Five minutes with…Ross Verschoor

Ross Verschoor is the executive director at Flinders Foundation in South Australia. In this interview, he talks about coming to work at the place where he was born, his vision for the Flinders Foundation, his leadership style, and how fundraising has turned him into a keen cyclist.

Men in tights: Ross Verschoor (centre) hangs out with fellow Tour De Cure cyclists

You worked in health public relations previously. Why switch to fundraising?

I wanted to do something more meaningful in terms of building relationships with people and creating change.

What lead you to the non-profit sector?

Flinders Foundation was a stakeholder in a previous role, and an opportunity came up for me to join the foundation.

What attracted you to work at the Flinders Foundation?

I was born at Flinders Medical Centre, and it is my local hospital. I admire the great work of all the clinicians and researchers at Flinders Medical Centre and Flinders University.

You worked your way up at Flinders Foundation, first as their communications manager and then as head of development. You have been the executive director for close to a year now. What are your tips for fundraisers who want to transition to leadership?

One of the greatest investments you can make is in your team and giving them the tools to be successful and develop professionally and personally. 

What did you do to make it happen?

Building trust and enabling staff to set professional development goals and supporting them to achieve their goals is very important.

Tell us a bit about your leadership style.

I believe in open communication and creating a safe environment to share information and ideas. As a leader, I believe in giving every team member the opportunity to grow and develop. A team-based approach to solving problems and managing change is also important.

What is your vision for the Flinders Foundation?

To enable more discoveries through the support of health and medical research and ensure the highest standard of care is provided to patients and their families at Flinders Medical Centre. To take a relationship-based, tribe-building approach to create change through philanthropy.

What are the joys and challenges in your work at Flinders Foundation?

The joys come from sharing personal stories and connecting with patients and their families to create change. It is very powerful when patients and families meet researchers, for example. The challenges come from the heartbreaking stories associated with working in the health and medical sector.

Health charities are traditionally well supported by donors. Is this still the case?

We are very fortunate that philanthropy is alive and well in Adelaide, but as every FIA member would know, there is always more to be done, and we cannot rest until we overcome the health challenges affecting our community.

Tell us about an exciting fundraising project you worked on recently.

Through a partnership with a leading radio station in Adelaide, a presenter sat on a Ferris wheel for a world record 52 hours over three days. There was extensive coverage of this, and $230,000 was raised over the period to help establish a cancer wellness centre at Flinders, which will open in October 2019.

Have you experienced any big surprises since joining Flinders Foundation?

Fundraising is hard work. I love every minute of it, but I didn’t appreciate the complex and demanding nature of the role when I started. 

Best moment with a supporter?

Through the loss of a loved one, we were able to work closely with a supporter to raise funds for brain cancer research and connect the supporter to the research team in honour of her husband who had passed away after a short battle. I can now call the supporter a friend, and we talk regularly. She is truly part of our team.

What is the biggest issue in fundraising at the moment and what can FIA do to help?

I am a big supporter of collaboration in our sector and collectively achieving great things. Working smarter, not harder, is something we can all work on.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I took part in my first cycling event recently, the SA Discovery Tour. It was a wonderful three-day tour in partnership with Tour de Cure and UniSA, and more than $300,000 was raised for cancer research. So now I guess you could call me a cyclist and any spare time on weekends will be filled at coffee shops and cycling. I also love the beach and go there at every opportunity.

Wheelie good cause: Ross (centre) participates in the Tour de Cure to raise funds for cancer research.