2020 40 Under 40 Winners

2019 40 Under 40 Logo

Emily Vernon, CFRE

Advocate Aurora Health
Downers Grove, IL

Why is a 40 under 40 winner

  • Emily led the efforts on rethinking the largest special event in support of Advocate Children’s Hospital, the annual golf outing, in 2017. She organized a group of corporate partners to come together to form the golf committee which would reshape the golf outing as a whole and elevate the event revenue and overall experience. Through her leadership efforts, this event is still in existence today, sells out each year and annually raises an average of $250,000.
  • Emily played an integral role on the children’s hospital development team which led to their most successful fundraising year in 2019 when they exceeded their goal by more than $6 million.

Q & A

1. How did you get into healthcare philanthropy?

A neighbor of mine from the street I grew up on was a Foundation board member at a Chicago healthcare system where her family was very involved. Upon my graduation (fun fact–we are alumnae from the same school), she introduced me to the Foundation team where I was offered my first job after college. Truth be told, I never knew how someone became a staff member of a nonprofit as my experience all along was from the volunteer standpoint, including looking up to my parents who were deeply involved in our community through nonprofit boards. Since then I have worked in healthcare philanthropy and have not looked back.

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

The fast-paced environment of healthcare keeps me engaged, always learning, and constantly challenges me. I am deeply passionate about the mission, and my family has been personally touched by compassionate, quality health care, so for me, working in this field has been a small way to pay it forward to other families and help them make an impact they are proud of. It is not only rewarding but energizing to be a part of something good. The people I have had the privilege of working with and now know on a personal level from their own family’s journey with our healthcare system has been nothing short of inspirational. 

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

Finding mentors both professionally and personally. It may have taken me a few years into my career path to find even just one of my own to look up to and openly communicate with, but I can confidently say the wait was worth it. I always speak very highly of the invaluable lessons, insights, and growth a mentor can provide to one’s life and professional development. One of the simplest statements that one of my mentors shared with me early on when it came to fundraising was to always be authentic and genuine. I wholeheartedly believe this holds true for every facet of life. More importantly, this grounds me when building relationships with my donors, patient families, hospital allies, and volunteer leaders.

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

Besides babysitting and tutoring, my first job was working at the front window of the grill at a summer tennis and swim club. It ingrained in me "service with a smile" as I interacted daily with members of the club. It helped shape my interpersonal skills as I loved seeing and talking with the families and their children during my shifts. Skills I learned and honed during this summer job have certainly stuck with me to this day and have influenced the way I connect with my donors, volunteer leaders, and colleagues presently.

5. What are your future aspirations?

I look forward to continuing to make an impact in my community and growing as a gift officer. I will remain deeply committed to fostering and building meaningful relationships that ultimately will grow programs and services that our patients and their families deserve. Overall, I plan to always find meaning in the work I do and to be a part of the greater good.

Fun Fact:

I am a self-proclaimed aspiring baker. One of my favorite ways to unwind and de-stress is by using my KitchenAid mixer to whip up cookies by the dozen.

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