Laurie Clarke, CEO of BC Women's Hospital & Health Centre Foundation
Big changes are in the works at BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre. This fall the B.C. government announced the first $90 million in funding for a long-planned $300-million redevelopment project for both Women’s Hospital and its neighbour, BC Children’s Hospital. And within mere days of the announcement, the Women’s Hospital Foundation, which handles charitable donations to the institution, announced a new CEO, former BCIT vice-president of development Laurie Clarke. A veteran fundraiser, Clarke now faces the challenge of matching the hospital’s growth with increased community support, winning the attention of B.C. philanthropists already swamped with worthy requests for help from charities squeezed by the recession.
How long were you at BCIT?
For just over 10 years, the longest I’ve been in any one position in my career. As vice-president of development, I was part of the senior leadership and also oversaw all the fundraising and the alumni association.
What was the biggest development at BCIT in your time there?
It’s difficult to choose, but I guess from a development perspective, there was the capital campaign for the new aerospace campus at YVR, which was worth over $10 million, significantly more than what was raised in the past. It took the development initiatives at the institute to a new level and really also broadened the awareness of the scope of the training that goes on at BCIT. That really propelled us forward to be able to engage the broader community in major giving support; it opened the corporate boardrooms to BCIT.
What made you decide to move to Women’s Hospital?
I just felt it was time for a change. I’d been at BCIT for some time. It was kind of like, If I am going to do something different in my career before I don’t work anymore, this is the time. When I decided, I really did not have any other commitment, and coincidentally – wonderfully – this opportunity presented itself right as I made that decision. So it all kind of fell into place. Changes like this take reflection and careful consideration, but also take courage. But I’ve always benefited from change. On a personal level, it’s good for your mind and your spirit and it helps to expand your personal knowledge and the circle of really inspirational people that you get to know in this type of work. But it’s also very gratifying to contribute to a worthy organization and, hopefully, help move it to a new level.
What are your responsibilities now as head of the foundation?
Women’s Hospital is best known as one of Canada’s busiest maternity care centres; over 7,000 babies are delivered here on an annual basis. But there are also many other programs that perhaps aren’t as recognized, everything from breast health, osteoporosis, reproductive health. B.C. Women’s Hospital is a world leader in the work done with HIV/AIDS in ensuring the non-transmittal from pregnant moms to their babies. So I think we have a great story to tell and I’m not sure we’ve done the best job telling it. There is a plethora of things to engage the public in both knowing about and hopefully supporting.
The hospital will be growing as a result of the recent funding. Are there plans to grow the foundation’s work as well?
Absolutely. They’re intertwined. I think there are many untold stories here that I’m really looking forward to bringing some awareness to, taking those stories and programs of special interest to people that would really care about supporting them. Being able to talk about the impact of the great work that happens here is really going to help us a great deal, and I really believe that we can do that.
What’s your advice for people who may be struggling with how they should give back?
What we’re seeing in the world of philanthropy today is donor fatigue. Businesses and individuals are all presented, almost on a daily basis, with a plethora of requests from worthy organizations. So how do they choose? In the corporate world, they are putting a process in place to manage the requests and prioritize the requests, sometimes in keeping with their own business objectives and with a lot of input from employees on what their charity of choice might be. Over and above that, I think donors deserve a solid case for support. It’s sometimes seen as an investment, so you have to be able to justify your request with a solid business plan that will demonstrate a tangible result. And I think that helps them decide too. If it’s a rational and well-articulated case for support, I think the likelihood of acquiring that funding is much greater.