04. A Conversation with Brian Boardman

Fletcher Allen Foundation Chair Talks about the Role of PhilanthropyBrian Boardman

Brian Boardman is Chair of the Fletcher Allen Foundation, a group that works with the Fletcher Allen Development Office to solicit support for the organization in advancement of our mission: to improve the health of the people in the communities we serve by integrating patient care, education and research in a caring environment.  

Recently he talked to us about the Foundation and the role of philanthropy at Fletcher Allen.

Q: Can you describe the purpose of the Fletcher Allen Foundation?

A: The Fletcher Allen Foundation is the result of a strong partnership between Fletcher Allen and the community.   Our goal is to garner philanthropic support to advance Fletcher Allen’s mission so that we can reinvest in the hospital’s services, its people and its technology – to benefit our patients and families. We are a 15-member volunteer board made up of a diverse group of members of the community – all of whom are deeply invested in the success of this organization.  The President of the Foundation is our President and CEO, John Brumsted, MD.  

As a group, we work closely with Fletcher Allen leaders and staff to raise funds and awareness in the community about the need for philanthropic support. Success builds on success - individuals, corporations and foundations like to invest in winners and Fletcher Allen is a champion organization.  I often tell people, you have no idea what’s in your backyard until you actually need it. Until you or a friend or family member needs surgery or makes an unexpected  trip to the Emergency Department, you just don’t know about the breadth and depth of the expertise offered at our academic medical center. 

Q: Can you describe your role as Chair of the Foundation?

A: Part of my job is to act as a sounding board and advisor for the Development office and for leadership.  Like all Foundation Board members, it’s my job to be an ambassador and to tell people about the services that Fletcher Allen provides.   As chair, my job is to listen, to inform, to bring others to the table.  I really enjoy connecting people in the community with Fletcher Allen in a meaningful and lasting way.

Q: How does the Foundation work to connect people with specific projects that benefit the organization as a whole?

A: We work closely with the Development Office to help identify specific needs and match them with potential donors.  Over the past few years, we’ve funded support for our DaVinci Robot system; our ICU waiting room space; our new postpartum space; and our sustainable food efforts.  In many respects,  finding the right project for the right person is an art, and it’s extremely rewarding when you make that connection.

Q: How can employees become a part of this process?

A: Employees can give designated or undesignated gifts to the Annual Fund, and we encourage employees to donate whatever they can – no amount is too small.  When you get employees coming out in force to support their organization, it helps make our case in the community for further philanthropic support, and it builds on itself internally.  Employees feel invested in the organization, and take pride in the success that their support brings.  Their gifts enhance the patient care experience.

Since the Foundation was created in 2005, the Annual Fund has increased significantly in dollars raised and in the numbers of employees participating.  This fall we’ll be launching a Circle of Giving campaign that encourages staff to identify grant opportunities to fund projects that directly impact the patient experience.   I think our employee ONE campaign shows that when we come together on behalf of our patients, great things happen.  The same is true of philanthropic support – when many contribute it has a tremendous impact on the organization overall.

Q: You grew up here in Vermont.  Can you talk about how that has shaped your work as chair of the Foundation?

A: I have very close ties to this organization.  First, my dad was an OB/GYN here – in fact, I can remember my parents hosting a party at our home to welcome John Brumsted to the OB/GYN service!  Over the years, my family has had a number of very positive experiences at Fletcher Allen.  In the 1980’s my mother was diagnosed with leukemia, and I can remember going to visit the Mayo Clinic after her diagnosis because we assumed we would have to leave Vermont to get her the best care.  One of the doctors there took me aside and said, “you should bring your mother back to Burlington – Barbara Grant is doing state-of-the-art research with this kind of leukemia.”  That was my first ah-ha moment – when I realized that, as I said earlier, you don’t realize what you have in your own backyard until you need it.  That’s the message I share with people in the community.