Bobbie Tibbetts: ‘Telling the story of Sanford Health’

'It takes all of us to really move that needle. ... Collectively, we're able to do so much more.'

By: Jared Leighton .

Bobbie Tibbitts
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Perhaps no event symbolizes the creative philanthropy and impact of the Sanford Health Foundation more than this week’s Sanford International PGA Tour Champions golf tournament at Minnehaha Country Club in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It will attract 78 of the top professional players in the world age 50 and older and be televised globally.

Proceeds will benefit children, both locally and globally, through the foundation, whose vice president, Bobbie Tibbetts, has risen through the ranks of the fundraising arm of the health care organization.

After working in human resources at Sioux Falls-based First PREMIER Bank and PREMIER Bankcard, she made the transition over to Sanford Health, also headquartered in Sioux Falls. She began her work here more than five years ago in an entry-level position in special event fundraising in support of the Edith Sanford Breast Center and ultimately rose to her leadership position at the foundation.

Foundation’s role

Tibbetts says the foundation focuses on developing relationships with two groups: outside donors and Sanford Health’s nearly 30,000 employees.

Those donor relationships involve making connections with people and communicating those areas of greatest need and how they can help. The foundation doesn’t determine the greatest needs within the organization. Rather, it partners with people on the front line who understand Sanford Health’s priorities in providing the best care for patients and families in how to direct philanthropic support. “It’s those employees who know best how those donations can be used,” Tibbetts says.

“We react to what the team is telling us they need, and then we get to do what we love, and that’s telling our story of Sanford Health, meeting with donors, and then, ultimately, bringing them close to the mission that we all carry out every single day,” she says.

She says much of the focus is to build relationships by identifying the passions of donors and connecting them to the foundation so they can then support the system that serves so many patients and families across Sanford Health’s 45 hospitals and 289 clinics in nine states and nine countries.

But it’s not just donors at high levels that make a difference. “It takes all of us to really move that needle,” says Tibbetts. Employees who give even $1 per pay period together have a big impact. “Collectively, we’re able to do so much more.”

And where does the money go? Tibbetts says 100 percent of money donated goes to the area, project or passion the donor has identified.

“We in the foundation have an obligation to honor donor intent,” she says, stressing that the money Sanford Health invests in the community — and she feels it is obligated to do so — does not come from donor dollars.

The Sanford House

Sanford Health Foundation’s annual donor base exceeds tens of thousands, and the organization bears the name of one particular donor, Sioux Falls businessman Denny Sanford. His historic gift of $400 million in 2007 transformed Sanford Health into a global entity.

To honor Mr. Sanford and tell his story, the foundation opened The Sanford House in 2017 in Sioux Falls.

First, it serves as a tribute to Mr. Sanford and all he has done for the organization, Tibbetts says. Mr. Sanford is quoted as saying, “I aspire to inspire before I expire.” And Tibbetts says it inspires people to be something more. In particular, she points to the interactive giving wall, where visitors can see all of the areas of health care in which Mr. Sanford has made an impact through his giving to Sanford Health.

At the same time, Tibbetts points out that philanthropy and giving is not always about a monetary donation. One can also donate his or her time and talents as a way of serving various initiatives.

Second, the Sanford House serves as a space for the foundation to do its work and share with others the mission of Sanford Health. “Ultimately, it allows us to have conversations with donors so they understand what philanthropy can do for a system,” says Tibbetts.

Third, she wants employees to know that this is their space as well. The Sanford House doors are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Tibbetts wants all employees to come be a part of it by taking a tour. “We want you to utilize the space in a way that’s meaningful to you, that allows you to feel like it’s your home, too,” Tibbetts tells people.

Working at Sanford Health

There are a number of things that Tibbetts enjoys about being a part of the Sanford Family.

She says there are “so many talented people at so many different levels, and the passion that each and every one of us has is really inspiring. And it’s a place I always wanted to be a part of, and I’m so proud now to say that I am.”

Tibbetts also feels an obligation to continually better herself in service to the foundation, even in the fundamentals of fundraising.

Looking to the future, Tibbetts is excited about the continued growth and ever-improving care provided by Sanford Health. Being able to tell the Sanford story to more and more people and share how philanthropy impacts that story continues to drive her and the foundation team.