AHP Connect Member Profile - Alisa Smallwood
Alisa Smallwood, CFRE
Vice President for Development, Grady Health Foundation
AHP member since 2015
How did you get your start in health care philanthropy?
I’ve been raising money for 28 years, but this is my first health care job. Like many people, I fell into fundraising. I was originally working in the orchestra field, in operations. My boss at the time asked me to write a grant. It got funded, and I was hooked. I’ve been fundraising ever since.
Before Grady, I was a fundraising consultant. One of my colleagues with an executive search firm called me out of the blue and told me there was an opportunity at Grady and that I really needed to take a look at it. Once I learned about Grady and its mission and met the people here, I just couldn’t say no.
That’s interesting that you started in the orchestra field before moving on to other fundraising avenues.
I was a music major in college, but ultimately decided I didn’t want to spend 10 hours a day sequestered in a practice room. I looked for things that kept me close to the music field, so I got into orchestra management and then fundraising from there. And then I spent some time working in arts and culture (orchestras and museums) and also higher education.
I always find it fascinating how people got their careers started because it’s very rarely linear.
That’s right! This is something I emphasize with my kids. Find something you’re passionate about because what you plan to do may not be what you end up doing.
You’re on the planning committee for AHP’s 2019 Leading Forward. How is that event shaping up so far?
It’s really exciting. I’m really thrilled about the sessions that are being planned. I got involved this year because Leading Forward is coming to Atlanta. I’m on the AHP Member Engagement Committee as well. This year’s executive summit is going to be very special, especially because many of the conference attendees will be coming to Grady for a tour!
What are you hoping attendees will get out of Leading Forward this year?
Chief development officers are in such a unique role. So I’m hoping attendees discover ways to make our work more of an integral part of what any health system is doing. I’m excited to learn ways to work more closely with our C-suite, specifically our chief financial officers. And hopefully, when people come to tour our hospital, they will be able to see how a hospital like Grady – which is a safety net hospital – can successfully balance our mission with the latest innovations in technology and research.
What campaigns or projects are you going to be focused on in 2019 with Grady Health?
In 2019, we will see the end of a $180 million campaign. We’re currently about $3 million away from our goal. This campaign focuses on two priorities. One is to build a center for advanced surgical services. Grady is the premier level 1 trauma center in Atlanta. Because of that, if you happen to have a scheduled surgery at Grady, a hip replacement, for example, and there’s a significant trauma incident, you might have your surgery bumped. By building this surgery center, we’ll be able to be more efficient and make sure we’re meeting the demand for services. The other priority being funded through this campaign is a renovation of Grady’s Infectious Disease Program building (IDP). Grady has one of the most comprehensive HIV and AIDS treatment centers in the world, providing not only routine treatment, but dental services, oncology, and wrap-around services that help connect people with housing and child care, for example. $23 million of campaign funding will be designated for IDP.
What are some challenges you face on a daily basis and how do you address those challenges?
Grady has a fantastic story, but a particular challenge has been getting that story out to as many people as possible. All of us, at any hospital, could use more staff – more boots on the ground. At the Grady Health Foundation, we have a very small staff. Of our 13 staff members, only six are frontline fundraisers. So we’re doing a lot with a little.
What advice would you give to someone coming into the fundraising profession for the first time?
Be committed to learning. I would say that’s not just true for the health care philanthropy field, but for philanthropy in general. Things are changing so rapidly. Fundraisers are called on to do more than just raise money. There has to be a commitment to constant learning and a dedication to continuing education. It’s really important.
Is there anything you would like to add or anything you would want AHP members to know?
As someone who has had a long career in fundraising, but a relatively short career in health care fundraising, AHP has been a real resource to me. Health care philanthropy is anything but routine. The networking, reports and volunteer opportunities have been invaluable as I continue my professional growth.