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Fundraising guru moving on to new horizons

People of Collingwood: Deb Piggott, fund development manager for Home Horizon
Deb Piggott, fund development manager for Home Horizon, is retiring from the position as of Dec. 31, 2023.

One of Home Horizon’s long-time employees is moving into retirement.

For this week’s edition of People of Collingwood we spoke with Deb Piggott, fund development manager for Home Horizon.

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: I grew up in Montreal, and in my early 20s I moved to Vancouver. I lived in Vancouver for 20 years and I had my two boys there.

My husband Dan and I moved here in 2000.

Q: What did you go to school for?

A: I did an eclectic number of things, but my first career was in financial planning.

When I moved here, I contemplated doing it again, but I really wanted to be with my kids and immerse them in the community, so I started doing some volunteer work. I worked with some of the charity groups helping to raise money on a volunteer basis.

It became too busy. I decided they should hire me to do that work.

Q: What made you choose Collingwood?

A: My husband’s job. He was instrumental in building the Village at Blue Mountain.

Because of that, I started working with the Blue Mountain Village Foundation, which made sense because Dan was there.

Their whole premise was to give back to the surrounding communities including Collingwood, Town of the Blue Mountains, Clearview, Wasaga Beach and Meaford.

My skill set with financial planning was all about people building and relationships. My passion has always been youth. Most of the organizations I’ve worked with in a charitable way have been related to youth.

Q: Which organizations have you worked with locally?

A: The first was Blue Mountain Village Foundation. Basically, I organized their golf event. The first year, we raised $5,000. In the second year, we raised more than $40,000. That’s grown to now raising over $100,000 annually.

That goes to charities like Home Horizon, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Hospice Georgian Triangle, the CGMH Foundation or Theatre Collingwood.

After that, I worked with Theatre Collingwood for five years. Then, I worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters. In between there, I also worked with the Collingwood YMCA to help build their Y Ride event.

In 2018, I started working with Home Horizon. It was supposed to be part-time.

I recently calculated how much I have helped Home Horizon raise over the years. It’s mind-blowing, just under $6 million. It might be more than that.

More important than that, I get to see first-hand those youth in the house. Not many people get to do that, because it’s a very private situation. To see them transition into people who are giving back to the community in a positive way – that brings me a lot of joy.

Q: Why did you want to make the jump from financial planning to charitable fundraising work?

A: We moved to a small community. I could see that I could make an impact.

Very quickly, I got to know many people in the area.

I really just wanted to do good in our community.

My two sons – one is a doctor and one is an engineer now – they’re both married and have children of their own now. They are my absolute pride and joy.

It’s one of the reasons I want to free up my time a little bit more.

Q: You’re retiring from your position at Home Horizon as of Dec. 31. Why have you made the decision to step back now?

A: It had never been my intention to work full-time, and the job morphed into that very early.

The nature of fundraising is, it never ends.

My husband’s been retired for a year. With my three grandchildren and another on the way, I want to spend the next 10 years at least having the freedom to do what we want to do, and that’s to travel and spend time with our grandchildren.

But, I’m still going to be connected to Home Horizon, I’m just not going to be restricted in terms of my time. (Helping with) the arts centre appeals to me. If I can help, I will try to do that.

I bought a new sewing machine last year. I’d like to do some sewing. I love painting. I have not been to the gym in a year. I need to get back.

I’d like some me-time.

Q: During the pandemic, it was difficult for non-profits to fundraise. Can you talk about the changes you’ve seen in the fundraising field?

A: When we hit the pandemic in 2020, we were just about the launch Bowls for Beds. It was a beautiful event at a hotel where we had 20 restaurants serving their most amazing soup. It was organized and ready to go.

On March 15, I realized we were not going to be OK. I had 500 bowls ready to sell on April 11. What were we going to do with 500 bowls?

I literally sold them one at a time. We sold them for a tax receipt. We raised more money than we would have if we’d had the event.

We pivoted. 

In that first year, through the Coldest Night of the Year, we raised $197,000. Our budget had been $60,000. People didn’t know what to do and they wanted to help. It was interesting to see what happened.

We kept the momentum going.

What I’m realizing now is we’ve come out of the pandemic, and people are losing money. I see a trend of fundraising being much more difficult going forward. There’s a strain on our world right now.

I am the forever optimist. I always believe, we will do this, but it has been challenging.

Q: What advice would you give to someone moving into the non-profit fundraising sector?

A: I will mentor (the person replacing me) to succeed. I have worked so hard to make sure the organization is in a very good financial place. I would never want that to go away.

As long as you have the same enthusiasm, it’s all about working hard.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like people in Collingwood to know about you?

A: I would like them to know that I’m not going away, and I know something good is going to come to me. I’m always going to be in this community, and committed to the community.

My birthday is Feb. 13, if you ever want to send me gifts.

I encourage people to reach out to me if they’d like to have a chat. I’ll have time for coffee.

For our feature People of Collingwood, we speak with interesting people who are either from or are contributing to the Collingwood community in some way, letting them tell their own stories in their own words. This feature runs on CollingwoodToday every weekend. If you’d like to nominate or suggest someone to be featured in People of Collingwood, email [email protected].

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 15 years of experience to her role as reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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