AHP Connect Member Profile - Vicki Weaver
Spectrum Health Foundation
Helen DeVos Children's Hospital Foundation
Grand Rapids, MI
AHP member since 1994
Vicki Weaver serves as president of both the Spectrum Health Foundation and the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Foundation, which are part of Spectrum Health, a not-for-profit integrated health system based in West Michigan. She is responsible for the strategic direction and overall development of the philanthropy program and its outcomes. Since Spectrum Health was formed in 1998, the foundations have raised $421 million to support programs, capital needs, and research and innovation – helping to save lives, restore health, inspire hope and provide comfort to countless patients and their families.
What’s been the biggest surprise of your career in health care philanthropy?
When I started working in healthcare philanthropy I realized very quickly what a profound, meaningful difference our work makes on people’s lives. Within six months, I could see programs that were impacted; I could see spaces and equipment that didn’t exist before.
I have also learned the importance of longevity in this field. While it is common to see professionals in our field moving around frequently, longevity can go a long way in building strong, trusting relationships. These relationships are essential to the overall success of any philanthropy program.
What have you done to encourage employee retention?
Our goal is to get staff connected to the mission and help them feel they’re part of the overall team. We try to help them understand that our role is to bring in the resources that our dedicated healthcare providers need to change lives and save lives. We educate and inspire our staff by bringing program speakers into our staff meetings. This allows them to hear first-hand the importance of the dollars they are raising and stewarding. Everyone on our team, no matter what their role is, plays an important and valued part in the work we do.
What area of giving is Spectrum Health Foundation and Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Foundation most focused on currently?
We have a comprehensive program that includes everything from annual giving to major gifts, including grants from private foundations. We are a Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Hospital and as a result we have quite a bit of corporate giving from national corporate partners as well as local businesses. Particularly with the children’s hospital, there are a lot of third-party events. We only have a handful of events that we actually implement including our premier gala, which annually brings together more than 1,700 community members to raise nearly $1 million.
Tell us more about being part of the Children’s Miracle Network.
The national CMN office recruits corporate donors at the national level that at a local level the hospital might not get access to, such as Wal-Mart, Speedway and IHOP. Our job at the local level is to build relationships, provide encouragement and steward the gifts that are generated by the local operations of these national sponsors.
Describe a recent/current project at the foundation that you’re proud of.
Last year, we raised funds for a medical Simulation Center dedicated solely around cardiovascular disease. It is a state-of-the-art facility with an operating room, imaging, a teaching center and a wet lab. It provides our current physicians a place to learn and practice new procedures, and serves as a training hub for our cardiovascular residents and fellows. If a new or complex procedure is going to be performed, the medical team can create that scenario in the simulation center to practice and feel confident when they go into the real procedure with a patient, which impacts the quality and the outcome of the patient care.
How was that project funded?
It was 100 percent philanthropy.
Have you ever tried a tactic (a communications campaign, an event, etc.) that didn’t go well? What did you learn from that?
One thing that we’re struggling through is the right grateful patient fundraising approach. We’ve brought in [a consultant] to conduct workshops with our team and with physicians and nurses. We’ve tried a variety of tactics. There is a great deal of potential, but I don’t feel like we’ve hit on the right mark yet.
One challenge we feel is that as a large, successful health system we’re not always perceived as a not-for-profit organization. That’s why we’re focused on program fundraising, so people know where their money will go and the impact their giving is making.
Patient rounding is sometimes a hot-button issue at children’s hospital foundations. Do you round at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital? Why or why not?
We don’t and we don’t round on the adult side either. The reason is that Spectrum Health takes patient privacy very seriously. There is a Patient Experience department in place. They engage in patient rounding, and various leaders are involved with patient rounding in the service lines.
Spectrum Health has been recognized as an AHP High Performer organization. Why did your organization decide to participate in the AHP Report on Giving Survey?
Part of Spectrum Health’s vision is to be the leader in health, so we are always striving to be the best we can be. We take accountability very seriously, and we felt participating in the survey was one way to see where we stand with our peers across the country. We were very pleased to be recognized.
What are some of the first things that someone new to health care philanthropy should do?
- Take the time to get close to the mission. Meet with the providers and learn about the programs, their vision and what they face each day. Be an encourager. Ask for a “philanthropy tour” of the organization to learn about the impact that philanthropy has made.
- Meet face to face with donors. Say thank you, get to know why they give and ask if we are meeting their needs to make a meaningful difference through their giving.
- Be a servant leader – put the donor first. Each day ask yourself how are you going to make a difference in the life of a donor?
- Engage with program and organizational leaders, engage with physicians – help them to appreciate the impact that donors make and the joy donors feel in being able to make a difference.