CEO blog: Meet Veronica Carroll

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This is the first of a monthly series where each month, our CEO Veronica will sit down with stakeholders and community leaders to gain insight into the challenges Island families face today and to shed light on the great work being done in the community.

To kick off this series, we’d like to start by interviewing Veronica.

Since taking on the role of CEO in 2016, Veronica has seen tremendous growth within the Foundation, which thanks to the generosity of its donors, has funded programs and organizations supporting Island kids to record levels. But for her, it all started with building a talented and passionate team. Veronica has worked with stakeholders, board members, and staff to take the then 90-year-old Foundation and reestablish it as an advocate for families across the Island and surrounding islands.

We sat down with Veronica and asked her a few questions about her time at the Foundation, what’s she’s most excited about, and how she spends her time when she’s not out being a super achiever.

Why did you decide to take on the role of CEO at Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island?

I have a son who had health challenges, so I’ve personally understood how important it is as a parent to have the ability to access health care support to help deal with what’s happening to your kids. To have that personal connection was important, but then I also looked at the organization and I loved the fact that it was 90 years old. It has such a rich history, having recreated and reimagined itself over the decades, all the while being responsive to what was happening for families who had kids with disabilities and health challenges. What I found intriguing was leading this organization with a long and celebrated history and spearheading its efforts into the future. The organization was looking for a CEO with expertise in fundraising and who could build the organizational impact across the Island. I knew that it was going to be a really big opportunity that challenged me on so many levels, and that had the potential to help thousands of children and youth across Vancouver Island and the surrounding Islands. I said to myself, what’s not to love about that? I knew this role was the one for me.

Do you consider yourself at super achiever?

Yes I do! I’ve had success in building community support for different capital fundraising campaigns and in fundraising in general over my career. I’d say I have a real knack for being able to help organizations (boards, donors and staff teams) fulfill their dreams and their aspirations.

You started at the Foundation in 2016. How have you seen the Foundation grow since you’ve been here?

Well, I think the most obvious growth has been hiring extremely professional and high performing staff. We’ve grown as a team and we’re about to embark on some really exciting things in the mid and North Island. Since 2016, we’ve funded programs and organizations to record levels. The board has rallied behind us as we’ve identified some great opportunities to be able to deploy donor dollars to maximize impact on children’s health. To be able to spearhead those announcements and really talk about the wonderful things that our donors make happen on behalf of Island families has been very exciting for me! And what’s amazing is thanks to our donors, we’re just getting started.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve dealt with since being at Children’s Health Foundation?

I used to talk about how we were a 90-year-old startup. Having such a rich history means that stakeholders have defined you in particular ways. In many ways our biggest challenge has been overcoming the expectations of the past and defining who we are now and who we want to be. Specifically, we have worked very hard to redefine ourselves to be an Island-wide organization because we had previously been so south Island focused. It’s taken a while because with change you have to be patient. You have to continually remind people why you’re doing something different. But we’ve been able to go to long-term donors and help them understand that we have aspirations that may be different than our past, but that our goals for children and youth are absolutely critical for moving the metrics for children’s health today and in the years ahead. Today, we honour our amazing past, but we have our sights set on the future that looks a little different, and I think that’s a strength.

Was there an experience or position you had early on that you feel had a big impact on your career?

Yes, as an Associate Director of Development for a pan-Canadian environmental group, I gained the understanding that through philanthropy, organizations can tap into the passion of donors and engaged citizens and make wonderful things happen. I’ve been lucky to have worked for tremendous organizations right across Canada. My last 14 ½ years have been in BC working in the interior and on the mainland, raising funds for a new ICU and a new Diagnostic Centre and now here, at CHFVI expanding our reach and increasing our impact on child and youth health. I worked with donors throughout my career who knew that if you can take care of the most vulnerable people in your community, then you can really create a community that is compassionate and is caring. And that’s the type of community that we all want to live in.

Why do you think the work of the Foundation is so important to the Island?

Yes, I’ve been thinking about this because we are continually trying to sharpen our lenses on what we are trying to impact as a Foundation. I do think that one of the wonderful roles that we play is the role of bringing people together. And we use that, I think, wisely. I would point to some of our ongoing dialogue that we encourage between donors, volunteers and non-profit and charitable leaders in communities. One of our board members said that while children make up 20% of the Islands population, they are 100% of our future. That’s stuck with me and inspires me every day. Our Foundation is here to remind communities across the Islands that we are advocates for the health of their children and their families.

What are you most excited about in terms of the work of the Foundation?

Well, we’ve got an exciting project ahead in the North Island underway currently. With the support of our donors, we can really change the health trajectory for hundreds and thousands of families, giving them the best chance at a healthy life and for me, at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about!

What gets you out of bed every morning?

Coffee! No, seriously, I think to a fault I’m very goal orientated so knowing that we have some momentum going forward with new projects and partners is very motivating for me! Just understanding that your work will mean that a family is going to have an easier time in their life, and so, how wonderful is that?

When it comes to your career, what advice do you live by?

Don’t say everything you think. Give yourself 24 hours to respond to things that really stress you out. One of my colleagues told me that about 10 years ago and he was right. I think it’s important to remember that everybody has a backstory. I try to lead with compassion, even in situations when it’s hard. Sometimes there’s so much going on in other peoples’ lives that you just have to be understanding knowing that if you practice compassion daily, both for yourself and for others, your life will be a whole lot kinder.

So when you’re not working, how do you like to spend your time?

I love being active. I’m a bit of a crazy person when it comes to that. I like to run, I like to bike, I like to swim, and I like to golf. I’ve recently taken up lawn bowling too. I’m all over the place! And of course, spending time with family and reading. I’ve just finished reading Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming’ and now on the search for my next book. I’m also a bit of social media junkie. I try not to be on Twitter too much but I really just love it!

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’ll end with saying that what we’re trying to do is help families unlock the potential of their family life, their child’s future, and their ability to be the best parent they can be. I think that’s what inspires me, is knowing that the work that we do is really helping families be the best that they can be for their kids.