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Conversation with Betsy Chapin Taylor, FAHP

Eddie Thompson:  Thank you for joining us today on our podcast.  As you know, we are producing podcasts with icons in our industry – sharing what they have learned in their careers that’s really made a difference.

Today, I’m tickled pink to have a good friend, Betsy Chapin Taylor, with us.  You can read Betsy’s credentials on her website, but let me just say she’s a great professional.  She’s wise, she’s smart, she’s in tune, and in addition to that, she’s a really good person!

Betsy, thank you for taking the time today to join us on this podcast.

Betsy Chapin Taylor:  Thank you so much, Eddie, it’s delightful to be with you.

Eddie:  You’ve been doing this for a few years now, I know at least 25 years.  You’ve really made a serious contribution to our industry.  I want to ask you two really important questions.  What have you learned that’s really made the difference?  The second question, we’ll come back to, is what mistakes have you made and what lessons have you learned?

Betsy:  Wow, two big questions there, Eddie! So, what have I learned that’s really made a difference?  First and foremost, if you keep passion, purpose and donor intent at the center of this, the dollars will just happen.  We do ourselves a disservice sometimes by focusing too much on the money and while metrics and processes and accountability are important, if we keep the values and the relationships in the center of things, everything else just comes together.

Eddie: Absolutely, it’s not mutually exclusive.  You can have a good systematic approach where there’s high accountability and still be donor-centered.

Betsy: Absolutely, I agree.  Over the course of my career I’ve been frustrated when I’ve seen folks that have seen their work in philanthropy almost as racking up points on the board.  Whereas, if we really approach this in a way that is authentic and purpose-driven, values-driven, we still get to the same end of enabling our institutions in an amazing way.  But we go through it in a way that truly embraces donors and their intention and desire to do good.

Eddie: I read a book years ago, Si Seymour’s 1966 Designs for Fund-raising book.  To me, it’s one of the best books on fundraising.  He made a comment that people give to people and they give because they like people.  You have to put donors first and the only way you can really do that appropriately is to have a relationship with them.  What do you think about that?

Betsy: Oh, I agree with that!  Within that, it is about relationship and shared vision.  It’s also recognizing that in those relationships, people are intrinsically motivated to be others-centered.  People desire to connect with other people and to make a positive impact on other people.  So, if we know that we both come to this with a desire to effect change that is meaningful to us, that’s an important part to keep in that relationship as well.

Eddie: Well, how do we do that, Betsy, when you’ve got so much emphasis on transactional fundraising?  There is a place for that when you’re initially developing a relationship, but how do we get to that next level in an industry where it’s all about money today?

Betsy: There are folks who have heard me say this who have really embraced it and there are folks who have really railed against it.  But, part of what I would like to do, frankly, is change the semantics in our industry.  When people hear fundraising, they presume that it is transactional.  There is an idea that there could be arm-twisting involved or undue pressure involved – that we’re taking someone somewhere they don’t want to go.

I feel fundraising is often we got the gift and we then moved on.  But, if we start talking about philanthropy, there’s something about philanthropy – it’s not about gift size. It’s about intention.  If we know someone comes to us and they want to stand shoulder-to-shoulder looking out in the same direction around a shared future, that we can enable together – philanthropy to me is always about long-term relationship-equity and trust.

I’d love for us to start to change the semantics around things because even as we seek to engage the partnership of board members and of clinicians and c-suite members who could be allies in our work, they are often put-off in some part by thinking this is transactional fundraising and not truly the values-based philanthropy that it is.

Eddie: Absolutely right!

Well, you’ve been doing this a long time.  What mistakes have you made that you want to confess today?  And, what have you learned?

Betsy: Oh, wow, Eddie, how long is this podcast?  I think we’ve all made more mistakes than we wanted to.  One that probably has been the biggest a-ha moment for me is there was a time when I thought that dedication and sheer resolve could overcome a lack of shared vision and alignment between the foundation and the hospital.  I’ve always worked in healthcare philanthropy.  However, I’ve realized that it’s just not possible to exist in that environment and to make anywhere near the impact that you desire to make.

Eddie: Oh, absolutely, and that’s not limited to health care.

Betsy: It’s not.  Sometimes we go into something and we’re like, I know the environment, the conditions are not right.  We don’t have shared vision.  We don’t have true collaboration.  But if I just work hard enough, if I just engage enough of the right people, I can overcome that.  You really can’t – not if you want to really do this in the right way and really optimize your impact on the organization.

Eddie: We’re almost out of time, is there anything else that you want to share with us?

Betsy: What’s on my mind a lot right now, and again thinking about health care given that health care is changing so much.  We’ve known for a while that we’re really talking to donor investors who want to clearly understand the impact that they’re going to achieve.  So, one of the things I’m talking a lot about these days is better project selection.  We have to do a much better job articulating the projects that we would want to find, the impact they’re going to make on the world, how we’re going to measure and demonstrate that impact.  I find that donors are not giving just out of pure altruism.  Donors are giving because they want to affect change and that means we’re obligated to step up and provide better information on the front end.

Eddie: One of the things I’ve been pitching lately is that these are not so much donors as they are investors.  Like any other investor, they’re looking for return on investment.  They want to see that they are making a difference with this contribution.  I think that’s a big reason people drop off the giving rolls because they don’t feel like they’re really making a difference.

Betsy: I agree.  We’ve got to be able to share what that difference is in very human terms.  How did it change one life, the life of the community?  How did it touch people?

Eddie: Betsy, you’re the best!  You’re an icon!  That’s one reason I wanted you on our podcast.  We wish you the very best.

If you ever need someone to really help you with a better understanding of what you need to do going forward, there’s no one better than Betsy.

Betsy, thank you.

Betsy: Thank you so much, Eddie!

About Betsy Chapin TaylorBetsy Taylor has become one of health care philanthropy’s most provocative thought leaders. She is an award-winning author, speaker and consultant drawing on more than 25 years’ experience in health care philanthropy including 17 years as chief philanthropy officer and foundation president in academic, community and children’s hospitals. Betsy specializes in leadership engagement and philanthropy strategy.

Betsy is the author or editor of multiple books including Healthcare Philanthropy: Advance Charitable Giving to Your Organization’s Mission (Health Administration Press),  Boards and Philanthropy: Developing the Next-Curve Revenue Source for Health Care (American Hospital Association), Redefining Healthcare Philanthropy (Association for Healthcare Philanthropy), Advancing the CEO’s Role in Healthcare Philanthropy (American College of Healthcare Executives), Transforming Health Care Philanthropy (Association for Healthcare Philanthropy) and Systemization and Regionalization of Health Care Philanthropy (Association for Healthcare Philanthropy).

Her work has been featured in national trade publications for philanthropy and health care management including Healthcare ExecutiveTrusteeBoardRoom PressModern HealthcareH&HN Daily, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, FierceHealthFinance, Healthcare Philanthropy Journal, Chief Executive Officer, Becker’s Hospital Review, Pediatric Focus, Health Facilities Management and more.  She is also a frequent resource contributor to the American Hospital Association’s Trustee Services website (https://trustees.aha.org).

In addition to leading Accordant Philanthropy®, Betsy is a faculty member for the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) where she educates CEOs and senior health care executives about positioning philanthropy as a key revenue resource for health care. She is also a presenter with the American Hospital Association’s Speakers Express and a frequent speaker at conferences for health care and philanthropy in both the U.S. and Europe.

Betsy received a Master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York and an MBA from the University of Georgia. She holds the highest level of certification in health care philanthropy as a Fellow of the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (FAHP) as well as full professional membership in the National Speaker’s Association.

Conversations with Industry Icons Podcast Series

With this podcast series, Eddie Thompson, Founder and CEO of Thompson & Associates, brings incredible insight and inspiring stories interviewing leaders from different perspectives of the fundraising community: higher education, healthcare, consultants, academia and more!  Hear these professionals tell stories of lessons they’ve learned during their distinguished careers.  We hope these conversations inspire you to continue to strive for excellence in this noble occupation of fundraising!