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Raise Funds and Staff Spirits with a Peer-to-Peer Award Program

Jenny Love
Published:  12/02/2020

MCH awards of excellence

This year, Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation is honoring their Awards of Excellence recipients virtually.


For almost 20 years, the foundation at Montreal Children’s Hospital has been running its Awards of Excellence program of peer-nominated awards sponsored by corporate donors that simultaneously raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for the foundation while recognizing exceptional staff, from physicians to “unsung heroes” like cafeteria staff.

Recently I talked to Kim Fraser, vice president of marketing, communications and community relations, about the program’s success and how other foundations can replicate this effective program.

AHP Connect: How did the Awards of Excellence originally come about? 

Kim Fraser: The program originally came about as a result of somebody asking how we could make our staff feel special during a difficult time for them at the hospital. It’s now in its 19th year. 

AHP: Who sponsors the awards?

Kim: One organization sponsors each of the awards. It’s mostly corporate, especially medium-sized businesses, though we do have a family foundation that loves nursing. 

We name the awards after the sponsors, so you might have the Pfizer Medical Award of Excellence. We change the names of the awards every year as sponsors change, but the categories remain the same

AHP: What do sponsors receive?

Kim: We have a very well developed sponsorship package and a visibility plan. We take photos with the sponsors at the award ceremony so they have some content to share on their social media. We do a special edition of the hospital magazine that profiles all the winners with a message from the sponsor and the sponsor’s logo. Sponsors traditionally got a table at our annual ball. 

One of the great things about this program is that there's a tremendous amount of access to the hospital that you don't find in a lot of other donation opportunities. Sponsors have opportunities for their team to get involved. For example, in the past sponsors brought employees in to paint a mural for the kids in a common area of the hospital, which we would keep up for a certain amount of time.

The beauty of this program is it’s very much a relationship-type event for the sponsors. It's so personal. There's so much human contact. You get to see everybody be excited. You feel like you're part of things. 

AHP: How are award recipients nominated?

Kim: We have nomination forms. Each person who nominates somebody has to get other people to second it. The upshot of that is that it creates an award where you're literally nominated by your peers. It's not coming from the top down. 

Winners are selected by their peers as well. We give the nominations to the previous year's winners, dividing them up so that they only have to do a couple of awards each, and whoever they choose wins that year's prize. 

AHP: How is sponsorship money distributed?

Kim: Of the sponsorship, 75 percent goes to undesignated funds for the hospital, and the award recipient designates the remaining 25 percent toward an approved hospital project. The recipient can take $1,000 for themselves, but most of the time they donate that to the hospital as well.

AHP: How are recipients honored?

Kim: We have an event where the awards are presented. I've been at the foundation for eight years, and it's my favorite event. Everybody comes down to the big hospital atrium to cheer for their colleagues. Every time someone gets an award, you've got people going nuts in the crowd and waving banners. We publish the schedule of who's getting what award when, because people can't come down and spend an hour. But if I know my girlfriend's getting her award at a certain time, I can bop down on my coffee break and make sure that I'm there. 

We also take out a newspaper ad with the profiles of the winners. It's a great way to cross promote the fundraising and also the hospital. Then there's our magazine and social media newsletters. Award winners also get two tickets to our ball.

People are so proud when they win. They put it on their CVs.

AHP: What changes are you making to the award ceremony in light of the pandemic?

Kim: We’ve learned that if possible it’s best to have the winners and sponsors there in person, but we're probably not going to be able to have in-person gatherings until the spring, so we're doing it virtually.

There are upsides to doing something like this virtually. Instead of having one big ceremony where everyone gathers in the hospital atrium, we’re spreading it out so each sponsor has their own ceremony. Each one is much shorter, and we’re recording them, so the sponsors have that content to share on their social media platforms or in newsletters. 

Another upside is that virtual events can be a lot more inclusive. Sponsors are able to invite their staff to attend virtually, which is not something that they would have been able to do under normal circumstances, since it’s a big time commitment to come down to the hospital.

AHP: What is the first thing a foundation should do if they want to set up a similar program?

Kim: The first thing is to decide how you want to position this strategically. What do you want to develop? Do you want to provide this opportunity for existing donors, or do you want to go out in the community and try to interest new people? It could be a great entry point for a grateful patient or parent who is involved with a medium-sized business. 

Obviously it's great that the awards make the hospital staff feel wonderful. But we're fundraisers, not event organizers. We have to remember that's what we're here for. Look at using it strategically as a tool for your development team instead of as an event, and then the event part will work out. 

AHP: What are the most important elements that make this type of program a success? 

Kim: It could be as big or as small as you want it to be. You don’t have to start off with eight awards like we do. The most important things are that the awards are peer nominated and peer selected, and to hold a big event where everybody gets to celebrate together.

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Meet The Author

Jenny Love
Association for Healthcare Philanthropy

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