40 Under 40

Jennifer Smith

Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation
Neptune, NJ

Why is a 40 under 40 winner

  1. Jennifer has raised over $58 million since 2015.
  2. She secured Meridian Health Foundation’s first ever 8-figure gift — two $5 million gifts — in support of a new integrative medicine program.
  3. She has closed at least one 7-figure gift each year, which is unusual for a small geographic area.
  4. Her fundraising efforts fully funded two da Vinci Robot Surgical Systems and a MAKO orthopedic robot for her hospital.

Q & A

  1. How did you get into health care philanthropy?

    After finishing grad school, before I got my first job, I was volunteering at a local fundraising event called “Ride for Riverview” (see equestrian, above). The event was a horse show that raised money for one of our local hospitals, Riverview Medical Center. I met the development team and shortly thereafter interviewed for an entry level role in annual giving. I was offered the position and have been with the organization ever since – 14 years!

  2. Why did you choose to make health care philanthropy your career?

    My husband and I have always been civic-service type people (he’s an elementary school principal). We live in a populated area in NJ, and being actively involved in our community helps create a small-town feel for us. That said, what better way to help our friends and neighbors than through the impact of healthcare - it is incredibly rewarding to play a role in a healthcare institution that helps so many. I find it truly remarkable to match a donor’s interest with a hospital priority, and then share the impact of that philanthropy.

  3. What has been the #1 factor in your career success so far?

    The number one answer is relationship-building, but I think the bedrock needed to do that well is persistence, patience, enthusiasm, and a good sense of humor.

    Also, I can’t emphasize enough the value of having incredible leadership role models, from whom I try to take different strengths and approaches to find the version and style that works for me. This has included volunteers, executives, trustees, donors, doctors, patients, nurses, my family, friends, coaches, and so many others.

  4. What is your greatest passion and why?

    My children:  I have three daughters, ages 7, 5, and 2. They are bright, precocious, funny, chatty, happy, stubborn, incredible little people. I hope every day that I can encourage them to be the change in the world.

  5. What are your future aspirations?
    I am currently in the AHP Health System Philanthropy Residency Program, and have had the good fortune to learn a tremendous amount about various development operations structures throughout the country. I hope to apply this experience in my future in healthcare philanthropy!
Jennifer Smith

Fun Fact:

I’m a first ballot athletic hall of famer at my college alma mater as an equestrian.