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Volunteering in the time of COVID-19

Through some creative ideas, trial and error, and a slew of digital adaptations, McGill’s Campaign Volunteer Leadership team has been working tirelessly to ensure the continuation of fundraising efforts and engagement across the University, and across the world during the pandemic.

Headshot photo of Tim Thompson, Campaign cabinet member

While we collectively navigate the climate of uncertainty created by COVID-19, McGill University, like so many other institutions, has had to adapt to these exceptional circumstances. From online courses and cancelled events, to research modifications and delayed projects, the impact of the pandemic has indeed been felt by students, faculty, and staff alike, across all units of the University.

The timing of the pandemic has also brought some unexpected challenges, as the University had launched a historic fundraising undertaking – Made by McGill: the Campaign for Our Third Century – in September 2019.

Thankfully, because of the tireless efforts of McGill’s incredible volunteers, we’ve been able to ensure that our global community remains united, and the Campaign has continued to gain momentum. Volunteers have always been a vital part of our McGill community, on campus and around the world. This is especially true of our Campaign Leadership team, a core group of exceptional volunteers who offer their guidance, time, energy, knowledge, and expansive networks to help McGill constantly enhance its contributions to the world.

“The value of our volunteers in galvanizing support among members of the global McGill community has never been more impactful than in the current climate created by COVID-19,” said Marc Weinstein, Vice-Principal of University Advancement. “Our volunteers are absolutely pivotal in helping to ensure that our community stays connected, and that people’s bonds with each other and with the University remain strong.”

Our Campaign Leadership team – led by Honorary Chair John McCall MacBain, BA’80, LLD’14, Co-Chairs Garvin Brown, BA’91, Claude Généreux, BEng’85, and Marcia Moffat, BSc’68, and the Executive and Campaign Cabinet – has provided invaluable guidance to McGill during this period of rapid change. Their insights on everything from pivoting to online events, to pursuing new corporate relationships to enhance collaborative projects with the University, to validating our campaign targets have been key to keeping the Campaign for Our Third Century on track. Similarly, faculty and regional advisory boards have all increased their efforts to ensure that the McGill relationships they foster remain strong throughout their communities around the world, and that connections are made, albeit virtually.

Here, we highlight a handful of the McGill volunteer leaders who have been instrumental in developing new approaches to keeping the Campaign for Our Third Century on course during these exceptional months.

Regional support

As Chair of the Toronto Regional Advisory Board, Tim Thompson, MBA’90, has played a prominent role in helping promote engagement throughout the Greater Toronto Area. He has hosted a series of virtual events over the last few months, including a career and coffee chat for young alumni, and much more. He has generously lent his time and attention to a variety of McGill efforts, all while being an active advocate in the LGBTQ+ community.

“Like many activities in life, engagement with McGill has been different in an online environment,” Thompson says. “Thankfully, through many initiatives we’ve managed to stay connected and are planning to emerge from a virtual-only environment with momentum on our side. Even though we haven’t been able to celebrate McGill’s coming third century in person, the imperative to support that future has never been stronger.”

Corporate engagement

Campaign Co-Chair Claude Généreux, BEng’85, is also leading the charge in creating and mobilizing the Campaign Corporate Engagement Committee and has been essential in developing McGill’s corporate engagement efforts. Généreux has helped McGill to foster closer collaboration with key leaders in the corporate sector, and guided efforts to craft a strong case for support for why the corporate community must invest in McGill to meet growing and future needs. Généreux’s efforts and commitment – along with those of more than 20 Corporate Committee volunteers – are building important bridges between McGill and potential industry partners.

Photo of Ann Vroom

Ann Vroom – Campaign Cabinet member and Planned Giving Ambassador

Photo of Peter Balyta

Peter Balyta – Campaign Cabinet member and Chair of the Faculty of Education Advisory Board

Portrait photo of Claude Genereux

Claude Généreux, Campaign Co-Chair

Portrait photo of Ram Panda

Ram Panda, Chair of Board of Governors

Headshot photo of Tim Thompson, Campaign cabinet member

Tim Thompson – Campaign Cabinet member and Chair of the Toronto Regional Advisory Board

Faculty advisors

Chair of the Faculty of Education Advisory Board, Peter Balyta, BEd’94, PhD’07, has been a great champion for McGill. Based in Dallas, Texas, Balyta has been a strong proponent of several new McGill initiatives, including the Faculty CoLab project with Trafalgar School funded in part by The Molson Foundation. He has also generously shared his insights and knowledge with the Faculty of Education, helping to guide important strategy in steering the faculty’s future.

Board of Governors

The Chair of the Board of Governors since 2017, Ram Panda, MEng’71, MBA’77, has been a steadfast supporter of McGill on all fronts dating back to his time here as a student in the 1960s. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Board had to shift away from in-person events, leaving Panda to get creative. He’s stepped into the role of hosting virtual events with his characteristic enthusiasm, helping to promote many McGill initiatives. Making the switch to online events has required adaptation by all and has been critical in ensuring the continued connection of alumni with the University.

Legacy giving

A volunteer whose commitment to McGill spans several decades, Ann Vroom, BA’67, is currently working in support of the Campaign for Our Third Century. In addition to her longtime work with McGill’s Friends of the Library (Libraries Faculty Advisory Board), Vroom is now championing the 200 for 200 Legacy Challenge with the Bequests and Planned Gifts office. This initiative seeks to secure 200 legacy gifts by the end of 2021 to mark McGill’s bicentennial and to help secure a strong future for McGill’s third century and beyond.

“We’ve seen that estate planning is top of mind; individuals are having meaningful discussions with their loved ones are contemplating their intentions,” Vroom said. “In the midst of today’s uncertainties, leaving a legacy gift is an opportunity to make a lasting impact without affecting current finances.”

These are just a few examples of how McGill volunteers across the world are championing the University’s priorities and bolstering the impact McGill is able to have. Until we can gather safely in person again, McGill’s base of dedicated volunteers will continue to bring the community together and provide McGill with their valuable strategic advice and guidance as we look to advance the Campaign for Our Third Century.