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After five years as chair of Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation, Jim Leech (left) has passed the torch to Raj Kothari (right).

After five years at the helm of the Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation (TGWHF) board and having overseen the implementation of an ambitious strategic plan that included the $1-billion What Knowledge Can Do fundraising campaign, Jim Leech has passed the torch to Raj Kothari, who will lead the Foundation into its next phase of growth.

As he looks to the future, Mr. Kothari says TGWHF acknowledges that philanthropy is undergoing a transformation.

“We need to consider how the demographics in our country are changing and how we can engage millennials and demonstrate that they can have an impact, and how we include new Canadians and provide opportunities for them to make a difference,” he says.

Mr. Leech, who joined TGWHF’s board in 1996, was instrumental in recruiting Mr. Kothari in 2005 when they were both members of an arts-related board.

When he took over as chair in 2013, Mr. Leech’s objective was to move the Foundation’s fundraising goal to $100-million a year on a consistent and sustainable basis.

“Now we’ve done that and the five-year plan is completed, it’s a good time for someone to come in and have a fresh start,” he says.

One of the highlights of his term was the interest and dedication of his fellow board members.

“I thought it would be a challenge getting everyone to the meetings, but the board members are really driven and want to be part of the breakthroughs in knowledge,” he says.

Guided by the Foundation’s creed – Knowledge. It empowers us to make lives better – every board meeting starts with a presentation by a scientist.

“It is always so fascinating, no-one is ever late,” says Mr. Leech, adding that the board has a 95 per cent attendance record.

Collaboration is one of the cornerstones of the Foundation’s success.

“I’ve seen foundations where they operate separately from the hospital and are not really connected. The real key to the success of the TGWHF is the special relationship between the staff of the Foundation, the board and the scientists and doctors,” he says.

This connection ensures the Foundation is alert to the needs of the scientists and the medical community: there is nobody who can tell the story in a more compelling way than the scientists themselves. It’s an incredibly powerful relationship, adds Mr. Leech.

Mr. Kothari says this interaction has also had a profound impact on him.

“The people around you have such a depth of knowledge. As a first-generation immigrant to Canada, it was also an eye opener for me to see first-hand the role of public-private partnerships and why foundations, such as TGWHF, are essential to advance research and share knowledge and, in so doing, provide innovative treatments for patients,” he says.

While corporate philanthropy plays a significant role in the charitable sector, Mr. Kothari says private philanthropy is even more important.

“Corporate philanthropy itself is changing; corporations have to consider their charitable giving from the perspective of their shareholders, their objectives and what value it will add to the corporation. This makes personal philanthropy hugely important; people are giving to a cause they believe in, and that doesn’t change,” says Mr. Kothari.

One of the challenges he and the board will be reflecting on is the best way to foster the spirit of inclusion.

“We must include new Canadians and provide opportunities for them to give back – and it’s not only money; it’s also time and skills,” he says.

Mr. Kothari acted on this concern several years ago when he began chairing the committee to organize the annual Diwali – A Night to Shine Gala, an event that celebrates India’s culture, traditions and legacy.

“Half the people who attend are not South Asian,” he says of the event that has raised more than $6-million since its inception in 2011. “It’s a great opportunity for people to enjoy themselves in a social setting and find out about one another’s culture.”

However, the 2019 Diwali gala will be his last. Like everything, there needs to be innovation – someone else needs to reinvent it, he says.

“I hope in my time as chair I can follow the path that Jim and others before him have made and continue the work of TGWHF to encourage philanthropic support for research, education and the enhancement of patient care at Toronto General and Toronto Western hospitals.”

Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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