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Thoughts on Being a Successor
With baby boomers coming of age, there are limitless
predictions of an all-out void of worthy candidates to fill the shoes of the tireless, dedicated workers who emerged from the tumultuous ’60s and ’70s as committed leaders and agents of changes. In health care philanthropy the stakes are high. In 2007, $23.15 billion was raised in the USA. How much of that was raised either by, or directed by, a staff person over the age of 50? Probably a very large portion. These are the people we are losing to retirement—the experienced, the skilled, the long-time builders of development programs and practices.

Health care philanthropy leaders, partnering with volunteer leaders, are responsible for the greatest return on investment (ROI) in most health care institutions today. There is no other revenue stream that consistently performs at such high rates of return. Hospital foundations are no longer the party givers and the raffle prize organizers. They are the sophisticated
difference between a hospital being in the black as opposed to red at year-end; the difference between having state-of-
the-art technology or not.

Chief development officers (CDO), who have successfully transitioned to a performance-based, profi table entity with low costs to funds, are filled with knowledge waiting to be imparted to those who will be their successors. As these very valuable, skilled financial development leaders begin to plan for retirement, finding the right successor to carry on and fulfi ll the dream or legacy is vitally important. The accomplished, retiring chief development officer is to be applauded for searching for the right person to carry on his or her programs, for being willing to coach the successor, and for entrusting years of knowledge and good practices to the next in line.

Experienced, capable and resourceful professionals will have
many opportunities to explore. Perhaps you will be that person who is tapped to succeed a health care development leader. You may or may not already be employed by the
institution where the leader is leaving. If you do make the decision to accept a “successor” role, there are several key areas you should consider.

What does it mean to be the successor?

The very fact that the chief development officer has publicly and carefully chosen you speaks volumes of your capabilities, experience and overall qualities. Each time you are introduced or accompany the chief person publicly you will be perceived as the fi rst choice of succession. Most institutions will not allow an employment letter to include a guarantee that you will be the automatic successor when the head person leaves; however, the mere fact that you have been visibly selected will stand on its own merit.

How are you acknowledged as the successor?

Most of us spend a fair amount of time networking with our peers, and we may be well known and respected by these colleagues. However, we are usually not known by hospital administrators or board members of other institutions. The chief development officer will be extremely helpful in this area by ensuring you have interaction with key administrators, including the hospital president as well
as foundation board members. Seek every opportunity to build upon the relationships you make when shadowing
the chief development officer.

By Lois J. Gomez, M.P.A., CFRE,

Lois is president of Netzel Grigsby Associates, Inc., Southwest. She began her fundraising career with the American Red Cross Los Angeles Chapter, moving to health care philanthropy as manager of a small hospital foundation. Most recently, she served as vice president, major gifts and chief operating officer at California Hospital Medical Center Foundation. Lois has been an instructor for both the UCLA and California State University at Northridge fundraising certificate programs.


Reproduced with permission of the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy. AHP Journal, (c) 2009

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