Meet Memorial Foundation’s new repositioning man

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Cary Blanchette has more than 20 years experience as a fund-raising executive for health care organizations, and he’s now using that expertise as executive director of the Memorial Foundation.

Family connections brought him to Colorado Springs, where he recently oversaw the foundation’s annual gala, its largest fund-raising event of the year.

Blanchette took over for Patricia Peterson, who was forced to resign last June. Her resignation led one board member to quit, and some donors to pull their funding.

Blanchette took over the direction of the foundation in March. He recently took time to tell the Colorado Springs Business Journal about his goals for the foundation.

What is the foundation’s main goal for the coming year?

We are focusing on relationships, and telling Memorial’s stories. There are a thousand stories at the hospitals, and we want people to know about the work the hospital and its staff is doing. Memorial has been a part of this community for 106 years, and we want to reinvest in those relationships, rebuild them where necessary.

Our challenge is to reposition the foundation; we’re not in the mode of fund-raising right now. We’re working to build more support through smaller donations. Eventually, we’ll focus on larger donations and on planned giving, but that isn’t our main focus going forward.

Have you set any specific fund-raising goals?

We are not really focusing on major donations at this time. Instead, we’re focusing on the smaller — $20, $50, $100 — donations and letting those people know that even the smallest donations help, and count toward the hospital’s mission. But again, we plan to tell Memorial’s story this year, and really focus on the foundation’s relationship with the community.

What form is the rebuilding going to take?

The board hopes to be more visible in the community than they have been in the past. They want to be a part of the city, and to let the city know how their donations are helping other people.

People are going to see the families that are helped at Memorial, and they’ll know more about the care they received.

How has your previous experience helped with the position at Memorial?

During 10 years as a consultant, I was called on to analyze what was wrong with an organization, as well as identify what was right. I am working to identify what needs to be developed in the future.

That experience has helped a lot, where programs were undervalued or non-existent. There’s no annual fund program for the foundation, no annual program that calls on the community’s support. Developing that comes as a direct result of my past experience.

Next, we’re going to develop the planned giving program, giving people the chance to give money to Memorial Health System as part of their estate planning. The hospital has been part of the community for generations, and there are people who would like to give something back.

What happens to their donations?

100 percent of donations go back to the hospital, for programs, for equipment, for needs identified by the hospital itself. The foundation bought a digital mammography machine a few years ago, and we’ve purchased equipment for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Money from our annual gala event goes to the program, Circle of Hope. That program pays for rent, food, utility bills for people who are ill or recovering from an illness. It takes some of the pressure away so they can focus on getting well. We provide for that program as long as the money holds out, and we don’t want to turn anyone away.

Are you planning any other new directions for the foundation?

The board has asked for directions on how to be more involved, more visible in the community. I’ve been working directly with each board member to outline how we can do just that — and get the word out about Memorial and its activities.

Audio excerpt of the interview with Cary Blanchette.