A moment with: Eileen Harte

Photo of Eileen Harte and another adult near a pond.

Eileen Harte serves as the Director of Events at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Foundation in Seattle, Washington. The foundation supports the hospitals and programs of CommonSpirit Health’s Virginia Mason Franciscan Health system in the Pacific Northwest. 

Prior to coming to the foundation three and a half years ago, Eileen spent eight years coordinating large-scale author events, managing the Northwest leg of tours for politicians, movie and TV stars, and all the celebrities who had published books and were visiting the region.

Philanthropy is …
Philanthropy is a way for people who have been blessed with either the means, the resources or the knowledge to make other people’s lives better.
John F. Kennedy said, referencing Luke [12:48], that “to whom much is given much is expected” and that has been shared with me since I was a child and it's always stayed with me as a guide of how I’m going to live my life.
Can you tell us about your current role?
I am responsible for the leadership, management and production of philanthropic events, stewardship events and connection events for our donors and community. Our events team is deeply committed to and enthusiastic about our purpose. It’s all hands on deck and they are wonderful so we can do anything! I am also a part of our foundation’s leadership team and our job is to oversee and create the strategy, vision and innovation for the larger foundation team.
How do you see your work fulfilling the larger mission of CommonSpirit Health?
It goes back to my definition of what philanthropy means. The work we do is focused on bringing people together and being a vehicle for them to help others and to give to what they're passionate about. There's a lot of compassion, kindness, thoughtfulness and engagement from our donors and patients. They want a way to express and to share that. It's important to us to make sure that we're always hosting events and connection and stewardship opportunities. I see that as being a direct way for our patients and our donors to connect.
What would you say to someone considering a job in philanthropy?
I would say that it would be hard not to feel fulfilled when doing this work. It's important purpose-filled work that you're going to feel good about when you go home. I would say “go for it.”
Is there a specific project or story that stands out to you?
I think most people will have a transformative story or reflection on COVID and the time of COVID. Our events team and the foundation was redeployed to manage the PPE supply chain because we were so overwhelmed with the need and the community trying to give. There was one woman who called me … she was 82 and she lived in Sequim … about a three-hour drive away. She had been making masks and wanted to get them to us. I told her “this is so kind of you but maybe you want to give to somebody closer because it's such a long trip.” She said no, that Virginia Mason had treated her late husband. She found a neighbor in his late 70s, and they drove to my office in his pickup truck to hand me a little box of handmade masks. She was so thrilled and so happy to be able to give that to us. We hear all the time about the terrible things people do but we forget to highlight how many good things people do every single day, and that was one that I'll never forget.
When do you feel your best at work?
My passion, no matter whether I'm in philanthropy or not, is creating experiences and memories for people. When I'm producing a video, or a program or writing a script or whatever I'm doing, my goal is to make everyone feel included, positive and good about being there. 

What have you learned through your work?
I've learned so much about how to be a leader and how to help people that I manage become their best fundraisers. At Virginia Mason, we use Kaizen, the management methodology based on the Toyota production system. The amount that I have learned about efficiency and reduction of errors and, especially in this business, how important it is to be careful, quality driven and patient-centric. I've developed as a professional probably more than in the past 10 to 20 years of my life.
What did you dream of being as a child?
I used to say scientist, but I don't ever remember being interested in science. I think I came up with that answer, because when you're a kid people ask you “what are you going to be” and I thought I had to come up with an answer. I said scientist until I was in my teens. It was impressive and my mom loved it, but I don't really believe it myself. The problem with giving a fake answer for so many years is that you can't remember a real answer!
What would others be surprised to learn about you?
I'm a huge nerd. I play video games every day. My husband and I go to comic cons and retro gaming expos. We try to force our teenage children to still do things like that with us. Marvel movies … we’re there opening night! We're dedicated nerds. Some people have seen that side of me, but I would say most have not.

When you leave the office, what does relaxation look like for you?
My “having a drink” after work is turning on my Switch or my Xbox. We have teenagers so relaxation is almost something I've given up trying to have. My ultimate place of relaxation is the mountains. I love Leavenworth [Washington] so much. I love to be cradled in those mountains. I am able to breathe, my heart slows down and it's like an instant shot of relaxation.