‘You are not a donor. You are an investor’

Kim Henderson is changing the way we view philanthropy

Kim Henderson has an impressive track record of success in helping people and businesses invest their dollars in an impactful way. And she strongly believes that “invest” is the perfect word for the work of providing remarkable healthcare and building healthy communities.  

“We should be referring to those who make our philanthropic efforts possible as investors because they only give you money when they understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it,” said Henderson, system chief of staff to the CEO and senior vice president of executive leadership development at Novant Health. “You’re not going to invest in a company when you don’t understand its mission, vision, values and strategic plan. The same is true when you’re making a donation.”

Henderson has cultivated her empowering philosophy around philanthropy over the course of a career that crosses multiple industries, including nearly two decades at Novant Health. Throughout her tenure at Novant Health, she has served in many roles after starting her career in the marketing/PR department. She continued to lead various other departments, including patient relations, guest services and volunteer services, and she launched Novant Health’s first community relations department. She was responsible for building and managing the system’s sports partnerships with both the Hornets and the Checkers, helping Novant Health become the official healthcare provider for the athletes and patrons. And prior to taking on her current role, she was president of the Novant Health Foundation.

“Each of my roles has prepared me for the role I’m in today because I understand what it’s like to interact with patients, to support clinical staff, to work with volunteers, as well as corporate and community leaders,” Henderson said. “I know what it’s like to be in the hospital 24/7, 365 days a year.”

Henderson also knows the importance of bringing Novant Health’s culture of wellness beyond the walls of medical centers to where people live and work. During her tenure with the Charlotte Hornets as vice president of corporate social responsibility and executive director of the Charlotte Hornets Foundation, she built partnerships with businesses and nonprofits to create and sustain vibrant, active and healthy communities.

Today, she is directly involved in the inner workings of every facet of Novant Health’s operations, so she understands why an individual or an organization should invest, whether that be a contribution of time or money.

“Every single thing we do, no matter who we’re touching, you’ve got to be able to answer the why,” she said. “Philanthropy used to be a legacy play. You only used to see someone’s name on a building after they passed away. Now, investors want to see impact. They want to see their investment grow.”

Henderson learned the need to show impact early in her career in philanthropy, which came about somewhat unexpectedly. While she was a student at Western Michigan University, Henderson took a job at an investment firm owned by Ronda Stryker and William Johnston, two powerful figures in the local and national business communities. She answered an ad in the school paper for a filing job, and she got it, taking a desk right next to the front door. One day around Christmas, Johnston walked in carrying a pile of presents for his family. Henderson immediately saw an opportunity. She walked into his office and made a pitch for some extra cash: At the mall, it cost $4.50 a box to wrap a gift. Henderson would do it for $4.

“He said, ‘No, I’ll pay you $5,’” she recalled. “In that moment, he saw I was very eager to take on new projects. He started giving me more and more, and, one day, he said: ‘Kim, I’d like you to start a foundation.’ I didn’t even know what he was talking about at the time, but he really shepherded me through the whole process.”

Their work together brought to life the Stryker Johnston Foundation — a private family foundation that works to strengthen and build thriving, equitable communities — and it taught her a core lesson around philanthropy: No matter what you have or who you are, you can always give back with your time or your money. Both commitments constitute a valuable investment, and it is therefore a fundraiser’s job to bring a compelling “why” to the conversation.

The philosophy has transcended all aspects of Henderson’s life, both at Novant Health and in her own philanthropic work. For the past 20 years, she’s been involved with the American Heart Association. She’s served on the executive leadership committee and been a member of the executive team for more than a decade. She chaired Charlotte’s Go Red for Women movement for two years and currently serves on the Charlotte regional board and as chair of the leadership development committee.

“When I was the chair of the Go Red movement, it was really important to me that everyone who participated had a personal ‘why.’ Why were they here? When you understand the cause and you understand the mission and what we’re trying to accomplish, dollars will follow. I’ve seen the impact firsthand: When I chaired the Go Red movement, we ranked as the top Go Red growth campaign in the country,” she said. “To me, it’s all about how we are educating and informing people so they are ready to move to action. That all goes back to my philosophy, ‘You are not a donor; you’re an investor.’”

At Novant Health, Henderson no longer leads the foundation, but she is still intimately connected to the “why” — perhaps more now than ever before.

“What I have seen over this past year is exactly why I want to work in healthcare. When you look at what the front-line workers have done, they are our superheroes,” Henderson said. “This work is a calling. It’s a passion, and it is purely remarkable. I love the fact I work in a mission-driven organization, and every day we get to wake up and think, ‘How are we going to help someone?’”

Join us!

You can do your part to help by making an investment in the Novant Health Foundation. As Kim Henderson puts it: “You might be investing in a healthcare system, but you’re really investing in you because we all need healthcare.” Join us, and invest today!

Donate now