AHP Connect Member Profile - Rick Scott
Rick Scott, CFRE
President, April 2019 to present, previously Executive Director of Major/Planned Gifts and Vice President-Major Giving from 2012-April 2019
Presbyterian Healthcare Foundation
AHP member since 2008
How did you get started in health care philanthropy?
I don’t know that anyone grows up and says: “I want to be a fundraiser.” I think, like a lot of people, I fell into it. In my case, I began my career in marketing and PR. Shortly after college I was doing work for a fledgling agency and then I moved to a medical school (Medical College of Wisconsin), where I worked as a PR person doing publications work.
At one point, I wrote and edited a weekly newsletter, alumni magazine and donor publication. My boss there thought I was particularly good at development writing. So after doing PR work for a few years, I transitioned into a development career. I started as a grant writer and worked my way up from there, ultimately moving on to major/planned gifts fundraising roles at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and Froedtert Hospital, an adult teaching hospital, before moving to New Mexico about seven years ago.
What skills did you learn then that prepared you for where you are now?
I took a deliberate, health care-focused route. I spent a few years at the YMCA and that’s the only development experience I have outside of health care. I’ve really focused on major and planned gifts fundraising, and leadership roles. I’ve overseen a communications piece in virtually every role, based on my earlier experience in marketing/PR and grant writing. I’ve made it a priority to understand the business of health care. I think that’s important, particularly at a leadership level.
At Presbyterian Healthcare Foundation, you were involved in the creation of the major and planned gifts program. What makes that a successful program?
A little background for you: Presbyterian Healthcare Foundation was established in 1968. We just celebrated our 50th anniversary. We tout ourselves as one of the first 100 hospital foundations in the country. Historically, we’ve been known as a special events shop. Just recently, we finished a weeklong fundraiser for our hospice program called Daffodil Days. It was our 36th year of this annual event.
We also do a very large gala called Laughter is the Best Medicine – 1,800 attendees. In terms of attendance, it may be the single-largest gala in the state of New Mexico.
But we have to consider that there’s an art and science to fundraising. The science says that the best return on investment is major gifts fundraising.
I came here to help create a major and planned gifts program. For me, the real carrot in moving here was the opportunity to take an entrepreneurial approach to building a major gifts program from the ground up, rooted in best practices. We’ve tried hard to have good alignment with organizational priorities. We’ve tried to deepen board and donor engagement.
For most of the foundation’s existence, the board hadn’t been all that involved in major gifts fundraising. That changed in a big way with our first capital campaign launched in 2011 just before my arrival. This was a $20 million effort for a new hospital, Presbyterian Rust Medical Center.
We’ve also taken a much more focused and deliberate approach with planned giving. Previously, it seemed that planned giving was more of an afterthought.
Another important part of our success here has been the launch of our patient relations and amenities program, called Luminary Circle. It’s a way we show gratitude to our most generous donors, helping them to navigate our health care system.
Everything we’ve done has been rooted in best practices, which is why some of the educational opportunities and our affiliation with AHP has been so helpful. Over the past seven years, our major and planned gifts efforts have accounted for more than 60 percent of our fundraising revenue.
What were some challenges you faced in building that program?
Getting the board and volunteers in sync and getting people to think bigger is an ongoing challenge. Asking for those big gifts or being a part of the process isn’t comfortable to a lot of people. It’s changing the internal culture of our organization, too. It used to be, “Oh, the foundation is the group that throws our events, right?”
Getting the organization to think bigger as it relates to philanthropy and respect the foundation as an important revenue source has evolved over time.
How did you approach the board with this and get them more involved in fundraising?
The shift from a special events organization to a major gifts-focused operation began during the leadership of my recently retired boss, Joe Rizza, and has continued with contributions from me and others. We’ve been big into benchmarking, using AHP and other resources. It’s hard to argue with data. Also, I think it’s important to take baby steps and celebrate every success, even the ones that seems small. That’s how you build confidence and buy-in. A volunteer or board member who secures a meeting with a key prospect is huge. So is involvement in a solicitation or just helping to identify prospects and connections. Celebrate those milestones along the way.
I think it’s important to play to people’s strengths. We’re fortunate to have volunteers and board members who are good at helping to open doors, helping to get visits. A lot of them, however, don’t want to ask for money, and I’m okay with that.
You’re part of AHP’s residency program. How has that been?
It’s been a great experience. I’ve been a very outspoken proponent of the program. There are five of us in the third cohort, and I really like and respect all of my classmates. We’re a group of senior development professionals from across the country. We started meeting in Madison and we’ll finish up later this year at the AHP International Conference.
This experience comes at a great point in my career. It’s really put me in tune with best practices and connected me to some of the leaders in our field. Jim DeLauro has done a fabulous job orchestrating the program. We’ve had some thoughtful discussions with many of the stars in our profession, people like Bruce Bartoo, Randy Varju, Bill Littlejohn, Jessie Rosenberg and others.
I’m privileged to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. But I’m in the desert, both in a literal sense and figuratively as it relates to health care philanthropy. I don’t really have health care philanthropy colleagues out here, so AHP and this program have helped to fill an important gap, creating a national network for me. There’s a certain comfort in connecting and commiserating with people who are doing the same work and facing the same challenges. Already, I’ve reached out to some of these new friends for perspective on some challenges I’m facing here.
What are some other tangible things you can take from the residency program and implement back into your health system?
So much of our work involves external relationships. But in this program, there’s been a lot of discussion about relationship building within our own organizations with key allies including HR, finance and marketing. Different perspectives on gift accounting, internal granting approaches and gift officer performance metrics have also been interesting and helpful to me. We’ve known for years that gratitude is a key motivator for gifts from so many of our donors, and I’ve really enjoyed the perspectives on formalizing a gratitude initiative as part of the philanthropy program and larger organizational culture.
What do you love most about your job?
That’s easy. I think the work we do is really important. We have the opportunity to make a big difference in people’s lives. Our offices are within Presbyterian Hospital, where I’m reminded every day when I see patients and families that a hospital experience is often a trying time in their lives. If we can make that experience easier in some way, if we can help to support a positive outcome, that’s meaningful work. That’s why I’ve intentionally focused my career on health care philanthropy over the past 20 years.
In health care, we know that our work can be life or death. If you’re not in good health, if you don’t have access to quality care, or any care, it can and probably will affect every aspect of your quality of life. That’s why I love being in health care and working in health care philanthropy. We’re privileged to have an opportunity to make a big difference in people’s lives.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in this field?
This is a great profession. There’s a ton of opportunity. Health care can be messy at times – we’re going through a lot of change, so it takes some resiliency. Take every opportunity that comes your way, even if it’s something that scares you. You’ll be better for it. Take a strategic approach to managing your career, but resist the urge to move around too much. Job hopping is a big issue in our profession, so you’ll set yourself apart if you’re able to stay the course beyond the one- or two-year stints that are so common. Health care philanthropy is a richly rewarding career with the opportunity to make a huge difference.