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AHP Connect Member Profile - Mary Lou Hussak

AHP Staff
Published:  04/26/2018

AHP Connect Member Profile

Mary Lou Hussak

Mary Lou Hussak
President & CEO

Health Sciences North Foundation
Sudbury, Ontario
Member since 2017

What’s been the biggest surprise of your career in health philanthropy?

My biggest surprise is how important community support is to our hospital. Donors provide the funds needed to purchase equipment, to advance research and to build facilities. Without community support, many of the vital healthcare resources that we have now may not be available. I have been involved in in many healthcare organizations over my career, and it’s always been the same, community support is vital to the growth and the health of the organization and of our community.

What area of giving is Health Sciences North Foundation most focused on currently?

We’re currently focused on the acquisition and retention of our donors. We had a full changeover of leadership in the Foundation five years ago, and now we’re establishing the programs that will sustain us into the future. We have reduced the number of special events that we do to two signature events each year, and now concentrate on major giving, planned giving, and annual giving.

Is one area more important?

Right now, we’re working on planned giving. We have just customized a planned giving package that provides resources that lawyers and investment managers will find useful in order to begin the conversation with their clients about the value of supporting the hospital. It provides information on how to word your will, various ways to support, tax benefits of a donation, etc. It includes a staggered brochure of cards, and on the back of each card is a statement of impact from a physician or patient.

Describe a recent/current project at the foundation that you’re proud of.

A priority of Health Sciences North is a new Learners’ Centre.  This past October, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care gave the green light to proceed with the building of the new facility. At the heart of the new Center is the Simulation Lab. This past year, over 1,900 learners have logged 12,857 simulation hours at 171 events. World-class educational programs are offered in Pediatrics, Emergency Medicine, Anesthesia and Critical Care as well as a number of nursing and certification courses.  Medical professionals come to the Learners’ Centre to gain valuable skills and many have chosen to stay in Northern Ontario. HSN Foundation is very proud of the support that we have given to this project.

With the support of our donors, the Foundation will fund 10% of the build cost, and 100% of the equipment costs, including innovative teaching materials. The shovel should be going into the ground in the next month or so! * We’re really proud of the backing the community has given and continues to give to this project.

*This interview was given in February 2018.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing fundraisers in Canada right now?

One of the things that have been subject to discussion lately is that the percentage of tax filers who donate to charities is down, but the people who are donating are donating more. What does this mean to our charities moving forward? We know that it is important to concentrate on donor acquisition and retention yet some organizations are challenged to be able to invest the time and resources needed to do so.  

People are able to support in so many different ways —they can give $2 at the grocery store or they can do a GoFundMe campaign. As an organization, we have to be strategic in our messages and our platforms, with consideration given to the audience we communicate with. We have to change with the times, the use of new technologies and social media are important parts of our business now.

What types of those new methods of giving are you using?

We have created partnerships with service providers. For example, we offer insurance policies to our staff with a percentage of the policies written coming back through the Foundation to support the hospital. A national chain of furniture stores provides special prices for employees of the hospital and the Foundation receives credits that we can use to purchase some of the furniture needs of the hospital.

What strategies are you using on social media?

We have been able to increase followers on our Facebook page by highlighting our “STAR” program.  The STAR Program, or Special Thanks And Recognition, provides a way for patients and families to recognize a staff member, physician, paramedic or volunteer. When someone is recognized, we feature the recipients on social media. We find that these posts are shared and shared again, gaining us followers and support.  We find that the number of likes and shares are quite high, particularly when we feature physicians and their teams.

How do you collect stories and find STAR recipients?

Patients or their families come to the Foundation to purchase their STAR. This includes a personal message from the donor to the recipient and a STAR pin that is presented to the STAR at the department huddle in front of their peers. The STAR receives a certificate and a copy goes into their employee file. The donation that is received goes to support the department where the STAR works.

STAR program brochures are available in every department in the hospital and the program is featured on a large billboard in our main hall. We also have a great partnership with our local newspaper, also called the “STAR”. Each month they feature the story of a patient or family who has donated in recognition of staff along with the staff member or physician who has been recognized.  Our best promoters of the STAR program are the staff and physicians on the floors. They understand that patients and families want to say thank you and this is a way to provide an avenue for them to do so while supporting the hospital.

We have recipients with four or five STARs on their coats. They’re wearing the STARs with pride, spreading the story with patients. When staff members see someone from the Foundation coming to their huddle or meetings, they get excited and know that someone is getting a STAR!

You have attended several AHP Convene Canada Conferences. What has the value of the conferences been to you and your foundation?

It’s been huge! I think the most important part for me is the networking. I’ve come to know quite a few people from other hospitals and it’s amazing to be able to reach out to somebody and ask an opinion or a question. It’s very relevant to what we’re doing—we’re all facing the same challenges and issues. Other foundations have become great partners, for example, the Royal Victoria Hospital Foundation generously shared their template for planned giving which we were able to customize to make our own.

What is one piece of advice you would give someone new to healthcare philanthropy?

Get to know your hospital, build relationships with the people who are within the hospital so you understand the need. You want to understand what is happening and what is possible with the support of donors. When you talk to a donor, you can tell them of the impact that their donation has made on healthcare in your community or region. Get to know your donors – build and maintain those relationships. Always remember that it is harder and more expensive to get a new donor than to build a relationship and keep the donor you already have.

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