United Way director connects donors with those in need

NANAIMO: New executive director a familiar face for many of the organizations United Way helps.

The new executive director of the United Way Central and Northern Vancouver Island will be a familiar face for many of the organizations the agency helps.

Signy Madden, who started work at United Way full-time two weeks ago, has spent the past 15 years working with Island non-profit organizations, helping groups with fundraising campaigns, communication plans and strategic planning.

As a partner of Clayton Consulting, she helped numerous Nanaimo charities over the years, including St. John Ambulance Society, the Bethlehem Retreat Centre, Nanaimo Community Hospice Society and Haven Society.

“Half the agencies we fund, I’ve had some dealing with,” said Madden. “It’s just a different hat I’m wearing now.”

Before working as a consultant on the Island, Madden, originally from Ontario, lived in Vancouver for about five years, working as executive director of Option Youth Society and general manager of the Vancouver East Cultural Centre.

The move to the Island occurred when she and husband George Hanson, also a principal of Clayton Consulting, started thinking about raising a family.

The Port Theatre had just been built and Madden was impressed that the community ran such a successful fundraising campaign.

“I thought a community that had that vision, that could build that kind of facility, would be a good place to put down roots,’” she said.

“This community is supportive of making a change, making a difference.”

Madden is also on the Nanaimo-Ladysmith Schools Foundation’s board of directors, a member of the education committee for the Vancouver Island Association of Fundraising Professionals and is a certified fundraising executive.

When the United Way job cropped up, Madden went for it because of the major impact the organization has on the community and how many organizations are touched by it.

“I thought this would be a great place to help the community,” she said. “We raise about $1 million here in central and north Vancouver Island.”

About $700,000 was raised last year in the central Island, which includes Ladysmith, Nanaimo and the Parksville regions.

With that money, the United Way supports the charitable work of more than 20 central Island agencies.

Madden’s goal is to increase the amount of money raised annually to narrow the gap between funding requests and the amount the agency is able to dole out – the United Way received about $1 million in requests last year.

“After working with many charities across the Island, I became familiar with the serious issues our community is facing,” she said. “There’s a great deal of need and a lot of agencies don’t have the ability to do fundraisers. We can connect donors with solving problems in our community and to me, there isn’t anything better than that.”

Madden is also committed to helping the United Way take on more leadership opportunities, helping to create partnerships between agencies and enabling charities to become more efficient.

“There’s so much more the United Way can do other than raising the money and giving it out,” she said.

Don Bonner, president of United Way Central and Northern Vancouver Island, said in an e-mailed response that Madden has the leadership skills and passion to take the agency to a new level of meaningful community engagement, impact and leadership.