2019 40 Under 40 Winners

2019 40 Under 40 Logo

Sarah Borgeson

Shirley Ryan AbilityLab
Chicago, IL

Why is a 40 under 40 winner

1. Sarah oversees revenue of over $10 million annually, which is 45% of annual fundraising revenue and an increase of 22% over the previous year.

2. She was instrumental in Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s $350 million capital campaign, which exceeded its goal.
3. She managed the first-ever Spark! fundraising event, which led to over $2.5 million in gross revenue.
4. A passionate advocate for Chicago's philanthropic and nonprofit communities, Sarah has authored articles for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago on corporate partnerships in the field of community development finance, served as a board member and co-chair of Chicago Women in Philanthropy, has spoken to the Chicago Fundraising Summit and The University of Chicago, and has been recognized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and Pierce Family Foundation for excellence in the field of philanthropy.

Q & A

1. How did you get into health care philanthropy?

I knew about the incredible global reputation of Shirley Ryan AbilityLab as the #1 rehabilitation hospital in the U.S. through a fundraiser and a researcher who worked here, and I was drawn to its mission, as well as the warmth and reputation of its leadership. They were in the midst of building a new translational research hospital, and I had the opportunity to work on the $350M capital campaign and see the new building come to life. It’s really a privilege to work alongside researchers, clinicians and executives who are the best in their field. It constantly challenges you and inspires you to raise your game. 

2. Why did you choose to make health care philanthropy your career?

I love that I’m always learning something new. I enjoy the intellectual aspect of working with world-class researchers, paired with the immediacy of seeing the smiles on the faces of patients and family members. That combination can’t be beat. Shirley Ryan AbilityLab coined the phrase “The Soul Moves First.” Those little acts of compassion can help make someone’s day brighter and aid in recovery – you’re really able to see that in healthcare and in particular, physical medicine and rehabilitation. I enjoy the results-oriented nature of our profession and connecting with our supporters – it’s an honor to listen to their stories and serve as a “translator” among different constituencies, as fundraisers often do.

3. Tell us about a pivot point or crucial step in your career journey.

I remember the first time someone told me to “trust your gut” – and I followed that instinct. It paid off.

4. What was your first job, and what is something it taught you?

I picked mustard weeds out of the fields on my dad’s farm! It taught me to be responsible for your results, to work hard and take pride in a job well done.

5. What are your future aspirations?

Rather than focusing on a concrete role, I always aim to be challenged in my work, to learn, to be a good team member and to help others grow in their careers. That has translated into career success, too. I seek out opportunities that require you to take a deep breath - that intimidate you a bit. Those kind of experiences are very meaningful, help you grow and leave a lasting impression. I also enjoy opportunities to lead and shape the larger conversations and direction of the field. 
Sarah Borgeson

Fun Fact:

I studied classical studies, religion and ecology on a semester abroad in Greece. I also met my husband there, who was in the same program.