- How did you get into health care philanthropy?
Quite by accident! I met my first health care philanthropy mentor, Maribeth Canning, through a mutual acquaintance while standing in line for coffee. I was an Americorps*VISTA volunteer wrapping up my second impoverished year of service in Maine and thinking of returning to the Midwest. Maribeth tracked me down and encouraged me to apply for an open position in her department focused on event coordination. I was not particularly qualified and was utterly inexperienced but Maribeth saw potential and took a gamble. Just as transactional fundraising can serve in allowing donors to dip their toes into philanthropic engagement, coordinating events did the same for me in preparation for making larger, more impactful asks in support of community health care.
- Why did you choose to make health care philanthropy your career?
I can’t say that I chose it, really, so much as I can say that my path evolved and as I wore increasingly responsible hats (event coordination, Annual Fund Director, Major Gift Officer, Department Director), I came to understand the inevitability of peoples’ intersections with health care and also the gravity of those experiences. We have the gift and challenge of serving people when they are most vulnerable. The gift is the privilege of helping channel their gratitude. The challenge is advocating for an imperfect field where bad outcomes are often very bad and very personal; and where finances can be obstacles that dictate access for many.
One year intended to gain experience morphed into a decade. Our recent capital campaign to regionalized inpatient care was full of professional development opportunities. One of our campaign themes was “Everyone is a story” and this campaign brought those stories together in service to collective care. We all need help and/or can offer help, and it’s a true privilege to be able to enact one to support the other.
I have stayed in the field because it’s one rooted in gratitude – it’s about appreciating people and the good they choose to do in service to others.
- What has been the #1 factor in your career success so far?
Mentors – I’ve been surrounded by kind, intelligent people who saw potential I wasn’t necessarily aware of and who made themselves available to entertain my questions, challenge me and give me room to take some risks.
A close second is authenticity. If you are genuine in your work, care, concern and joy related to a mission and for the people you’re engaging, success seems to follow. Included in that is an understanding and acceptance that your mission is not everyone’s mission and that’s ok – care enough about those you’re engaging to let that be the case.
- What is your greatest passion and why?
I genuinely love people, their potential and their stories, which everyone has. I believe $10 for one is the equivalent of $100,000 for another. I believe each of us can make a difference because I’ve seen it happen.
It’s exciting to understand a mission and help connect the $10 and $100,000 to the work that needs to be done. I love making people feel great about being on board to do it.
- What are your future aspirations?
My dream job is two-fold. I’m never more engaged and motivated than when helping an individual donor find a meaningful expression of their ability to give. To that end, I’d love to be a philanthropic advisor, understanding a donors’ passions and helping connect them to projects that will gratify and inspire them. Consulting also holds appeal. I’d like to do more macro fundraising strategy, overseeing campaign planning and crafting the communications piece of major campaigns. There is nothing more exciting than conceiving of and working a plan to help achieve goals that make people’s lives healthier and happier.