An interview with Ted Garrard

Having an impact














After 13 years and more than $600 million raised, Vice-President (External) Ted Garrard is leaving at the end of the month to take on the role of President and CEO of Toronto’s SickKids Foundation. Western News reporter Paul Mayne sat down with Garrard to discuss his time at the university and what challenges lie ahead.



Western News: At what point did you know fundraising was your calling?


Ted Garrard: Probably after a couple years here at Western. Do I dedicate myself to this kind of work? The answer is yes. Probably when I turned 40 and you go through that period of reflection, which is ‘what do I want to do when I grow up?’ and I guess I had finally come to the conclusion it is what I’m doing. I like it and I love being able to make a contribution because of it. I say to myself, ‘you know what, you are going to continue to do this for the rest of your life and it’s sort of pointless to look back and wish you had a different career, so dig in, enjoy it, make the most of it and try to be as excellent as you can.’



WN: What is it about fundraising that keeps you going?


TG: It isn’t about numbers for me. At the end of the day, what I want to continue to do is to make a difference in people’s lives and I feel I can do that by helping to raise money. Not just for the end recipients – the people who end up getting and spending the money – but actually for the donors who want to contribute.


What I found so wonderful about this job is facilitating that need to be philanthropic from the donors, to the people who will benefit from their philanthropic gifts. Playing that facilitator role is terrific because you build relationships on both sides. I think I am truly privileged to have met, in this kind of fundraising role, people I would have never met if I were doing something else. I think we are, honestly, privileged as fundraisers to work with outstanding volunteers, donors, people on the other end as recipients – be they students or faculty members or people in the community helped by United Way who fall through the cracks, or in my case now helping a kid who needs a life-saving operation.


When you go home at the end of the day and wonder what you have accomplished, I can always point to the fact that the work is having an impact. When I came to that conclusion about 10 years ago, there really was no better reward for the kind of work you do. That was when I said ‘I’m in this for the long haul’. It became more than a job – which it probably was for a good part of my career – into become an avocation. It became a calling in a way.



WN: Working in the non-profit sector (UW of Toronto), what made you choose Western?


TG: I believe there are three pillars to the charitable not-for-profit sector. The first is education, because you need an educated society built on a knowledge-based economy to advance our economic well being, through which progress is often made and measured. Second is health care. If you don’t have a healthy society we aren’t going to be able to lead those productive lives to advance our world. The third is social services, in place to catch those people who otherwise might fall because they lack education, they lack all of the necessities around health care or for other reasons have just not been able to succeed in life.


So I spent 13 years at the United Way in social services, I spent 13 years with Western in education; it is now my time to do health care, which allows me to then complete my understanding of what shapes Canada’s charitable and not-for profit sector.



WN: What is the success strategy then in fundraising?


TG: First of all it’s the quality and the reputation of the institution – if you don’t have that, you have nothing. Secondly, it is taking time to build the relationships and find that fit between the donors that want to make a difference and the needs of the institution. And third, it’s having the systems in place to be able to deliver on it. If any of these aren’t working properly, then you simply won’t be successful at it.


As I look back on our success here, I think we had an amazing institution with really clear priorities and a commitment from all parts of the organization to raise money; we put into place the right systems and the best practices to be able to support the fundraising efforts, and we took the time to invest in the relationships and to engage a lot of volunteers and donors in the process.


WN:  What has been the biggest challenge for you with fundraising?


TG: One challenge, of course, is this is an extremely complex institution and there are an unending number of priorities for funding and we have a very decentralized decision-making system. That complexity of organizations certainly creates challenges around it, but you just find ways to work around it.


A second challenge is Western is obviously a big university in a relatively small-sized urban centre, and our ability to raise money, to build our brand, to do all those things, we will not achieve our aspirations as a university on the basis of what’s in London, Ontario alone. And so we have to go out and compete harder. That creates a special challenge, and whoever takes on this job they have to be prepared to get out there and travel the world to, in a sense, raise the Western flag.


WN: Fundraising seems to be your key role with Western but what other areas are part of your portfolio?


TG: I spend as much time on communications and alumni relations – all of which are important aspects of my job, because unless you have an engaged alumni, you’re not going to be asking them for money; unless you are effectively able to tell the Western story, you are not going to be able to educate the various stakeholders as to what’s going on at the university.


When I came, one of the things I wanted to do was to make Western a leadership organization in this country when it came time to being viewed by other charities as a leader, not only in the university sector, but a leader in charitable activity in the country. There are many organizations out there that do very fine work, but I think we can lay claim to being one of the most effective.


WN: Who have been some of your influences at Western?


TG: There are a number of people who have really influenced me in my appreciation of philanthropy – their commitment to it and their thoughtful nature in which they have gone about doing it. When I think back to people here I think of Seymour (Schulich) because he has been tremendous. I think of Dick and Beryl Ivey – and Beryl in particular – with the tremendous thought that goes into what they will support. Their unceasing generosity is really quite amazing. I think of people like Aubrey Dan and Chris Lassonde, who are still young guys but already making their statements, which really is gratifying.


But perhaps one of the more poignant moments for me was the wrap up of Campaign Western and we brought Don Wright (Faculty of Music) down and he performed at, what, 95 years of age? Here’s a man who came to Western and some 70 years later was still engaged in the life of the university; still feeling as passionate about it as when he was a track runner in the early ’30s, and somebody who gave back in many different ways. That was a moment about how rewarding this kind of work can be and how people like Don Wright truly make a difference in how this institution is able to advance itself and move forward. That was special.


These people probably don’t understand it, but they motivate you. And what a wonderful way to be motivated to do a job. It comes from the people you come in contact with and they inspire and motivate you to do this work.