How can you have a good recruitment and retention program at your hospital? You need to provide your physicians and surgeons with the most modern and technologically advanced tools. Douglas Nelson introduces Stephanie Beck, the Executive Director of Peace Arch Hospital & Community Health Foundation (PAH Foundation). The Peace Arch Hospital Foundation serves the communities of White Rock and South Surrey. In this conversation, Stephanie shares systems their governance follows to deliver on all of the projects they said they would. There are always more possibilities to explore in serving your community. Check out those possibilities in this episode.
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Peace Arch Hospital Foundation With Stephanie Beck
Our guest on the show is Stephanie Beck. She’s the Executive Director of Peace Arch Hospital Foundation. We’re thrilled to have her on the show. Welcome, Stephanie.
Thanks so much, Doug, for having me.
Stephanie, for our audience, who may not be completely familiar, could you tell us a little bit about Peace Arch Hospital and the community that you serve?
Peace Arch Hospital and Community Health Foundation are located at Peace Arch Hospital, which is in White Rock, BC. We serve the communities of South Surrey and White Rock. It’s about a population of 110,000 people. Our local health area reflects the borders of US border, the ocean to the West, and also the Langley and Cloverdale borders in our community.
One of the reasons we were excited to have you on the show is to share the secret sauce or the magic that you have in your community in terms of being so consistent in launching and successfully completing capital campaigns to support your hospital. For our audience, I’m going to read out the last three. In 2017, completed a $15 million campaign for the emergency room. In 2018, a $10 million campaign for residential care and hospice, and complete your $22 million campaign for the construction of ORs on top of that emergency room that you built in 2017. It’s an impressive number of campaigns. How tired are you at the end of that journey?
We can’t do without our community. That’s for sure. They are the ones that are stepping up and making a difference. Our community has real ownership over the hospital. They’ve seen it grow over the last number of years. We’ve had a number of exciting projects that we have worked hard to complete. For instance, the creation of the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation Lodge, which is our 200-bed residential care, hospice, and geriatric mental health facility, took over eight years to build. There’s a lot of work that goes on in the background before the actual physical structure or the addition comes to the years constructed. We’re grateful to our community because they’ve stepped up and helped us achieve the healthcare services that our community wants and deserves.
I know why you’re so successful in the sector and why you’re doing such a good job there. When your first instinct is to thank the community and your donors, for our audience, I’m curious. You became the executive director around 2015. You have been with the foundation since 2007. You’ve seen the growth over the life of the foundation. With these campaigns, I’m curious how you keep your volunteers and your board members engaged as you move from one sprint to the next over the last number of years.
It’s important to have that engaged forward. One of the ways that we do that is as we make sure that we have a strong governance model in place for our board as well and that we have board members who serve their terms. We recruit new board members on an ongoing basis as well. There’s constantly, if you will, new blood on the board. We keep those board members who have left us. We keep them close as well because, of course, they’ve had a commitment to our organization for nine years. That’s our longest board term. They’ve been instrumental in all of the change that we’ve seen on our site and in our community as well.
I want to stay on board succession there because that’s one of the challenges that we see with a lot of the organizations that we get to work with here at the Discovery Group. Sometimes you’ve got volunteers who are part of the soul of the organization and it’s hard to let them go and organizations make the decision not to. In my own experience, in my last role, at a hospital in California, there was a board director who’d been on since 1983 consistently, which is too long. For those of you keeping track at. How do you maintain that discipline to make sure that you are getting that new blood, as you say on the board?Deliver on all of the projects you said you would. Click To Tweet
We have a robust nominating committee and that’s their entire job. It’s to identify and recruit new board members. We’re very lucky. We have a lot of interest in our board and we have a number of folks who have self-identified along with the connections that we’ve made in our community over the last number of years to allow us to be particular when it comes to our board membership.
We’re also accredited by Imagine Canada, which means that we need to have strong policies in place in the area of volunteer governance, board governance. We make sure that we live by our best practices as well, which is that you do have that recruitment and turnover in your board in a sustainable way. We adhere to that quite closely.
As Executive Director, how involved are you in that selection or the approval of the new board directors?
I sit on the committee but in a non-voting capacity.
Do you get to see them as they’re coming through?
Yes, and I’m part of the interviews as well because I have a lot of knowledge about the organization and the community. It’s myself and another board member who would interview any prospective board members. We have a number of interviews that we do with those prospective board members as well.
It’s important to have the Executive Director, the CEO involved in those conversations from the outset. One, because the new board directors need to be able to work with the CEO and vice versa. The executive director needs to be able to have a sense and a say in the type of board and the board culture that is being built. That’s the board. Now, on in these shows, I would always ask everybody, tell me about how you work with your board.
I was always struck. People always said they had the best board in the world. I don’t ask that question anymore but given the pace that your organization operates at. I’m curious how you’re able to keep the board energized and up to date on all that’s evolving as you’re running these large campaigns back-to-back and sequentially or at the same time sometimes?
It’s always been quite exciting to be sitting at our board table the last number of years because there are so many interesting projects on the go. It’s easy for them to get excited because they can also very quickly see the impact of their contributions. We’ve delivered on all of the projects that we said we would. Not only can community members see the impact but the board members can see the impact. Our board has been very supportive of the growth that our foundation has seen as well. We’re not a small team anymore for a small community hospital, which is what we are, essentially. They’ve seen investment in staff also pay dividends as well.
They’ve given me the freedom to be able to run those campaigns. We’ve had some different campaign structures. We try different things. Should we have a campaign cabinet? Should we not? What works best in this particular scenario? For instance, for the ER campaign. We did have a campaign committee that worked on that one but for the hospice and breast care campaign for the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation Lodge, we didn’t have a specific committee that worked on that one. We had two co-chairs that primarily worked on that particular campaign with our staff.
We were also running them at the round at the same time. You can’t have everybody on every committee. You want to use those resources wisely. We structure it somewhat differently. In 2020, when we were running our OR campaign raising $12 million of the 22 that we committed, we ran into the pandemic, and then there were gone where any committee meetings, cultivation, events, any events. We had to work in a different way. The structures have always slightly adapted or varied as we’ve moved through the various campaigns as well.
I would assume as your staff has grown and as your staff is to become more experienced through doing the tremendous amount of work you’ve been doing, the three campaigns, are you finding that you’re using volunteers in a different way?
As I mentioned, we had some different structures. A lot more one-on-one with certain campaign committee members. Different members have different roles. There might be door openers but they’re not very comfortable with asking. You have the ones who can’t open any doors but they’ll ask. You then have the gold standard where they have both of those things. The connections and the guts to ask. We do that.
It’s working with those particular committee members one-on-one, adapting to their skills, and working with them from that point of view. We often also assigned staff to work with certain members and that becomes their little mini group, if you will, that they then work and follow up with those committee members and the work that they’re doing.
Utilizing the one-on-one fundraiser working with volunteers is something we’re seeing a lot more of. Particularly for organizations that are doing big campaigns. That one-on-one seems to be generating better results across the board as opposed to the old-style campaigns of 20 or 30 people.
People feel uncomfortable, especially in this day and age, sitting around a room with twenty other people and doing a prospect review. Who knows who and who knows this? It can be a little bit awkward. Sometimes those conversations are more fruitful when people aren’t staring at each other across the room saying, “I don’t want to admit I know this person,” and having those one-on-one conversations with people instead.
You’ve hit on something important there. Particularly as organizations are relying on individuals, families, and foundations to make larger gifts than they have in years past. There is that nervousness or reticence that volunteers have about wanting to first be the one opening the door for a million-dollar ask as opposed to a $50,000 ask.
Also, when we’re talking about those larger gifts, the conversations tend to be more sensitive around finances. Volunteers are both less comfortable and donors are less forthcoming often when they’ve got up here in the room and having that professional staff. It helps make it okay or make them feel comfortable with doing something they ultimately want to do, which supports the campaign. I’m curious again, how your role has changed as Executive Director. As an organization you referenced, you’ve met all the commitments you’ve taken on. I would imagine the board has a healthy respect and appreciation for your role as Executive Director. Looking back over the last number of years, how has your role changed in leading the organizations as these campaigns have finished?
The challenge for me is always finding the next thing, finding the next campaign, and working with leadership at Fraser Health to identify what those priority needs are. Peace Arch Hospital was built in 1954. It was a 45-bed unit with ten doctors and a handful of nurses. It has seen a tremendous amount of growth for the last 70 years or so.
Stephanie, we’ve talked a little bit about how your use of volunteers and how your fundraising has evolved through the three campaigns. I’m curious how your role as Executive Director has changed, how you spend your time, the conversations you’re in. If you look back, what’s different than when you started in the role in 2015?
My primary job is always finding out what’s next or exploring what’s next. I work quite closely with Fraser Health and their leadership team. Both on the site and also through their corporate office in terms of identifying what the needs are at Peace Arch Hospital. It’s an older hospital that hasn’t seen any significant investment other than the last number of years in our site. There’s always a lot to do. There’s always more that we can do. In addition to fundraising for these capital campaigns, as we’ve been doing these last number of years. Every year, we also fund over a million dollars worth of medical equipment at the site.
In fact, we’re focusing on $2 million worth of medical equipment. Not only do we identify what those pieces of equipment are, but I’m currently and always looking to work with Fraser Health in terms of what the next projects might be. We’ve got a number of them on the runway already that we’re literally waiting for approval from Fraser Health and/or the Ministry to get started on them. One of the big differences between working for Fraser Health or working for a foundation is that foundations are inherently nimble. We can come to decisions very quickly.
Our board needs to have a meeting at discussion and we can go with whatever decision that they make at that table. It’s a little bit more challenging to work with a big bureaucracy like Fraser Health and the Ministry of Health to try and get things moving. Our board, our volunteers in the community, they are our community. They represent our community and through them, we hear what our community wants and needs in terms of medical services, what they would like to see at the site.The gold standard is to have both connections and the guts to ask. Click To Tweet
We are very familiar with the site as well. In working with Fraser Health, we determine what those priority areas might be sometimes long before the master concept plan that Fraser Health puts together even identifies those needs. We keep pushing forward. A lot of our work is advocacy and trying to get our voice heard at the table with the Ministry and with Fraser Health.
It can be a challenge for us because we are a small community hospital. We know that a lot of the larger investments and bigger investments are made primarily at the tertiary sites. However, we do serve over 110 constituents in our area who see this as a hospital that if there’s an emergency, they’re going to it. The general population doesn’t necessarily differentiate between the community hospital and the acute tertiary site. If they’ve got an emergency, they’re going to their nearest hospital, and you better be equipped and ready to take on whatever walks through the doors.
I want to talk a little bit about the medical equipment fund because one of the measures of maturity that we see with hospital foundations is at the early stages or when foundations are either getting started or aren’t always successful. They are not positioned well with the hospital. They get the list of equipment that the ministry or the authority didn’t fund 2/3s of the way through the year and that’s what they need money for.
The fundraising messages are very general about necessary medical equipment, which is hard to build relationships, hard to raise significant dollars. There is that next level up to where you’re a part of the conversation about what donors may support. Philanthropy is part of that original prioritization process. Not about what medical equipment is needed but what the foundation will be raising money for, getting out of that order-taker role. How have you managed to balance the budgetary needs of the hospital versus what is going to be a compelling fundraising project for the donors that are supporting your foundation?
From what I understand from what Fraser Health has shared with us is that they don’t fund a lot of medical equipment unless it’s on a contingency basis. If something breaks down and can no longer be used, then you can request to have that piece of equipment replaced. They are woefully behind on any new medical equipment at any of the sites. What we have made our approach is to work and identify with site leadership and the managers of all of the units in our hospital. Exactly what the priority needs are for the next fiscal year.
They develop a list. It’s quite a comprehensive list. I’m sure the list at Peace Arch alone. If you look at the next five years is at least $10 million plus in terms of equipment that needs to be replaced and purchased. They have this five-year rolling list. We take a look at what’s happening in that first year. We work with our administrative team and our fundraisers to determine what might be on that list. There are always going to be some pieces of equipment that are not saleable if you will but they are vital for staff usage, medical technicians, our physicians. Selling a scope is not very sexy.
No donor wants their game on a scope.
They’re incredibly important because when you have a colon screening program at Peace Arch and it is utilized and we go through a lot of them. There are some pieces that are exciting and those are the ones that we focus on with donors, and then we do fund the residual pieces as well in order to meet that commitment.
I’m curious if you’ve had the experience of having to say no to something fairly significant that’s been requested at the foundation. This is not something that we can feel comfortable or ready to put in front of donors.
It’s a smaller piece of equipment, but I’ve always said no to masqueraders. Those are basically garbage disposals. Give me a scope any day.
People may not enjoy it but they certainly understand it’s neat. It is an interesting thing for foundations in the role of philanthropy in supporting healthcare in British Columbia and across Canada. It sometimes happens where the foundation is seen as the dollars that fill the red excel spreadsheet on the minor capital equipment or a program fund. Much of the role of philanthropic leaders is to talk about why it has nothing to do with that excel spreadsheet and everything to do with the service and enhancements to care that philanthropy can come up in our system.
How often do you find or when you’re in those rare situations, maybe where you need to make that case and remind people what the role of philanthropy is? With your track record, when you speak, I’m sure they listen. What do you say to keep that donor interest in the role of philanthropy at the top of the conversation?
I was liking it to people’s cell phones. Nobody wants to work with old technology. You don’t want to have a five-year-old cell phone. Most people are getting their cell phones replaced every year. It’s the same with our medical technology or medical equipment at our site. Would you, as a patient, rather have a new scope or something that’s been patched up 30 times and repaired?
Everyone has the same answer to that, Stephanie.
It’s imperative. Also, doctors and medical technicians don’t want to play with the old toys either. If you’re going to have a good recruitment and retention program at your hospital where you’re going to draw those physicians and surgeons that you need to keep up their scope of practice at your hospital. You’re going to have to be able to provide them with the most modern and technologically advanced tools that we can provide them. That’s something that we always strive to do. To be able to help in that area as well with that physician and medical tech retention.
Also, our community deserves to have great health care close to home. They deserve to have new equipment when they’re coming into our hospital and not something that’s old and decrepit or has been patched up a number of times. We used to have an old CT scan and we purchased a new one for the hospital a couple of years ago but that older CT scan was constantly breaking down. We would have to send patients to other sites. That’s not good for the patient, for the family, to the other site that we’re transferring to them too because they have their own congestion issues.
It’s not a good scenario anyway. You look at it. When Fraser Health comes to us and they have a project. They have a piece of equipment that’s outside of the scope. We have of what’s already been approved. We always listen and take into consideration the community, the benefit to the community, the benefit to our patients and our staff. That’s the lens through which we view it.
Holding onto that is so important because once you get on the back foot of that, and you’re in that back in that order-taker role, it’s hard to present compelling or to find the compelling things to put in front of donors to give it at a significant level. It puts a ceiling on the size of the gifts that you can be raising for.
We’ve got a certain donor base as well that loves the equipment. We know who those folks are. They get very excited about that. They get excited about the immediacy of the equipment as well because once we’ve approved that list, staff can basically go ahead and order it. It’s possible that a donor might choose a piece of equipment and be able to see it in action very quickly.
Certainly, a lot quicker than when we do capital campaigns, where it can take several years for people to see the fruit of their donation. I was speaking with a donor who had made a significant gift to our trauma room in our ER. He must’ve made this gift six years ago or so. He’s like, “I hope I finally get to see it.” I’m like, “Yes, it’s coming up. You’re going to see it in December. It’ll be ready.” You have to play the patient’s game when it comes to some of these new builds.
No pun intended. We’ve talked about board members, the important relationship with hospital administration, with physicians and the health authority. I want to turn to your team now. Having an effective team as your organization has been growing critically important, of course. As the leader, what can your team do to earn up an extra special gold star with you? This is the way we make sure that they listen. We say, “We’re going to ask the boss. What’s the best way to get into good books?” It’s coming up. It’s about halfway through the show. How do they get a gold star, Stephanie?
They show up and my staff does show up. That’s what’s great about them. I know we’ve all had to make changes during the pandemic. I have to say I was one of those employers that were a little bit worried. We’re all working from home. How’s that going to work? Our staff did a fantastic job. We had one of our best fundraising years ever in 2020. Our fiscal year ended at the end of March of 2021. They kept at it. They were relentless in their pursuit of getting their work done and meeting their targets and thinking of new ways to do things.
I guess now that I’m saying that, that’s always the key success indicator for me as well with staff is, how innovative are they? What are some of the ideas that they’re coming up with? This team that I’ve got has been great in that regard. Everybody’s keen to voice their opinion, their ideas and work collaboratively on finding the best way forward. That’s what I appreciate. I don’t want to be sitting at a table with my team and I’m the only one coming up with ideas and say, “Come on folks.” I’m appreciative of the fact that they do that. They’re very entrepreneurial. That’s great.
You mentioned you were one of the employers who were a bit hesitant as people started working from home. Can you share with us when you realized it was going to be okay? The moment when you’re like, “This is going to work. We’re going to be fine.”Voice your opinion and ideas to work collaboratively on finding the best way forward. Click To Tweet
Probably within the first couple of weeks. We’re going to be okay. Again, the staff had some great ideas about how to connect with given that we couldn’t see anyone, meet anyone and have any events. We are donor event-driven at our organization. We have a lot of special tours, teas, and events where we’re getting in front of our donors on a regular basis.
It was challenging to connect with our donors in a meaningful way once all of those things were taken away. The team got together, strategize, found some great ways to connect with people. Everything from special mailings and special deliveries. That’s when I realized, “We’re going to be fine.” Here we are, months later and we’re in a hybrid working model with our staff. We’ve got folks coming in three days a week but two days a week from home and so far, that’s working.
I’m not at all surprised to hear that you figured out how to make that work. I’m glad to hear that’s the case as we come to the end of our conversation. I want to end with something we all need to spend more time thinking about. As we’re having this conversation, as leader of your organization, what are you looking forward to?
One of the things I have missed is that connection with our donors. Being able to see them, share stories, personally tell them how things are going and the updates that we have happening at the hospital and what our future plans are. I’m looking forward to getting out of these weights and connecting with those donors one-on-one again. We’re starting to do some of that work but so many things are still up in the air at this point in time.
We don’t know if we’re going to have our Gala again in May. Everything’s that wait and see pattern continuously. It gets a little bit draining after a while. We want to be able to plan and move forward. We’ve got some exciting projects coming up. We want to be able to share those with our donors in a fun way. Not on another Zoom call.
It’s good to keep relationships going through Zoom but what we’re seeing a lot of is the difficulty in starting new relationships through Zoom. Everybody’s prospect pipelines are going to be looking for some new relationships to start as we come out of this pandemic. Stephanie, if so, enjoyed the chance to get to learn more about you and your organization. For anyone that knows healthcare fundraising in British Columbia, what you and your team have accomplished there at Peach Arch is impressive. I’m glad you could share a little bit of your magic with us here.
Thanks very much for having me, Doug. That was a lot of fun.