TLA Profile: Nanaimo & District Hospital Foundation

Submitted on Wed, 11/16/2011 - 6:11pm

Nanaimo & District Hospital Foundation

  • Year founded: 1977
  • 20 full-time staff and 12 part-time staff
  • 10 board members
  • $2 million annual budget, approximate (FY 2012)
  • Raises funds for four health care facilities in the Central Island area of Vancouver Island, including the island's busiest emergency department
In the midst of change Nanaimo & District Hospital Foundation's president and e-strategy coordinator wanted a reality check.

Daniel Cayer was intrigued upon learning about the Technology Leadership Academy (TLA).  As the coordinator of volunteer services and e-strategy for Nanaimo & District Hospital Foundation (NDHF), Cayer thought it would be a good opportunity for him and the organization’s president, Maeve O’Byrne, to confirm that they were on the right track.

“[We applied] mainly to validate what we were doing, to look at our tech ROI [return on investment], see how we compared to other nonprofits and whether there were new things we should be reviewing or looking at,” Cayer explained.

The months leading up to the TLA had been an extremely busy time for the organization, whose mission is to help donors to advance healthcare in central Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Cayer had logged 18 months on the job, and his position was a new one for the organization. The NDHF also recently had gone through a rebranding. This included redesigning its website to make it simpler to navigate and more user-friendly overall since the Foundation’s target audience is comprised largely of seniors. At the same time, too, NDHF was transitioning its donor management database, financial database, and website to Blackbaud's "cloud" hosting.

“A lot was coming together," said O'Byrne. "I wanted to satisfy my curiosity about where we were in comparison to other nonprofits, and [I wanted] a reality check in terms of what we were spending.”

"My role was new, too," added Cayer. "In the past there wasn't really someone whose job responsibilities included e-strategy and tech investment, so there was a need there for validation of the position, making sure it was headed in the right direction."

Both O'Byrne and Cayer's biggest concern about participating in the Academy was the time commitment, and it was difficult, they both agree. Still, at least one of them managed to attend every session. Cayer took the lead on homework assignments, which sometimes served as a springboard for additional conversations between him and O'Byrne. The weekly assignments also led the two to "dig for some data,” which they found useful. 

Although some of Cayer's main projects--making website improvements and moving the nonprofit to cloud-based software applications, to name just two--had been planned prior to the TLA, "the Academy validated that we were moving in the right direction with them,” he said.

Cayer also conducted an ROI analysis of NDHF’s tech spending during the Academy. Although he’d done ROI analyses before and knew how, the Academy served as a “refresher that brought the formulas back to life,” he said.

As a result of the analysis he found that NDHF was right on target for a medium-sized organization: 5% (4% for small nonprofits; 6% for large). This helped O’Byrne rest easier. “I was always asking Daniel, ‘Why are you spending the money?'" she said.

Cayer gained a better sense of how to pitch new ideas to his boss through the TLA. “Now when he wants to suggest or introduce something, he anticipates what my questions will be, and he comes with the answers right away—what’s the ROI; will it, over the long-term, pay for itself and generate revenues; is it easy to roll out and easy to be understood by our target audience? Those are all key issues for us,” she said.

Technologies and features that donors and prospective donors can quickly grasp are critical to NDHF's mission. "Particularly if it's a way for donors to make a gift, can we explain it in a way that's easily understood? Our donors have to feel comfortable with it, and also that we're not pushing them too far. Our community doesn't like to feel pressured, and we're very observant of that," O'Byrne said.

That's why recently she gave Cayer the go-ahead to implement mobile giving, an additional touch point that NDHF hopes also will reach a new, younger, donor demographic. The costs of entry and to maintain mobile giving were minimal compared to other channels, Cayer explained, since many fundraising-related administrative expenses are eliminated.

“He had it all worked out," O'Byrne said. "The numbers worked for me, and the ideas to introduce it to our supporters worked for me, so I said ‘Okay, we’ll go for it.’ And now he has to scramble because I gave him a deadline,” she joked. (Cayer met the deadline, and donors can now text “LIFE” to a designated number to make a $10 donation.)

As a result of going through the TLA, Cayer learned more about NTEN, which he wasn’t familiar with before applying. He also found out about several new resources, including speakers’ websites, blogs and newsletters. “I might not have found out about those if I hadn’t been part of the Academy,” he said.

Going through the program also has had an impact on O’Byrne as the organization's leader. "I feel confident we’re on the right track,” she said. And the TLA whetted her appetite for a more advanced tech program. “What we're hungry for now is more of what's new, what’s next, what are the bells and whistles, and where can we stretch ourselves--where do we want to be down the road?”