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AHP Connect Member Profile - Jason Smith

Published:  02/14/2018

Originally published in the February 2018 AHP Connect.


Jason Smith
Executive VP of Philanthropy
Bozeman Health Foundation
Bozeman, Montana
AHP member since 2015

What’s your favorite part of your job?

Working with an incredibly generous network of donors. Every day, we have the opportunity to work with people who want to make a difference in advancing health care and in our community’s quality of life. Our job as matchmaker between their desire to make an impact and our health system’s desire to grow and serve their needs is just a joy.

What area of giving is Bozeman Health Foundation most focused on currently?

Historically, Bozeman Health Foundation has been primarily a major gifts operation. As we look to the future, we’re focused on two simultaneous priorities. One is blended giving, allowing our most generous donors to make both real time and legacy impacts, and alongside that, bringing new, younger donors into the Bozeman Health Foundation family to help make sure our ability to raise funds for the future continues to grow.

How do you attract that younger demographic?

In 2015 we established the Bozeman Health Foundation Emerging Leaders Network (ELN), a growing group of 30- to 45-year-olds, early career professionals who are both giving generously and helping to raise money in their peer groups.

In addition to ELN, we host a marquee special event that has a 10:1 ROI—and that is also really fun. What we call Hospitality is now in its 18th year of raising funds for a specific health care priority, and our attendees go all out in what they wear. 2017 was themed “Disco Fever” and netted $515,000 to support our new Intensive Care Unit.

How have you achieved the event’s high ROI?

We’ve been hosting Hospitality for seventeen years in a row. The great team here has it dialed into a science. Central to our success is our having brought traditional special event fundraising and high profile annual major gift giving together. Through our live drive, socially-oriented major donors make gifts in the five to fifty thousand dollars range.

We saw that Bozeman Health Foundation and Bozeman Health Big Sky Medical Center announced that charitable commitments for a new hospital have exceeded $3 million in cash and in-kind support. What is the strategy driving this campaign?

Bozeman Health worked closely with the Big Sky community to open Montana’s first truly new hospital in more than four decades. Big Sky is growing as a community and has an important demographic that values high quality health care. Our ability to raise such support was driven by pent-up demand across a 10-year planning cycle. The community sees the hospital as a major contributor to both quality of life and the economic vitality of the area.

One of the things that helped Bozeman Health Foundation and Bozeman Health Big Sky Medical Center was an early, very generous challenge grant where the donor matched dollar-for-dollar all contributions in support of bringing high-quality MRI into the medical center. The combination of the challenge grant and that clear need really resonated with the community as they were first getting involved with health care philanthropy.

Can you share another recent project at the foundation that you’re proud of?

In mid-2016, Bozeman Health Foundation began turning to our community for the first time in our history to raise charitable support for our mission-driven programs that serve our community’s vulnerable population. We’ve already raised more than $3 million in support of charity care and community outreach.

Despite our own hesitations or curiosities about whether this would be successful, among that $3 million is the largest gift Bozeman Health has ever received: $2 million. This a real pride point for us. As a health system and foundation, we didn’t know if our turning to the community with this specific story and case would be successful ...and we’ve been overwhelmed with how this field of work has resonated with our donors.

What started that effort?

We have seen over the course of the last decade growing need for that little extra bit of support to help people access the care they need. We anticipate that need will continue to grow, and that really inspired us to continue the initiative. It’s connected to our belief that health care needs to be accessible to all.

You have attended two AHP Leading Forward Executive Summits, and you’re joining us again this year in San Antonio, Texas. How has participating in the summits helped you in your everyday work?

Leading Forward, with its focus on chief development officers and foundation leaders, has provided great presentations by highly knowledgeable practitioners, and these sessions consistently offer insight that can be applied in our day to day work.

In my first Leading Forward conference, there was a fantastic session on the relationship between philanthropy and health system community benefits programs. That session explored how philanthropy can be applied without compromising the health system mandate to invest its own operating resources. That ended up being very timely. We came back with the tools we needed to do it right.

I’ve been in health care philanthropy for only three years, and it’s a complicated field of work. Thanks to Leading Forward, I have a network of a dozen trusted colleagues that I regularly turn to for advice.

You have also volunteered in several capacities with AHP, including serving on the AHP Annual International Conference Committee last year. What has the benefit to you been?

My ability to give back to AHP—and a network that has helped me—through annual volunteer service has been really rewarding. The work I’ve done has also been fun! Recognizing how hard and challenging health care philanthropy can be, it is important to have a little fun now and again.

What is one piece of advice you would give someone new to healthcare philanthropy?

Build close, authentic and trusting relationships with your executive team colleagues and with thought leaders among your physician community.

How have those physician relationships been helpful?

They’ve been vital—those relationships have helped me to learn this business, have helped me to avoid big mistakes, and have helped to make those key individuals available to us as a foundation when we need their voice and their passion. Many of those physicians have also helped us to raise record breaking support from the medical staff community as a whole.

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