In 1875, nurse and humanitarian Elizabeth McMaster rented a small downtown Toronto house and acquired six iron cots. Her mission was to treat sick children. Nearly a century and a half later, the city’s world-renowned Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids)—billed as Canada’s largest pediatric academic health-sciences centre—sees upwards of 100,000 patients a year, and it’s supported by its dynamic fund-raising arm, SickKids Foundation, with additional government funding. Over the past five years, SickKids Foundation president and CEO Ted Garrard has helmed campaigns raising more than $500 million for the hospital’s patient care, research, educational programs, capital and technology advancements, continuing-care efforts, and more—with an additional $1 billion targeted through 2021.
Conducting mission-driven work in what he calls a “complex, multistakeholder environment,” Garrard is committed to an open-book fund-raising process that has raised eyebrows and consciousness in the charity and nonprofit sector.
On his first day of work in 2009, for instance, he publicly released his salary, believing donors and staff had the right to know. “Transparency and getting to know our employees on a more personal basis creates a more respectful culture in which to do our work,” he says.
SickKids Foundation is among the top one percent of North American charities for endowment performance measured over a 10-year period
SickKids’ current donor base, which continues to grow
Amount raised in 2013 alone to impact children’s health
Amount raised by SickKids in the past five years, a 40 percent increase over the previous five-year period
Today, he manages 160 people (plus hundreds of volunteers), who daily work to enroll new donors while maintaining a substantial 232,000-donor base, and his values regarding honesty and empathy have trickled down to his staff, who nominated him for the 2013 Communicator of the Year Award from the Toronto chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators, which he ended up winning. “As fund-raisers, we have to be storytellers,” he says. “And we have to be able to personalize that communication … in a way that resonates with whoever is on the other end.”
“It was the best move I ever made,” he says. “I’ve had a 30-year career in a very fulfilling sector and very fulfilling roles.” Garrard’s track record with nonprofits and philanthropic organizations is impressive, his fund-raising pulling in $1.6 billion overall, $600 million of which he collected as vice president (external) at the University of Western Ontario from 1996 to 2009. Under his baton, the university also became the first of its kind to institute Imagine Canada’s Ethical Code Program, mandating high standards in financial accountability and transparency.Garrard found his way into the nonprofit sector while working as a research analyst for the Ontario Liberal Party in the early 1980s, when he was certain he’d delve more deeply into politics or pursue teaching. His mentor, Anne Golden, convinced him to follow her to the United Way of Greater Toronto, and Garrard took a leap of faith.
When Garrard arrived at SickKids, where he was once a young patient himself, he continued his tireless push to “improve society” by first focusing on in-house communication. To that end, he got to know every SickKids Foundation staff member by name, and he made a point to learn something about each of them personally and to keep his door open, inspiring them to make a difference. Internal events such as “Breakfast with Ted” are still high on his motivational agenda to this day.
At board of directors meetings, Garrard says, communications plays a major role, the goal being to continuously connect the board to the cause it is representing. The board’s recent interaction with a patient awaiting a double lung transplant from a suitable organ donor was particularly significant, as she passed away soon after. “It reminds us that not every story is a happy one,” Garrard says. “It reminds us we have so much work still to do.”
Because of the country’s universally accessible—though fragmented—national health-care system, Garrard says, a chief focus of SickKids Foundation moving forward is to champion an enhanced network where people can go smoothly from their primary-care physicians to hospital stays to aftercare. “To continue to be one of the world’s great pediatric institutions,” he says, “we have to continue to invest in research, we have to continue to invest in state-of-the-art technology, and we have to invest in making the continuum of care for patients and families as seamless as possible.”