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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection


Demand outstrips supply for medical fundraisers

By David Chilton
Special to The Toronto Sun

Medical fundraising in Canada is big business. Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital, for example, wants to raise $400 million over six years. And the Canadian Diabetes Association gets $30 million of its $65 million annual budget from fundraising, compared to just $4.6 million from government.

Given those numbers and the view of most observers that fundraising for medical and related causes is becoming increasingly important, it's no wonder demand for trained fundraisers outstrips supply.
"There has been explosive growth in philanthropic activity," says Robert Peacock, campaign director for the Mount Sinai Hospital Foundation.

"There's a tremendous labour shortage," says Ken Wyman, a professor at Toronto's Humber College. "It's the hot new career."

Wyman co-ordinates Humber's postgraduate fundraising and volunteer management certificate program, the only full-time course of its kind in Ontario.

He says 93% of his students have found work in fundraising, with jobs the most plentiful in hospitals, university research, research facilities and with disease-specific charities.

The Humber program takes 30 students a year. Almost all of them have a degree -- although the college makes exceptions for those with extensive life experience -- and is heavily skewed towards women, says Wyman. This year's class is roughly 25% male, about the highest it's been in the program's four-year history. Student ages range from early 20s to the 50s. Tuition costs are about $4,800.

Humber has part-time courses in fundraising as well, and although they don't count towards the certificate the college does credit them as "prior learning." Ryerson University and George Brown College, both in Toronto, also offer part-time fundraising courses.

Of course, not every medical fundraiser in Canada has graduated from Humber or taken courses at Ryerson or George Brown. Some, such as Mount Sinai's Rob Peacock, took a different route.
But, Ken Wyman co-ordinator of Humber College's post-graduate fundraising and volunteer management certificate program, says, "There's a tremendous labour shortage."

Peacock worked for the Bill Davis Tories at the Ontario Legislature, moved into PR, then raised funds for the University of Toronto and Ryerson before joining Mount Sinai. He, too, is convinced the need for professional fundraisers will grow.

"There has been explosive growth in philanthropic activity," says Peacock, campaign director for the Mount Sinai Hospital Foundation, with giving to health-related causes the highest priority for most people.

The salaries of health care fundraisers vary. Wyman recalls that one of his students interning in the sector was offered a job at an exceptional $51,000 a year upon graduation.

"The average salary is the upper $30,000s direct from university," says Wyman, and five years after graduation jobs at $50,000 to $60,000 and more open up.

Salary, while important, isn't what motivates Wyman's students -- or Peacock.

Mindy Goldblatt Webber is succinct: "I want to work in health care." Goldblatt Webber, who graduated in 1999 with a psychology degree from York University in Toronto, tried gerontology and was considering social work before turning to fundraising at Humber.

"I knew I wanted to help people," she says, "but I knew too the front line wasn't for me." With fundraising, she continues, she can work behind the scenes and still contribute.

Her classmate, Jim Tsekouras, has similar reasons for taking the Humber program. He and a partner had started a medical supplies business, and although it's successful -- he still works there two days a week -- it wasn't enough.

"It was very nice, but I wanted something more, something more altruistic," the York University business graduate explains.

(Reach freelancer David Chilton at

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