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AHP Connect Member Profile - Julie E. Cox, FAHP, CFRE

Julie E. Cox, FAHP, CFRE
Published:  08/18/2017

Vice President, Development
Lifebridge Health
Baltimore, Maryland
AHP member since 1998

What’s your favorite part of your job?

It’s the interaction with extraordinary people. First and foremost, with the donors, many of whom are very grateful for the care. Every one of them has a story and gives a different reason, and that, to me, is so motivating. Beyond that, I love interacting with all the clinicians. I enjoy working with the doctors and hearing about their research, which is literally saving lives. Who else could have a job like that? Truly, I’m fortunate to play a very small role in making a difference in the lives of our patients and their family.

And I get to interact with the community. In my role, I interact with five boards, and I also staff the nominating committee. So, I’m very, very involved with board and community engagement. I love that. Every day is different, exciting and filled with emotion. Many days I laugh and others I cry because of each person’s story of recovery; it’s a very fulfilling profession. My favorite quote is, “If you find a job you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” I feel very blessed.

What makes your department special?

We have a unique community. We have four hospitals, but our flagship is Sinai Hospital, which is in a Jewish, faith-based community hospital. The Jewish community practice tzedakah, which means justice and is a tenet of their faith. A key expression of tzedakah is giving back to the community and supporting the poor and infirmed. Almost 84% of gifts are $10,000 or more because our flagship hospital has such a generous faith-based constituency. Many members of the Sinai community make major gifts every year and their commitment is heartwarming.

I am also very proud that LifeBridge Health is recognized as a 2017 High Performing organization by The Association of Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP) accounting for the top 25 percent of all reporting health system fundraising programs. Our return on Investment (ROI) is higher than most of our peer institutions, raising almost 10 times what we spend. Consequently, we generate more net income than any other department in the health system.

You said you interact with five boards. Do you have any tips for organizations on improving board relationships?

We have very generous boards, a system board and a board for each of the four hospitals. Out of all those board members, they all give and get almost 30% of our total private support. I work with all of the boards to identify people within their “sphere of influence” that could help the health system in some way.

First and foremost, make sure your clear on your expectations when you’re recruiting related to philanthropy. We say to board members, it doesn’t matter where you give across the system, it will count towards your board minimum, and we don’t care where you get it, through your business or a peer or colleague. Second, make sure you ask! You may have heard the saying, “Give, get or get off.” The system board is really more of a policy-making, decision-making board. The hospital boards focus on community engagement and philanthropy. We are very clear when we recruit what the role is and what the expectations are.

What areas of giving is LifeBridge Health’s development department focusing on right now?

We’re formalizing a grateful patient program. We’ve always gotten gifts from grateful patients and their families, but now we work hand in hand with clinicians to identify gratitude. We say to the physicians, “Don’t worry about whether you think the patients have wealth. All we want you to focus on is the families and patients that are extremely grateful.” It helps educate people about giving, and it certainly increases the culture of philanthropy, from the nurse at the bedside all the way to the CEO.

The other area where we’ve started doing something interesting with is engaging young people [ages 25-40], the next generation of philanthropists. We’ve just created a leadership counsel. It’s managed like a giving circle, where there’s a few meetings a year and they have access to the hospital executives. They’re asked to give $1000 throughout the year, and then at the end of the year, they decide how the money is granted back to the hospital. A unique component of the program is that these young people become board observers across the system and get a sense of what it would be like to serve on the board, so it’s a board training program for future leaders. And then we have a few networking events throughout the year where they can bring their friends. It’s about trying to get people engaged early on.

How does the “Magic of Life Gala” support or supplement other departmental efforts?

We’re a pretty big system, with just over $2.1 billion dollars in annual gross revenue. We have a lot of vendors. We have a big event every other year, the largest fundraising event in the state of Maryland. We solicit our vendors, asking them to make a commitment. They can pay it over two or three years. It’s a system-wide endeavor, unrestricted support system-wide. The money is filtered throughout the system to the bottom line and helps pay for essential care.

We’re very careful that the solicitation and the contract with our vendors is a completely separate conversation. The majority of our vice presidents are involved in asking and creating a strategy to approach those vendors who they have a relationship with. They give because they understand it’s part of the partnership, and they appreciate the visibility with the executives. We grossed $3.5 million last year over a 2-year period of time, resulting in $2.6 million to the bottom line of unrestricted support.

You’ve attended almost every AHP Annual International Conference since 1998. How has your participation at the conference helped your career?

The interaction with your colleagues, being out of the office, having the time to reflect on best practices and not being interrupted —it’s invaluable! I have extraordinary colleagues who I spend time with every year at the conference who are truly my mentors. They make we want to be better at what I do and I come away refreshed, inspired and motivated to face another year with new energy. All year long, if I need help related to how to handle something sensitive, I always have an AHP colleague to call who I trust to give me sound advice. At the International Conference, you’re networking with the top health care fundraisers in the country –there is nothing like it in our profession from my perspective. If you walk away with just a few new ideas, the conference pays for itself a few times over.

Julie Cox will teach the Advanced Course at the 2017 AHP Annual International Conference. For more information, click here.

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Meet The Author

julie cox
Julie E. Cox, FAHP, CFRE
Vice President, Development
Lifebridge Health

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