Measuring Impact – A Personal Experience

By Phil Gerard

Students(Picture Source: St. Thomas More Collegiate website.)

We speak a lot about measuring the impact of charities. As fundraisers, we tend to focus on the task of making projects happen, and that means raising money first. And sometimes we do get a glimpse of the impact we make. I got such a glimpse this past weekend and it was quite incredible.

On Saturday, I attended a concert with my family at the new gymnasium of St. Thomas More Collegiate. It was my first time at the school where I was Director of Development ten years ago. Now a decade later, I am helping STMC find a Stewardship Officer and a new President for the School.

When I started at STMC, the school just embarked on its first capital campaign to address the schools most urgent needs, including facility improvements.  But there was a bigger vision: When enough money for phase one was raised, the school would  raise funds for a new class room wing to accommodate the space requirements of the growing student community. And we had an even bigger dream: To eventually build a brand-new gymnasium that would not only be used for sports programs but also to host events like concerts and plays. At the time many thought the dream was unattainable.

Then in early 2006 we raised enough funds to address the most urgent needs and soon after a generous donor made an incredible gift that allowed us to start planning for the classroom wing. I never saw the class room wing built, however.

Fast-forward to last weekend. After the concert and the reception, STMC’s Business Manager, my former colleague and now good friend, invited me to tour the new class room wing and gym.

Proudly, Susan showed us the beautiful building. At my time, all this was a dream. Back then we had town hall meetings to convince the community who never had experienced a campaign before of the importance of making a gift! (And – the community came together and made it happen and so much more.)

We almost completed our tour when three shadows whisked through the dark halls. Finally, three grade 12 students emerged: Sam, Theresa and Leon, who were volunteering that night.

Susan introduced us and mentioned that I used to work at STMC about ten years ago, and was part of the campaign that raised the funds to build the wing we were standing in.

Theresa chimed in and said ” In 2006? Wow, that’s when I came to Canada.” Leon continued ” We spent all of our high school time in this building.” And Sam finished “We have always known the school like this, we had such an awesome time, and we will miss this place so much.”

The kids probably didn’t realize the importance of what they said but to me it was such in incredible impact report. As a fundraiser at the time, I was so worried about making the numbers, making the project happen. I never saw it completed. And often we don’t. We often raise money for a project and hand it over to capable people who will implement it. But just because we don’t see the impact doesn’t mean we are not making one.

What a great night it was, and not only the concert. What a treat to meet these bright, talented, and dedicated Knights (as the students are called at STMC). One of the highlights in a fundraiser’s life for sure!

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