Conversation with David Flood
Eddie Thompson: Thank you everybody for joining us today for our podcast! We hope you’ve enjoyed the series. We’ve had conversations with industry icons and we have one today, David Flood. David, thank you for joining us.
David Flood: Great to be here, Eddie. Thank you.
Eddie: David, tell us what your role is today with Intermountain Healthcare system, and then we’ll get started with our questions.
David: Sure. I serve as Senior Vice President and Chief Development Officer for the Intermountain system based in Salt Lake City. We’re a group of 23 hospitals at present. I also serve as president of the Intermountain Foundation. A few years ago, we brought together about 16 foundations representing 22 hospitals, at the time, into one corporate platform. I oversee that platform that reports up to me.
Eddie: There are people who are dreamers in this world and there are people who are visionaries. A dreamer is someone who comes to a conclusion while they’re asleep and there’s no real agenda. But the visionary is a person who sets a course, who does this while they’re wide awake and alert. David is a visionary.
I had a chance to sit down with him a month or so ago. He got up on a white board and drew what he was trying to do. I left very impressed with his knowledge and his understanding. I’ll tell you what I’m more impressed with of David Flood than anything else – and that is he is a man of integrity. In an industry where that can be lost, David, the reason we’re bringing icons to so many people around the country to hear their message is because they need to hear that kind of message. So, I really appreciate you taking time to do this.
David: Thanks for that, Eddie. Coming from you that means a lot and I’ll try to live up to that. I try every day to guess as best as I can and so far we’ve guessed more right than wrong. But, a lot of people helped along the way.
Eddie: As Cayce says, and I’ve repeated this several times, we built a great company on all of Eddie’s mistakes. **laughter!**
So, I’m going to ask you three questions. I’d love to hear your thoughts and really think about the audience and how you can help them.
What is the biggest mistake you’ve made professionally and what did you learn from it?
David: As you can probably imagine having done this now since the early 1990s, I could probably keep you all day and talk about this.
One does pop out though because it still lives with me. I’ll give you a little background on it. When I was coming up through the ranks, I started in higher education and I was with an educational institution and they were having a campaign. I got my first exposure to major gift activity and as you know in these campaigns it’s peaks and valleys. They happened to be at a peak when I came in and asked me to steward some relationships. People were excited about their alma mater and the initiative that we were representing.
So, gifts were coming in. It was getting to the public phase and I was there to represent gifts anywhere from $25,000 and above. I lost my way and I’ll never forget it, really because of one person who made an impression on me.
There was a younger donor, somebody in their 40s, who came forward and said I want to make a gift. It wasn’t a million-dollar gift, but it was to them. I was so intoxicated with this this new world I found where you go and meet with people and they would give you money; I could bring that bounty back to the office and everybody would cheer, that I became cavalier. I became somebody that really wouldn’t be a leader today in fundraising and philanthropy. As a result, this person got a thank you from me and I moved on to the next discussion.
Well, I ran into this person later on and they were sort of distant from me, but they were kind enough. But as I got into a conversation, I realized that I’d let this person down. That this meant the world to them. This was a big deal. They had stretched themselves. All they wanted to know is that it meant a lot to the mission and to the organization. And, guess what? I was the only person that could articulate that on behalf of the institution. I didn’t. I just said thanks and I moved on.
So, what I realized at that moment and I’ve carried it with me since, is that it’s our responsibility to live in the moment with our donors. And, I wasn’t living in the moment. It’s our job to bring them along with us, to let them know how important this was, how many lives are going to be impacted.
To me, that was my biggest mistake, but it was also my greatest learning opportunity. It made me different. Just saying this to you is sort of a tribute to that donor. I hope they stayed with philanthropy and didn’t have a bad taste because this young guy just got too excited about what was happening and maybe a little bit selfish. That’s my biggest mistake or that’s the one that pops up most readily in my mind.
Eddie: I’m really glad you brought that story up because we’ve not had a story like that.
What it indicates is that it’s easy for us to get jaded. When someone makes a gift, they’ve made a gift! Size may matter in the long run of the institution – but to that donor, it’s important. That is a great story, I appreciate you sharing.
Second question, which is also challenging, is what is the most important lesson you’ve learned?
David: Well again, lots sort of goes through my head as you ask that question. I think as I became a manager or leader of people, to me at that time having all the answers was important to me. But I realized pretty quickly that having all the answers is not only impossible but it’s undesirable. I used to think that knowing every conceivable answer on any topic in our business was what was going to differentiate strong from weak leadership.
What I eventually learned was that this spoke more to my insecurities in my perceived lack of pedigree. You see all these people who know all this about philanthropy and fundraising. Only later did I learn a lot of these people backed into this business just like I did. But I didn’t have that confidence. I thought I had to know everything.
As a result of having answers shoot quickly from my hip, I gave off an impression that was perceived as sort of high-strung, competitive, fast-talking – which, I still am, as you can tell – that I was dedicated, but a bit unrelatable. It’s not how I felt inside but it was something that I gave off. What I learned from that was I needed to step back, not expect that I would know everything but that I could have access to any answer I needed by building networks with people like Eddie Thompson, through AHP, AFP, CASE, all these great organizations that are out there.
I really had to make a transition myself from being a know-it-all to being able to get it all. That’s what I’m most proud of today. The relationships and the people and the information that’s out there, I learn every day. A lot fell off my shoulders, a lot of weight, when I realized I didn’t need to know it all. Sometimes you need to just look at your people and say, what do you think? Hear what they have to say and you realize how much dimension they have. I’ve been blessed to work with great people. It just turned my professional life around when I was able to come to that realization.
Eddie: We will never be perfect, will we? We just need to be open vessels. Something you said reminds me of a quote: when I light your candle, it doesn’t diminish mine. When I’m open to you, I benefit, we all benefit. You’ve really characterized that well.
Let me ask you one last question. You’ve been really successful. You’ve shared with me in the past about your background – where you came from and you’ve talked about your family. What has made you successful, David? What is that ingredient in you? You didn’t get where you are by accident. I understand that no one gets to where they are by themselves. I understand that. But what has been the key to your success from your perspective?
David: Well, I’m certainly not the smartest guy in the room. I do listen to people as they assess where I can do better and where I’ve done well by them.
I’m thinking that my secret weapon really has come from my parents. I have two loving parents growing up and great brothers and a sister who are just a terrific family. But we were taught to live life in degrees of yes. What that means is that if somebody is in need, you rarely, if ever, say no. Someone may ask you for $100. You may say, I can’t give you $100 but I have $5 or I can give you a ride somewhere.
That spirit growing up, not only did it move me into philanthropy, but it taught me that everything is personal in life. The whole idea of it’s only business… I ask anyone who shares in that mantra to cross the line and be brave and be more personal. To me, it’s about the relationships I’ve built with great people I’ve worked with in the organizations I’ve been blessed and fortunate to be a part of.
It amazes me, Eddie, that texting someone to say congratulations on your spouse’s new job would surprise them. Or, that I can’t believe you came to my mother’s viewing or wake. It sort of was a sad testimony to me as I started to get into management – it was just something that I was taught, that you do these things, that we’re human beings first. As people began to relate into that they then want to know more about you. Now as you make decisions as a leader, they realized they weren’t coming from a place of want. It was coming from where your heart led you and what you thought was best as a leader. They would run through sheetrock for you and I would for them.
So, I think personal trust, establishing that, spending the time to establish that. Not in a false way but in a genuine way where you really care about your people as human beings first. That’s really the key to success in this business. We’re a relationship business. But so often we turn into robots as managers and co-workers because we say, well, this is just my work life.
I’m spending 10 hours or more a day with people here. You’ve got to be personal to be successful. To me, that’s what I enjoy most. I’m hoping that’s what shines out and I’ve heard people say that that’s what they like. So, if that’s what they like – it’s great for me because that’s all I know because that’s what I’ve been taught. Love people for who they are and the work stuff falls into line. Like I said, you can get answers anywhere to know the business and the formula – bring that in and great things can happen.
Eddie: For those who tuned in to this podcast, were wondering what they would learn today, they’ve learned the most important lesson in fundraising. And that is to relate to people. It’s about relationships, it’s not about money. It’s about relationships and you’ve heard from one of the very best in the industry. By the way, Dave was a Si) Seymour winner in 2019. And, he deserves it!
I really appreciate you doing this, David. You’re going to have a few folks who would like to follow up with a question, do you mind sharing your email address?
David: I would love to (click here to reveal). I would love to hear from anyone. As I said, I want to rely on people to give me answers. And if I can be helpful, I want to definitely feed into this. It’s beautiful!
Eddie: If you ever see that David is speaking at a conference, attend! You’ll learn a great deal from it.
One of the things I love about doing this podcast series, again Dave, and I know I’m speaking to the audience to have been listening, these are great people. They’re not just industry leaders. They are great people. I mean, down to the core! They’re honest. They’re trying to do the best job they know how. They’re sincere and focused. And, that describes you too, David. I really appreciate you taking time to do this. It means a lot to me!
David: I’m honored by that, Eddie. Thank you so much. And, listen, I know how much you do for our industry and I just want to thank you on behalf of all these people who are listening. It goes unsung and you don’t want it sung, but I know how much you do volunteering, helping so many of us in this business including me and I just want to thank you on behalf of all of us.
Eddie: Well, I’m the most blessed man in the world and I should be blessing others. All right, my friend. Thank you everybody for joining us. This has been a great podcast. David, thank you so much. We look forward to hearing more about what you’re doing at Intermountain. That’s a great organization, by the way!
David: Yeah, I love it. Great people, I’m so fortunate.
Eddie: I’m so impressed, and I know they’re fortunate to have you.
Well, thank you everybody for joining us. David, thank you so much. Have a great day! We look forward to our next podcast.
David: Continued success, thank you!
As Senior Vice President and Chief Development Officer, David drives innovation through the direction and oversight of Intermountain Foundation, a comprehensive healthcare fundraising network designed to meet the philanthropic and research needs of Intermountain’s hospitals and related healthcare services.
In conjunction with a talented team of development professionals and volunteer leaders, Dave nurtures a spectrum of key relationships and inspires philanthropic investment in Intermountain’s mission to provide greater access, affordability, and quality to the states and communities served. Contributions are invested back into the community to fuel innovative medical research, community education and support programs, advanced technology acquisition, construction and upgrade of patient-friendly facilities, and delivery of care to the underserved.
Recognized as an industry thought leader, Dave shares his knowledge with charitable organizations and forums throughout the United States and internationally. He serves as a current member and past Board Chair of the AHP. The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) previously named him New Jersey’s Outstanding Professional Fundraiser. In 2019, he was awarded the prestigious Harold J. (Si) Seymour Award, the highest honor in the field of healthcare philanthropy.
Prior to his arrival at Intermountain, Dave served in leadership roles in healthcare and education, most recently as president of the Meridian Health Affiliated Foundations in New Jersey. Dave received bachelor and master degrees from Seton Hall University, where he currently serves on the Board of Regents.