Faces of WID - April 2024

Name:  Heather Johnston
Title & Organization: Director of Development, Cambridge Health Alliance Foundation
WID Role: Marketing and Communications Committee
Hometown: Danvers, MA
Lives Currently: Beverly, MA
Education: BS in Business Administration, Southern New Hampshire University
Hobbies: Gardening, time on the beach, and spending time with my daughters, husband, and two dogs. However, what keeps me the busiest is being a hockey and softball mom and traveling to rinks and fields all over New England and the East Coast.

When and how did you join the development field? What path brought you to your current role?
I started in Development in 1998 at Easter Seals, when they were transitioning from the telethon format to a two-hour special that highlighted local affiliates. Prior to that, I was working as an evening news producer for ABC News, where I had previously worked with Peter Jennings of World News Tonight to cover the 1996 Presidential Primary election.

The local Easter Seals affiliate was looking for someone to join its Development team to coordinate events and this new, two-hour special.  Given my background in producing it was a natural fit to make the change. I did not go into the role knowing I would build a career in philanthropy—but like many, it just played out that way and I never left the field.

Is there someone who has shaped or influenced your career in development? If so, in what way?
Jay McGovern, who was the Vice President of Development at Anna Jaques Hospital and hired me to join his team, and Nancy Simpson- Banker, who held many fundraising roles in New England before her retirement. Both were avid members of New England Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (NEAHP) and were very supportive of professional development and leading by example.

Working with Jay, I was able to learn all the different aspects of fundraising and play a crucial role in implementing every aspect of our program. We built a great team, raised a lot of money, and elevated the awareness of philanthropy at the hospital—and had a ton of fun doing it!

Tell us a bit about the organization for which you currently work and why fundraising is important to the mission?
Cambridge Health Alliance is a public safety net hospital that has a vision of equity and excellence for everyone, every time. Our mission is to improve the health of our local communities, including our 140,000 patients­—70% of whom are marginalized and rely on us to help overcome barriers and live healthier lives.

Given our work to connect the underserved with access to healthcare, fundraising is a crucial part of the work we do to ensure funding is available to meet the growing needs of our communities.

Why did you join WIDGB? How has the WIDGB community supported you either throughout the pandemic or before?
Networking and professional development are key to staying up to date on the latest best practices and being able to connect with others in the field. WID provides a great opportunity to learn from others and create a circle of peer supporters.

Describe your biggest development success story to date.
The biggest success story to date has been the team I built and the work we did for 10 years with Beverly Bootstraps, a full-service social service agency serving those in need in our community.  In 2011, I started as the first Director of Development and External Relations, overseeing fundraising, marketing, and volunteers.

My team was small (1.5 in addition to myself) but mighty. My initial goals were to elevate the community awareness of the organization, develop an annual giving program, and prepare for a capital campaign. Ten years later, I left a team of seven who helped to grow the fundraising and external efforts tremendously. During my time, we rebranded the organization and saw a dramatic increase in awareness, completed a multimillion-dollar capital campaign for a new facility, increased annual giving by over $1 million dollars, and­—most importantly—positioned the organization to be able to respond to growing needs, especially over the past few years.  Building and working with this team was an amazing experience and will always be one of my fondest memories and biggest accomplishments.

 How do you incorporate principles of DEI into your development work?
At Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), we commit to fostering a culture across our organization that is diverse, equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist for staff, patients, and members of the communities we serve. CHA is a unique organization. We celebrate and embrace the individuality of staff, patients, and communities.

In our Development work, we extend these principles to include all donors, volunteers, and board members as well as our staff and internal audiences. We realize having different lived experiences can help provide different perspectives on our work and how we work to accomplish our goals.

What advice would you offer to someone new in the field of development?
Get to know as many people as you can through organizations like WID and take advantage of the opportunities to ask questions of others. There is a wealth of knowledge in this group and great supporters that can help you navigate your way through fundraising for your organization and your professional development.

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