Every gift has the power to impact lives

Gail Hanney is the director of fund development at Decoda Literacy. Her job is to build relationships with donors, foundations, community and corporate partners to support literacy work in BC.

“I feel my true role is to help build community. People give from the heart to literacy to create opportunities for others to improve the quality of their lives and fully participate in society,” says Gail.

Gail’s favourite story

Gail talks about the most memorable moment of her more than 25 years of fundraising, that shows the spirit of Decoda’s tagline – “working together for literacy.”

“At the end of 2016, Canada had welcomed 25,000 Syrian refugees to their new home. It was clear that these families needed support to adjust to a new life, a new school system and to communicate in a different language.

In early 2017, Decoda Literacy Solutions and Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House partnered to assist 44 children and 20 mothers and other caregivers through an IPALS (Parents as Literacy Supporters in Immigrant Communities) program in Vancouver, a play-based, bilingual family literacy program that helps children prepare for school, while their parents practice English in an informal setting.

But there was a big problem. We did not have the necessary funding to hire an IPALS facilitator, an Arabic speaking multicultural support worker, early childhood educators and to offer the families bus fare, session materials and snacks.

That’s when we reached out to our community partners: RBC, Bosa Family Foundation and Vancouver Coastal Health. Like true literacy champions, they jumped at the chance to support and welcome these families to Canada.

At the end of the 10-week program, the donors were invited to attend a special graduation ceremony for the children. The children were so proud and excited at their achievements, they ran around the room with their certificates.

To show their gratitude, the mothers prepared a special Syrian meal and the children gave the donors lovely hand-made thank you cards.

“I’ve never seen such an exchange of pure joy and good will between new neighbours,” says Gail. Every gift to Decoda has the power to impact lives. Seeing it first-hand still makes me well up a bit.”

Driving Literacy Month

Literacy Month in September is Decoda Literacy’s major awareness and fundraising campaign.

“Gail is the driving spirit behind Literacy Month,” says Margaret Sutherland, Decoda’s executive director. “She reaches out to donors, community, and corporate and media partners to get them involved. And, she helps literacy groups with their local fundraising by co-ordinating the province-wide virtual Team Trivia Challenges.”

Virtual Team Trivia Challenge

In 2014, Gail developed the Team Trivia Challenge as Decoda’s signature fundraiser.

“Trivia night is all about connecting with friends, family and co-workers through a fun activity that supports a good cause,” says Gail. “It has all the ingredients for a wonderful evening. We have two great hosts: Dan Burritt, CBC Vancouver News and IQ 2000 Trivia; lots of great prizes for fundraising, trivia and random draws; and guests who add to the fun by decking out in purple to celebrate Literacy Month.”

For six years, the event was held at a local restaurant with about 150 guests. Last year, due to pandemic restrictions, Decoda held its first virtual trivia event.

“It created a new opportunity to have hundreds more guests join the fun,” says Gail. “For the first time, teams from across BC participated and a team from Logan Lake won the Cup. This year, the virtual event is back. We expect to see the event grow to 400 participants!”

Lights of purple

BC Place and Science World light up in purple for literacy month.
BC Place and Science World participating in lights of purple for Literacy Month.

Gail works with BC landmarks to light up in purple in support of International Literacy Day on September 8th.

This year, look for purple lights at the BC Parliament Buildings, BC Place, Vancouver City Hall, Burrard Street Bridge, Douglas College, Canada Place, Science World, the Telus building and at various other locations throughout the province.

Giving programs

Throughout the year, Gail is director of the annual giving program which includes giving appeals, The 400 Club monthly donor program, events, legacy gifts and grants.

25 years fundraising

Gail’s experience spans more than 25 years as a professional fundraiser working for causes that support women’s equality, animals, children and health care. A graduate of Ryerson University’s School of Journalism, she’s written for newspapers and magazines and co-wrote two books: The Coffee Lover’s Guide to Toronto and Toronto’s Many Faces: A Guide to the Multicultural Make-up of the City.

In addition to her fundraising work at Decoda, Gail is also co-editor of The Westcoast Reader, a newspaper for learners seeking to improve their English reading and language skills  published by Decoda Literacy Solutions in partnership with Camosun College.

In her spare time, Gail likes to take her dog Stanley to the beach, to cook and to watch British detective series and sports of any kind.

You can talk to Gail anytime to discuss the 400 Club and legacy gifts. Email ghanney@decoda.ca or call 604-681-4199 x 404.

To see what partners are supporting this year’s Literacy Month, visit https://decoda.ca/get-involved/literacy-month/.

Teams of 2-6 players can register join the 2021 Virtual Team Trivia Challenge on Sept. 21st from 7:00-8:30 p.m. Register in advance by donation.

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