Alumni Spotlight: Liz Levine, Sibley Memorial Hospital Foundation
Liz Levine is the Director of Development at the Sibley Memorial Hospital Foundation, part of Johns Hopkins Medicine, and works specifically with the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. Levine participated in our Spring 2014 Certificate Program. The Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership spoke with Levine about her work with Sibley Memorial Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic and her experience in the Certificate Program.
CPNL: The nonprofit sector is vast with many important causes to champion, what led you to pursue a career in your particular field?
Levine: I have been in development since I graduated college. I enjoy what I do because I like building relationships with prospects and donors and connecting them to projects that are meaningful to them and that can have an impact on the work of the organization.
I have been at Sibley Hospital for nearly four years. I used to work at Johns Hopkins on the University side, so I have been a part of the Hopkins family for a while. Now I focus on fundraising for the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center at Sibley. Unfortunately, like many people, I have a lot of personal and familial connections to this issue; I have had several family members and loved ones who have been touched by cancer. Additionally, Sibley has been my hospital forever. I have had two kids there; I was born there; when I broke my arm in the fourth grade I went to Sibley. It has always been our community hospital, and now it is a part of Hopkins and an academic medical center. I was very excited at the opportunity to participate in fundraising for cancer and the impact that it would have.
In grateful patient fundraising, development supports – among other things – cancer research, and improves patient care, and it can also be a valuable way for patients and family members to find some meaning out of a difficult diagnosis. Plus, there are always jobs in development because every organization needs someone who can ask for money!
CPNL: The COVID-19 pandemic is worsening all across the country with record high numbers of cases being reported each day. How has Sibley Memorial Hospital been impacted by the pandemic, and what are some of the ways you have adapted?
Levine: The hospital is completely different than it was pre-COVID in February or early March, even. I think that being a part of the Hopkins network has certainly helped us because we had early access to adequate PPE and testing. We were also able to pivot to telemedicine, allowing the hospital to care for the community without too much disruption.
Specifically, in regards to my role fundraising for the Kimmel Cancer Center, obviously COVID has affected how the Center can provide care. However, people are still getting cancer, that hasn’t stopped. In fact some people might even be sicker because they may have delayed care or testing due to COVID. So, that has been very challenging, but the Center is still working and caring for patients.
From a development standpoint, for the first couple of months we were adjusting to working from home and we stopped reaching out to new prospects for fundraising. We focused on stewarding donors that we knew. We didn’t feel it was appropriate to reach out to new prospects with so much going on, especially in the cancer space where people are particularly vulnerable. But we’ve seen a huge outpouring of support for Sibley, for Hopkins, and for doctors and nurses, and it has been amazing to see how much people have rallied around healthcare workers. People have donated meals and spent time volunteering. And now, people are back to giving money for cancer research and development because it is still really important, COVID or not.
CPNL: As a frontline institution with first responders and healthcare workers, Sibley Memorial is at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic. How can we work to keep our communities and our cities safe during this time?
Levine: Following CDC guidelines and everything that the experts are advising. Listen to your healthcare professionals and your doctors. And take care of each other! This is a time when we need to be supportive and kind. Oh, and of course, make a donation to support healthcare causes or whatever is meaningful to you.
CPNL: What is one accomplishment you have achieved since leaving the Certificate Program?
Levine: In March 2019, I was asked to co-chair with two of my colleagues a conference for the Johns Hopkins Development and Alumni Relations team, which is comprised of over 500 people. We managed 56 volunteers and put together 75 classes throughout the week for staff, focused on professional development, personal enrichment, and institutional knowledge. We also launched the week with a kickoff event with keynote speakers from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Planning this took so much time, it was like having a second job. But in the end, I was very proud of how it turned out and was thankful to have the opportunity to get to work with a lot of people I wouldn’t have known otherwise, and to have the visibility among the executive team.
CPNL: How has the Certificate Program helped you in your career?
Levine: The capstone project was very helpful to me. I did a board-benchmarking project focusing on other boards and their structures internally across Johns Hopkins, and externally at similar institutions. The project gave me the opportunity to really look closely at board structures and study them in a way I would never have done if I had not participated in the program. I would say it was useful to me and my organization; it was an issue that interested me, and it was a need my supervisor had identified. It caused me to become integral to the work of the board, which is a very important group of leaders in any organization. Being involved in the process was extremely helpful for that particular job, but also in my career. I valued that experience.
The program itself is so helpful because of the content and the networking opportunities. I met so many wonderful people doing incredible things. Learning about nonprofits from a more general lens can also be very helpful. I have always worked in the development space, and development touches a lot of different areas across organizations. But getting that overview and seeing the puzzle pieces fit together as a whole was a very valuable experience.
CPNL: What advice would you give to other professionals considering participating in the Program?
Levine: I recommend the program to people all the time. I highly encourage people to participate. I thought it was such a beneficial experience, I learned a lot and I enjoyed the program. There is a lot of training out there and not all of it is worth your time, but the Certificate Program is very well done and I found the teachers to be very informative. Hopkins offers a lot of internal training; one thing I enjoy is that they spend a lot of time and resources encouraging their staff to continue to learn and train. However, a lot of people working at smaller nonprofits may not have access to those opportunities internally. The Certificate Program is a great way to stop and think about what you are doing and learn best practices.