Arla Gustafson, Building Community through Fundraising
Blazing a Trail to Guide Others
There is a unique generation of women in our midst. These women did it all — studied, raised families, volunteered, made their professional mark and took care of aging parents — and they did it quietly and progressively, without social media to document every moment of their journeys. These remarkable women set the stage for the younger generation of successful entrepreneurs and professionals we see today. It’s time to celebrate their quiet accomplishments and the trails they blazed in our province!
Arla Gustafson, CEO
“My career, and the opportunities I’ve had, would not have happened in any other sector,” says Arla Gustafson about her career in the charitable sector. Arla is CEO of the Royal University Hospital Foundation (RUHF) and has been in this pivotal and influential role for the past 12 years raising — with her team — close to $100 million for healthcare.
Arla grew up in the Saskatoon neighbourhood of Nutana (she still lives there) and she graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a degree in sociology and a major in criminology. Her first volunteer and paid not-for-profit sector role was with the Elizabeth Fry Society of Saskatchewan. A vulnerable population that Arla is still passionate about supporting, Elizabeth Fry provides advocacy and programs for women in the criminal justice system.
She then worked for 15 years as the Executive Director of the United Way of Saskatoon, including seven years as the Vice President, Prairie Region of the United Way of Canada Centraide Canada (UWC-CC).
What led Arla to take her current job with the RUH Foundation? “A very effective head-hunter,” she jokes. “I was not looking for a new position, but I missed the community aspect of a workplace when I was based from home and travelling with UWC-CC. Since 2007, Royal University Hospital has been that community and with close to 5,000 employees, physicians and volunteers, RUH is larger than some Saskatchewan towns!”
An avid traveller, Arla has three adult sons — one lives in Montreal, one in Saskatoon and one in Victoria. She is incredibly supportive of the growth of arts, culture and the burgeoning culinary scene in Saskatoon. “As an agricultural, technology, education and business hub, our city is awakening but I think we can still do so much more. I believe strongly in what we can do through collaboration and partnership with government, business and philanthropy as was accomplished with building of the Remai Modern, Nutrien Wonderhub and Merlis Belsher Place.”
Arla is particularly enthusiastic about the new RUH Foundation’s Women Leading Philanthropy initiative. It’s a group of women leaders of all ages — including physicians, nurses, medical professionals and businesswomen — whose donations collectively fund innovative healthcare initiatives for women led by female physicians, practitioners and researchers at RUH.
“Women Leading Philanthropy has over 130 women donors who annually vote to award an impact grant of $100,000 to a female researcher or physician. We hold three experiential meetings a year and it’s a great opportunity for women to come together both as leaders and as donors to impact healthcare. Women often give philanthropically for different reasons than men, and healthcare is very close to their hearts and they can see the impact. ”
What’s next for Arla? “RUH will soon have 127,000 square feet of decanted space with the opening of the new Children’s Hospital this fall and there is an opportunity to redesign and solidify our provincial programs as centres of excellence at RUH. I look forward to working with our partners to engage donors, in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan, to advance healthcare innovation at RUH for patients and our medical teams.”