School of Dentistry fundraising campaign exceeds expectations thanks to community generosity

Dentistry’s first major fundraising campaign focuses on enhancing research, improving access to care and student supports.

Ryan O'Byrne - 17 November 2020

The University of Alberta’s School of Dentistry is celebrating the outstanding success of its recent fundraising campaign, Dentistry for Life, hailing it as its most successful ever. While the four-year campaign originally set out to raise $8 million, the school recently revealed to their donor community that they had raised more than $12 million over the campaign’s period.

Launched in late 2017 as part of the School of Dentistry’s centennial anniversary, Dentistry for Life was the school’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign, focusing efforts on three key areas: access-to-care initiatives; student support and well-being; and research and innovation.

Paul Major, chair of the School of Dentistry, said that he was very pleased by the results of the campaign, though not surprised. While the planning took nearly two years, Major points to the reputation building the school did even before that as the secret to its success.

“We did a lot of communicating with our alumni and various stakeholders, telling our stories and doing other forms of outreach with them, which helped build a strong reputation in the community,” he said. “So when we launched this campaign, there was already a belief in the community of potential donors that the school's doing really good things and that its future is very positive.”

Dentistry donors recognized for their contributions

Of the myriad contributors to the Dentistry for Life campaign, two stand out: Ivonne Hernandez and the Stollery Charitable Foundation, both nominated for National Philanthropy Day Awards, the winners of which will be announced on Nov. 19.

Hernandez, who has a long relationship with the School of Dentistry, made significant contributions to the school’s Oral Medicine program as well as the research and innovation area of the campaign. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck Alberta, she stepped in with additional funding to support the school and its research endeavours during the global health crisis.

“I felt compelled to help, especially because we are in such unprecedented times,” Hernandez said. “There is a quote from Kathy Calvin [CEO of the United Nations Foundation] that really resonates with me: ‘Giving is not just about making a donation. It is about making a difference.’ And it doesn’t take that much to make a difference in someone’s life; big things are made by small things. I think if more of us could find that sense of giving, even if it doesn't seem like much in the bigger scheme, the world would be so different.”

For the Stollery Charitable Foundation, the focus has been entirely on improving access to oral health care for Edmonton’s underserved populations. Over the past 12 months, the foundation contributed to the access-to-care area of the Dentistry for Life campaign, specifically supporting the Boyle McCauley Health Centre Dental Clinic. The clinic provides oral health care to thousands of people who are not able to regularly access care due to health concerns, socioeconomic barriers or financial hardship. The foundation’s support helped the dental clinic expand, develop and launch sustainable programs and provide services to more than 3,000 clients in Edmonton’s inner city.

"The Stollery Charitable Foundation was pleased to support the Dentistry for Life campaign, and specifically the Boyle McCauley Dental Clinic capital project, because the foundation believes that all of Edmonton's residents deserve to be treated with dignity and have access to health care, including oral health care," said executive director Jeff Bryson. "The Stollery Charitable Foundation was established by Bob and Shirley Stollery to provide enduring support to the non-profit sector and the vulnerable residents that it serves, and it is rewarding to hear from grant recipients that the foundation is having the impact that its founders intended and by doing so, the directors continue to honour their legacy."

Major says that although the Dentistry for Life campaign is now officially complete, that doesn’t mean the work stops. Though COVID-19 may have prevented a formal celebration marking the end of the campaign, Major’s team is now looking for different ways to steward the community and properly thank them for their support. Part of that is the nominations for the National Philanthropy Day Awards, but another important part is going back to what helped the campaign succeed in the first place: storytelling.

“In this phase of the campaign, our goal is to demonstrate that our donor’s gifts are having a real impact and making the difference they wanted it to make,” Major said. “We have to make sure that we continue to have conversations and engage with our donors, stakeholders and alumni, and to tell our story really well.”

“I think the real message is that the University of Alberta is still a great place for people to invest in if they want to make a difference in society,” he said. “These days there's a lot of uncertainty, but I think it’s really important to keep a positive message out there, that we will come through the other side of this and remain a strong institution that makes a big difference for the people, both locally and beyond.”