Tag: Ronald McDonald House

Why Youth Philanthropy is so Important

At our organization we love it when children or youth decide to do a fundraiser for us. There is little that resonates with our stakeholders more than hearing a story about kids helping other kids. We tend to refer to these fundraisers as Third Party Events. Our chapter is fairly small local charity when compared to some international or national charities, however the funds raised by these third party events is by no means insignificant. For the fiscal year that just past groups doing third party events raised a million dollars for us- that is a lot of penny carnivals and lemonade stands.

However as important or maybe more important than the  dollar figure is the behavior inspired by these junior philanthropists. In the video below I talk about two of the youth who made a big difference to our charity. I will also talk about some of the ways we recognize and reward youth philanthropy (not that they are looking for any rewards).


#OurYYC On the Road: Global News Hour at 6 at the Ronald McDonald House

Global Calgary is taking our show on the road Ronald McDonald House on Wednesday Dec. 2.


Where does $1 to the Ronald McDonald House go?

The first Ronald McDonald House opened more than 40 years ago (1974) in Philadelphia when Dr Audrey Lane at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia saw a need for short-term lodging near the hospital for families of cancer patients. Since then, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Inc. (RMHC) – a public charity under both the IRS Code […]


30 ways your donation helps our families

For most, the holiday season is filled with parties, shopping, laughter and joy — but Ronald McDonald House Charities® Southern & Central Alberta families are experiencing the season much differently. Everything is on hold — including celebrating the holidays — while our families wait patiently at their child’s bedside far from home and hope for good […]


It was a heartfelt experience from beginning to end

Written by: Carie Stock, Executive Director of Helping Families Handle Cancer We received a tour of the house last December, and in doing so, we found out that the House had a cooking program where groups or businesses could come in and cook for all the families that were staying there. Immediately the Helping Families team wanted […]


Tips and tricks to get through cold & flu season

Cold and flu season is upon us! Your family may likely experience a cold, flu or some combination of the two. We asked one of our nurse’s on the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile® to tell us what the difference is between a cold and flu and some ways you can prepare your family this season. What […]


Leader’s should never take themselves too seriously

I don’t think nonprofit leaders should go out of their way to make themselves look foolish by any means, but I think providing a little levity can also be a good thing. Those who work in the nonprofit sector know how hard our staff and our volunteers work. Many of us are surrounded by people who we become quite close to going through hardship, stress or illness. Our own leaders train our staff how to personally cope with this stress while still remaining effective, supportive and empathetic. Many nonprofit staff are familiar with trying to solve the worlds problems with limited and scarce resources. Our fundraisers would tell you how hard they work to raise much needed revenue so that we can fulfill our important missions.

This all sounds pretty grim- but the reality is most days most of our staff would tell you how great it actually is. With that said I personally feel that a leader should never take themselves too seriously and occasionally they should be willing to do something that puts them at risk of seeming a little foolish. Clearly they should not do this just to look foolish, but of course they should be willing to do this to further the mandate of their organization or its ability to remain sustainable.With all that said, last month I decided to take my own advice and not take myself too seriously. The video below was taken on parascope last month and is a point of view video of me running our Rock the House Run in Ronald McDonald’s shoes- enjoy

How two ten year olds raised $20,000 selling $2 hot dogs

         I had been working in the nonprofit sector for about 2 decades when I started working for Ronald McDonald House. My first month on the job a fellow called and he told me he was going to do Ironman and he was going to collect pledges from his friends to raise money for RMH. I think during the first phone call I almost fell off my chair, I couldn’t believe that someone wanted to do a fundraiser for us. None of the other charities I had worked for in the past had groups or individuals do what I later learned was called third party fundraising. What a great concept this was- a fundraising event held on our behalf, raising our profile and visibility and it didn’t cost us a thing. What could be better? We needed to figure out how to increase the likelihood that more people would do third party events for us. Over the next few years we did figure out ways to have more people do events for us, but here is one of my favorite stories of a third party event:

          In 2008 our society was considering building a new Ronald McDonald House in Red Deer. At the time it was to be the first new Ronald McDonald House built in a new Canadian city in over twenty years (all of the existing RMHs had been built in the 80’s). One of the mom’s whose family had used the Calgary House stopped in for a visit one day and had asked to see me with her 10 year old daughter Jenaya. I came out to the living room to meet with Lisa and her daughter. They lived near Red Deer and had heard we were thinking of building an RMH there. Lisa told me that their family had been appreciative of the support the House had provided their family and that they wanted to help other families to be able to experience the same support. Jenaya and her friend Caitlyn has come up with the idea of selling hot dogs at their school one Friday afternoon to raise money for the new House. Ultimately the capital campaign target was $12 million dollars so it was not like I was going to say no, however I did think the girls would be lucky to raise $100. None the less we loved this family and the idea was really cute. Who wouldn’t love the idea of kids helping sick kids in their community? I thanked Lisa and Jenaya and told them we would be thrilled if they would sell hot dogs for us. The girls planned to sell the hot dogs for $2 each, a local grocery store was going to donate the buns and they might have a lead on someone to donate the hot dogs. A week or two before the Friday the girls were going to sell the hot dogs, Lisa called me and said some of their friends were not able to make it to the school the day of the hot dog sale, could they write us a cheque? “Sure” I responded, this hot dog sale seemed to be getting bigger. I told Lisa we had a “donate now” button on our website, they could tell some of their adult friends they could donate using their credit card. We suggested that their friends just type “hot dog sale” into the memo line on the on-line donation page. We didn’t have a lot of experience with peer to peer fundraising at the time and we certainly didn’t have our own software to allow people to set up pledge pages for us at this time.  Well the girls managed to get themselves in the newspaper and on the radio. A local business man made a pledge on the radio and challenged local businesses to match his pledge. I don’t remember how many actual $2 hot dogs were physically sold but the girls ended up raising over $20,000 by the end of the day on Friday. I would have been thrilled if they raised $100 but the final total of about $24,000 made us pretty confident that we would ultimately be able to raise the funds we needed to in Red Deer to build a new RMH.

Does your charity’s CEO tweet?

          I have to admit two years ago I was a social media skeptic. After seeing what SM could do for our charity I am now more of an addict than a skeptic. For 4 years I ran the Edmonton RMH as well as the Southern and Central Alberta RMHs. While I was running the Edmonton Chapter one of our board members was the co-anchor of the CTV evening news. She was a big fan of our Home for Dinner program in which community groups volunteer to make dinners for the families staying at the House. Erin was determined to get CTV to help us recruit more groups to make dinners. She had a team from the news station cook dinner and shoot a bunch of “b-roll”. They interviewed other volunteer groups about the program. Finally she had me come on to the stations lunch hour newscast and be interviewed while they rolled the tape. It was a long segment and we were thrilled that before the end of the day two new groups had signed up. At this time our twitter site for the house had almost 1000 followers. The day after the segment we figured “what if we tweeted that we needed more dinner groups” We blasted out a tweet and low and behold two more groups signed up. The “a-ha” moment was the tweet had taken about 15 seconds to create and send. We work pretty hard to get traditional media coverage and we don’t get it every day. However using our own social media channel we were able to get the same outcome as our local television station. Not that we have stopped trying to get traditional media coverage, but the situation clearly demonstrated the benefit of using our social media to increase our local profile. A few months after launching our social media channels for the Houses, I was becoming such a fan of SM that I decided I needed to start my own sites/page. At the time none of the other CEOs or Executive Directors for the Canadian Ronald McDonald House was personally on social media, actually I don’t think any of the CEOs for the House in the states were on SM either. More recently some of the CEOs have jumped on the bandwagon, and I have become a firm believer that nonprofit CEOs should have a social media presence.  When the CEO is engaged on SM there can be many benefits for their organization.

          Larry Kaplan suggests:” Businesses are now realizing that the CEO must be involved in social media activities. It raises a company’s thought leadership and credibility.” He goes on to describe: This is especially true for nonprofits, where thought leadership and credibility are much more critical to an organizations brand. Nonprofits are often defined by their policies, services and relationships with their communities-to a much greater extent than a business selling a product for example.”  Beth Kanter would further suggest that;” There are definitely some benefits to having your executive director or CEO present on social media channels. They can provide a human face to your organizations work, unique viewpoint, and serve as a thought leader in your field. “

           It may go beyond benefits for a charity, our world may be changing in such a way that an Executive may not have a lot of options in the future as to whether they chose to be social media savvy. Boards recruiting a new CEO want individuals who know finance, marketing, fundraising as well as how to design and deliver programs. Will social media prowess become a “must have: for executives in the nonprofit job market. Kaplan quotes Ann Charles in describing: “The role of the CEO has been transformed by social media and CEOs have no choice but to become more visible, social and accessible than ever before.”

          As CEOs of a charity we are concerned with spreading the word about our nonprofits mission and programs, we are also pretty concerned about attracting donors and financial supporters. To attract new supporters people need to know what you do, know that you are doing a good job at delivering this service and above all they need to trust your organization. This leads to another reason the nonprofit CEO may want to be active on social media. Zoe Amar points out;” 8 out of 10 people say they’re likely to trust an organization whose CEO and team use social media…[as well as] 8 out of 10 people are more likely to buy from an organization whose leaders use social media.”

          I am more than willing to accept that the sector may be changing in a way that social media usage will become a requirement of the job as a charity leader. I would go as far as to say I think the benefits far outweigh the costs of being engaged in/on SM. However like most CEOs the biggest challenge in being active on social media is the time commitment. About a year after I had started my own twitter (@larrymathieson) one of the other Ronald McDonald House CEOs asked me where I got someone to” do my twitter site? She would start twitter if she could find someone like that.” I laughed and told her I did all my own tweets. Jill manages the social media for our Houses but I did all my own tweets. It is an investment of time and I do think there could be some room for your staff assisting you in managing these feeds. Kaplan suggests;” It’s also important for the CEO to be personally engaged in social media. It’s okay to have staff (usually the public relations or communications officer, and sometimes the development department) manage and organize social media activity, and even ghost write portions of it. But the CEO needs to own and on some level create what goes out over his/her signature with minimal delegation.”  I would not disagree with Kaplan’s suggestion but I do lean a little more towards Kanter’s views in this area. She states;” …a CEO presence on social media is nothing that should be “ghost” written. It has to be authentic, reflect the CEO’s personality.”

          So you are a nonprofit leader and I have managed to convince you that you should be on social media, how do you find time?  I am not sure; when I first started working in the sector I didn’t have email. At some point answering and responding to email became part of my job, like everyone else I had to figure out a way fit it in. In some ways I think Amar in her Social Media for Charity Leaders: A Quick How to Guide, has some really practical advice.  She recommends;” I always say that social media is like exercise, even 10 minutes a day will make a difference, and the more you do the greater the return.”  I wish you luck in your own efforts and I think you will find Amar is right “the more you do the greater the return.”  By the way if you want to follow me –you can find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram all using the handle @larrymathieson .



Amar, Z (2013) The Top 30 Charity CEOs on Social Media, Zoe Amar, as retrieved from: http://zoeamar.com/2013/11/22/the-top-30-charity-ceos-on-social-media/

Amar, Z & Collins, M (2013) Social Media for Charity Leaders; A Quick “How to” Guide, Zoe Amar Communications

Kanter, B (2010) Should CEOs and Executive Directors Use Social Media? On Beth’s Blog, as retrieved from: http://beth.typepad.com/beths_blog/2010/02/should-ceos-and-executive-directors-use-social-media.html

Kaplan, L . (2013) CEOs Must Embrace Social Media…Finally Nonprofit Quarterly,  as retrieved from : http://nonprofitquarterly.org/policysocial-context/22767-ceos-must-embrace-social-media-finally.html