Finding the balance between being generous and being gracious.

Since 1983, the Foundation for Community Care has worked on the forefront of philanthropy in Richland County, Montana.  From the very beginning, the organization has tried to provide the absolute best in donor experience, and support those in healthcare to provide top notch, quality care.  Throughout the years, a couple of common donor characteristics have come up over and over again; two of the most important traits that a truly invested supporter can possibly show:


It is a balancing act to be both gracious and generous.  In general, but possibly more pronounced in a small community, the most generous among us feel they are shouldering the bulk of the community burden, often leading to a loss of gracious action to those they want to ultimately help.  On the other hand, many can be completely gracious, always warm and kind, while consistently protecting their time, money, and energy; reducing their ability to be sincerely generous.

When I, as a non-profit leader in Montana, come across a donor who is both gracious and generous, I feel an innate sense to protect and cultivate that person.  Not only are these two traits some of the most important to the experience we all have as a community, they are also important to grow strong relationships and genuinely good people.  Learning when and how to be generous, and putting limits on that generosity, is absolutely key to maintaining a compassionate nature.  In healthcare, as in life, remaining warm, friendly, tactful and elegant, are the cornerstone of care.  Being gracious in nature, can only lead to a more natural willingness to give more than is expected or needed.  The two qualities go absolutely hand in hand.

In reference to the above definitions, the common theme between the two qualities: Kindness.  You must be an inherently kind person to be a philanthropic person.  The most amazing and wonderful part of working in a non-profit fundraising entity is the network of kindness that surrounds all that we do.  Kindness is not only a fundamental piece of philanthropy, but the stepping stones of a generous and gracious life.

Be Gracious. {Be Kind} Be Generous. 

Gina Heckey, CFRE


The Psychology of Giving

I learned an important lesson this holiday season.  During a typical Monday afternoon staff meeting, the inevitable discussion of office gift giving arose.  Each year this is uncomfortable for me, as I know I am the HARDEST person to buy for, I definitely do NOT need more “things”, and I know my staff has to gift shop for many of their own friends and family.  While I struggled to make the point that we should bypass gifts this year…my staff VEHEMENTLY disagreed.  They stressed to me that giving gifts really wasn’t for MY benefit, but more for their own.  They LIKE giving.  In fact, they LOVE giving.  Thinking about others, mindfully finding items that remind us of those people that we have strong relationships to, feels really great.

This got me thinking:  I may have been looking at my job all the wrong way!  As the Executive Director of a fundraising organization, I deal everyday with selfless, giving individuals and groups.  I always look at the end game and promote how all of this giving will make a difference down the line when we are able to purchase new equipment or send a student to school.  But it truly is all about the act in and of itself, not necessarily the final end result.  I am in the business of making people feel good, through their ever present and underlying charitable instincts.  Being generous truly feels good in the moment.

A group of psychologists from UC-Santa Barbara set out to test the long-standing theory that in completely anonymous, one-shot decisions, people typically choose to incur costs themselves in order to allocate benefits to others.  A VERY irrational behavior by traditional economic standards. In their model, the study’s authors conclude, “Generosity evolves because, at the ultimate level, it is a high-return, cooperative strategy…even in the absence of any apparent potential for gain. Human generosity…may turn out to be a bedrock feature of human nature.”

For those of you who like the science of it all:

In one study, subjects were given the choice to receive a very tangible material benefit to themselves—up to $128—or to donate money to a range of charities. Each charitable donation would decrease their own monetary account, while each choice that focused on their monetary interest would maintain their earnings. Not only did the researchers find that all participants consistently chose to engage in costly donations, anonymously giving up an average of 40% of their accounts (around $51) for charity, but they also discovered surprising differences in neural activity for decisions that involved donating money versus receiving money. Specifically, while monetary rewards activated the mesolimibic reward system, including the dorsal and ventral striatum and the ventral tegmental area—as would be expected of something that gives us positive reward—when people donated money to a charity, the same network showed even greater activity—and the activity spread to the subgenual area (implicated in social attachment), which had remained inactive in the pure monetary reward choices. While we may not always agree, our brains seem to suggest that the joy of being a gift’s giver may eclipse that of being its recipient.

Giving, true selfless giving, is instinctual for most.  If our brains genuinely react in such a positive way to the act of giving, no wonder we want to do it all the time!!  The Foundation is fortunate to be able to give back to the community through yours, and many others, individual, selfless donations.  We took time out this holiday season to countdown some of our favorite ways, during our “12 days of Christmas” highlight.  If you want to see all the ways we put your charitable gifts to work, click HERE.



Being Intentional with Gratitude


Put intention behind your gratitude….This is a month when we give thanks with intention around a holiday.  When you give your thanks, what then?  Can you bring it into your day with your words, actions and connections to create a new way of being?  It is said that the most effective Thank You is one that is specific to the gratitude being expressed.  Not a simple “thanks”, but one that spells out what you are grateful for, and why that gratitude is so important.
Our community, the Foundation for Community Care Family, is what I am grateful for.  It began so many years ago with a mission of quality local healthcare, involves as many people as we can touch, and is acted out daily with a culture of giving and sharing.  I am honored and motivated by the culture of caring that happens each and every day within this office and throughout the community as a whole.
We all have something to be grateful for, and can create our future with each moment as we continue to let go of the past.  As you celebrate this weekend with your friends and family, have intention with your gratitude and bring it forward by telling them how they much you appreciate each moment.
Much love and thanks to each and every one of our donors, supporters and volunteers,

Rainy Day Reading Material

Recently, I was able to read over the fourth annual survey of nonprofit organizations in the Pacific Northwest.  While, often, these reports fall short in presenting groundbreaking information on the Nonprofit sector, they typically confirm the issues of concern for all nonprofits.   Reports of this type typically give me a bit of perspective; reminding me that the roadblocks for progress the Foundation for Community Care may face, are the same for nearly all in the nonprofit world.

This particular report though, the “Northwest Nonprofit Capacity Report“, was not a typical report, it surprised me in all the best ways.  It might not be a light read per se, but it is clearly written, with well discussed points and compact recommendations.

One of the most poignant statements, on the first overview page of the report, hits home: “Rather than over-relying on gut feeling and practice-based wisdom, we urge nonprofits in the region to gather and reflect upon even modest amounts of data to determine what’s working – and not working – in their services.”  Over the last year the Foundation has focused more on metrics and data driven results, using numbers tied to giving, participation, donor retention, and donor engagement.  Often it is difficult to take time out of our day to run the reports and analyze the data.  When we finish a campaign or event, it is so easy to have a brief discussion (often times emotionally driven, “How did it go? What do you think?”) and move onto the next ‘big’ thing.  It is difficult to remember that, while it is important to move forward, it is absolutely necessary to move forward with a complete picture of the past, in order to make the most impact.

Another statement of the report, “We believe collaboration is too often viewed as just ‘nice to have’ and not an essential approach to be widely embedded in practice…  collaboration doesn’t just benefit nonprofits, but when it involves both business and government, it can help strengthen entire communities over the long term.”  This is a statement in which I wholeheartedly believe, and have encouraged as a key working point for the Foundation for Community Care, it’s Board, and staff.  According to the Montana Nonprofit Association, the nonprofit sector generates more than $4.8 billion in income each year, generating almost 47,000 Montana jobs.  It only makes sense that working together with business, as a strong united front, will benefit the entire area of Eastern Montana.  The saying,  “a rising tide lifts all boats”, seems to hold particularly true in this concept.  When a community is giving, and places a true importance on philanthropy,  everyone gains; both for-profit and not-for-profit.  The takeaways from this report are clear and concise, “Only by working as a coordinated whole, can we expect nonprofit organization to achieve their critically important missions that benefit us all.”

It is often hard to take time out of my primary function as a director and focus attention on something other than the act of raising funds, and yet it is so vitally important.  Only by truly digging into the data available, and partnering with other groups in the area, can we make the best informed decisions related to the needs and functions of the healthcare environment in Richland County.  Only then can I explicitly say that I am fulfilling the mission of the Foundation for Community Care.


If you are interested in reading the full report, you can download it directly from the Montana Nonprofit Association website by following the link below:

Northwest Nonprofit Capacity Report




Change is good…you go first.

Change is good…you go first.  This is the title of a book I was given when I first accepted the role of Executive Director.  One of my favorite donors gifted the book, recognizing my role here as an agent of change for the Foundation.  The book, a swift read, is filled with mostly pictures and inspirational quotes.  It was given as a supportive measure to inspire and motivate myself and those around me to move forward and embrace change.  The first page starts with “Change is not easy.  But it is Simple.”

As an organizational leader, and a relatively new member of the Sidney community, the choice to make any change is difficult; getting those around me on board is much more difficult.  I only commit to change the things that I know truly NEED a change, and I recognize that the idea to disrupt the status-quo needs time to settle in and adjust.  Some things are quick and easy, small changes here and there that are glaringly obvious and will impact our ability to focus on fundraising every day.  Other changes are larger and of greater impact.  In those cases, care and consideration is always top of mind.  There is a TON of planning and coordination that comes along with the process.

Another excerpt from the book that resonates with every choice, “Along the way, there will be many challenges.  Most leaders know that there are no shortcuts to any place worth going.  IN TIMES OF CHANGE WE MUST REMEMBER…MISTAKES WILL BE MADE.”  Change requires an open mind and a humility of spirit that is personally difficult at times.

The most important thing I have learned…and I lovingly share with you:

The key to change, is to not only create a collaborative vision of a better result, and earn the trust of those you are leading; but truly, wholeheartedly, and without reservation, show that you care and are willing to weather the storm.

The Foundation for Community Care has been working for nearly 2 years to establish a new and more effective way to recognize the dedication and support our donors have shown to healthcare in Richland County for over 3 decades.  The Foundation established a donor wall over 20 years ago that took 14 years to outgrow.  The newest donor wall only took 3 years to outgrow.  The pace of support for a healthier community is challenging our ability to recognize those individuals and organizations.  Hence, the time for change. Tonight, August 17th, we will unveil a new, state of the art, interactive donor wall at our annual donor appreciation event at Sidney Health Center.  This wall is not only in keeping with digital advances, it allows the Foundation Board & Staff to recognize, in appropriate nature, those who started our journey, and those who continue to support the work.

While change is hard, and adjusting to change is even harder…”We keep moving forward, opening NEW doors and doing NEW things.”~Walt Disney.  All for the benefit of our mission, to ensure quality healthcare in our area, and recognize those who support that mission right along side.




It is so easy to focus on the bad news

I am a news junkie.  I like it all.  I listen to news on podcasts and live streams. I watch news online through short segments and special interest pieces, or occasionally on TV when I am at the gym.  I read articles on local and regional happenings either in print (old school newspaper in hand) or online.  I eat it up.  Being well informed is an important part of what I do in both my personal and professional life.  But there can be a downside.  The news can be a sad and chilling place to live.  Bad news will always get more coverage than good, it is easy to get overwhelmed with opinions and rhetoric, losing track of what is good and right in the world.  So, with all the heartbreaking news that has been reported in the last six months, since the beginning of 2016, I decided to focus on what I think is good and has worked:

1-Tragedy is promoting communication and an inventive approach

In the past couple of years, seemingly more so recently, videos taken from phones and shared online have captured many violent incidents involving the police, including death.  In response to public outcry, police departments in many cities and towns have introduced pilot programs to equip police with body cameras.  While introducing technology to promote transparency isn’t a cure all for the problems we are currently facing, it is a step in the right direction.  If I have to think of one good thing that will come out of these tragedies, it has to be that a national conversation has been started.

2-Americans (and the world) are engaged with Presidential politics

Say what you like about the candidates for America’s highest office, and I have said quite a bit myself, but their antics have drawn people into the 2016 election.  According to Nielsen, 18 million viewers tuned into the December Republican debate, making the primary debates of 2015 the most watched in history, at a time when TV viewing is declining!  People are turning out to vote and driving long distances for a chance to attend appearances and speeches.  Politics should always be for and by the people, and this year that is truer than ever.

3-Kids are proving that the future is bright

There was a point in time when I may have lost a bit of faith in our future generation.  Partly because the world itself is getting more complex and difficult to handle, and partlynate&cy because it just didn’t seem like kids cared about much more than television and sports.  But that is changing on a daily basis, as I see more and more children stepping up to help when they are needed.  That help is different for every kiddo, some help with daily chores, others organize performances or entertainment, and others fund raise for a cause important to them.  Whatever way they do it, they are pouring their time, their energy, and their hearts into what they think is important.  Making today a better place to live.

4-Technology can bring generations together

Once again, say what you like about Pokemon GO, the mobile game that is sweeping the nation.  I am hooked, as are many people out there.  In the last few weeks it has been able to bring families together, get kids outside and moving, and encourage players of all ages to explore the world around them.  There is a sense of community that comes along with playing the game, and the game itself is innocent and fun.  I hope it sticks around, and I hope people play it safely.

5-History, and even Broadway musicals, can be fun

“Hamilton,” the mega-hit bio-musical about Alexander Hamilton and the founding fathers, opened to an audience larger than any in memory. It received 11 Tony Awards, including best musical, and 16 Tony nominations, the most nominations in Broadway history. It won the Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy Award.

Hamilton is a theatrical rarity: a critically acclaimed work, written by a young composer from Puerto Rico, that’s making a cultural impact far beyond Broadway’s 40 theaters. That it’s told through the language and rhythms of hip-hop and R&B — genres mostly foreign to the musical theater tradition, but VERY familiar to the youth of today — looking to redefine what an American musical can look and sound like.

6-And then there is this:

In case the first 5 didn’t convince you that there is still some good in the world, follow the link below for a good story.  Or check in with the whenever you need to combat the barrage of bad news that gets reported.

It is this easy

It seems so easy.  Help people when they need it.  Look for the good where you can find it.







I have been living in the past

Ok. Maybe not LIVING there…but certainly spending a lot of time.  Both personally and professionally, I have taken a fair amount of trips down memory lane over the last month.

I recently traveled back to Kansas City, visited friends and family and the home that I still own.  It is interesting to see how much can change over a relatively short period of time.  I have been in Sidney since April 2013, and my life has changed DRAMATICALLY since being here, it is easy to forget that everything about life changes at that same rate.  The physical landscape, our personal growth, our family relationships.  Everything grows and changes and morphs into something either better than before, or something just different than before…but it never looks the same when you return to it.

On a professional front I have had many opportunities to visit and learn about how far the Foundation for Community Care, Sidney Health Center, and the community we live in have changed over the last 30 years.  It started with the annual grant awards in May, and reflecting on how much the capacity to give has increased over the last few decades.  Our first grant award in 1984; a grant in the amount of $15,000 to the Anesthesia department at Sidney Health Center.  In 2016 we awarded 21 grants totaling $262,528.  WOW.

Later in May I was fortunate enough to receive a visit from Dr. Jimmie Ashcraft, a founding member of the Foundation for Community Care, and a retired Sidney Health Center family practice doctor.  Dr. Ashcraft has written 4 books now on his time as a “Country ashcraft.jpgDoctor” in Sidney, and his stories of healthcare in rural Montana are truly amazing.  We spoke for nearly an entire day about how Sidney has changed, how far medicine and care at Sidney Health Center have come since his days at the facility.  He is a large, caring and sophisticated personality who continues to act as an agent of change in the community.  He speaks of his time at Sidney Health Center with reverence and a certain amount of nostalgia,  but every story resonates with the idea that Richland County has moved light years beyond what most think of as a rural healthcare setting.

My afternoon with Dr. Ashcraft, and my brief trip to Kansas City, reminded me that looking backwards is not always a bad idea.  Sometimes looking behind you is the only way to see how far you have truly traveled.


If you are interested in reading Dr. Ashcraft’s account as a “country doctor”, you can purchase his books on Amazon (use Amazonsmile and choose the Foundation as your charity of choice!!).  All of the proceeds from his book sales go to annual educational scholarships to students in Richland County.

Reflections of a Country Doctor

The Next Prescription: More Reflections of a Country Doctor

Side Effects: Another Dose of Stories from a Country Doctor

Paging Dr. A: Continuing Stories of a Country Doctor