Shifting Focus: 3 Must Haves for a Major Foundational Change
This article is adapted from a 2019 interview on The Discovery Pod hosted by Douglas Nelson, interviewing Veronica Carroll, MBA, CFRE, CEO of Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver.
Shifting from a site-specific to a regionally focused foundation is a daunting task, but often shows exciting charitable prospects with potential for significant positive impacts on the community. When a Queen Alexandra children’s health care foundation transitioned into the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver — thereby expanding its geographical bounds of support — their attention on health care delivery shifted to a focus on health care access.
In a recent podcast interview, Veronica Carroll, CEO of the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver, shared her view on the three most important sources of support to push a foundation through a major period of change.
Donors are savvier than we think. They recognize the ongoing shift in the health care industry from situational health management to community health and are willing to support foundations who have clear and plausible plans of action for donation allocations. To prepare this appeal for your donors, think of the different questions they might ask you about what role their donation would play in the overall success of the foundation. A donation toward an investment in an MRI machine has a much clearer impact than a donation toward a program or mission expansion. To bridge this gap in clarity, ask your donor what kind of community they want to live in. While “big picture proposals” may be harder to envision, connecting a donor’s contribution to a specific community-oriented goal within the larger appeal may place their impact into perspective.
Both quantitatively and qualitatively, data is the keystone of any foundational shift. When aiming to focus on a regional population rather than a site-specific population, data is the main indicator of where the work of the foundation is most needed. Survey your community. Ask where they believe help is most needed, what troubles them and how their experiences with the current health care system have impacted their lives. Use this data to make an actionable plan and to educate the donor base. By showing donors the status of the community with hard data and statements from constituents, they can be placed into a position of ideological empowerment — further understanding your proposal and perhaps brainstorming a few ideas of their own. After the proposals are executed, benchmark your performance. Are you and your donors satisfied with the results? Is the ROI what you had aimed for? Data not only sets up your foundation for the fulfillment of new goals but provides a consistent base for reevaluation and organizational betterment.
From the get-go, any big shift in the mission of a foundation cannot be possible without leadership support. Start by blending the sentiments of the public with your pitch for the new mission. Put the needs of the community members into actionable items presented to your team. Exemplify the ways in which your leadership can help enhance the day-to-day life of the new community in which you serve. Once the pitch is approved and the plan is in motion, encourage your leadership to create connections to other regional agencies, groups or foundations with similar missions. Consider ensuring the sustainability of your foundation with a service-oriented point of view rather than a competitive mindset.
Making any alterations to an already well-functioning system can pose many uphill battles — but with the backing of your donors, data and leadership, success is right on the horizon.