GRAND RAPIDS — The foundation supporting Mercy Health Saint Mary’s made staffing changes in preparation for a major capital campaign that could launch this summer.
Although details remain a work in progress, the upcoming campaign could match or exceed the $42 million that Saint Mary’s Foundation raised more than a decade ago for development of the Richard J. Lacks Cancer Center on the hospital’s main campus in Grand Rapids.
The campaign would “support a variety of new programs and expansion of programs, but that is still being vetted internally,” said Foundation President Michelle Rabideau.
“We’re definitely gearing up for something big,” Rabideau said.
The foundation recently completed a feasibility study that was “overwhelmingly positive” and concluded support exists and the timing was right for a significant capital campaign, she said.
Foundation staff will continue to fine-tune plans over the spring and summer before moving into campaign mode, which could occur by August, Rabideau said. Likely recipients of the campaign include the Lacks Cancer Center and Hauenstein Neuroscience Center, both of which were developed with strong philanthropic support.
“Our flagship programs are the Lacks Cancer Center and the Hauenstein Neuroscience Center. We want to make sure that those continue to be our flagship programs and make substantial investments into those programs,” Rabideau said.
To prepare for what’s ahead, the Saint Mary’s Foundation recently promoted two employees to senior positions.
Keri Kujala, a staff member since 2004, was promoted to director of corporate and donor relations from manager of special events. In her former position, she generated nearly $5 million through events to benefit programs such as the Lacks Cancer Center; Clinica Santa Maria for the underserved, uninsured and homeless populations; and the ALS Program at the Hauenstein Neuroscience Center. Kujala now sets strategy for special events and manages a portfolio of corporate partners, next-generation leaders and key stakeholders.
Courtney Nickerson, who’s been with the foundation since 2010, received a promotion to senior donor relations specialist from donor relations specialist. She develops communications strategy and manages a new constituent relationship management system for philanthropy operations.
In place of Kujala and Nickerson, the foundation hired Alica Arnold, who previously worked as a special events coordinator at Walt Disney World Resorts in Orlando, Fla., and Angela Paasche, previously the live events manager at Townsquare Media in Grand Rapids. Arnold and Paasche will serve as coordinators of special events and donor relations.
The promotions and additions were made to position the foundation staff for the upcoming capital campaign as well as ongoing fundraising work on behalf of Saint Mary’s, Rabideau said.
The foundation, with current assets of $22.7 million, typically raises $2 million to $4 million annually in a non-campaign year and wants to elevate that effort.
In comparison to peer groups, “we have run consistently what I would call understaffed,” Rabideau said. The staff also had “hybrid roles” where “everybody did a little bit of everything,” she said.
“It’s going to position us for longer-term revenue sustainability and for that revenue growth that we’re hoping to gain when we go into a campaign mode,” Rabideau said. “Everything we’re doing we’re trying to do with a more disciplined approach to all of our efforts. Relationship building takes time (and) it takes thought, and by shifting our staffing model to more focused roles, we’re hoping to do that even better.”
The capital campaign the foundation is planning could coincide with Saint Mary’s 125th anniversary in August. The milestone could tie into the theme of the capital campaign and gives Saint Mary’s Foundation a period to reflect on its role in support of the health system.
“It certainly gives us an opportunity to really start to think about what we have done in our first 125 years to transform the health of the community,” Rabideau said. “What does the next journey look like?”
Founded in 2001, the Saint Mary’s Foundation has awarded nearly $70 million to the hospital for programs and capital projects.