The power of passion: How Kathy Hay has reinvigorated fundraising efforts for Women’s College Hospital
As President & CEO of Women’s College Hospital Foundation, Kathy Hay leads the team responsible for generating the private and community funding that’s required for WCH to close significant gaps in the healthcare system and continue to forge the path toward better healthcare for women and their families.
By Marie Moore
When the first fundraising campaign for Women’s College Hospital launched in 1916, the goal was to raise $120,000 (a few million in equivalent dollars today) to expand their space. How did they achieve it? Through the efforts of an ambitious campaign committee, whose members were mainly focused on persuading women in the community to contribute small amounts of their “milk money” toward the greater goal — and the greater good. It’s a fundraising model that has continued to work for WCH throughout the decades, even today.
“I think there has always been an entrepreneurial, innovating spirit at Women’s,” says Kathy Hay, president and CEO of Women’s College Hospital Foundation. “It reflects what we’ve been doing all along — pushing ahead with courage and tenacity, driven by a shared vision for the future of healthcare.”
Kathy has certainly been carrying on that trailblazing tradition. She joined the Foundation three years ago, taking on the leadership role with only two years left of a ten-year campaign to achieve an ambitious target of $70 million to help build a brand new, state-of-the-art facility for WCH. And while she calls her entry to the Foundation “simply an infusion of new energy,” there’s no doubt she was responsible for greatly reinvigorating the campaign’s fundraising efforts. Within her first year, that $70 million goal was surpassed and the campaign ultimately closed at $77 million. Even more incredible is the fact that this historic fundraising milestone was achieved without an anchor donation, relying instead on the generosity of 22,000 individual donors — a community effort reminiscent of the hospital’s very first campaign in 1916.
Today, the Foundation’s donor community consists of over 33,000 individuals, foundations and corporate partners and, together, that community has broken fundraising records year after year since the close of the building campaign.
This success is testament to the strategic vision and strong values that have been the hallmarks of Kathy’s highly effective leadership. Using her authenticity and passion, Kathy has been able to communicate the funding needs of the hospital in terms of how they will revolutionize healthcare for women and for all Canadians — from a patient-centred, ambulatory approach that creates a better and more efficient healthcare experience, to community outreach efforts that provide support for marginalized and remote communities, to tackling specific gaps in care when it comes to women’s health.
“This is work that impacts women and families far beyond the four walls of our institution,” says Kathy. “It is the groundbreaking research, new models of care and health system innovations that will give hope and healing to generation after generation of women and their families. We are incredibly privileged to work with a community of donors who share this hospital’s vision to create a stronger, more equitable healthcare system for everyone and who choose to invest in that vision.”
Kathy’s own path into the fundraising profession started in South America. After a successful career in banking, she made a move to Brazil with her family and began looking for a new path that would allow her to give back. Working with the Canadian Consulate in Sao Paulo, she launched the Canadian Foundation and ultimately discovered her passion. Upon her return to Canada, Kathy found mentors to guide her career change. Her business acumen, talents and profound desire to effect change have since benefitted countless thousands of lives, and she shows no signs of slowing down.
“It is the groundbreaking research, new models of care and health system innovations that will give hope and healing to generation after generation of women and their families.”
Atypical to most post-major-campaign environments, now that the new hospital is up and running, Kathy and her team’s efforts have only increased. “The opening of our new facility really marked the beginning of a bold new era of impact for Women’s College Hospital,” she says. “When people think about how they can help advance healthcare for women and create change across the entire healthcare system, we want them to think about WCH. The work we’re doing now to engage the community in this important work will fuel an extraordinary future for this hospital and for women and families all over Canada.”
Kathy’s inspiring leadership has led to three years of record support and a wave of new donors that builds in size and momentum year after year. Her primary focus is on developing stronger relationships that can lead to transformational donations with enormous impact. She has recently been pivotal in bringing in an unprecedented $12 million collaborative gift to establish the Peter Gilgan Centre for Women’s Cancers at WCH, a new partnership between the community, the Gilgan family, the hospital and the Canadian Cancer Society to transform care for women’s cancers.
And these efforts mean more than establishing excellence of care, which Kathy views simply as a baseline. The aim of WCH is to ensure that when research discoveries or surgical innovations happen, there’s a natural distribution channel to scale up that solution across the system. “What this means to me, for example, is that a woman in Sioux Lookout, Ontario – where my dad’s family is from – may not die from cancer because she has access to the same level of care, resources and support as a woman who lives in downtown Toronto. This is powerful, impactful work, and the more the community supports this hospital, the broader that impact will be.”
Ultimately, Kathy is a leader who stands firmly in her values and believes that every success is the result of teamwork. She believes that no one person can change the world – that true change is only possible through the power of passion and the power of a team and a community working together.
“There’s a quote I love to share that, to me, articulates our values as a Foundation perfectly: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.’ Only together — as a team and as a community — can we create the extraordinary impact we envision. I have no doubt we’re going to go incredibly far.”
For more than 100 years Women’s College Hospital (WCH) has been developing revolutionary advances in healthcare, and working to close the health gaps that exist in healthcare for women because their unique needs are not taken into consideration. Today, WCH is a world leader in the health of women and Canada’s leading, academic ambulatory hospital. It focuses on delivering innovative solutions that address Canada’s most pressing issues related to population health, patient experience and system costs.
For more information about how WCH is transforming patient care, visit www.womenscollegehospital.ca. To find out how you can give and get involved, visit www.wchf.ca.