Meet Diana Dahl, ED, Director of Marketing and Development MPMC
January 23, 2017
Diana Dahl is the Executive Director (ED) of Middle Park Medical Foundation and the Director of Marketing and Development for the Middle Park Medical Center. Holding these two positions has been a positive force for both organizations and Dahl is streamlining how they both will benefit each other and Grand County.
As Marketing and Development Director, Dahl reports to the MPMC CEO, Robert Flake, and as Executive Director of the Foundation, she reports to the 501c3 nonprofit's Board.
The history of the Foundation begins 25 years ago, and many recent and current Board members are the original members or family members who contributed to begin the Foundation as a means of stabilizing the hospital in Kremmling. This explains why many of the Board members reside on the west side of the county and why much of the funding for the foundation comes from there, however Dahl is hoping to change this, slowly and with their cooperation.
At the Foundation Dahl has been gently suggesting to Board members to start thinking of Winter Park or Granby as a funding base.
As part of her assessment, she asked questions such as What is our role? Is it fundraising for the hospital? Does it make sense we stay in Kremmling? Who are we are reaching?What stakeholders need to be addressed?
"They have to open themselves up to that kind of tension to create real growth," Dahl said.
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"I do propel tension with good intentions for the sake of the big picture."
"Part of my role is getting stakeholders to view things differently than in the past. I don't get buy in if they don't trust me."
When Dahl walked into the Foundation in 2015 there wasn't much going on in terms of fundraising.
"There was not much gifting to the community and little active fundraising, and I questioned that," she said. With a substantial amount of money in an investment account and an unclear vision of its purpose, Dahl knew she had to look at its mission and goals.
"We had Board members of almost 20 years, which showed stability but the organization also needed growth."
One of Dahl's main tasks is rethinking how the Foundation is fundraising and she has asked Board members to re-think their purpose and desire.
"I thankfully convinced the Foundation to expand county-wide. We updated and changed bylaws so now they say we serve the entire MPMC service area. I presented it to the board members in a positive way."
Dahl proposed a fundraising strategy that included expansion throughout the county.
"Logically it had to be the Middle Park Medical Center Service area which includes parts of Jackson and Summit counties. The vision was sustainable health care. I had to connect their vision and history."
As part of her assessment, she asked questions such as What is our role? Is it fundraising for the hospital? Does it make sense we stay in Kremmling? Who are we are reaching? What stakeholders need to be addressed?
The Foundation's mission is to improve local heath care through donations, volunteerism, scholarships, and other charitable means. Their goals are the advancement of medical care, healthcare education, and specifically for the charitable assistance of Middle Park Medical Center. They annually provide medical education scholarships, support the local 9Health Fair, and, as of this past year, now manage the auxiliary volunteer group that fundraises for the hospital. With the 501c3 status the Foundation, it can also apply for grants and help with distribution of grants that benefit the hospital.
Dahl also has a big role as Marketing and Development Director of Middle Park Medical Center.
As a marketing leader, Dahl views effective communication and collaboration with the community as a vital aspect of positive change. As a development leader, she must bring resources into the hospital, such as funding and human capital, which involves the development of an active volunteer program. Dahl views the Foundation as just one piece of a complex puzzle to increase the quality, capacity, and sustainability of our local health care system.
Dahl grew up in Pittsburgh and graduated from Penn State University with a degree in Secondary education and a Pennsylvania teaching certification.
Initially she was going to teach but was offered a job at an online education company in Philadelphia and spent the entire first part of her career there. Her position at the education company included producing online courses and writing Middle School Social Studies curriculum. After a promotion to Director of Operations she reported directly to the CEO managing the curriculum, teaching, a call center, a shipping warehouse and human resources.
"I learned that I enjoyed the business side of education more so than a classroom," said Dahl.
"In the leadership position I had the power and ability to influence policies that were handed down to the teachers."
As she developed a passion for inner city and nonprofit work she moved into Youth Development and worked in enrichment programming (after school and summer school).
"I had a vision for after school programs for middle schools. I went to the CEO with my idea and he told me to find the money. I submitted my first grant."
After designing the program and convincing others to buy into it she was awarded $1.5 million over three years.
"The state grant was through the Pennsylvania Department of Education and we got the maximum funding."
At the end of the three years they were rated all green, which is the highest recognition for evaluation of performance and it was used as a model in future RFPs.
The vision for creating programs comes to Dahl. She likes the process of figuring out the pieces of the puzzle and how to put them together to make a successful program. This is what she has started at Middle Park Medical Center.
Dictated by a career path, Dahl lived in the same state as her parents and siblings but as they began to move out of state, Dahl, too decided to move to be close to them.
"I re-evaluated my life priorities. I had a successful career and wonderful network, but no family close to me through any of it. I decided it was time to put family first. I wanted to be an aunt to my nieces, so I moved here," she said.
In a new state with a vastly different nonprofit sector and no professional network, Dahl was unclear of the next step in her career. She interviewed for jobs in the Front Range before accepting an interview in Grand County. After the two hour drive to Grand County in January 2015 and a tour of the hospitals, she felt the same way she did when arriving in Philadelphia:
"I knew I could have a positive impact here."
While working in past positions, Dahl never had to organize special events or donor drives since she was able to get money from grants.
Grant money in Colorado is very different than in Pennsylvania, she said.
"There is more of a belief in public services and it is a large city with more resources."
In Colorado there is less government control, and naturally less state grant funding. Pennsylvania gives multi-year grants.
"Most grants are for three years and there is an understanding that the first year is planning, the second year you implement and the third you evaluate."
In Colorado most grants are one-year grants and it's more difficult to run a program and to complete all three stages when it's only for one year, Dahl said.
"You can't focus on the grant when you are trying to secure money for the next year. It makes it harder for nonprofit executive directors."
In her role as Development Director she has had to work on individual donor cultivation and organizing special events such as Bash, held in March.
Dahl finds grant writing in Colorado frustrating.
"You spend so much time writing them for a small amount and then you have to start writing again for the next year."
She hopes to change this.
Dahl has been actively involved with other nonprofit leaders in the state. She hopes that leaders aggregately will advocate to the funders, and to the state to change the culture of one-year grants.
Could it happen?
"Yes, it could happen," said Dahl.
A leadership program available for new nonprofit executive directors is through The Community Resource Center.
The program is one year – March through November – meeting bi-monthly on Thursday and Friday.
When Dahl took the program she noticed that many EDs left their job, and the program, in the first year due to stress and overwork.
"Part of the program shows what it takes to be a nonprofit leader. What stood out is that there is high burnout when you lack self-care."
She found that most nonprofit executive directors worry about sustainability all the time and that the average time in the job is two years.
Again, Dahl is working hard to change this.
Dahl compares coming to rural Grand County and her first year in inner city Philadelphia:
"I had to evaluate the culture and players. I had to identify the needs and form a plan. I had to get other people to buy into the plan and execute."
The key to her success so far in Grand County is a consistent improvement cycle.
Implement. Analyze outcomes. Utilize outcomes to inform improvement to the program or model.
Her success in past jobs and the successes seen early at MPMC are due to a firm belief in two key principals: asking questions and creating tension.
"I believe in constant questioning. If you get to a point when you are done and have achieved all outcomes something is wrong. I will always be finding new ways to improve or finding a new population to reach," she said.
Creating tension will always lead to growth.
"For example, we want to expand services throughout the county. It is creating tension but tension is important. Health care in Grand County started in Kremmling and they are watching the center of health care move to Granby. Now, it's performing and sustaining Kremmling."
"People know logically that change is good," said Dahl.
"But emotionally they struggle to get themselves there. It's about comfort zone."
Dahl believes that your learning zone is just outside your comfort zone and the last zone is the panic zone.
"To create change you must get out of your comfort zone and move into your learning zone where you grow. But we don't want to get to the panic zone. That's where people shut down."
Part of her job as a leader is to know where those lines are with people and who can be pushed in what ways.
Her intuitive gifts of seeing the big picture and putting puzzles together have translated into creating positive outcomes for the underserved.
"I have never taken a job that I wasn't passionate about. It's about social impact. If I didn't think I was going to make a positive impact I would never have taken this job."
Much like her inner city position on the east coast, Dahl sees similarities in rural Grand County: a local population that loves its community, despite a lack of resources, including financial and human capacity. Her job is to figure out how to fill those gaps.
"It's something I can do."