Doug Nelson

President and CEO, BC Cancer Foundation Age: 36

Doug Nelson can attest that heading the BC Cancer Foundation can be a roller-coaster of emotion.

Connecting donors to the researchers they fund, taking part in high-energy events like the Ride to Conquer Cancer, responding to a heart-wrenching letter from a child who lost her mother to breast cancer: it’s all part of the job description.

“There’s nothing more real or more human than raising money for cancer research,” he said.

Amid the drama, staying focused on the organization’s goals is key.

“We need to make sure that when we present a project to a prospective donor it is an area of highest priority and greatest promise.”

Nelson has made it his mission to make the foundation as efficient as possible in order to stretch donor dollars as far as they’ll go. Since becoming president and CEO in 2009, he has cut the cost of fundraising in half and increased revenues by 78%.

Nelson has also worked closely with employees to identify goals and targets and tighten up job descriptions, a move that has raised worker satisfaction throughout the organization.

“So often in the not-for-profit sector, being nice is good enough,” he said.

The fact that people at the organization feel a stronger sense of purpose ties directly to the foundation’s goal of being as effective with donations as possible.

“Part of that is more private-sector-style management, and another part of it is really making sure every employee knows what difference they’re making with respect to cancer research in the province.” •