40 Under 40

Luisa Wilsman

Ascension St. Thomas Health Foundation
Nashville, TN

Why is a 40 under 40 winner

  • At Ascension St. Thomas Health Foundation, Luisa has built a robust Grateful Patient Major Gifts Program from the ground up. She selected wealth screening tools, built a portfolio of major donors, and created a pipeline for major gift prospect identification by partnering with physicians across the system.
  • Luisa quickly and successfully created a portfolio of 120 major gift prospects as part of a $13 million Ascension Saint Thomas Health campaign for hospital expansion and updates.
  • Over the course of two years, Luisa identified and qualified over 70 major gift prospects at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, one of which donated $1,000,000 to the Hematology/Oncology service line.

Q & A

1. How did you get into healthcare philanthropy?

My path into healthcare philanthropy was a series of puzzle pieces that fell into place over time. I wanted to be a physician and as a teenager I spent years volunteering as a candy striper at Nassau University Medical Center, but as a college student I found I was more interested in fundraising than my pre-med classes. 

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

Healthcare philanthropy was the perfect way I could use my talents to still help hospitals and patients. After years of fundraising for higher education, I fell into a unique position working for Vanderbilt University Medical Center. I was thrilled to apply my knowledge to support research and improve patient care.

Walk the halls of any hospital and you will see so many patients searching for healing and hope. Healthcare philanthropy was an obvious direction for me once I married my personal and professional experiences with my desire to support an organization with a mission I believed in. I consider myself very lucky to have been selected for the positions I have held in healthcare and recognize them as opportunities to be a part of something bigger than myself.

3. Tell us about a pivot point or crucial step in your career journey.

Sometimes making the wrong career move can teach you so much more than making the right one. After 14 years of fundraising, I decided to try something different! I met amazing people in government and worked with grants, but at the end of the day, I realized I missed fundraising. It was the best mistake I could have made. I went back on the job market and was soon offered a position at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Accepting the position of Senior Program Manager for the Grateful Patient and Families program was the easiest decision I have ever had to make. It brought me back to philanthropy and it eventually led me to me to my dream job at the Ascension Saint Thomas Health Foundation.

4. What was your first job, and what is something it taught you?

My first job in fundraising was telefundraising for Binghamton University. The role taught me so much about effective communication, the role of nonprofits, and the importance of philanthropy. It taught me to be brave. Mostly, it taught me that fundraising could be fun and people really want to help make a difference. I consider phonathon work to be the gateway to a career in fundraising! I know I wouldn't be in healthcare philanthropy without the experience. 

5. What are your future aspirations?

I am dedicated to the Ascension Saint Thomas Health Foundation and plan to apply all of my knowledge and skills to the important work we do. Supporting our mission is the most worthy way I can use my talents to continue making a difference for caregivers and patients.

In the future I hope to bring greater awareness to our mission and purpose. Helping our team to reach ambitious fundraising goals and even greater levels of success as we continue to build our major gift program is my focus.

Luisa_Wilsman Headshot-edited

Fun Fact:

My garden is my favorite place to be. Sometimes I'll plant so many seeds I forget what they all are! I'll think we have a watermelon growing and then it'll turn out be a pumpkin. I love surprising my kids and seeing how excited they are to eat something we grew together.