St. Michael’s Hos­pi­tal Foun­da­tion: Urban Angel magazine

Exhibited by
Lara Banks, vice president, marketing and communications, St Michael’s Foundation.
August 07, 2014
Medium of Communication
Target Audience
Type of Charity
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance

SOFII’s view

The fundraisers at St Michael’s always take great care when producing their publications. So it’s not surprising that they approached the ‘refresh’ of their newsletter with enthusiasm, knowledge of their donors and attention to detail. The revamped newsletter bristles with compelling stories, great graphics and articles that will keep donors informed and involved with ‘their’ hospital.

Creator / originator

The marketing and communications team at St Michael’s Foundation. Working closely with an external graphic designer, Brian Meadwell, the team provided creative direction and developed the content to produce the publication.

Summary / objectives

  • To promote St Michael’s Hospital.
  • To inspire support.
  • To refresh a tired newsletter format into a ‘consumer-friendly’ publication.
  • To create a communications vehicle that readers would want to hold onto – extending the presence of St Michael’s. 
  • Background

    St Michael’s Foundation raises funds for the St Michael’s Hospital in the downtown core of Toronto. Tax dollars pay for some health care services, but not all, so our fundraising efforts are critical.

    To keep donors informed about the work of the hospital and the continuing need for support, the Foundation produces a publication to showcase St Michael’s Hospital.

    Its audiences include

  • Our donors.
  • Our patients, their families and visitors.
  • St Michael's Hospital physicians and staff.
  • Potential donors within our catchment area.
  • After using the same broadsheet format for several years, the marketing and communications team decided that the Foundation’s newsletter required a major ‘refresh’. We wanted to push the envelope in terms of what readers expect in a hospital fundraising publication. So we determined that the new format should have a stronger visual impact with dramatic photography, the use of colour and graphics and compelling consumer-facing copy in order to draw the reader in, which we had not achieved before in our newsletters.

    The bright new look featured stories of specific interest to our donors, at the same time showcasing the best of St Michael’s care and happenings at the hospital, including current research and tips for everyday healthy living.

    While retaining the basic elements of a hospital fundraising publication – inspiring patient stories, research breakthroughs, donor tributes and features about health and wellness, the content of the new magazine was expanded to include more ‘life-style’ features. These include recipes for healthy eating, puzzles to promote a healthy brain, book reviews and articles with broader appeal: how to have a safe vacation, local seasonal activities. We also enlisted the help of our star physicians to give our readers expert tips to staying healthy and active. Patients’ stories were presented in a more dramatic ‘photo-essay’ style in order to highlight the great work done at St Michael’s.

    We decided to expand our distribution strategy and insert a portion of the print run in a widely distributed major daily newspaper, which we had not done before. Each issue had a print run of 55,000. In each case, about 24,000 magazines were distributed in a Saturday edition of the Toronto Star to reach a large segment of the general public in our surrounding

    community. Another 16,500 were distributed to annual and monthly donors through our direct mail programme. The balance of the magazines was distributed throughout the hospital during autumn and winter, then from spring through to summer.

    We also developed a special strategy for our website, producing an online teaser with a preview of a couple of articles to inspire visitors to become donors in order to receive the full magazine and our monthly e-newsletter.

    To promote the magazine and extend our reach within the hospital community, we produced a slideshow of images from the magazine that was featured on television screens in high-traffic areas of the hospital. 

    Special characteristics

    The team developed novel, highly visual ways to explain certain processes and activities.

    1. Follow the Money (autumn 2013): showing what happens from the moment a donor is inspired to make a gift through to its impact, presented in the format of a board game.

    2. Your Move (spring 2014): outlining all the events that prospective donors could support presented as a Monopoly game as an ‘advertisement’.

    3. Ideas Take Flight (spring 2014): illustrating how people can create their own fundraising events, using the example of a former patient who produces an annual dinner dance in support of our breast cancer programme, explained through the development of a butterfly. 


    We brought creative direction and content development in-house and were able to produce the new magazine at the same cost as the previous newsletter.


    We believe we succeeded in achieving our objectives. The new format was extremely well-received by donors; a number of people called and emailed us with compliments – even physicians from other downtown hospitals and representatives from other charities.

    In particular, readers thought the spring 2014 cover was dramatic. Some said that, at first, they didn’t realise it was a hospital publication and were surprised when they explored further, which told us that we had succeeded in our aim of breaking the mould. 


    We are extremely proud of what we were able to do in reinventing our newsletter. We think it demonstrates a unique and creative approach to donor communications, while still fulfilling the essential purpose of fundraising.

    Other relevant information

    Click here to visit their site and be inspired by more of their newsletters.