Activating joy

Dana Casson transforms donors’ gratitude into positive impact

Dana Casson has one goal: to help patients and families find joy in helping others.

As the new vice president of philanthropy at Novant Health Foundation, Casson leads a team of dedicated professionals who helps donors support remarkable care for generations to come. Her work transforms the gratitude of patients and their families into action and impact. That action can take a variety of forms. For instance, Casson remembers one patient she worked with at another health system whose gratitude ultimately took the shape of a $10 million gift.

“Her quality of life was improved dramatically by a surgeon, who went above and beyond to provide exceptional care,” Casson said. “That personal support matters to people. Whether they can give $10 million or not, we engage grateful patients through philanthropy because they want to show their gratitude in ways that can help others.”

Casson began her career in financial planning and, at one point, ran her own practice. Over time, she reached a point where she was in search of a greater purpose. Ultimately, her financial knowledge helped her shift her career to healthcare philanthropy and planned giving.

“I had been introduced to a number of leaders in the industry, and it resonated with me how hardworking they were,” Casson said. “They were upbeat and optimistic. They loved their fundraising work and were passionate about it. That experience really motivated me to enter the philanthropy field.”

Casson has worked with the American Heart Association and several healthcare systems, including Vidant Health in Greenville, North Carolina. She most recently served as system vice president and chief philanthropy officer at OhioHealth before joining the Novant Health team in January. Even after 16 years in philanthropy, the act of giving still excites her.

“When you secure a gift — to the great joy of your donor while affecting a transformational impact on the organization — there’s just not a better day at work,” Casson said.

While the culture of philanthropy is strong at Novant Health, Casson believes there is room for growth. Her priority will be connecting the dots between grateful patients and philanthropic opportunities, so they can take action.

“Whether it’s saving a human life or improving the quality of the lives of our patients with the latest technology, research and innovation, remarkable care is helping our caregivers be the best they can be at the bedside,” she said.

“The communities Novant Health serves are closely knit, and donors want to invest in something that will improve the lives of their friends and neighbors,” Casson said. “There’s still much potential to grow our impact. I’m a really big thinker, and I get excited about how we can grow philanthropy across this system and the region.”

Casson also believes continuous improvement is a major part of delivering remarkable care, and that vision extends to both treatment and the compassion behind it. 

“Whether it’s saving a human life or improving the quality of the lives of our patients with the latest technology, research and innovation, remarkable care is helping our caregivers be the best they can be at the bedside,” she said.

In addition to her work in philanthropy, Casson is proud to join in Novant Health’s overall mission to further diversity and inclusion and promote health equity in communities.

“It’s really important we maintain the momentum built last year and continue to act on these initiatives,” Casson said. “We all want to belong. Everyone has their own story. I hope we find a way to be kind to one another and look for ways to help others.”

Casson feels blessed for the health and well-being of her family and friends. She has two daughters and just celebrated her 25th anniversary with her husband, John. And she has big plans for when life returns to normal, post-pandemic.

“My current goal is to circumnavigate the globe someday,” Casson said. “I’m still figuring out how I’m going to do it because I want to circumnavigate both ways. I have a very long travel list and the Great Wall of China stands out as one of the places I have to see.”

In the meantime, Casson will be focused on gratitude and the impact it promises to have on the health and well-being of the communities Novant Health serves.

“Gratitude really drives philanthropy,” Casson said. “It will inspire the growth we will see over the next decade.” 

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