Nicole McVan, Director Corporate Partnerships, Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada

Nicole McVan, Director Corporate Partnerships, Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada

Nicole is the Director of Corporate Partnerships for the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada

What is your morning routine?

I love mornings. I practically jump out of bed, quickly scan my emails, eat my oatmeal, wrestle my little one into his clothes and bike him to school. I cycle to work whenever I can because it gets my heart rate going and offers the solitude I need to think through work issues and get myself ready for the day.

Tell us about your career path.

When I started business school I really liked the content, but I had a hard time figuring out what kind of career I wanted. It took me until a couple years after my undergrad to realize I could apply my skills to the non-profit sector. Once I started my first fundraising role I knew I had found my passion.

Since then, I’ve gained experience in fundraising and marketing positions within charitable industries. I worked for the Outward Bound Trust in the U.K. for a few years, and while I was there I completed a part time M.Sc. in Non-Profit Marketing and Fundraising. This degree and my work in the U.K. had an incredible impact on me; I learned so much living, working and studying abroad.

Fundraising is a very nuanced discipline because it’s so dependent on your ability to network, manage relationships and maneuver through organizations. Performing this role in a different cultural context really taught me to how to navigate relationships and open myself up. These experiences led to my current position managing the Corporate Partnerships team at the Heart & Stroke Foundation.

What challenges do you or women face in your industry?

Women are very well represented in the non-profit industry, with around 60 to 70 per cent of the workforce being female. The challenge is that there are generally less resources for growth and career development. The budgets are smaller, the organizations are flatter, and the development programs are either limited or completely nonexistent. This isn’t to say you can’t develop, but you need to be the master of your own career path and maybe push a bit harder compared to other industries. You need to seek out opportunities, mentors, new projects and make the case as to why it’s important.

What advice would you give to young girls who want to be the NEXT you?

Do it! Non-profit work is incredibly rewarding, challenging and inspiring. If this area really interests you, start volunteering with an organization you like and participate in some charitable events, like the Ride for Heart (shameless plug). Going for coffee with industry people is a great way to learn more about what they do. When you land a job, work hard, lean way in and learn how promote yourself in an authentic way.

How do you separate work life from your personal life?

I have a very full life outside of work – by my own design – so I plan and prioritize accordingly. Each year I write out a few life goals based on what’s important to me. I use these goals to plan my time and to hold myself accountable to live with intention rather than passivity. The weeks will ebb and flow with work and personal life, but these goals help me focus on what I want to achieve.

What inspires you?

Life. There’s so much joy and beauty in our world and in our relationships. I love playing a part in helping to extend life for so many people. Raising money for research and health benefits that save millions of lives is an incredibly powerful motivator, one that gets me out of bed each morning.


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