Case Study

Fundraising Case Study: SickKids Foundation


The SickKids Foundation raises funds on behalf of The Hospital for Sick Children, a world-leading health care, teaching and research centre dedicated to children that is affiliated with the University of Toronto. The largest children’s charity in Canada, SickKids in 2013 invested $92.6 million in child health research, education and clinical care.


The Greater Toronto Area is one of the most ethnically diverse markets in Canada, a demographic challenge for a not-for-profit foundation like SickKids. Determined to turn that challenge into an opportunity, SickKids sought to better understand the area’s culturally diverse groups and their propensity to donate money supporting children’s health. The goal: to develop a multicultural fundraising plan that would more fully engage ethnic communities and expand the SickKids’ donor base. 


Analysts employed a variety of data sets to identify the main multicultural groups within the SickKids’ database of 266,000 donors, along with their financial assets and potential for giving. OriginsCanada, which predicts Canadians’ cultural, ethnic and linguistic origins based on their first and last name alone, helped EA identify donors among more than 20 groups—including Chinese, South Asian, East Indian, Italian, Portuguese and Greek. Using WealthScapes, analysts then examined the wealth of each group to determine their ability to contribute to charities. With HouseholdSpend, they saw how much money Canadians were donating to charity. Finally, they tapped the PMB PRIZMC2Link dataset to determine their propensity to donate to hospitals. Based on the data-based analytics, SickKids’ development team determined the potential donor base among the different ethnic groups, including more than 1.5 million people in the Chinese and South Asian community alone. “Our donors are as diverse as the colours of the rainbow,” observed Grant Stirling, Ph.D., the Vice President of Major Gifts at the SickKids Foundation. “But without this information on where to start, we couldn’t have been successful.” 


With its detailed portrait of area multicultural populations, the SickKids team determined which groups would be the focus of their engagement efforts in the near future. To reach the Chinese community, for instance, the team grouped the Chinese immigrant groups into developing and mature markets, and then crafted a fundraising approach that integrated marketing, public relations, events and community outreach. The foundation launched a Chinese website, held a “Radiothon” that highlighted the medical challenges of a three-year-old neonatal patient (dubbed a “patient ambassador”) and established a story bank for media features, offering first-person accounts of the hospital’s work from patients, doctors and researchers. Most important, SickKids re-oriented its strategy to connect with multicultural communities and moved from a reactive to a proactive approach, engaging in social media to increase awareness and soliciting speaking opportunities to publicize the hospital’s important work. “Environics Analytics gave us a unique lens to understand our donors and determine the best way to invest our fundraising dollars,” says Dr. Stirling. “It’s one thing to buy an ad that asks for money. It’s another to have a person tell your story in a way that touches the heart of your audience.”