Organizations that sponsor the Annual Gathering at the Gold or Platinum levels receive a featured spotlight here, with a snippet appearing in a Quarterly Connections. This quarter, we shine a spotlight on Amy Swanson, Vice President of Marketing, Advocacy and Member Experience at UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Ohio.
Describe your current work addressing health and wellness needs of Appalachian areas.
In addition to serving people throughout the Appalachian region through Medicare and employer-sponsored health plans, UnitedHealthcare currently serves people eligible for Medicaid in Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia.
Like members of Appalachia Funders Network, we know socioeconomic and health challenges are often connected. This is why at UnitedHealthcare, we take a whole-person approach to health care – which means we seek to address physical health, behavioral health and social needs, such as access to healthy food, housing and transportation. And, of course, we don’t do this alone. We work with the people we serve, family members and care givers, care providers and community partners to address local health care needs with local solutions.
For example, in Ohio and other states, we are working with community partners to help connect people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to available housing resources. We’ve partnered with the Coalition on Housing and Homelessness in Ohio (COHHIO) for the last three years and recently funded research to examine and address housing gaps for transitional youth. Stable, affordable housing helps people live healthier lives.Read more
Describe your current roles in philanthropy and the hat you wear at AFN.
I work for Mott Philanthropic (no relation to the CS Mott Foundation) serving as a consultant and staff to a number of different philanthropies around the country. My personal work focuses on tax policy, Just Transition, and the arts, and we have other staff who also work in K-12, early, and arts education. With those various hats on, I participate in a number of different spaces: Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation (FCCP), Engaged Donors for Global Equity (EDGE), Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA), Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA), and Grantmakers for Education (GFE), among others.
At the Appalachia Funders Network I’m primarily wearing my Chorus Foundation hat. Chorus Foundation has been around for about 12 years, but in the last 3-4 years we’ve changed our strategy to be primarily focused on Just Transition, and to be much more place-based. One of the places we’re focused on is Eastern Kentucky and the transition that is happening in that region with the decline of coal mining. We’re working with local advocates and organizers to help support a vision of the future of Eastern Kentucky with justice at the center.
At Chorus, though we came out of a climate and environmental space, our interests are much broader than that. We think about our work as at the intersection of climate, democracy, and economy, and also at the intersection of building cultural power, economic power, and political power. For example, in all of the places where we work, there are grantees advancing a new narrative about what that place should look like and engaging people through arts and culture.Read more
Tell us about your career path and what led you to take the position of Arts Program Officer at The Educational Foundation of America (EFA). How do these experiences inform your work in philanthropy?
Early in my career I was a real estate broker for almost 20 years in Dallas. While in Dallas, I founded a nonprofit that created a linear park, a rail-to-trail park for biking and running in downtown Dallas, The Katy Trail. I really enjoyed the work of putting a board together and a strategic plan, doing a capital campaign and a master plan for the park. Later, I moved to the Hudson Valley and took on the position as the Director of The Shaker Museum. I did that for eight years. I really enjoyed the work of changing the strategy of an older museum, relocating the campus, doing some historic preservation work, and thinking about the future of rural museums. Ultimately, I decided I really wanted to be on the other side of the equation and be giving away money instead of asking for money. I was interested in the job at EFA because of the kind of work they were doing in creative placemaking, since it brought together the work I had been doing in my nonprofit career, which was both arts and place-based. The Shaker museum is a national historic landmark historic site. The Katy Trail was really a creative placemaking project, although they didn’t call it that then. The position was a perfect fit for me.Read more
This learning call featured a collection of leading practitioners and funders who work on agroforestry and forest farming around the region. They shared key concepts and definitions, highlighted current projects taking place across the region, and emphasized the economic potential, environmental impact, and cultural significance of this sector for Appalachia's communities and rural landowners. To download a pdf of the slides from the webinar presentation, click here.
Tell me a little about your career path and what led you to become the President and CEO of The Greater Clark Foundation. How do these experiences inform your work in philanthropy?
I’ve held a lot of different positions in my career in local government, the nonprofit sector, the for-profit sector, and philanthropy. The common theme with all of these positions is that I started something from scratch or took something to a new place, and all were related in some way to health and community development.
The Greater Clark Foundation is a health legacy foundation – our assets came from the sale of our local hospital in 2010. I took the position in 2012 after being recruited by a headhunter. I had a background that was a bit in healthcare, a bit in hospitals, and a bit in philanthropy. It took about a year to get the foundation off the ground. Nobody in the community had been on a foundation board before, so it required teaching people what it means to be on a foundation board, which is similar to being on a nonprofit board, but not the same. That was a really interesting process and it continues to be. I consider us to be a very young foundation. Each year is new, because it’s the first time we’ve done it.
My true calling in life is helping people understand that as individuals we all have power, and we have to get in touch with our power and stop giving it away to other people. So, the idea that I could be a part of a small community in a part of the country that I feel passionately about and be building something that I believe is going to make the community more resilient over time was pretty powerful to me. The Greater Clark Foundation’s asset size is pretty small relatively speaking, but it’s pretty large on a per capita basis, and so that was enticing in terms of thinking strategically about how we could invest assets and really contribute to growing the region – not just the Greater Clark region where we fund, but the whole Appalachian region.Read more
The 8th Annual Gathering featured an exciting array of activities, panels, and open spaces over three action-packed days. Over 120 participants came together in Abingdon, VA for building relationships and trust, facilitating common understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing Central Appalachia, and fostering cross-sector collaboration to accelerate the Appalachian Transition.Read more