2020 40 Under 40 Winners

2019 40 Under 40 Logo

Joanna Riester

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago Foundation
Chicago, IL

Why is a 40 under 40 winner

  • Joanna led the effort to develop a Net Present Value Policy that provided Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Foundation with a unique competitive edge in the Chicago market, resulting in two seven-figure gifts.
  • At Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Foundation, she solicits and supports individual and corporate donations for gala events, peer-to-peer activities, and third-party fundraising, totaling more than $12 million annually. 
  • She secured unanimous approval from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Foundation Board of Directors’ for three new policies (Naming Opportunities, Gift Acceptance, and Donor Recognition), thus aiding colleagues to secure eight-figure naming gifts.

Q & A

1. How did you get into healthcare philanthropy?

My first job out of college was with a small creative firm. I found that the projects I loved most were working with our nonprofit clients. Coupled with my own and my family’s experiences overcoming cancer, I knew I needed to seek out mission-based work and that I wanted to make a difference in healthcare. I found my next job working on a great team at a large medical school. As they say, “the rest is history!”

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

I’ve found that working in healthcare philanthropy is the professional equivalent of a gratitude journal. I genuinely believe there is no more meaningful work I could be doing. And just like journaling, it keeps me grounded and healthy. I have also found that—if you seek them out—there are no end to the challenges and learning opportunities in this career. I love how healthcare philanthropy marries stories and science, personal and financial impact, and a return on investment that is almost impossible to measure.

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

During the last financial crisis in the U.S., my workplace had implemented a hiring freeze. Then, my manager left for a great job somewhere else. I was offered the opportunity to take on his role, while I continued to manage my own. I was in my mid-twenties and did not think I was ready. But at that pivotal moment, I took a deep breath and dug in. I proved to myself that I knew how to work hard, learn fast, and trust my instincts. To this day, I still think back to that time when facing challenges in my career.

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

My first job ever was a paper route in the fifth grade. I would get up before band practice, before school, to deliver newspapers with my older sister. It taught me the importance of team work—two paper girls are much faster than one—and client service—folks are much happier to pay a bill when you ask with a smile. Thinking back, I guess it also taught me how much you can get done if you’re willing to get up before the sun.

5. What are your future aspirations?

I have found a home in healthcare philanthropy. But, I know I do not want to get too comfortable “at home.” In the coming years, I look forward to continuing to master new ways to fundraise for pediatric healthcare during a time of crisis. We are responding not only to our global pandemic, but also to the systemic racism and inequality that dramatically impacts the health of kids in our city and nation. I am confident we can rise to the challenge.

Find Joanna on LinkedIn.


Fun Fact:

I am one of seven kids. As the fifth of seven kids, I know how to compromise to build solutions, persuade people to listen, and cultivate relationships. I always push myself to try to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

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