If you feel awkward asking someone for money, you might want to hit up Kelby Krabbenhoft for some advice. Apparently, making the pitch at someone's kitchen table does the trick, and it certainly doesn't hurt to have a compelling reason.
Krabbenhoft, president and chief executive officer of what was then known as Sioux Valley Hospitals & Health System in Sioux Falls, S.D., managed to persuade South Dakota businessman T. Denny Sanford to donate $400 million to the system. The gift, announced Feb. 3, is the single-largest healthcare donation ever; the system is now called Sanford Health, for obvious reasons.
Some might call it chutzpah.
"I think the key word is courage," says Becky Nelson, chief operating officer and senior vice president of health services operations for Sanford Health. "You know how difficult it would be to ask a colleague for money? To sit down and ask for $400 million does take a whole lot of courage." Perhaps it doesn't hurt that Krabbenhoft, 49, was a college basketball player. In 1994, when he was named an Up & Comer at the age of 36, he said playing in college taught him how to be an underdog.
"You start taking punches and not falling down." With its recent and ongoing cash infusion, it does not appear Sanford Health will be falling down anytime soon. David Link, Sanford Health's executive vice president, calls Krabbenhoft a "gifted visionary." Link and Nelson both say that Krabbenhoft was able to gain Sanford's trust and philanthropic generosity by laying out a concrete proposal based on what he envisioned for the organization.
"Because of the work of the team, Kelby was able to present the dollar figure along with the vision and demonstrate to Denny why $400 million was essential to carry out the vision," Nelson says. "It was a very systematic process to arrive at that number, and Kelby felt confident that that number would allow us to do what we wanted to do." Specifically, the system has earmarked the money for four major projects: establishing five pediatric clinics across the country; expanding its five research institutes and creating a new pediatric research institute; creating a commission of experts to identify a promising research area for one pressing healthcare challenge; and creating a world-class "campus of the future."
"The dollar amount is so staggering that it really does make a difference in terms of what you can consider doing," Link says. "It's a hugely motivating factor. We're motivated by the awesome responsibility of making sure we do this correctly." While securing the large gift has certainly brought Sanford Health a lot of attention, it is not Krabbenhoft's only achievement.
During his 10 years in Sioux Falls, he has led a development plan that has nearly quintupled the size of the organization. His achievements include developing a 350-physician multispecialty clinic and creating the Sanford Health Plan, the second-largest private insurer in South Dakota. Before joining Sanford Health, he was president and CEO of Freeman Health System in Joplin, Mo., for six years, and before that he was a system executive vice president for the Sisters of St. Mary of the Presentation Health Corp. in Fargo, N.D. He is a member of the governor's South Dakota Commission on Health Care and has chaired the Sioux Falls Development Foundation, co-chairing a $10 million capital campaign. At this pace, he might be the one on the other side of the kitchen table soon enough.
A successful team must have a vibrant visionary leader who inspires the organization. Kelby Krabbenhoft, CEO of Sanford Health, who was recognized as one of the 1994 Up & Comers, is one of the nation's strongest visionaries in healthcare today. Kelby and his team at Sanford Health have been recognized throughout the United States as one of the outstanding healthcare delivery centers. Kelby's innate ability to cultivate a team attitude, which stems from his college basketball days, coupled with his unwavering vision for delivering high-quality, innovative healthcare are the driving forces behind his many successful industry achievements over the years.
John Goodman & Associates, Inc. extends its sincere gratitude to Kelby, and we are proud to be a part of his team as we pursue our mission of improving the delivery of cardiac and vascular care throughout the nation.
CLASS OF 1995