Loma Linda University Health
Loma Linda, CA
Why is a 40 under 40 winner
1. Under Matt’s leadership, LLUH Philanthropy saw a 78% increase in qualifications and 22% increase in funds raised in just two years.
2. While at the YMCA of the East Valley, Matt designed and implemented a program addressing “summer learning loss” in elementary school students and secured a major grant from the McCormick Foundation to fully fund the program. The program is still running, seven years later, and is considered a hallmark accomplishment for the YMCA.
3. Matt recently earned both his CFRE and CSPG designations.
4. Of the $55.5 million LLUH raised in 2018, $51.2 million was the result of direct solicitation from fundraisers; driven by Matt’s expanded metrics and strategic plan.
Q & A
1. How did you get into health care philanthropy?
I’d been working with the YMCA as an operations director and fundraiser when Loma Linda University Health was preparing to publicly announce its current campaign in the summer of 2014. I became aware of an opportunity with LLUH working with adult grateful patients through a friend working there. I applied and was blessed to be offered the position.
2. Why did you choose to make health care philanthropy your career?
As soon as I started in the field, I fell in love with it. Health care is exciting and dynamic. It’s continually gaining complexity and pushing science to new limits. Every day there is something new and different happening. It’s where the action is. Health care is also one of the preeminent topics the time and will be for the foreseeable future. Socially, economically, and politically it’s become a subject our society will be judged on by future generations. In that light, philanthropy has such incredible power to change the healthcare landscape for the better and it’s something I’m blessed to see come to fruition every day at my institution. The generosity of others can pave the way for the needy to gain access to care, underwrite game-changing research to find treatments and cures for disease, and help to build world-class clinics and hospitals for the injured and sick to be healed. The magic of health care philanthropy resides in the simple truth our donors play a critical role in saving lives both in the present and the future. It’s altruism in its highest form.
3. Tell us about a pivot point or crucial step in your career journey.
My crucial step was my original foray into fundraising. I was raised by a single mother who relied on YMCA programs, among others, to help take care of her children and provide extracurriculars growing up. As a teenager I began working at the YMCA because I wanted to give back for the positive experiences it had given me. When I was 18 my Y started its employee giving program and I was asked to help be a part of the fundraising team. Fresh out of high school I thought employee giving sounded like a terrible idea - contributing money out of my paycheck while making minimum wage and trying to pay for college? Hard pass. That was until I was told one of the programs that would be supported by employee generosity was one I’d grown up in and my mom had relied on. I signed up on the spot and fell in love with being able to tell donors about the impact of their giving. To this day that’s still my favorite part of any ask I make- explaining impact.
My pivot point was having my son’s life saved by our hospital. Nothing gives you perspective faster than having a doctor tell you “we’re doing everything we can and praying for the best”. My wife and I were completely vulnerable and dependent in that moment. Almost 5 years later I still stop and thank my son’s doctors and nurses and share pictures of how he’s doing and what he’s been up to. Having that experience early into my time at Loma Linda and health care philanthropy empowered me to empathize with grateful patients where I couldn’t previously. After my son’s recovery I came to fully appreciate the power of gratitude in a way you simply can’t understand until you’ve experienced a life changing moment in a health system yourself. Meeting others with the same mindset of gratitude is simultaneously humbling and uniting. There is shared connection in finding it and the community at large is strengthened through the generosity and altruism that comes from it.
4. What was your first job, and what is something it taught you?
My first job was refereeing roller hockey and basketball games at the YMCA. In many ways it remains the toughest position I’ve ever held. It taught me life skills including the value of focus, confidence, preparation, flexibility, and the power of communication with its ability to defuse or inflame a situation, not to mention the benefits of a quick wit. I still have my old whistle and keep it on the stand my computer rests on in my office as a reminder of where I started.
5. What are your future aspirations?
Philosophically I want to be in roles where I can make an impact, lead and inspire teams, improve the environment and circumstances of my institution, and serve the community as best I’m able. In more practical terms my dream would be to lead and support a fundraising shop at health system as its senior executive.