AABP Award 728x90

McKinney takes fund raising skills to children’s hospital


Colo-native Alissa McKinney is not afraid to ask for money. Since graduating from Simpson College, she has helped raise funds for political campaigns in two states, playgrounds and one of Iowa’s most historic landmarks. She began a new chapter in her career Nov. 17 when she became director of development for Blank Children’s Hospital. Although she had not worked in a medical environment until now, as a mother of two young children, she connected immediately with the hospital’s mission.

How did you get to be a comfortable communicator?

Well, Mom and I think that as I was growing up, I always used to get “unnecessary talking” checkmarks on my report cards in grade school, and now look, it’s paid off. I also had a great English teacher in high school, and I was also very involved with 4-H, which got me up in front of people to do a lot of presentations. Any time you can do something that makes you more comfortable talking in front of people, it’s going to help you down the road.

What was your first job out of college?

I went into politics and worked for (Sen. Tom) Harkin. After I got married, I moved down to Texas and worked for a city council member in Houston. Then I went on to work for a congressman who ran for Senate. Later, I started working for a non-profit company called SPARK that created new neighborhood parks from the existing playgrounds.

Why did you make that change from politics to a non-profit?

The city council member I worked for had started this non -rofit group. The playgrounds in Houston are little more than dirt. We came in and created playgrounds for the school and a parklike area for the community.

Did you know right away when you started with that group that you were good at fund raising?

No, not particularly. It was more the fun of the program that kept me there for five years. Houston is a city that lacks green space, so it was a way of increasing green space and providing a safe place for children to play. It was a good program to be involved with.

Then I had two daughters and spent a short time as a stay-at-home mom before I moved back to Iowa. I decided that having two young children (then ages 4 and 9 months), that I needed to move back closer to family.

And it was natural for you to fall back into politics when you came back to Iowa?

I came back in 2000 as Gov. Vilsack’s finance director on his second campaign. I did that for a year, but the campaign schedule was getting a little hard with two young daughters. A position had opened up at Terrace Hill for the director of development for the foundation, and we had a conversation about that being a better fit for my family, and I moved over to Terrace Hill. The governor and Christie were very supportive of my need to have something more reflective of my family life.

How was your experience at the Terrace Hill Foundation?

It was great. I was still able to volunteer and do the things that I wanted to, such as my political hobby, and it was just more of a stable environment for the girls. When I was hired, I was in charge of starting an annual campaign. There had not ever been an annual campaign at Terrace Hill; they had just been going from one capital campaign to another one years later. I also did a lot of fund raising and programs that generated income.

Did you have opportunities to show your creativity?

Absolutely. I was able to start the Victorian Dinners, which are a five-course Victorian-style meal offered four times during the year, and Victorian Day Camps, where children come during the day and step back into Victorian times with the clothing and games. That was very fun and a great opportunity for demonstrating creativity.

What did you learn from Terrace Hill that will help you in your new job here?

You always have to look at getting that younger generation involved and how you do that. Blank is about children, but you still have to get the 20-something and 30-something people involved in giving. You can’t just rely on the Boomers and the older generations to always give.

What was it about this opportunity with the hospital that persuaded you to make a career change?

I had been approached by some friends who are involved here at the hospital to consider looking in to it. I’ve been lucky that my children have been healthy and we haven’t had to use the hospital, but I knew the great work that they did, and I thought it was a great opportunity to raise money for a place that really affects people’s daily lives.

What do you expect your schedule to be like after you’ve gotten settled in more?

I expect to raise lots of money. I think, with this job, it will continue to evolve because programs will change. The hospital is involved with so many positive things, and I see a real opportunity here to give a lot to Iowa and to Des Moines through fund raising.

nyemaster web 080123 300x250