National Program Spotlight

CommonSpirit Health Philanthropy gathers for three-day celebration of education and excellence

Chicago, Ill. (February 13, 2023) – CommonSpirit Health’s 12th annual Philanthropy Summit was held February 7-9, 2023, in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event brought together more than 250 philanthropy leaders and professionals from throughout the United States in the spirit of continuing education and the celebration of philanthropic excellence.

Originally conceived of by Fred Najjar, CommonSpirit’s Executive Vice President and Chief Philanthropy Officer, and President of CommonSpirit Health Foundation, the summit represents a significant investment in the professional development of each staff member across the 80-plus CommonSpirit affiliated fundraising entities. This year’s gathering, celebrating the themes of purpose, empowerment and persistence, was the first in-person summit in four years. It was also Najjar's last, having recently announced his retirement.

“From our very first Summit in 2012, I hoped that it would serve as a wonderful way to connect and build relationships with each other, to share best practices, and to grow the culture of philanthropy throughout our entire organization,” says Najjar. “One of the things I’m most proud of during my tenure with the organization is the fact that we have surpassed our fundraising performance every single year for the last twelve years. That is only possible when we all share in our commitment to the mission, are empowered to succeed and take time to celebrate what we can achieve together. That is the spirit of the summit.”

Najjar went on to share that as a system, CommonSpirit Health philanthropy raised more than $300 million last year. This achievement was made possible by the almost 60,000 donors who made the commitment to walk alongside the organization together with the relationships philanthropy teams are building in the communities they serve and beyond. For every dollar given to the philanthropic effort at CommonSpirit last year, philanthropy returned $4.73 to support the ministry. 

Summit Chair Charlie Guida, Southwest Division Vice President of Philanthropy, and Vice Chair Susan Shum, Chief Philanthropy Officer for Los Angeles’ California Hospital Medical Center Foundation, along with Nancy Bussani, System Senior Vice President, Philanthropy Strategy and Governance, and Dawn Dougherty, System Director, Education and Professional Development, oversaw the three-day conference which included 12 unique education sessions, three general sessions and the annual Phillies Awards celebration. 

Najjar and Wright Lassiter, CommonSpirit’s Chief Executive Officer, opened the summit with a “fireside chat.” Their discussion provided an opportunity for the philanthropy teams to get to know Lassiter, who joined CommonSpirit less than a year ago. During their conversation, Lassiter spoke about his views on the organization, how he believes CommonSpirit can help ensure access to quality health care for all and what role philanthropy can have in that work. 

Jia Jiang, author of Rejection Proof delivered the Summit’s keynote address. An entrepreneur, blogger and TED speaker, Jiang spoke on the importance of not letting fear stop anyone from reaching for, and achieving, their goals. He shared his “secrets of successful asking” and how to tell when an initial ‘no’ might be converted into something positive, a crucial focus in philanthropic endeavors. Finally, Jiang shared how he developed his own confidence — and learned to overcome fear and live more boldly.

Alice Ayres, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, moderated the final general session, a discussion between Julie Sprengel, CommonSpirit’s Southern California Division President, Tim Bricker, Southwest Interim Division President, and Wanda Cole-Frieman, System Senior Vice President for Talent Acquisition. Focusing on the event’s themes of purpose, empowerment and persistence, the panel discussed how philanthropy can best work with the system, local hospitals and their communities to drive success in the future.

The culmination of the summit was the 11th annual Phillies awards, a system-wide celebration that recognized the efforts and accomplishments the foundations achieved in the prior fiscal year. This year’s awards were in the categories of: Largest Gift, Board Director of the Year, Division of the Year, Philanthropy Champion of the Year, Philanthropist of the Year, Foundation of the Year and Philanthropy Values Award.

Nominees for the Largest Gift award were:

  • Dignity Health Foundation - East Valley, Chandler, Arizona
  • St. Mary-Corwin Health Foundation, Pueblo, Colorado
  • St. Joseph’s Foundation, Phoenix, Arizona
  • Mercy Foundation North, Redding, California
  • St. Anthony Foundation, Lakewood, Colorado
  • Barrow Neurological Foundation, Phoenix, Arizona
  • Mark Twain Medical Center Foundation, San Andreas, California

This award celebrates the largest documented single gift secured across the national ministry in fiscal year 2022. Barrow Neurological Foundation was named this year’s winner with a gift of $21,382,166 from Bill and Carolyn Franke. The gift establishes the Franke Global Neuroscience Education Center at Barrow. It will create an endowment to fund education programs — nearly $19 million of which goes to international programs and $2.5 million towards undergraduate research programs.

The Board Director of the Year award honors one of our 1,500 local foundation board directors for giving of their time, resources, advocacy and all of the other meaningful ways they support their foundation. This year’s recipient, Julie Kenney, serves on the Board of Directors at CHI Health Foundation in Omaha, Nebraska, where she has been a passionate advocate for CHI Health for more than 14 years. During that time, she has served on numerous boards throughout the health system at the community and foundation levels. Julie has witnessed significant change in the organization and its leadership but has remained a constant beacon of positivity and support. Her board colleagues note that Julie’s passion for community involvement is authentic and that she is one of the most giving, thoughtful and caring individuals and is always first in line to support CHI Health. 

Nominees for the Division of the Year award were:

  • Pacific Northwest Division
  • Southeast Division
  • Northern California Division
  • Southern California Division
  • Southwest Division

The Division of the Year award celebrates collaboration among foundations that results in an increase in dollars raised, a cost-to-raise-a-dollar of less than 35 cents and transfers to their hospitals of twice the amount of expenses. The winning division must exemplify collaboration, showing how we are all stronger when we work together. This year’s winner is the Southern California Division, which includes California Hospital Medical Center Foundation (Los Angeles), Arroyo Grande Community Hospital Foundation (Arroyo Grande), Bakersfield Memorial Hospital Foundation (Bakersfield), Dignity Health Foundation - Inland Empire (San Bernardino), French Hospital Medical Center Foundation (San Luis Obispo), Friends of Mercy Foundation (Bakersfield), Glendale Memorial Health Foundation (Glendale), Marian Regional Medical Center Foundation (Santa Maria), Mark Twain Medical Center Foundation (San Andreas), Mercy Medical Center Foundation (Merced), Northridge Hospital Foundation (Northridge), St. John’s Healthcare Foundation (Oxnard), St. Joseph's Foundation of San Joaquin (Stockton) and St. Mary Medical Center Foundation (Long Beach).

The Philanthropy Champion of the Year award honors a CommonSpirit leader who has given of themselves in a meaningful way to further philanthropy’s impact. This year’s recipient is Elizabeth Shih, CommonSpirit’s Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer. Shih is not only a generous donor year after year, she is also a tireless advocate for philanthropy across the ministry, amplifying its impact to executive leadership, operational leadership and the Board of Stewardship Trustees.

The Philanthropist of the Year award celebrates an individual, family or organization who has given of their time, resources, efforts, recruitment and advocacy to support their foundation in a meaningful way over a sustained period of time. This year’s winner, Kris Engelstad, of St. Rose Dominican Health Foundation in Henderson, Nevada, has truly dedicated her life to helping others through transformational gifts throughout the region. Through her leadership, and based on her own life experiences, Engelstad and the Engelstad Foundation are among the most impactful philanthropists in all of Nevada. Since 2011, she and the foundation have donated more than $21.5 million to St. Rose which has been spread between seven major initiatives. 

Nominees for the Foundation of the Year award were:

  • California Hospital Medical Center Foundation, Los Angeles, California
  • St. Mary Medical Center Foundation, Long Beach, California
  • Northridge Hospital Foundation, Northridge, California
  • CHI Memorial Health Foundation, Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Bakersfield Memorial Hospital Foundation, Bakersfield, California
  • Dignity Health Foundation - East Valley, Chandler, Arizona

The Foundation of the Year award celebrates the fundraising office which excels across major gifts, grants and planned gifts. The foundation needs to achieve a balance, keeping their expenses in check while investing in programs that transform their work. They also need to build strong teams dedicated to advancing the mission of the organization. In fiscal year 2022, this year’s recipient, CHI Memorial Foundation, raised nearly $6.2 million, increasing fundraising revenue by 67% over the prior year. This was accomplished while keeping the cost-to-raise-a-dollar at 14 cents and transferring 2.6 times their total expenses back to the hospital.

The Philanthropy Values Award honors a local philanthropy team member who truly exemplifies CommonSpirit’s values, both personally and professionally. It is an award for an individual who demonstrates the values upon which Humankindness is based, each and every day. This year’s recipient is Brian Hammel, Chief Philanthropy Officer of California’s Northridge Hospital Foundation. For each of the last 20 years, Hammel has been the driving force behind the Annual Helping Hands “Holiday Jam,” providing an afternoon of fun, food, toys and memories for 325 underserved children from low-income schools in the hospital’s community. He is deeply involved with the Center for Healthier Communities which provides free health education and prevention programs and the Center for Sexual Assault Services program which serves victims of assault, abuse, domestic violence and human trafficking. Beyond raising money for these programs, Hammel becomes personally engaged to ensure they succeed.

The final award, the Lifetime Achievement Award in Philanthropy, was a surprise honor of Najjar in recognition not only of his service and leadership at CommonSpirit but also of his industry leadership as Chairperson of the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy. Leaders from across the organization, as well as friends, family and colleagues from outside of the organization spoke in his honor in a touching tribute.