Jeff Norris rode into a career in the non-profit sector and has not pedalled out of it since.
While he was studying at the University of Saskatchewan in the mid-1990s, one of his first jobs at the Heart and Stroke Foundation in Saskatoon was as event co-ordinator for the Heartbeat Tour (now known as the Big Bike Ride).
“I used to tow that big bike in a trailer to 250 different places in Saskatchewan and be the guy at the steering wheel telling the bad jokes as we rode around.”
The lessons he gained from meeting and talking with thousands of people in this role have been key to his growing success in the non-profit sector in B.C.
“I think back to that all the time because it was a really good enforcement to understand who donors were and why they wanted to give to a certain charity and what might be motivating them.”
Those lessons helped him double the funds donated to the bike ride in the first year he was at the foundation.
His experience was further employed when he moved to the West Coast in 1997 to join the Kidney Foundation before joining St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation in 1999 as director of annual and corporate giving. In his six-year tenure, St. Paul’s increased annual fundraising to $10 million a year from $2.5 million by improving the efficiency of its operations and improving the types of opportunities donors could support.
The opportunity to effectively build a fundraising program from scratch drew him to Kwantlen in 2006 as its chief advancement officer responsible for the institution’s external relations.
He also became CEO of the Kwantlen Foundation, the charitable foundation aimed at providing financial support to the institution’s students.
Since then, the foundation has seen fundraising grow by at least 20% each year from the roughly $1 million it had raised prior to 2006. Last year, the foundation raised $17 million, including $12 million from Lululemon and Chip and Shannon Wilson to support the completion of a new school of design.
In 2008, when Kwantlen became a polytechnic university, Norris also became executive director of the new KPU Alumni Association.
Although Norris wears many hats, they all relate to his goal of finding new and better ways to help students obtain the education they want and need.
“My personal goal is to make sure that no one who wants to attend university is turned away because of financial reasons,” he said. “That’s a massive goal … but it’s what we are striving towards.”