Recently Bill Stancykiewicz, director of The Fund Raising School, sat down with Maureen Hackett, founder and president of the Hackett Family Foundation, and Lisa Kennedy, chief philanthropic advisor to the Hackett Family Foundation, to discuss healthcare philanthropy during a pandemic. The following is a transcript of their conversation.
Bill Stanczykiewicz (BS): Healthcare is in the news like never before during this pandemic. What’s the story with healthcare and philanthropy? This is the First Day from The Fund Raising School, and I’m joined by Maureen Hackett. Maureen is the founder and president of the Hackett Family Foundation, and she also is the leader of the Hackett Center For Mental Health.
And Maureen, there’s so much that you have accomplished in your career and in philanthropy. I want to make sure that I clearly describe your significant impact including at our school, at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, where Maureen endowed the Eileen Lamb O’Gara Chair, which is for the professional, the academic, who leads our Women’s Philanthropy Institute studying gender distinctions and charitable giving.
And that’s just one example of Maureen’s generosity to our school. And so Maureen, thanks so much for being with us here on this First Day with The Fund Raising School.
Maureen Hackett (MH): It’s a pleasure.
BS: And along with Maureen Hackett we’re joined by Lisa Kennedy, who serves as the chief philanthropic advisor to the Hackett Family Foundation. Lisa, thank you for being with us as well.
Lisa Kennedy (LK): Yeah, thank you, Bill.
BS: Maureen, let me start with you. You’ve been engaged directly with healthcare philanthropy for so many years with your generosity, with your leadership, helping people innovate. What are you seeing now during the pandemic? What’s the same? What’s different? What trends are you seeing now as the whole world is aware of health conditions in this remarkable way?
MH: Well, at a personal level I’m finding myself pivoting actually in my giving and thinking a little bit out of the box. I will continue to give at the rate that I’m giving, but maybe I’ll change to vaccine research. That’s my pivot.
Policy’s been a big part of my life for a long time, mental health policy particularly. So now I’m thinking it is my role and my duty to get something to the market faster to prevent this from happening again. Take care of all the sick people that we have. So that’s one area that I think some people are stepping up to the plate.
They’re volunteering. If they can’t give funding, they can give time. They can get on the phone. They can take care of people taking care of people. So that I think we’re going to see a change. I think while COVID has been an incredibly terrible situation, I think that there’s a little silver lining in that I think healthcare is going to have to step up to the plate.
BS: Well we wish you the very best success with the vaccine, the sooner the better, of course. How is it different from your previous healthcare philanthropy? Have you always been supporting these very direct interventions? Were you providing support more at a macro level? How is that similar or different from your previous giving in this sector?
MH: You know, previously I’ve given for brick and mortar. I have built hospitals. I’ve built clinics, outpatient facilities, these types of things, and probably about right after Hurricane Harvey hit, I had spoken with my family and the Family Foundation, and Lisa was involved in this conversation.
If I was going to make a lifetime gift and try to make a difference, it wouldn’t be in brick and mortar and it wouldn’t necessarily be in patient care, but it would be at a much higher level. I wanted to take it to the state and then take it to the federal government to allow access to healthcare, not just mental healthcare, primary healthcare as well. I was really worried about the children affected by Hurricane Harvey who are still traumatized to this day.
So it’s changed. It’s changed from supporting art and cultural events. You do what you’re supposed to do as a corporate wife. You host a lot of galas and these types of things. I did that. It was fun. It’s over. I love the people that do that. They hold a special place in my heart. I don’t have to do that anymore, so now I really want to really make a difference at the federal level, and I think that’s probably been my biggest switch is into policy.
BS: Well all of your generosity’s been impactful throughout the years. What I’m hearing from you though, is now after Hurricane Harvey, now with the pandemic, are you wanting to see an even more direct impact? You talk about a vaccine. You talk about changing federal policy. There seems to be an immediacy, which is a word that comes to my mind.
MH: Absolutely. We are on fire as a country. We are way behind in healthcare, way behind Europe and so many other countries, and there’s no excuse for that. We have a lot of money. We have a lot of researchers. We have brilliant clinicians. We just have hit a bottleneck in providing this care, not for people like myself, but for people that live in the Gulf Coast region, in rural areas who can’t get the care that they need, and frankly, their lifestyles have to change in order to be healthy and live longer lives, and it is immediate. It’s on fire. The nation’s on fire.
BS: Lisa, the same line of questioning for you as you intersect in these circles. What were you seeing in healthcare philanthropy on February 29, and then what are you seeing now when everybody became aware of the pandemic in March?
LK: Yeah, it’s been kind of an interesting change, looking at it from both the perspective of a foundation that is giving money, but then also being familiar with development and fundraisers and what’s happening within the profession. So, it’s interesting. I was thrilled to see that the Hackett family was ready to jump in there and do something immediately.
I think one of the great things that we’re seeing right now is that a lot of the funders are willing to do something above and beyond what their current philanthropy was. They’re looking at nonprofits and initiatives and projects that are outside their normal scope, and so I think for fundraisers, it’s also very important to figure out how your program and your institution are relevant to what’s going on in healthcare today.
BS: And Lisa, you advise the Hackett Family Foundation. What advice do you have for donors overall? We know a lot of dollars have gone towards, for example, food assistance. Food banks are telling us they have thousands of brand new donors unsolicited, for example, but can I make a donation to help make ventilators? Can I make a donation to help create a vaccine? What advice do you have for our donors overall, so they think about wanting to have an impact the way that Maureen described so well is informing her philanthropy now, during this year with COVID-19?
LK: Right. I think staying abreast of what’s going on, and I think a lot of that needs to begin in their local communities. There’s so much going on. I think that is the difference in what we’re seeing with the coronavirus now, because it’s touching lives all over the world. Before, a lot of our funding, and particularly in Houston, was regional, and because we had the largest medical center in the world right here in Houston, there is a lot being developed.
But I think part of the advice that I would give to donors is think about what you’re passionate about, and you don’t have to get away from that particular mission to figure out how that mission is relative to what’s going on today. And have a lot of conversations with the organizations that you’re currently supporting, but then keep an open mind about who is really touching the greatest number of lives, and that may be regionally or nationally.
BS: And in terms of what’s relevant today, Maureen, you talk about wanting to be involved in the solution with the vaccine as well as federal policy. I also want to ask you your thoughts on mental health. So obviously, your contracting COVID-19 and not contracting COVID-19 is the big headline, but what have you seen through the Hackett Center for Mental Health due to the lockdown?
So, this is not to get into a discussion about whether the lockdown is a good idea, bad idea, should we loosen up sooner, later? No, but the fact that lockdowns did occur, total quarantine for 10-12 weeks in most states, what has happened with mental health? What has that meant for your philanthropy on that particular topic?
MH: Great question. I mean, I think the lockdown for one has definitely affected families, children in particular, totally confused. They already had a fear of death and trauma and grief, and now it’s tenfold. So, a lot of anxiety, a lot of depression.
Another thing to think about with this COVID and mental health is the frontline people. They are totally stressed out. They’re exhausted. And I read the sad story of one nurse committing suicide, just couldn’t do it any longer. So, there is a huge blip up with the mental health incidents, domestic violence, huge. Domestic violence is up. And people are scared to report stuff like that. So, it’s all over the map, Bill, to be honest with you.
We have to work with the police, we have to work with the sheriff, the fire department, all of the hospitals, and we just don’t have enough therapists. I think, as I said, the silver lining to this COVID will be people recognizing that these problems are real and that it’s not a character flaw, and taking a look at seeing your primary care physician, or your dentist, or your dermatologist, and then they saying to you, “How’s your day? How are you feeling? Have you had any low days this week, and can I help you with that?”
So, this is a tremendous opportunity. Yeah, there’s an uptick in mental health incidences. The ERs are packed, packed. Not just with COVID patients, but everybody is feeling this fear and anxiety and depression, everybody.
BS: We teach at the School of Philanthropy that philanthropy is not just giving charitable dollars, it’s also volunteering your time, it’s also using your voice. And in terms of those frontline professionals, I’ve been so moved, whether it’s in Indianapolis, what I’ve heard about in Texas from some family members around the country, when people go circle a hospital and say, “Hey, we’re here thinking of you.” Or in New York City, we see the cheering for the health professionals as they walk to work.
MH: Yeah, yeah.
BS: And you see these people, the tear in their eye, what it means to them. And again, that’s not going to solve all of our problems, but again, it’s a way to express ourselves who work in frontline professionals.
MH: Very powerful. It’s very powerful, yeah.
BS: Maureen, as we conclude, I’d like to ask you, then too, Lisa gave us great advice. She advises things about donors. What about fundraisers, whether it be in healthcare or is there fundraising in this environment, whether they’re directly engaged in healthcare or not? You’ve been so engaged with our school for so many years, what advice do you have for fundraisers in this current environment?
MH: To drive down Lisa’s point. Read everything, get the facts straight, do your homework. And you can get a lot of facts as a donor, call your community foundation and see what they’re seeing. Are people asking where can they give, and then follow up. Follow up. Where can they give their time, where can they give their money, and how they might help. So, my advice to fundraisers is don’t give up. This is the perfect time to press on, but make sure that you’re informed with the facts.
BS: Maureen Hackett is the president of the Hackett Family Foundation, and also the founder of the Hackett Center for Mental Health. Lisa Kennedy is chief philanthropy advisor for the Hackett Family Foundation. Now, we’re so glad to have them with us here on this First Day with The Fund Raising School.
We also, one Friday every month, bring fundraisers together from around the country for you to ask your questions, share your stories, vent a little bit, commiserate as needed. We’re glad to provide that once a month, and then we’re still open.
Our courses are still available, primarily online, and you’re also eligible for a Crisis Response Scholarship that can reduce the cost of registration by as much as 50 percent. I’m Bill Stanczykiewicz, and now you are now more up-to-date on this First Day with The Fund Raising School.