Leading a hospital foundation such as VGH and UBC in Vancouver entails dedication, pride, and honor to serve a community seeking for quality health care. In this episode, host Douglas Nelson talks to Angela Chapman, the CEO of Vancouver General Hospital (VGC) and UBC Hospital Foundation, who shares her experience as an SVP who transitioned to become the SEO of the organization. Having experienced raising funds in a global scale, Angela explains how different countries vary in their attitudes toward fundraising. She also shares what teamwork and collaboration really means and talks about how she’s incorporating personal mission statements and actual day-to-day work in the social profit sector.
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VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation With Angela Chapman
Our guest is Angela Chapman. She’s the CEO of the Vancouver General Hospital & UBC Hospital Foundation. Welcome, Angela.
Thanks for having me, Doug.
You’ve been the CEO of VGH & UBC Foundation, I want to get into that and understand what that transition has been like. First, tell us a little bit about how you got into the fundraising game.
It goes back to my days at university. I was an undergraduate of McGill and moved out there from Vancouver and I was struggling financially. My boyfriend at the time said, “I saw this ad for a caller in the McGill Phone Program calling alumni to ask for money.” I went to an interview and got the job. I started there as a caller. I got promoted to be a supervisor. When I finished my undergraduate program, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. In fact, I was continuing to do some courses to qualify to get into medicine. I took a job in the Annual Giving Program at McGill. That’s how it all started.
I have often said that if you’re hiring people to start as professional fundraisers, anyone who’s worked in that student phoning program isn’t going to be afraid of cold calls. They’ll be a good development officer.
You got it. I went on rather than going into medicine and that’s a long story. I ended up doing an MBA at Laval. With my business education, I saw the components of marketing and strategy and how they would apply to fundraising. I ended up going back and working for McGill and Major Gifts and then my career took off from there.
You left McGill and then you spent some time overseas. Tell us about leaving Canada and fundraising around the world.
In around the early 2000s, my husband and I were living in Ontario at that time I was working for the Richard Ivey School of Business. We thought that we wanted to get to a warmer climate. Having been from Vancouver and him from Morocco, we were both getting a bit tired of Eastern Canadian winters and wanting an international experience. We started looking around outside the country for positions and I landed on Australia and New Zealand. In my mind, at least I landed on it. I got a call out of the blue from a headhunter for a position in Sydney, Australia. That led to my going to work for the Australian Graduate School of Management in Sydney, Australia.
We stayed there for three years and then the parent University of the Australian Graduate School of Management was the University of New South Wales and they were setting up in Singapore. I went as the Founding Director of External Relations for the University of New South Wales, Asia to Singapore. That campus closed down. The university decided to end its endeavor in Singapore. I went to work for the National University of Singapore as the Director of Advancement and Campaign. I helped them build up an operation and launch a $1 billion US campaign which is the first billion-dollar campaign in Asia.
One of the questions that I got when I left Canada and I went to the United States and came back was how is fundraising different there? How was fundraising different in Singapore?The success of the team is often determined by the weakest player. Click To Tweet
In McGill, there was a sense that much like in Canada, the government-funded institutions were getting a bit squeezed and they were going to look to philanthropy, develop the relationships with their alumni in order to raise funds that would close that gap. That’s what it was looking like in Australia and it was true. The Graduate School of Management was a little bit more difficult because it was largely MBAs. The sense there, unlike in Canada, was that those people would be earning a lot of money and therefore why would we support them. We had to work on all sorts of ways of building that sense of engagement, the real focus with alumni on engaging them, building up a strong alumni program in order to get to that stage where they would see the value of giving back to their alma mater, but also engaging the corporate community. There was a much strong corporate angle. With a business school, it’s a little bit different because there’s the value that you can present as an institution. Even though it’s a philanthropic contribution, there’s a value back whether that value is direct to their company or to society more broadly. That was largely our case for support.
I moved to Singapore explicitly and chose going there overstaying in Australia because at that time, the government was similar to the situation in Canada and Australia. Those institutions were looking for ways of diversifying their revenues outside of government funding and government to support that created a 2-for-1 matching policy. If a gift were given to a university endowment fund, then the government would support that with a 2-for-1 match. That was a huge incentive for Major Gift donors, for the large donors, not for the masses and for alumni engagement, but it worked for the large donors. What I saw over the course of the time that I was there was that we were beginning to build that sense of alumni engagement through reunion programs. The notion of bursaries and accessibility became the story that drove a much larger and much more broadly-based support from alumni.
Two-for-one matching sounds like a good incentive to donors and a good thing for a fundraiser’s career.
You can look at the example of UBC a number of years ago. I remember UBC having a campaign. I think that was it in the years that I was working for the McGill Development Office. UBC had an incentive from the government to match contributions. That was a great incentive and it was a game-changer for British Columbia at that time.
I worked at UBC at that time and at the end of that campaign when the donor requests for matching far exceeded the capacity of the program.
We’ve come a little bit our worst enemies with those matching programs.
I was involved in the tail-end of that, which was explaining to donors why their gift was the one that wasn’t going to be matched. A little less of an incentive for donors but we made it through. You’ve come back to Canada, you sent out to be a doctor. You returned to Vancouver at the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation responsible for fundraising. Over your time there, the organization has significantly increased both its prominence profile and fundraising success access the central linchpin for a lot of the major health partnerships in the province. How have you seen philanthropy drive that changes at the organization?
Over the years, we struggled with the notion of ourselves as a hospital foundation, it’s in our name, VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation. The greatest challenges for healthcare are outside of the acute system, outside of the hospital walls itself. The solutions to keeping our healthcare system that we all treasure in Canada to keeping it sustainable are going to be solutions that are within the community. We looked at our messaging and our name and we decided that VGH as a name and its draw. It’s a strong brand. Someone did some work in Vancouver. I can’t remember the market research firm that did it but the recall of VGH was stronger in Vancouver than Nike. The brand is an incredibly strong brand and we don’t want to lose that. VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation decided we’ll keep that name, but the reality was we needed something that would be a platform that our message would be better understood. That we were supporting the community, innovating in healthcare, and supporting these various areas that fit within the acute system. We modeled ourselves on the best academic healthcare foundations across North America. We chose six themes and we went forward with a campaign banner of vital.
Under that vital banner, we built out these six themes: community, innovation, heart and lung cancer, brain, and surgery were the six themes. We then configured our staff underneath that. That helped us get that message out there about driving innovation and supporting the community. That has lifted our support quite honestly. We’ve gone from being fundamentally and excellent grateful patient operation, that took a lot of referrals from inside the hospital, worked with patients and their families that were grateful for the service they received. We’ve broadened now beyond that and we are getting a lot of broad-based community support for the campaigns that we’re driving. The brain campaign is seeing a number of donors come to us online and direct mail. That was true for a surgery campaign and it’s also true for a number of the initiatives in the community.
How much of your postsecondary fundraising background went into that concept of the six themes? Were you thinking of those as independent faculties with fundraising leadership that worked with the medical staff on those?
That certainly was a model that we looked at. It has informed the way that we’ve moved forward. One of the universities perhaps ahead of hospital foundations and the real focus on relationship-based fundraising. The model of the organization of a Major Gift team, the fundraising key performance metrics that are used for Major Gift officers. We instituted a lot of that over the years which has driven the performance as well.
At the beginning of 2020, you moved offices down the hall and now the CEO is your predecessor, had left the organization. A question I love asking people, tell me about that first day. What was it like coming into the office when you knew that you were heading into the big chair that day?
It’s funny that you say that because the first day was quiet. I took the job on the 1st of January. The 2nd of January is my first day in the office. It was still fairly quiet. In fact, it was a little bit of the calm before the storm. On the 6th of January coming back into the office and suddenly, everyone was here. I felt that incredible difference. Somewhat it was a continuity because we had begun with Barbara Grantham as a CEO, there was a good two-month transition where we went out and met with donors and the board chair. There was a graceful and well-planned handover that happened. In some ways, my first day was made a lot easier by that. It wasn’t such a shocking transition. It came a couple of weeks later as things started to end at my desk. I would have come down the hall to Barbara’s office and had a chat with her, it was no longer an option. It came to me and it had stopped there. I had to make a decision. That was interesting.
That challenge of looking around and saying, “Somebody needs to make a decision here. I wonder who’s going to make a decision? It’s me. I have to make that decision.” As you were getting ready to take on this role and as you’re going through that plan’s transition, being the CEO, your relationship with the team is different. How did you approach her? How did you think about the different kinds of relationships you’re going to be having with the fundraising team that had been reporting to you for many years now that you are the CEO?
It’s not a thing that I reflected on and now it’s done and I move on. It’s something I have to keep on reflecting on every day and bringing back to the top of mind, which is what type of team do I want to have? What type of leader do I want to be? I had some good advice from the Sage Bev Briscoe, which was you should create a mission statement. That mission statement is guided by a set of values coming back to that set of values all the time. As I have an interaction with my leadership team either collectively or with individual members, I’m coming back to that mission statements and those values and saying, “Am I reflecting that mission statement and those values?” One always makes mistakes and you can course-correct and you can reverse. One wants to think these things through. Having that mission statement is a guide. It’s a good way of having those thoughts and trying to stick to that course. You have the compass that guides you.
How did you develop that mission statement? What was the process that you used to write at that?
Some of it is going back to your core values. I thought about this a lot before coming into the position, I reflected on what was it that I wanted to achieve? As much as I’ve been in roles where a lot of the achievement is focused on the bottom line and the outcomes, the move to being the CEO, as much as those things remain is still important to your success. Even more fundamental to your success is, what is it that you stand for? It’s going to be those things after a 5, 7, 8, 10-year period, whatever time that you’re in that role, it’s those things that you’re going to be remembered for, that you’re going to have put into action, to have impacted the organization and other people around you.
Fundamentally for me, the reflection was that I believe in teamwork. I’ve always been a believer in teamwork whether it’s in sports as a soccer player, I was president of my daughter’s synchro club. The notion that a team is made better, you need strong performers. In certain sports, you need stronger performers than in other sports. Ultimately, when you’re in a team sport, the success of the team is determined by the weakest player often. You’ve got to bring everybody along. Teamwork is fundamental and thinking about that and how do you get everybody on board with decisions. My bigger challenge is not so much making the decisions, as you were saying before, the backstops are making a decision.
It’s holding myself back from making that decision and instead Including all of those people around the table and the leadership team in crafting that decision and coming to a decision. A collective decision that we can live with that is going to be then rolled out in the organization in a far more effective way. The next value in terms of teamwork, that was fundamental. Another important value for me is collaboration. It flows from teamwork. To a certain extent, teamwork is the internal value that I would like to see carried out and be a fundamental part of our foundation. Externally, it expresses itself in terms of collaboration. Collaboration is key.
You talked about our foundation having built so much strength as the leader of important initiatives within the province. That is our role as the largest healthcare foundation serving adults in this province. It’s important for us to see that the solutions to healthcare are going to come not from single institutions. Even our institutions that are under our banner, they are not going to solve all of these problems. We’re going to have to collaborate with cancer agency, UBC, St. Paul’s Hospital, and other hospitals across the province. That’s going to make for better care. As a foundation, how do we work with other foundations to support those collaborations? How do we collaborate?A message of collaboration and finding win-win between foundations is important. Click To Tweet
As you know because you have that background, sometimes that’s a bit of a challenge to us as foundations because we try to guard our turf in terms of our donors and protect our space. There’s an appetite from donors. I hear it more and more that they want to see that collaboration. Vancouver is a big market now compared to what it was. It’s still a relatively small market. We don’t have a lot of head offices here in terms of philanthropic giving. It’s certainly a lot smaller than Toronto. We needed to be mindful of going back to the same donors all the time. A message of collaboration and finding win-win between foundations is important.
When you were talking about teamwork, I wanted to ask you if you can reflect on a time where you wanted to know the answer or make the decision but waited and ended up changing your mind.
I wish I had that one in advance that I could think about. It’s not the opposite but I had a lot of learning out of our rollout of those six themes. It would be an example where I would say that I’m not sure that it would be a different decision but there were a lot of things that could have been made a lot smoother by much greater collaboration in formulating that decision to come to those six themes and the way in which they were rolled out. What I have learned over the years is that greater socialization of an idea and collaboration on creating that idea leads to a far better outcome. It’s not all decisions that can be made like that as you know. Sometimes there’s a need for urgency and moving quickly. You do have to take the decision and live with the wake that is on that path.
The most change is a lot better if there is that collaborative process in the decision making and in socialization moving forward. One other thing about the team that I’ve now assembled for my leadership team is it’s been explicitly put together with not only the talents that we need from within the organization. These are all people that were with the organization already but they all have different thinking styles. Because of that, we’re getting much better decisions. The challenge is those decisions need a lot of talking out so that is time. We’re getting good solid decisions from the group and its early days. I can see the benefits of that approach. The challenge is it does take more time and you have to make that time to get to know one another, to form as a team, to get the full benefits of those different thinking styles.
As the new CEO, you’re investing in the strength of that team so that they’ll be able to make those decisions either more quickly or with more trust of one another as you go forward.
You got it. We’ll be having a retreat together for two days. That will be a great opportunity to dig into some of the challenges that we’re going to face. Also, get to know each other and to form more as a team. Those times are important. Another piece of advice that was given to me was to make those times for not just work-related activities. If you have your leadership team retreat but your regular leadership team meetings, having a monthly lunch or activities like that get people to know one another as individuals, not just as co-members of the leadership teams are important.
Trust equals speed going forward. Speaking of trust and learning curves, as senior vice president, you would have done presentations to the board, worked with the individual board members as they were supporting the various fundraising for the various themes. Now you’re the CEO, how did you approach the different relationship you’d have with those individuals with the board when you moved from SVP to CEO?
Another great piece of advice that someone gave me, rather than saying, “No, but,” say, “Yes, and.” That approach is critical to board members. Every board member that we have comes with an enormous amount of experience and depth of knowledge often in a specific area of business. It’s not always. Some of them have senior leadership positions across industries but many of them are deep in their industry and they’re experts. They are coming to our business and their advice on our strategies with a particular lens that has been formed by that experience. Opening it up to listening strongly and actively to how that lens is informing what they are bringing to you as advice, is not only going to provide our foundation and me with great insights.
“Yes, and,” being yes to your experience and what you’ve seen and this is how I see what you have said playing out in our context of the not-for-profit in the philanthropic sector. Often that is incredibly valuable and it brings a new way of seeing things so we have to be open to taking the learnings from that perspective and then also help bring them a bit closer to understanding the context in which we work. It’s the, “Yes, and.” It’s not that it wasn’t needed when I was in the SVP role. What it is on becoming far more aware of it in my interactions now at this level and how important it is to hear them.
You’ve put your finger right on one of the major issues for social profits in Canada and in the United States organizations that are raising millions and millions of dollars. The biggest challenge related to the boards that we see through our work at the Discovery Group is getting the board members to bring their best personal and professional selves to the table and to the role of directors of the organization. To be bringing that expertise, asking those difficult questions, but also understanding that they don’t know the core business as intimately as they know the core business of what they do when they’re not on the foundation board.
Doug, that’s exactly it. I have a little bit of exposure to this working with the Association of Fundraising Professionals. I’m on the national board and we’ve done some work. The AFP has done some work with a think tank in the UK around changing the dialogue on the fundraising profession. Part of it comes from this underlying philosophy that fundraising is not a business. It should be voluntary-based. If you don’t change that fundamental way of thinking, any of the arguments that we have around cost per dollar raised and all of these issues, they get lost in those fundamental beliefs. Changing the fundamental belief and working with your board initially, I don’t think I have to work with this board because they do understand this but it is a challenge working.
For all of those other individuals out there working with boards like this, recognizing that fundamental belief that this should be voluntary-based is an impediment to them. Understanding some of those difficult questions that we have around cost per dollar raised, building a base of support, how that’s going to cost more, and so on. It’s an impediment because they’re not looking at it even though these are experienced business people. That fundamental belief of it being voluntary-based impedes them from thinking of it like they would another business.
This is often when they’re sitting around the board table that this is their giving back. This is the nice thing that they’re doing. We could go on for a couple of hours. We can get you back on the show to talk about the consensus that goes around boards that hold organizations back. It sounds like your board is ready to make some of those the top decisions and those enabling decisions. You’ve got them aligned as you’re starting your role. I’m interested to hear what you think you’re most looking forward to in your role as the CEO.
I’m most looking forward to the changes that I see in working together. The changes that I see internally in terms of building that teamwork and collaboration with other foundations. I pride myself on having gone to roles and been a game-changer in what I’ve helped to create. I hope that I can be a game-changer in creating that environment of teamwork here in the foundation which we already have a fantastic base for it but taking it to another level and creating that model for collaboration across foundations that inspires donors in British Columbia.
Angela, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts, your insight and your excitement about what’s to come. You’ve given an important message to our audience about the need to focus on what collaboration means, what teamwork means, incorporating that not only into personal mission statements but the actual day-to-day work of our organizations in the social profit sector. Thank you for sharing that.
Thanks, Doug, for having me.
- Vancouver General Hospital & UBC Hospital Foundation
- Association of Fundraising Professionals
About Angela Chapman
VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation is delighted to announce that internal candidate and the Foundation’s current Chief Development Officer, Angela Chapman, has been appointed as the Foundation’s next President & CEO, effective January 1, 2020. The appointment was confirmed by a unanimous vote of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.
Vancouver native Angela has over 25 years of fundraising experience, acquired building philanthropic programs right here in Canada, and across the globe in Australia and Singapore. At the National University of Singapore, she led the creation of Asia’s first billion-dollar campaign. Angela joined the Foundation in 2013 as Senior Vice President of Philanthropy and has helped build a diverse and talented team that has implemented a new theme-based fundraising model — more than doubling our annual philanthropic revenues.
Other major achievements under Angela’s strategic leadership — working closely with the Foundation’s philanthropic partner Vancouver Coastal Health and the Foundation staff team — include development of our largest ever $60M Future of Surgery campaign and the evolution of demographically-targeted fundraising. Our Foundation’s current average annual revenue is $100 million, making us one of the top five revenue producing health care foundations in Canada.
Angela says, “I am honoured and thrilled to become the Foundation’s next President & CEO, working with our exceptional staff team and partnering with donors and health care leaders across Vancouver Coastal Health. As our Foundation enters its 5th decade there is much to celebrate as we continue advancing the most specialized care for all British Columbians.”
Smooth transition and looking to the future
Christina Anthony, Chair of the Foundation’s Board of Directors, said, “Barbara and Angela will work together until the end of the year, to ensure a smooth transition for staff, volunteers, donors and our VCH partners. The VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation’s Board and staff team all join me in wishing Barbara the very best in her next professional endeavour. We are so grateful for all that has been achieved under her leadership to positively impact health care in British Columbia.”
Grantham said: “Leading VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation has been my deepest honour and privilege. I am delighted to hand the mantle to Angela who I am proud to have worked alongside for the last six years connecting the power of philanthropy with the power of health care innovation.”
Anthony concludes, “As we look to the Foundation’s future, the Board is confident that Angela, alongside all our of donors, supporters, health care partners and friends, will continue our success in philanthropic excellence in pursuit of our vital mission: Inspiring donors. Transforming health care. Saving lives.”