Called to serve

Amy Maher has found passion in the potential to help more donors make an impact in her new role.

Amy Maher grew up in a healthcare family.

Her grandmother was a nurse. Her mom was a nurse. Her father was an orthopedic surgeon who specialized in pediatrics and sports medicine. Her sister is a physician assistant. And the list goes on. 

Watching them study and work, Maher saw medicine is a calling — undeniable for those who hear it.

“It has to be a calling, given the long hours both in school and out, unforgiving schedules, the dedication to patients and the focus on personalized care and empathy,” she said.

In their work, Maher’s family was driven to serve others. Growing up, she was driven to do the same. Her search led her to a calling of her own: a career rooted in philanthropy and a mission to connect people with opportunities to have an impact.

This summer, her appreciation for healthcare and her passion for philanthropy came together in her new senior director position at Novant Health Foundation, where she is responsible for strategy and stewardship.

When the opportunity was presented, it was an easy “yes.” As both a patient and member of the community, she was familiar with the reputation of Novant Health as a leader in clinical care and an amazing place to work. Working for and being part of the vehicle that helps donors create positive change in healthcare and the community was appealing.

“People give through us to support our providers, our patients and our community. I love being a channel for these dreams to become realities,” Maher said.

Those who know her would say it is no surprise that Maher ended up working in the healthcare sector, where her passion for healthcare and perspective of providers’ work intersects with her desire to solve and improve conditions for philanthropy. Maher has built her philanthropic philosophy over a career serving nonprofit organizations and working under amazing mentors. She chose the organizations for which she worked based upon her personal values and matching their mission fulfillment.

Her development career led her from the YMCA of Greater Charlotte to Washington, D.C., as the divisional fundraiser for The Salvation Army’s National Capital/Virginia division before expanding into the arena of higher education as a philanthropy officer for Georgetown University focused on the Southeast region and Puerto Rico. After she earned her master’s from Georgetown, she took her experience and new knowledge to Langley Innovations. There, she worked with one of the great mentors in her life and a leader in philanthropy, Jim Langley.

“Jim’s focus on respectful donor interactions and delivery of impact and accountability by institutions is truly inspirational and something I believed in,” Maher said. “I easily adhered to his philosophy that fundraising is not about organizational needs, but instead about societal impact. We trained and coached leaders and fundraising teams to greater donor-institution partnerships and designed better more meaningful cases. We did not move or coerce donors and instead interviewed, asked for input and advice, and set the grounds to harvest their goodwill. In turn, we were adamant that success be measured not by dollars gained but by lives changed. This method will be evident in my work at Novant Health Foundation.”

Donors are the investors in a philanthropic organization, and the donor connection at Novant Health Foundation can be even more powerful, for many come with a personal, life-changing experience. In healthcare, there is no shortage of opportunities for these donors to make a difference and share their encounters, but unfortunately sometimes this sector has missed out on providing this platform to have these conversations and embrace these philanthropic motivations.

This was very evident when, this past winter, Maher’s mother contracted COVID-19 and was in an unfamiliar hospital. Thankfully, she received excellent care, especially from her nurses, and when she came home, she raved about them. She talked about the difference they had made in her hospital stay and recovery. And she would know: Maher’s mother was a nurse. 

“After her discharge, she was contacted with the standard survey. My mom attempted to expound on her experience and give accolades to the nurses, but the surveyor kept stating, ‘We only need a yes or no answer.’ Hearing this conversation made me quite frustrated, for not only were they unempathetic, but they also missed out on an opportunity to understand patient care and who was a true leader in their facility. This person was not trained to listen and be curious about what they were hearing,” Maher said.

“I know my mother would have done something more as a donor, but it seemed as if they did not value her thoughts and experience. What could have been a way to enable her to share her appreciation through a donation honoring those who took care of her or provide a gift to enhance services instead became just a customary survey.”

In her new role with the foundation, Maher will be able to make sure this does not happen to other patients.

“Through the development of the grateful patient program, I will establish the protocols for this dialogue to take place. I will not only be able to help our donors fulfill their philanthropic dreams, but design a clear way for them to understand and feel the significant difference their gift made,” she said. “The ability to connect with healthcare team members and help them feel our patients’ appreciation of their skills, time and dedication is in my heart as daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece and cousin of healthcare providers. I look forward to creating a model program and making the experience better for all involved.”

No matter what your passion, you can make an impact through Novant Health Foundation.

And we can work with you to design a gift that is as personal as it is powerful. Join us and start your philanthropic journey with Novant Health today!

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