Rural Funders Group - How Health Conversion Foundations Make a Big Impact Without Large Endowments

Rural Funders Group - How Health Conversion Foundations Make a Big Impact Without Large Endowments

Image of a farm land and homestead in Sublimity, Oregon

Event details

Thursday, September 29, 2022
10:00am to 11:30am PDT

About this event

Many funders think you need large endowments, a big staff or a long history of rural work to do systems change in rural places. Others believe that equity work and rural communities do not go together. But health conversion foundations, many of which have a rural footprint, are proving those ideas wrong.

Health conversion foundations are on the forefront of philanthropy-engaged systems change work in rural America and have brought some of the biggest increases in philanthropic capital available to support rural communities seen in the last 50 years. Developed from the proceeds of the sale of various nonprofit healthcare assets like hospitals, healthcare systems and insurers, these 350+ foundations have often been met with great community receptivity and quickly become significant philanthropic leaders in their regions or states.

Join us as we speak with three rural-serving conversion foundation leaders from around the country and learn how they are using their modest grantmaking assets to support change and community engagement in concert with their rural partners. This session is of interest not only to health funders, but to any funders who have an interest in rural systems development work or rural social determinants of health.


Denise E. Herrera, Ph.D., MCHES, Executive Director, Con Alma Health Foundation

Dr. Denise Herrera is the executive director of Con Alma Health Foundation and works with communities and partners statewide to improve health statuses and access to healthcare services for New Mexicans. Previously, Denise was a senior capacity building officer with St. David’s Foundation, where she ensured philanthropy take into consideration the organizational health of nonprofits to achieve their mission. She managed a large research and evaluation portfolio with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest philanthropy focused solely on health. She has provided programmatic and evaluation expertise on national advisory committees and issues related to leadership development, community health, and civic engagement efforts in rural and urban areas in the U.S. and abroad.

Denise has devoted much of her academic and philanthropic career to leveling the playing field for underserved populations to receive quality health services and education. Her proudest accomplishment was establishing the “Herrera Internship Endowment” in 2016 – which provides internship and scholarship opportunities for Latina students throughout New Mexico. The fund, managed by the National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation, was developed to honor Denise’s parents and grandparents who didn’t have the opportunity to pursue higher education. Denise completed her bachelor’s degree in health education from the University of New Mexico, master’s degree in family studies and human development from the University of Arizona, and Ph.D. in health education from the University of Texas-Austin.


David Jordan, President, United Methodist Health Ministry Fund

David Jordan is the president of the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund (Health Fund). David leads the statewide health foundation’s grantmaking, relationship building, policy development and advocacy. David represents the Health Fund on local, state and national boards and committees, serving as a member of the Governor’s Commission on Racial Equity and Justice, Kansas’ Vaccine Equity Commission and Kansas’ Healthy 2030 Committee. 
Before joining the Health Fund, David served as the executive director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, a coalition of over 100 organizations working to improve health and access to health care in Kansas. David joined the Alliance after spending nearly seven years at Community Catalyst, where he led a national campaign to expand access to dental care by initiating and supporting state campaigns to establish the practice of dental therapists. David holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in speech communication from Emerson College.


Michelle Lemming, President & CEO, Texoma Health Foundation

Michelle Lemming is the founding president and CEO of the Texoma Health Foundation created through the sale of Texoma Medical Center in 2007. She is a recent recipient of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Leaders Award, and finishing her certification in Conscious Capitalism. Inspired and motivated by mental health struggles in her own family, she is on a mission to reinvent communities and our focus on mental well-being.  

Soon after graduating from the University of Louisiana, Michelle served as a young executive director leading the first rural collaborative/network funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in Louisiana. Their work in Southern Louisiana would ultimately be modeled and replicated in rural communities across the nation. Prior to serving in her current role, Michelle led the Health Services Recovery Council, created to move recovery efforts forward in nine rural parishes most devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Throughout her career, she has maintained and implemented a continued passion for equity and developed a devotion to creating a culture of mental wellness in rural populations.


Philanthropy Northwest's Rural Funders Group series is an opportunity for rural funders from across the country to discuss topics and learn best practices alongside peers who serve rural communities.

Please contact Lyn Hunter with any questions.

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Marillac Mission FundTexoma Health FoundationGraber & Walker, LLPSt. David's Foundation