OPTrust Employees hold year-long fundraiser and raise over $10,000 in support of Anishnawbe Health
In 2022, Anishnawbe Health was selected as the charity of choice by OPTrust Cares, an employee-led charitable giving program started by OPTrust employees in 2015. By year’s end, OPTrust employees had contributed over $10,000 — more than double what the annual campaign previously raised!
We had the opportunity to participate in a Q&A with OPTrust employees and Co-Chairs of the 2022 campaign Jessica Figueroa and Brooke Elliott to discuss this year-long third-party event fundraiser.
Tell us a bit about the OPTrust Cares program.
OPTrust Cares started in 2015 because one of our employees had lost a child and we began a personal fundraiser to raise money to do a memorial park. Once that goal was hit the first year, and it had such a great reception from staff, employees decided to continue and choose a new cause to support every year.
The OPTrust Cares committee is a group of employee volunteers, and their focus is really to not just fundraise, but also shine a light on the charity that we’ve partnered with for that year. And that means, sharing their stories, talking about the social issues and institutional barriers, current and past that they face, and then how those organizations are contributing to a solution. As an Ontario pension fund, we’re not allowed to donate pensioners money, so we put together events and activities that employees contribute to.
How did you first hear about Anishnawbe Health?
I think most people have heard about Anishnawbe Health, but we didn’t have anyone on the committee who had experience either volunteering or some sort of connection where it would have been brought to our attention. The most honest answer is Google. Then when we brought up the charities we were considering, one of our committee members told us they passed by Anishnawbe Health on their drive into the office. Then there were other stories about people connected to the organization in various ways.
How did you decide on Anishnawbe Health as your charity for 2022?
During the pandemic, we shifted our focus to look at very local causes. So much was going on with COVID and job and housing insecurity. At OPTrust, we were able to continue business as usual, and no one’s jobs were affected. Our company was incredibly supportive of us in dealing with pandemic challenges, so we wanted to highlight, for employees, how lucky we were to have that sense of security, and to realize how many people in our community didn’t. We wanted to give back together to a cause where people weren’t in such a situation.
We’ve realized as committee chairs that we need to choose an organization that resonates with our organization base. And what that means are two things – we need to keep it local and to create a connection for our employees. It’s easier if they’re familiar with the neighborhood and if they have a connection. Also, at the time that we chose to honor Anishnawbe Health, Indigenous communities and healthcare were top of mind. Everybody just sort of rallied behind your organization. It spoke to our employees. And when it comes to fundraising, that’s key. You want people to connect and to be able to contribute in a meaningful way. Also, focusing on a smaller organization in our community, we knew our dollars could make a real impact.
You ran many events throughout the year. Are there a few that stand out?
Our first hybrid event was when Michael Millward (Director of Special Projects at Anishnawbe Health) came to speak on Traditional healing. It was a beautiful session. He was vulnerable and connected and educational, enlightening and inspirational. You could see Michael’s character shine through, and it was impossible not to connect with him. It’s people like Michael, it’s his story. It’s his community, and that level of connection that makes a difference. People still talk about it.
During the pandemic, we had virtual events around the Academy Awards, Super Bowl, March Madness. Once we moved into working a hybrid schedule, we did an in-person fitness challenge, to encourage employees to exercise and get out there and get moving in anticipation of summer. Then we had an in-person basketball tournament, where employees got together in teams and played each other, that was massively successful. We want people to connect with the organization so that they donate above and beyond. Our participation fees weren’t very big, $5 to $20 to participate in our events. What we end up finding out is that people will donate. The basketball tournament had about 25 participants, but we had more than that number show up for the event. And we had more people donating to that event, besides the participants themselves.
Tell us about the charity you have chosen for 2023.
This year we are fundraising for The Stop Community Food Centre. Given inflation and rising food insecurity, we wanted to learn more about this community challenge this year.
We would like to say a big thank you to the employees at OPTrust and the OPTrust Cares committee for honouring Anishnawbe Health as your charity of choice in 2022. Congratulations on the success of your campaign and the impact you have made for the Indigenous community in Toronto.
Learn More on how to make a positive impact on the health of your community by hosting a fundraising event for Anishnawbe Health Foundation.