St Michael’s Foun­da­tion: the 2011 – 2012 annu­al report, a bold vision realised

Exhibited by
May 07, 2013
Medium of Communication
Target Audience
Type of Charity
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance
July, 2012

SOFII’s view

St Michael’s always put a lot of effort into making sure that they thank their donors properly and that they are always kept up to date with what their gifts have achieved. Their latest annual report continues this tradition admirably, as well as the terrific way they always include stories in their communications. The challenge is, as they admit, what will they do next time? SOFII is sure that it will be every bit as interesting, honest and creative, with just one suggestion – they should consider using a serif typeface as they are so much easier to read.

Creator / originator

St. Michael's Foundation.

Summary / objectives

The objectives of our 2011-2012 annual report were

(a) To demonstrate what donor support was able to do this past year, making the point that the government does not fund everything and emphasising the need for donors.

(b) To thank our donors, through recognition provided by lists of names or photographs.

(c) To recognise our physicians and our volunteers for being partners in fundraising.

(d) To provide financial responsibility, stewardship and transparency

(e) To inspire new gifts.

(f) To design a more enjoyable, ‘consumer-friendl’ report; from our research we realised many annual reports lack reader appeal.


St Michael’s Hospital is able to provide compassionate care only because of the support of our generous and committed donors. The annual report is an essential tool in the stewardship of these donors by St Michael’s Foundation. Through the report, we demonstrate our accountability and transparency in dealing with the money our donors give us and in our governance in order to retain the trust of those who choose to support St Michael’s. As we know, it is easier to steward existing donors and build on those relationships than it is to find new donors. In a crowded field of competing charitable organisations, retaining and deepening donor trust is critical in order to sustain long-term support.

Special characteristics

The focus for the 2011-2012 St Michael’s Foundation annual report was celebrating the conclusion of the ‘advancing care every day’ capital campaign. We raised $140 million for hospital priorities, including the creation of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, our new home for research and education, comprised of the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which opened that year.

This campaign took several years and many contributions from donors across the giving spectrum to realise its goal. This was a major accomplishment in the history of the hospital and the foundation and we wanted to showcase the remarkable commitment of our donors in the most effective manner. The theme, ‘a bold vision realised’ and the way that donors were responsible for the realisation of the vision, was woven through the report both visually and in the words. The style was introduced on the cover in a dramatic manner. Instead of using a photograph of the completed building, we used a chalk drawing on a blackboard evoking the worlds of the laboratory and the classroom. This visual metaphor was played out through the report with headings in chalk and photographs of our executive team and grateful patients – whose stories highlighted our excellence in care – taken against blackboards. Information about the hospital, our latest statistics and financial highlights, were given this treatment to provide visual interest and a uniform style.

We also used a quotation from Abraham Lincoln on determination and accomplishment to reinforce the theme of a vision realised. This was mirrored at the back of the report with a page presenting the idea that one person – namely the donor – can and has made a difference at St Michael’s. In the centre, we included special features on our research and educational activities, now housed in the new centre. These pages were part of a fold-out section dedicated to the opening celebrations for the research and education buildings. It acted as a high-profile ‘thank you’ to the donors who made the new buildings possible. The lead donors, Pat and Barbara Keenan and Li Ka-shing, had prominence but the layout paid tribute to a variety of donors, including staff members who contributed.

We believe that the best way to exhibit transparency and reinforce our responsibility to our donors is to include the full set of audited financial statements, including the auditor’s report, with the annual report. This practice guarantees that the most accurate, transparent and independently verified financial results are disclosed. We published our financial statements as a separate booklet, with the auditor’s report, which was mailed out with the annual report. Because of the dramatic look of the materials this year, we decided to mail them out in a clear polybag to enhance the presentation. It is also important to disclose fundraising revenue and expenses and provide ratios such as cost per dollar raised. That information was presented in the report itself as financial highlights in a reader-friendly, easily readable format of bar charts and comparative graphs.

The events of our year were represented by descriptive vignettes and photographs, which were interspersed throughout the lists of donor names to provide visual interest to a necessary feature. These vignettes also functioned as stewardship for those people who had made the effort to organise fundraising events to benefit the hospital.

In compliance with proper governance, we provided a full list of our board of directors. This year, however, in place of traditional headshot photographs, they were represented by charcoal sketches in keeping with the more hands-on style of the chalk drawings. In recognition of their counsel and guidance over the year, each board member was presented with the original sketch as a token of appreciation. Since the report is a substantial publication of 46 pages, we created a more economical ‘mini-version’ for distribution through the hospital and use by our major gifts team. This version was a bi-fold, full-colour, standard letter-size brochure containing highlights of the year’s finances and quick statistics, as well as a story from a patient to provide more human interest. We also provided an electronic version of the annual report on our website for a wider public audience.

Influence / impact

The report was mailed out to over 5,000 donors, including members of our ‘annual program’ who had made gifts of CAD 250 and more, major gift donors and our board of directors. The response was extremely positive both anecdotally and in generating an increase in revenue of over 200 per cent. Donors have commented positively on the report. Their remarks demonstrated that we were successful in our strategy. Our board members praised its unusual visual style and were pleased with the recognition it provided. One of our board members gave copies to the entire staff at another foundation, indicating that she thought our report represented a ‘best-in-class’ achievement. Other foundations have requested copies as well.


We are very proud of this annual report. We were able to fulfil our objectives in an innovative and dramatic manner. The response from our key audiences has been extremely positive. The challenge will be: what do we do next to raise the creative bar?

Other relevant information

The main message to our donors was one of gratitude for funding a capital project that marked a turning point in our history. As we outlined, on 5 May 2011, we celebrated the completion of the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which together comprise the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute. This was a milestone day in our history, which would not have been possible without the generous support of our friends. Up to this point, research and education at St Michael’s have never had a home of their own. Our people have been scattered across the hospital; they’ve been in labs at the University of Toronto or anywhere we could find space. Now, thanks to the generosity of our donors, our researchers and educators have their own space. And it’s not just any space – it’s been specially designed by renowned architect Jack Diamond so they can share ideas with each other and collaborate with our team of education experts to move new treatments from bench to bedside faster than ever before. Think what that will mean for our patients and for the future of healthcare.

This message was echoed in the letters provided by our executive leadership, the hospital and foundation presidents and the outgoing and incoming foundation board chairs. The theme of gratitude also runs through the four extended patient stories and comments from six other grateful patients who have made gifts in recognition of great care. Uniting all these messages is the overarching idea that none of this would be possible without the generous gifts of our donors. Our most critical message, besides saying thank you, is that to continue our work we need support from our donors. Generating revenue was one of our key objectives in creating an eye-catching design for the report.

See a full version of the report on St Michael's web site.

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The front cover.
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The two quotes, one at the front and the other at the back (below), mirrored each other.
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An interesting and attractive treatment of statistics.
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An interesting and attractive treatment of statistics.
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One of the many stories that show the impact St Michael’s has on people’s lives.
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The ‘blackboard’ theme works so well.
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The ‘blackboard’ theme works so well.
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This page emphasises the importance of education.
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A description of some events.
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A doctor who is also a patient at St Michael’s tells his story.
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The hospital’s great fundraising achievement
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What a great ending to a page - ‘the excitement is building’.