As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Maureen Carlson, Chief Programs and Marketing Officer at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
As the Chief Programs and Marketing Officer at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Maureen Carlson leads a team focused on delivering programs to raise significant funds for member children’s hospitals and highlighting the social impact children’s hospitals have on local communities.
With two decades of corporate social responsibility, nonprofit executive management, and agency leadership experience, Maureen is a veteran in the corporate partnership, corporate social responsibility, and maximized fundraising spaces.
For more than a decade, Maureen has been a sought-after consultant helping nonprofits increase their fundraising and companies maximize their social good. Maureen was President of Good Scout, a social good agency. In that capacity, Maureen created best practices in securing and maximizing corporate/cause partnerships that have ignited more than $150 million in incremental fundraising and billions of positive branding impressions for her nonprofit and corporate clients. Her experience working on some of the most prolific and innovative cause/corporate partnerships in the marketplace gives her invaluable experiences into the nuances of communicating social impact success.
Maureen also worked as the SVP, Strategic Partnerships at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. In that capacity she oversaw more than $300 million in fundraising. She has held roles in corporate social responsibility leadership in the automotive industry and as the acting SVP, Marketing and Communications at City of Hope Cancer Center.
Maureen is a nationally recognized speaker on the topic of corporate-cause partnerships and corporate social responsibility, successful selling and more. Her work has been seen in Forbes, Fast Company, The Nonprofit Times, Harvard Business Review, Huffington Post and in the book, “Nonprofit Selling 101.”
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
When I first started my professional career, I worked in some boutique marketing and promotional agencies and thought I would continue down a straight path in Marketing and Communications, but my PR experience led me to a role in Community Relations for an automotive company. It was there that I started to really understand how brands and causes could partner to enhance their communities. I then began working at City of Hope Cancer Center overseeing a variety of teams that in both the fundraising and marketing arenas, including cause marketing and strategic corporate partnerships for the organization. This step led me to Good Scout, a social impact agency where I had the honor of creating campaigns and programs that aligned causes and companies to not only enhance business outcomes, but to actively drive social good. I’m excited to now be working at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals to help ensure fundraising programs and our national brand are the best they can be to help millions of children live the healthiest life possible.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I’m not sure how funny it is, but when I first started, I was always forgetting to fill in my client tracking sheets (by hand if you can believe it!) and then when it came time to bill the client, I had to have some interesting conversations! I learned quickly that being thorough and having integrity were two big keys to success.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I listen to a variety of business, leadership and marketing related content often. One book I listened to recently that I thought was very interesting from an executive leadership standpoint is “The Ride of a Lifetime” by Bob Iger. Many lessons in that book about how to lead large teams to high levels overall success, while being innovative and compassionate.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When this company started what was the vision, the purpose?
Nonprofit work has always been a passion of mine, and I’ve been part of this space for more than twenty years. Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals originated as a televised fundraiser back in 1983 by Marie Osmond, Mick Shannon and Joseph G. Lake and a small, dedicated team of 20 children’s hospitals, 20 TV stations and six sponsors. Its mission was to support children’s hospitals as they were the exception for pediatric care decades ago. Now, 30+ years later, children’s hospitals are the standard method of care for a community that will grow up to be our inventors, artists, leaders of change…essentially, our future. So, CMN Hospitals has always been purpose driven.
What stands out to me are the companies that joined us at the beginning, and fully embraced social responsibility when it wasn’t as prolific as it is now. Because of that solid foundation, our network has since grown exponentially and values positive social impact for children and their families alike.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Yes, no matter what is happening or what we are facing as an organization, ultimately, it’s all about the children. Remembering that our goal is to help children be healthier and reach their potential is our foundation. We know the impact we have as a network committed to the health of children goes far beyond one patient visit or one procedure. When know when we positively change the health of even one child, when we help a child reach their potential, we create a ripple effect felt by our communities — and our world — for years to come.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I’m a mother, a wife, a friend, a Cub’s fan, a №3 Enneagram, and at the core…I’m human. Relationships are a critical part of who I am, who we are. Whether personal, professional or otherwise, relationships are a way for us to feel connected. This became an obstacle during the crisis when working from home and limiting time in public became the norm. Things we took for granted were suddenly upended. Like many in the world, I reassessed priorities, focused on embracing the new, found time to focus on the well-being of my family, friends and neighbors, and made time for my own mental health.
Can you share a few of the biggest work-related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
2020 was one of the most challenging years to date for CMN Hospitals — tragically losing our CEO in the early months, managing the obstacles as the pandemic rolled across the globe and experiencing unprecedented social unrest. There is no amount of preparation that could have prepared us for the pivots that would be necessary. But I am proud to say that as a network we came together to deal with the challenges together.
I spoke about relationships earlier and that certainly applies to how we approached these challenges, as well. We have always had a focus on being relational, not transactional. And we leaned heavily into that during the pandemic. To drive success and combat fatigue, departments jumped across the aisle to work together alongside fundraising communities that were stepping up through the chaos and recommitting to the cause, which ultimately resulted in maintaining strong fundraising programs, creating more holistic partnerships, driving collective goals, and creating a renewed focus on shared, nimble and exceptional work.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Be brave enough to share how you’re feeling — with your family, your friends, your faith community or with a professional. You may be surprised to learn that you aren’t alone in how you’re feeling. Most importantly, if you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out for help — there are many resources available to you and for your specific needs.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
Despite the challenges our world faced in 2020, overall charitable giving increased 2% compared to the previous year. When many corporations were re-evaluating their CSR strategies, CMN Hospitals retained 100% of its corporate partners. I am positive that is because of our relationship-first mentality.
Charitable giving will look different moving forward — it will be more technologically advanced, require nonprofits to provide detailed insight into the greater impact donors have on society. Nonprofits who can remain nimble, customer-centric, relational and data driven will thrive in the years ahead.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
Certainly, the pandemic propelled us into digital world. While this happened more quickly than many would have preferred, it’s here to stay. The masses will adopt remote or hybrid work, online & mobile shopping will continue to increase, and companies will be looking for new ways to connect with customers. The same applies in the nonprofit space, as well.
In the same breath, I hope that our experiences over the past year reinforce the importance of empathy — the ability to step into someone else’s shoes to better understand their feelings and perspectives, and to step in when they see the need. Children’s hospitals play a critical role in protecting our future and they rely on philanthropy and other private donors to ensure that children have the resource and care they need to reach their potential and positively change the future- for all of us.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
We’re focused on building upon our experiences from the past year opposed to rebuilding, and last year allowed us to shift priorities and possibilities. CMN Hospitals’ staff and network showed what can be accomplished if you remain committed and nimble, no matter the circumstances. The goal remains the same…help children…how we succeed in that goal can and will evolve.
Together, we transitioned hundreds of events and campaigns to virtual or rescheduled later in the year, remained a consistent source of stability among our member hospitals, adapted in the face of adversity by creating new fundraising opportunities in support of our partners and ultimately retained 85% overall fundraising from 2019. There’s more…we also welcomed a new president & CEO to the organization, created a new operating model and actively committed evolving needs of the marketplace.
We’re here to raise funds for children’s hospitals. By creating an environment that ensures great things happen, urgent challenges are solved, and children’s health is improved, we instill that doing good is one of the most rewarding and impactful things a person can do for their neighbors and for themselves.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Extend grace toward everyone and everything. We live in a world that’s fast paced and we can easily get lost in the hustle of work and success. Those environments can place blinders on kindness, integrity and decency. Be a person in the world that drives good.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
It’s a quote we use at CMN Hospitals all the time in our daily work. “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” -Maya Angelou. This is a reminder to me to always be open to learning something new; to change, to adapt and to grow.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Please do! It’s such a fascinating time to be part of a nonprofit as the industry shifts. You can learn more about our organization and the wonderful work it achieves at cmnhospitals.org. I’m also on LinkedIn and Twitter.