Top 100 2017: Swell of support brings record year for BC Children’s Hospital Foundation

On the heels of the BC Children's Hospital Foundation's best financial year ever, head Teri Nicholas sees her fundraising efforts pay off with the launch of a new kids' care centre

Credit: Pooya Nabei

Nicholas is proud of BC Children’s work on researching and treating rare diseases

On the heels of the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation’s best financial year ever, head Teri Nicholas sees her fundraising efforts pay off with the launch of a new kids’ care centre

The moment that Teri Nicholas’s six years as president and CEO of BC Children’s Hospital Foundation has been building toward is almost here. On October 29, the first children will enter the Teck Acute Care Centre: a 640,000-square-foot, eight-storey facility in Vancouver with 231 patient rooms, medical and surgical inpatient units, an emergency department, medical imaging, a pediatric intensive care unit and more. The new hospital is part of a broader three-phase redevelopment of BC Children’s and BC Women’s that is expected to cost just under $700 million. For the new acute care centre, Nicholas’s foundation donated $150 million, money raised through a multiyear capital campaign that ended in 2014.

“It’s been great energy here for us to watch it come together,” says the Wisconsin native, who has a master’s in social work and previously served as CEO of Family Services of Greater Vancouver for 10 years. “It’s something we all hold near and dear to our hearts, because we know how important it was to have this state-of-the-art hospital for our fabulous caregivers to work out of. And really wonderful for the children and families who need to be here. To have a place where parents can actually be, and stay, with their child, in a room that has light, windows—many of the things that our current hospital doesn’t have.”

So, how do you follow capital success? With a record-breaking fiscal year, it appears: in 2016, the BCCHF saw overall revenue topping $100 million—”the best financial year in the history of the foundation,” Nicholas says. Money raised goes not only to the hospital but also to the Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children, a facility for kids with development disabilities (which will be moved to the old hospital in 2019, following renovations), and the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute.

Nicholas says that during a capital campaign, fundraising efforts can get diverted to the big project, so now she’s excited to train her attention on some of the day-to-day organizational needs—”on how we move what they’re doing from good to great, so to speak. To how we can really advance research and put ourselves on the map.” She’s particularly proud of the work the hospital is doing on researching and treating rare diseases. “One in 12 people have a rare disease,” Nicholas notes, “and most of them are children.”

Still, fundraising without a big target—that flashy capital campaign—is challenging in the best of times, especially with so many good causes asking for cash in B.C. And Vancouver is not Toronto, with its corporate head offices, or the U.S., with its culture of big-money philanthropy. (Here, a so-called major gift is $25,000, Nicholas says; in the U.S., it’s often $25 million or more.) Those differences—and the difficult road ahead for fundraisers everywhere—are something she’s well aware of.

“As foundations and charities, we form relationships with people who care about what we care about,” says Nicholas, whose own son (now 38) was treated at BC Children’s when he was seven years old. “I believe that’s how we all work. We probably all think the same thing: that we have the best cause. For me, I love getting up every morning, coming here and knowing that I’m probably going to make a difference in somebody’s life. And when I talk to donors, it’s the same thing: it’s the feeling that they’re going to make a difference—that they can help a child get better.”