Stephanie Grogan at the Dignity Health Phillies Awards

Central Coast leader reflects on her three decades of service

Stephanie Grogan, Central Coast service area leader for philanthropy, retired in November after nearly 30 years of service at Dignity Health. We asked Stephanie to share some stories and insights from her time with our ministry. Her answers to our questions are below.  

Q: What is the first gift you can remember being involved with securing that really sticks with you?

A: There are so many special gifts! My first solicited gift was a gift request for Marian Regional Medical Center’s Project Heart Center capital campaign from a local dentist and entrepreneur. It was a great lesson for me in leveraging board and volunteer relationships as ambassadors, advocates, and askers. The campaign volunteer ‘opened the door’, managed me up as a newcomer to my role, endorsed the organization and the need, and did the asking for the gift! I remember receiving that gift of $100,000 and holding the check as the largest I had ever held in my hands! I also remember my tremendous gratitude for the kindness and advocacy and the impact of the volunteer in realizing the gift.

Q: What would you say is the single most important gift of your career and why?

A: While so many come to mind, the Souza family bequest was an important gift that resulted from the establishment of the Marian Foundation Legacy Society in 1996. Marian Foundation Board Member and Board Chairman Irving Souza came forward proudly as one of the first members of the society. He and his wife Dadee had a heart for the work of the Sisters of Saint Francis at Marian and were frequent patients in their later years. We shared common history, as Irving and I are both alumni of Santa Clara University—he the class of 1930 and I of 1980! Dadee and I were both alumni of Notre Dame High School in San Jose. The Souzas are a pioneer farming family of the Santa Maria Valley. They were dear, genteel, kind people who were very generous in their friendship to me and in their support of Marian. They passed away within five years of each other. Their bequest to Marian for the establishment of the Souza Family Endowment Fund was $3.6 million dollars, the largest bequest received by Marian to date. This gift was a great lesson for me in continuing to ‘plant the seeds’ of deferred giving, as although they do not make for an immediate harvest, they provide plentiful fruit for future harvests.

Q: What advice would you give someone just starting in this profession for them to keep in mind during those first months or years on the job?

A: Learn the history and culture of your organization and the community and embrace it. Honor that legacy by bringing it forward into how you represent the story of the organization and the work to others. Know that philanthropy is ministry, too. Although it is not a part of the clinical mission work of the organization, philanthropy is a very important component of the ministry that brings support to further the work — the ministry of fundraising!

Q: We say so often that it’s all about relationships in the work we do. Can you share any takeaway insights into how you approach relationship building with donors?

A: I believe it’s important to be your authentic self. And to listen. And to listen some more! If you believe in the work and understand it, it comes across in how you represent it. Listening to the donor, and for those things that they value, provides understanding about the intersection of interests and those opportunities for support that resonate.

Q: In keeping with the idea of relationship building, what important tips have you collected with regard to working with clinicians and staff at our facilities?

A: I so enjoy working at a site! It keeps me grounded in the ‘why we are here’. I believe it is important to honor each individual’s role in the care of the patient and their part of the ministry. Whether they are clinical or support staff, each individual has an important piece of the care journey and an opportunity to positively impact the patient experience and the outcome. I try to express my genuine interest in the person and respect each individual for who they are and what they bring to our common work. I have many friends and acquaintances in all departments of the sites I visit. I value those friendships and the talents of those individuals.

Q: What does gratitude mean to you and how have you applied that in your career?

A:  I think about my mother when I think about what gratitude means to me. Florence McShane, now 89, is a special person to me and has had a powerful impact on my life. She and my father, Hugh, worked to integrate faith and gratitude into our family life and in the parenting of their six children. They modeled our faith in the simple but loving family framework they established and taught gratitude as an important value. When one of us was blessed with good news for that good grade on the exam, or for making the team, or for whatever the goal might have been, Mom would say, “Now that’s a thank you, God! Don’t forget to say that thank you.” Meaning, be thankful for God’s grace as it is that grace that provides the blessing received. I’ve tried to carry that forward in my own family and teach gratitude to my two children, Patrick and William, live it in my life, and deliberately sought the professional environment of faith-based health care philanthropy and our work to establish a culture of gratitude as something that resonates perfectly with my personal values.