AHP Connect Member Profile - James Green
James Green, MBA, CFRE
Vice President and Chief Development Officer
Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic
AHP member since 2016
What brought you into health care fundraising?
Through my life, I’ve always had a passion for service. That’s come through the military, through local fundraising with United Way, and it comes from international fundraising. The concept of health care fundraising is really: how can I put my limited resources to use in the most helpful way possible to help the most amount of people? Health care was an obvious choice.
Health care has the greatest local impact on people’s lives, and philanthropy cuts the costs for all economic classes, races or any demographic division you’d like to make. Health care is always there, and I see health care as a basic, safety-net service that everybody should have access to. Some people don’t need help buying food. Some people do. Some people don’t need help with housing. Some people do. But everyone, at some point, will need help with their health care.
What brought you to Mercy Health Foundation?
I was serving as the chief development officer for an international hunger relief organization. I had been there almost four years and I got a call from Mercy. They needed a new leader to come out and try to help them get their organization in shape and lead their fundraising. At the time I had been traveling quite a bit internationally and it was just the right time to make that move.
What are you working on right now?
I should say this conversation is happening at an interesting time because I’ve just accepted an offer for another position: chief development officer for Trinity Health’s mid-Atlantic region.
It’s a promotion and it’s building, which I really enjoy. It would basically be building the foundation from the ground up. Trinity Health has had the areas in the mid-Atlantic region, but they’re consolidating them into one centralized region now. There’s never been singular-focused fundraising for the region. Developing that brand-new system is really exciting.
What are you hoping to bring to Trinity from Mercy?
The effectiveness, the language, the community engagement around health care itself and how to talk to people about what things are central to a community. What makes a community? Of all the things you think of when you think of what defines a community –education, politics – health care is right there at the center of everything. So one thing I’m going to bring is the ability to connect quickly with people around one of the most important aspects of their lives and the lives of everyone in their community.
Is there a special donor story that stands out to you?
Here at Mercy – and I have to give props to my team – we were able to engage a donor who was really interested in movement disorders. After about a year of engagement with this donor, he was able to see the vision of creating a movement disorder center and provide the funding in order to do that. It’s been amazing. We’ve been able to bring in a brand new service line and physicians in order to do the specialty work that’s required for that.
What are some aspects of your job that you love the most?
Without a doubt: people. I love the human beings I work with and the ability to meet new and interesting people and to listen and engage with them. It’s always humbling to listen to peoples’ stories and find out what’s important to them. How do they view their family, their community, and how can we play a role in that? It’s a humbling experience.
One of the interesting things I’ve discovered in health care is sometimes we’ll get calls from the wealthiest people in the nation, in the world. They’ll say things like, “I can’t get in to see a doctor. I can’t figure this out. I can’t get through this system.” And I think, gosh. You’ve got all the money in the world. You’ve got everything you could ever need. And yet you still need this system’s help. You still need somebody to be there for you. It’s a pretty amazing revelation.
What are some challenges you face with your job and how do you address them?
The single largest challenge that I’m facing right now is the changing state of health care in our country. It manifests itself in every single form, and every single facet of health care and the people who work in health care are affected.
There is no overriding vision for what health care should be for our country, and therefore it’s incredibly difficult to find leadership who knows the right way to head. I don’t think anyone does. So when you’re talking to the community, your impulse is to say that we’re trying to make health care better for our community. That’s true, but you don’t have a specific direction you’re headed when you go out to talk to them.
How do you remain agile in the ever-changing landscape of health care?
It’s all about people. When you get down to it, whether or not there’s MRI machines or CTI scanners, it doesn’t matter as much as the human beings and the kind of help you’re providing people. So remaining agile to me means finding those things where we feel like we can do the most help, and then we put our community and fundraising dollars into those things. So talking to people, getting them to understand there is no ask that’s too small. There’s nothing they need that’s too small. We can go out and combine these things with others to make a comprehensive overall ask of a donor for a specific program – not necessarily capital. That’s another interesting challenge right now.
It’s important to find out how we can help and move closer to doing that. Really trying to dive down into “How can I help? If I can’t do this, then what can I do?”
What is the best career-related advice you’ve ever gotten?
Essentially that every interaction you have with a person is investing in them. It’s the most important thing you can do, invest in your people. You need to take it very seriously and make sure the people who work with you feel safe and feel like they’re coming home. They’re spending more time with me than they are with their loved ones, you know? These people are your family and you need to treat them as such.
You need to make sure the environment you’re creating for people is a healthy environment, is welcoming, isn’t dangerous or fearful for people. They have too much to fear outside of the workplace. Why should they fear when they get into work?
What do you hope to accomplish with your new position at Trinity?
I just want to build a powerful team. It’s really daunting for me to think about me – I’m just a person, like anybody. I don’t have all the vision. I don’t have all the answers or any of that. But if I can build a team and work with those people who do have visions and answers to all those questions, and if I can create a safe working environment with a family-type atmosphere, then we can accomplish incredible things. We can be one of the most powerful teams in the world. We can move mountains. We can build a brand-new health care system and we can engage our community members to be happy and proud to support us.