New Scripps Foundation President
Cary W. Colwell, president of the Scripps Foundation for Medicine
and Science, the fundraising organization for both The Scripps Research
Institute (TSRI) and Scripps Health, has now been on the job for almost
three months. News &Views spoke with him about the new position and his
vision for the future.
News &Views (N&V): How has the transition into this new position
been and how has your background helped prepare you for this job?
Colwell: Well, I think the transition has, at least from
my perspective, gone very well. I have 12 years experience in higher education,
working for both a Big 10 University and a Pac 10 University, and about
nine years in health care. So, I have both the academic exposure as well
as the health care side. I think that will probably serve me well as I
work to support both the health carethe patient careside of
Scripps as well as the academic and the scientific side with The Scripps
N&V: What were those universities?
Colwell: The University of Illinois Foundation and Arizona
State University Foundation. I was at both the U of I and at ASU for six
years each. I also worked at the Henry Ford Health System, experience
which has helped me recognize that Scripps has multiple constituenciesnot
only geographic locations, but also from the socioeconomic side of the
N&V: So now you're here, what's on the agenda? What are your
Colwell: Well, the first issue at hand is assessing where
the greatest potential is for philanthropic private support throughout
all of Scripps. And when I say Scripps, I mean TSRI as well as Scripps
Health and its various entities. You know, we have an excellent staff
in the foundation and outstanding resources. We need to make sure that
they are aligned with where our greatest potentials lie. So, we're in
the process of looking at the deployment of our resources and making sure
that those alignments are going to allow us to be as effective as we possibly
Also, we will be looking across all of the lines of Scripps and assessing
what our immediate needs are in the next 18 months or so. For example,
in the case of TSRI, we have a window of opportunity to acquire the Immunology
Building, and that will be something of a high priority for the foundation.
But we will also be determining the programs, the initiatives, the capital
that are really going to establish Scripps as the preeminent multifaceted
health care research institution in the country over the long term, the
next two to seven years. My goal is that the foundation make significant
contributions to all of Scripps, so that we really become the preeminent
institution of its kind in the country.
N&V: What is your initial assessment of the philanthropic landscape
Colwell: I think we've done a reasonably good job of talking
about Scripps to this community. We have a history of significant private
support from individuals. But while we have a few individuals who support
us in an extraordinary way, overall we don't have a lot of people investing
in Scripps as a percentage of the population. So, one area we're going
to be focusing on is broadening our base of support. We want to engage
as many people in this community with Scripps as we possibly can. So annual
funds will be a focus, building our donor base over the next couple of
With the exception of TSRI, we have not really initiated a comprehensive
corporate foundation and government relations program. The Scripps name,
our legacy, allows us to open every door to every corporation, and every
foundation, and every government agency in this country. We haven't been
opening those doors, so we need to expand our presence in that arena,
nationally. And we want to have a stronger presence in Washington D.C.,
particularly with health and human services. We have an extraordinary
array of services that we provide to this community. In the case of TSRI,
these efforts have not only national but international significance. And
we need to be telling people about that.
You know, Scripps is a very special institution. In many ways, Scripps
is probably held in higher regard outside of San Diego County than it
is right here. I can tell you that having coming out of the East and the
Midwest, Scripps is very well knownand held in very, very high esteem.
And sometimes I wonder whether here in San Diego County the community
recognizes what a truly special resource we are to the constituencies
N&V: Or at least understand that we're not in oceanography?
Colwell: That, too...
N&V: Do you anticipate a capital campaign?
Colwell: I don't believe that you will see a grandiose
kickoff of a Scripps-wide capital campaign. What you'll see is a series
of significant fundraising initiatives, not only at TSRI, but at the hospitals
within the Scripps Health system, who will be conducting their own, focused
fundraising campaigns. So if you want to call it a campaign, fine. I'm
not really into that term, because a campaign represents a defined start
and stop date. What we really want to do is to raise the overall level
of giving throughout all of Scripps, and sustain that over time. So, while
TSRI, while Scripps La Jolla, Mercy, Chula Vista, Encinitas, and Green
Hospitals as well as the Scripps Clinic, will all have individual campaigns,
if you will, we're not going to have a global, systemwide, "campaign for
N&V: Do you think there's some synergy there for fundraising among
the different Scripps institutions?
Colwell: Well, I think it helps from the fundraising standpoint
because our donorswhether they be individuals or corporations or
foundationshave interests that are multidimensional and across the
board, across the spectrum. I guess you might say we have a little something
for everyone. If we have an individual who's interested in the research
component, we have one of the world's finest biomedical research institutions.
If the interest is in direct patient care, we offer programs and services
of the highest quality. If they're interested in technology, we are on
the cutting edge. So there's a synergy from the standpoint that we appeal
to a broad audience. In terms of the synergy among our fundraising efforts...
I don't know. Scripps Chula Vista Hospital is going to have a different
constituency than TSRI. And TSRI's going to have a different constituency
than Scripps Hospital in Encinitas. So I don't know that there are any
real synergies from a functional operational standpoint. But Scripps is
an institution that has broad appeal.
N&V: In terms of the donor base, the local donor base, do you
think that there's competition from other, similar nonprofits?
N&V: Maybe there's a kind of donor fatigue for someone who is
already heavily involved with another nonprofit...
Colwell: Well, you know, it's interesting that you mention
donor fatigue. We worry about that all the time. We worry that philanthropy
has plateaued and that the pool of private revenue sources is drying up.
But statistics don't back that up. I think every year for the last 30
years, the total giving in this country has increased. In fact, I think
the giving totals, while they're not out for 2001 yet, will show a dramatic
increase in charitable support. It will reflect a shift, perhaps, from
some of the more traditional recipients to more of the social-service
and crisis-relief efforts. But nonetheless, people continue to give. It's
amazing. How many times have you seen an individual provide a significant
amount of support to one organization and then two years later go on to
support another organization? I think the interests of the philanthropic
community in San Diego County are diverse. I don't anticipate that changing.
We have many donors to Scripps that support other charitable organizations,
as well as other health care organizations. Our real job is to inform
our donors and the people who may want to consider Scripps as a potential
beneficiary of their philanthropy about what we're doing here, what our
mission is, what our vision is. Where do we want Scripps to be five years
from now, ten years from now? And what's it going to take to get there?
And we want to make people feel proud of Scripps and that it is worthy
of an investment.
N&V: Do you see philanthropic dollars going the same way as,
say, venture capital dollars, as we are in a recession?
Colwell: Not really. People don't give for taxes. They
don't give to get a write-off. That's an added benefit. And it certainly
is something they consider in determining what types of assets they contribute,
when they contribute them, and how they contribute them. But declines
in the market historically have not impacted philanthropy in a significant
way. Now, we may see people from some of the newer companies, some of
the high-tech companies, the dot-comswhere there was enormous, almost
immediate creation of wealth, and then a reduction in thatusing
this time to recover and to retrench. But, the true givers in this country
do not stop giving. They give because they believe in what you're doing,
they believe in your vision, and they want to make an investment in that.
They don't give because their stocks are up 20 percent this year, or because
they need a big write-off.
N&V: You came to Scripps after September 11, but do you think
that relief efforts for that crisis will drain donations from other nonprofits?
Colwell: It will in the short run. I did a study on this,
and there have been numerous studies, as you might imagine, since September
11 on the impact that this tragedy will have in philanthropic support.
If you look back in history at crisesOklahoma City, the assassination
of JFK, Pearl Harborwhat you'll find is that overall charitable
giving spiked upwards, between five and seven percent, nationally. There
is, temporarily, a shift from the traditional recipientshigher education,
health careto more of the human service, social service providers.
But the spike in overall giving, two, three, four, ten years out, doesn't
correct. It stays up there. Over time, within a period of two to five
years, giving shifts back to the traditional recipients of the majority
of philanthropic support, the greatest of which are religious-based organizations,
but health care and higher education are right behind. So our short-term
prognosis for giving in the health care industry is probably not optimistic,
but our long-term outlook is very optimistic.
N&V: So do you think people who never gave before start giving?
Colwell: That's exactly what happens. The people who have
wealth, who have never really considered themselves philanthropists, or
those who give $50 to this and $50 to that but who have never really considered
themselves capable of making an impact are emotionally charged to make
that first $1,000 gift, or $5,000 gift, or $10,000 gift. Then they find
out it feels very good. They have the satisfaction of knowing that, "I
helped," and feel good about it. So now we've got a new person who's charged,
who's turned on by supporting a charitable organization, and they're hooked
forever. And that's what makes this country the most generous in the world.
N&V: What do you enjoy most about your job?
Colwell: I think it's probably meeting the people. We
have enormous talent at Scripps, across all turfs. TSRI has some of the
most brilliant minds in the world. What has been enoyable for me is the
fact that not only do you have this world-class research institute with
brilliant minds conducting very, very important sciencebut they're
nice people. I've really enjoyed that. And likewise, throughout Scripps
Health, there are just genuinely good people. Without exception, everyone
who I've talked to has told me they've loved being at Scripps. Not too
many organizations can say that. The other thing is the incredible support
and encouragement that I've received from the leadership of TSRI and Scripps
Health. They are the finest and most talented leadership that I have seen
in my career. The talent, the commitment, the dedication is unsurpassed.
I really feel that I have joined a winning team.
N&V: Anything else I've missed?
Colwell: The future of Scripps is very, very bright. People
already recognize that the research institute is world-class in nature
and a key player in biosciences in the world. While Scripps Health has
had its share of difficulties as has every other health care organization
in this country, in a few years people are going to look at Scripps as
a comprehensive health care institution and go, "Wow."
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Cary W. Colwell assumed the position of president
of the Scripps Foundation for Medicine and Science, the fundraising organization
for both TSRI and Scripps Health, in early November 2001.