediacy of that is -- we are able to work with hospital leaders, physicians and champions of the various projects we’re fundraising for, and then connect their ambition with people in the community who want to make a difference. Then when we can see the impact of that, it’s incredibly gratifying. I've had many members in my family who have needed the health care system, and you realize how important it is for that system to be there. It's there to provide for those people -- your loved ones, your friends and your family. I love working in health care. Of all the industries I've worked in -- and I've worked in many -- health care has been the most gratifying.
The people who work in health care are passionate champions for continuing to improve the system. In Canada, we support our system through our tax dollars, but there are so many things that you need generous individuals to do to ensure the system is the very best it can be for people who come to your hospital. I think it's a real privilege to be able to work in this sector.
What campaigns or projects are you focused on in 2019?
We have a historic campaign that we started working on about three years ago with the hope that we could raise about $60 million, which would have been the largest campaign our hospital had ever done. That goal was increased to $70 million and now we're closing in on $100 million. It's a really big undertaking for us. We've been really gratified with the support we've received from our community, and we're very keen to get to that milestone. It's a huge accomplishment for our community to be able to raise that kind of money for our local health centers.
We are an older facility. We have old and new parts and there are a lot of areas in the hospital that we're going to be able to improve thanks to this campaign. It's called the Promise Campaign. We talk about the promise our health center has made to the community to look after their unique health needs. The campaign is to help us connect with the desire on the part of the community as well to ensure we are able to work together for another 100 years or more.
One of our challenges is we're in a really big market. Toronto is Canada’s largest city. There are a lot of organizations competing for donor dollars. And community hospitals, although they provide most of the care that people need, our ability to make our case to the broader public is a little bit more challenging than maybe it is for some of our larger academic health science colleagues. So we have to be really nimble, resource-conscious and effective in terms of making our case in order to be able to raise $100 million or more.
You’re on the planning committee for AHP’s Convene Canada conference this May in Toronto. How is that planning process going and what can attendees expect?
I've been a volunteer in the sector for a long time, and I’ve worked on many different fundraising conferences and events. I co-founded and curated an event called D3. It's been around for eight years and we've had five different events. It's a leaders-only event that we host every other year and it brings together about 200 people across the country. The focus is on creating opportunities for leaders to learn from each other and to learn from really compelling speakers. It's not so much about bringing fundraisers to speak to other fundraisers but bringing people who are leaders in our country to talk about some of the opportunities and challenges they see. And then fundraisers can think about how they might apply those things to their own situation.
That's one of the things I'm very excited about with respect to Convene Canada. Can we do more to create those opportunities for leaders at all levels to be able to learn not only from each other, but to learn from others who have really important messages to share with us? We're trying to create those stimulating and exciting sessions and then have people think about how it applies to what they do. We want to give them the opportunity to become better leaders and better fundraisers. I like to take inspiration from what’s happening beyond the charitable sector and then apply that to what I do and how I lead. The more we can get people thinking about a wide array of topics, the more interesting the event becomes. And everyone takes away something different. So the more options you can provide to people to help them think creatively, the more beneficial the event will be.
What is something you don’t think people in health care development careers should forget?
It’s important to continue to look for your inspiration. I keep a certain amount of money every year in my budget to invest in ideas that we think are going to make a difference. Some of them work really well, and some of them don't. But if we didn't try those things, we would never know and we wouldn't be able to continue to push ourselves. That constant focus on innovation and creativity and looking beyond our own sector for ideas is really important.
The other thing I think is good to remember is to get involved. I've been a volunteer for my entire career in different capacities. I've met so many interesting people. I have this network out there that I can call on to help me if I have a question. I really like being part of an engaged group of people who are working to support each other in doing a better job moving forward. When you volunteer, you get more back than you give. And giving helps you to feel more inspired.