Health CareRaising $32.6 million for St. Helena Hospital cancer centerElaine John
President and CEO
St. Helena Hospital Foundation
10 Woodland Road
St. Helena 94574
ST. HELENA -- St. Helena Hospital opened its state-of-the-art Martin-O’Neil Cancer Center and Trinchero Surgery Center in 2009 as a result of robust community support marshaled by the St. Helena Hospital Foundation.
In 2006, the foundation set a goal to raise $28 million through a capital campaign and ultimately brought in $32.6 million.
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For foundation president and CEO Elaine John, the campaign’s success is a major milestone in a succession of considerable achievements on behalf of the hospital. Since stepping into the role of chief fund developer in 1993, Ms. John has transformed the foundation from an ancillary hospital department bringing in $700,000 annually to a standalone organization that raised more than $15 million in 2009, including the largest gift raised in Adventist Health System/West’s history, an $8 million irrevocable trust.
And yet, Ms. John refers to herself as a “reluctant fundraiser.”
“I’m often asked what do I do and when I say fundraising, people tend either to distance themselves because they think I’m going to ask them for a gift or they look at me as though they’re thinking this is the last career anyone would want,” she laughs. “But actually it’s very a rich and beautiful activity. So now when I’m asked, I like to say that I help generous people make a difference.”
Although she never imagined making a career out of fundraising, Ms. John admits discovering her knack for raising money as a child. She was that Girl Scout who always sold the most cookies. When she first moved to California, she volunteered with the Napa Valley Symphony Association and frequently found herself selling more subscriptions and season tickets than anyone else.
Ms. John began her career as a high school English teacher in New York and Iowa. When her husband was recruited to teach literature at Pacific Union College, she took on handling the school’s marketing and communications while their children were young. As head of PUC’s public relations, she developed recruitment materials that won several Council for Advancement and Support of Education awards.
In 1991, Ms. John made the move to St. Helena Hospital’s marketing and communications department. She also became president of the Napa Valley Symphony Association board, which led to giving public speeches and making VIP introductions at symphony events. On one occasion, she invited the hospital president along. When he saw her in action, he asked her to head the hospital’s fund development efforts.
Ms. John became CEO of the foundation in 1993 while continuing to run the hospital’s marketing and communications department. In 2002, after deciding she could not give her best efforts to both jobs, she dedicated herself to fund development and began working with the hospital’s funding committee, a highly committed yet only moderately successful group. Ms. John made it her quest to figure out how to develop more significant philanthropic support for the hospital.
“We were trying to build an endowment, but I saw that the foundation just wasn’t resourced efficiently to develop its huge potential as a source of strategic capital,” she said. “Money from philanthropic gifts has one of greatest returns on investment. It doesn’t cost a lot to raise – just people’s salaries. The expense ratio is fantastic compared to the cost of other hospital funds, yet fundraising was always seen as an ancillary activity.”