Senior Vice President of Philanthropy and the Secretary of the Trustees
Rush University Medical Center
We caught up with AAMC’s Development Leadership Committee Chair Diane McKeever to discover more about her, what she’s up to, and what we can learn from her.
Briefly describe your current role.
At Rush University Medical Center, I serve as the Senior Vice President of Philanthropy and the Secretary of the Trustees. I oversee a team of 60, with 57 in the Office of Philanthropy and 3 in the Office of the Trustees. In my dual role, I can effectively integrate the role of the board into philanthropy and influence how we approach philanthropy from the highest level of the organization.
Briefly describe your career journey and what led you to institutional advancement in academic medicine.
Like many, I didn’t plan on ending up in development, but it is a wonderful place to have landed. I came out of arts management, having run a grants program for the city of Chicago earlier in my career. I knew that I wanted to stay in the nonprofit sector and felt that development had a great combination of strategy, relationship building, and purpose. Having grown up in a medical family—my father was a cardiologist—and worked in research labs, I was drawn to working for an academic medical center where I could bring my skills and interests together. I value the relationships I’ve built with donors and seeing the impact Rush’s programs have on the community. I have been on the philanthropy team at Rush for over 37 years and have stayed because of a deep respect I have for the institution’s mission and the people who lead the organization at all levels.
What achievement in your current job are you proud of?
Building an effective philanthropy team is what I am most proud of. This is a team that is self-motivated, highly talented, and creative. They work together to come up with ideas that bring us into the future, particularly considering the recent challenges with the pandemic and the economy. Working with people who are dedicated and deliver amazing results is extremely satisfying.
What is a challenge that you/your unit/your institution is facing and how are you addressing it?
The challenge we are all facing right now is how to balance the intense crisis that our organizations are in, which is very focused on the present, with the necessary long-term planning and relationship building of philanthropy that ultimately deals with the future. We are being nimble when possible, quickly pivoting and demonstrating creativity with fundraising, while continuing to drive our case and campaign planning forward. We are doing our best to advance the campaign in sync with our leaders while respecting what they are facing daily with COVID-19. With this continued work, we hope that when the dust has settled, we will be in a good position with the campaign and with our internal and external stakeholders.
What innovation or trend in the field inspires or motivates you?
Having been in the field for so long, I think about the limited tools we had years ago and everything from back then seems so primitive and time consuming. The resources that we have now and the analysis that stems from data analytics and business intelligence are truly exciting. We can provide useful information to our gift officers to make better decisions and more effectively use their time. What remains consistent over the years is that our success is still grounded in the personal relationships we develop with donors. The combination of the digital and human elements in today’s philanthropic space is really inspiring.
What is the best career advice you were given and how have you used it?
If you are looking to grow and move up in your organization, you should expand what you are doing and contribute beyond what is required at your specific level. You want to show that you are already taking on elements of the next job, so that when an opportunity arises, people naturally think of you. Work in a way that shows your colleagues the possibilities of what you can contribute to the organization. Demonstrating that initiative and intellectual curiosity has served me well, and I appreciate and recognize that talent in others.
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