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Profile: Dianne Lister, ROM Governors

President and Executive Director, ROM Governors

By: Alison Palkhivala

Dianne Lister has long been a leader in the Canadian philanthropic and not-for-profit scene. In May 2011, she was appointed president and executive director of the ROM Governors. In this capacity, she oversees the Board’s efforts to maintain the long-term financial health of the ROM, one of Canada’s largest museums, with such activities as fundraising and fostering sustainable relationships that are valuable to both the institution and its donors. She will also help implement the ROM Governors’ current mandate, which includes improving visitor accessibility, developing digital content, promoting education, and developing new programming and exhibits.

Prior to joining the ROM Governors, Lister was vice president of External Relations & Advancement at Trent University, the same university where she obtained her undergraduate degree in 1971. In this position, she helped develop a refreshed philanthropic vision for the university. Her accomplishments there include establishing a groundbreaking campaign with a goal to raise $50 million in new investment to celebrate Trent’s 50th anniversary. Lister also developed Trent’s innovative Centres of Knowledge philanthropic model.

Before Trent, Lister was president and CEO of SickKids Foundation, the largest hospital foundation in North America, which raises funds for The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. During her 10-year tenure there, annual revenues increased from $6 million to $50 million, endowments from $125 million to $500 million, and SickKids’ annual donor base from 70,000 to 110,000. It was also under Lister’s leadership that SickKids Foundation launched its first endowment campaign, “Help Make SickKids Better.”

Lister has headed her own consulting service, the Dianne Lister Group, which provided customized services to the non-profit and philanthropic sector. Her services included designing and conducting organizational and fundraising audits, developing strategic business plans and customized training associated with major gifts and campaigns, and providing ethics consultations.

Lister has also lent her philanthropic expertise to the Metro Toronto District of the Canadian Cancer Society and to the Catholic Children’s Aid Society.

Currently sitting on three boards, she has served on the Board of Directors of Cedara Software Corporation and as a trustee of the Ivy Funds. She is a member of the international Association of Fundraisers (AFP), where she served as the inaugural chair of the Board of the AFP, Canadian Council, as well as chair of its International Ethics Committee. She is the first Canadian ever to hold this position.

For her philanthropic efforts, Lister has received many awards, including the AMS/John Hodgson Award for outstanding leadership in 2004 from the Ontario Bar Association, as well as the International Outstanding Fundraising Executive of the Year Award in 2002, given by the AFP – another Canadian first. Lister has been a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) since 1995.

After obtaining her undergraduate degree from Trent, Dianne Lister went on to obtain a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. She is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Canadian and Ontario Bar Associations. Lister also holds a certificate in Magazine Journalism from Ryerson University, and has taken the Harvard-MIT Program in Negotiation.