Healthy Women, Healty Community

Jennifer Van NoortToday we are honoured to share part two of our interview with Jennifer Van Noort, Vice-President of fundraising for the Ottawa Hospital Foundation. In part one, we focused on fundraising and problem solving. Also we learned Jennifer’s take on the Dan Pallotta video “The way we think about charity is dead wrong.” In today’s article, we get to hear about a campaign that is very meaningful to Jennifer: Healthy Women, Healthy Community (HWHC). Plus, we learn more about raising funds and doing it from the heart.

From our perspective here at Sister Leadership, problem solving in a spiritual sense is to find solutions that focus on the greater good by addressing the bigger picture as well as considering how emotions and values play into the decision making process. In this interview, you’ll see how Jennifer taps the bigger picture to bring inspiration to her role, and also to connect with those bringing support.

Now, let’s dive in!

Jennifer, can you tell us about a campaign that is close to your heart, and how coaching others plays a role in building its momentum?

“At the moment we are involved in a HWHC campaign, and at the very heart of that is the fact that women traditionally are not putting their own health first. We are trying to connect the dots in playing a role to encourage them to do that. We see from research that women are often the nucleus of the family, of the business, of the community, but because they are inherent caregivers, they are often not putting their own health first.

This campaign is about encouraging them to do just that. And that, should they be facing a health journey of some sort, a diagnosis of some sort, we can help connect them with the resources available here. We’ve even done round tables on women health to help give men and women in this community a voice.

In my eleven years here, this campaign around women’s health has been the one that has touched me most profoundly.”

Inspiration Women

And how and why does this particular campaign feel so important to you personally?

“I have met so many women in this community who have inspired me beyond words because of their strength. There are so many women from different cultures, different industries, different levels of their careers, who are just exactly what this particular initiative is all about. At the heart of it, I’ve never seen anything more universal than women needing to connect and put their health first, and who can take advantage, at last, of what is available here.

What are some of the hurdles when fundraising for women’s health? You had mentioned earlier that this is one of the more challenging campaigns you’ve work upon.

It has not been an easy campaign. If you look at something like breast cancer, there is a perception that it is over funded. Unfortunately, that has been a hindrance because, if you look at local breast cancer care and research, so much of that fundraising does not benefit our patients locally.

This means that when we are starting a dialogue with potential supporters for this initative, we must acknowledge the perception that it is overfunded in some ways.

The other hurdle is absolutely time. So many of the women I have spoken with feel they don’t have the time to put themselves first, to join a round table, to take a moment to have a voice. When we respectfully push a little bit – it so amazes me, that they are willing to push for others. They are so willing to take the time to get involved for their mothers and daughters and colleagues and friends, but even then they are still not really willing to do it for themselves.

I think one of the things that we have learned from the round tables is that women want to be a part of something, they want to give to others and be a part of something for the other women in their lives. And that they just want to see some impact. That has been a powerful message which we are trying to carry through. It’s a wonderful, inspirational message: This is about women putting themselves first, BUT we need to dig deeper to find what that really means.

It means collaborating to actually provide the facilities that women need, provide education, counselling, and all of the resources that a woman would need on her healthcare journey.

Jennifer, in terms of fundraising and spirituality, can you describe a time when you made a decision that didn’t connect to your sense of values and spirit, and what happened as a result?

I believe that spirituality really does influence so much of fundraising. At the heart of fundraising is relationships building, making connections, gaining trust, having the most genuine dialogue possible. It is what informs every aspect of what I do. And I feel that I am not connected when I don’t pick up the phone and don’t speak to someone, don’t visit someone, don’t make that face to face contact.

Sadly, in the hustle and bustle volume of day to day work, there are times that I have not made that connection, and simply not gotten around to making that call. That is where I really struggle. There have been a few times when I have seen wonderful philanthropists in this city make gifts to other organizations, and I am not disappointed that they’ve done that, because I think “How wonderful that they have given back to our wonderful city.” But I do think “Shame on me” for not having connected with them, not having spoken with them, not having gotten around to makinging that call. That’s when I really feel disconnected.

What have been some of the highlights of your fundraising career, and in particular for the Healthy Women, Healthy Community initiative? Can you share with us the good moments?

“Just a few months ago, we had a 95 year old women who made a very generous gift to support our Minimally Invasive Gynaecology program. That is one of the priorities of our Healthy Women, Healthy Community program. She was a prominent lawyer in Ottawa, retired now, and has been actively fighting for women’s rights her entire career. That’s what her specialty was.

By her own admission, she’d had a wonderful career and wonderful journey, was highly inspired by her own mother, and wanted to do something as she was making her own estate plans to continue to give back to women. She outfitted an entire operating room suite at our Women’s Health Centre. I could not believe it. She continues to give back, and said how inspired she was by women.

And, in turn, she inspired my own daughter! who, at eleven-years-old, rallied her friends because she had three friends whose mothers are facing breast cancer. And she said, “If this women at 95 years old can give back, you know what? You are never too old and you are never too young.” And so a group of six girls from her school rallied and are working to raise a thousand dollars for this campaign. And I just think that’s the heart of what inspiration is all about: women doing it for other women. Girls doing it for other girls. And when you talk about spirituality, that’s when I really see it start to impact philanthropy and the work that we do.


Thank you once again to Jennifer Van Noort for her candid and caring responses to our questions. We so appreciate the time taken in sharing her story, and the story of the Ottawa Hospital’s fundraising initiatives.

If you would like to learn more about Healthy Women, Healthy Community or one of the other intiative at the Ottawa Hospital Foundation, jump to their website by clicking here.

Till next week!



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