Shelley Stingley, Helmsley Charitable Trust

TITLE: Program Director, Rural Healthcare and Vulnerable Children in Sub-Saharan Africa

FUNDING AREAS: Health care and public health in rural areas of the Midwestern United States, child welfare in Africa

CONTACT:, 605-361-9848

IP TAKE: This lifelong Midwesterner's attention is hard to get, but Stingley commands many resources and a strong devotion to improving health care facilities, particularly those in need of technological upgrades in the rural Midwestern United States. She's also a mover and shaker on behalf of children halfway across the world, in Sub-Saharan Africa.

PROFILE: Rural areas often lag behind urban areas in America in terms of health-care availability. Getting adequate care to people in sparsely populated regions of the country is a policymaking challenge at the national level. In the health philanthropy world, rural areas face difficulties in securing resources too.

A few years ago, the Helmsley Charitable Trust enlisted the help of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors to identify which rural areas were particularly hard hit by a lack of charitable investments in the health sector. The Rockefeller study revealed that the mostly rural upper Midwest had received a mere 1.3 percent of all charitable health-related donations in the United States in 2007, spurring the Helmsley Charitable Trust to action. In 2009, Helmsley began awarding grants specifically targeted at improving health services in the underserved, rural areas of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming, western Minnesota, and Iowa.

Shelley Stingley is the executive leading Helmsley's efforts to bring better health care to this rural Midwest region. She is a lifelong Midwesterner and a graduate of Nebraska's Wayne State College. Her long career in health and public service includes some high-level administrative positions in South Dakota government and 14 years as CEO of the Minn-Ia-Kota Girl Scout Council. At Helmsley, Stingley oversees a large portfolio, making millions of dollars worth of grants under the auspices of its Rural Healthcare division each year.

Based on a review of the Rural Healthcare projects Stingley and her team have recently chosen to fund, it appears that Helmsley is a fan of investing in things you can touch and feel, such as hospital facilities and medical equipment. For example, Helmsley Rural Healthcare has given $4.6 million to the American Heart Association to provide South Dakota hospitals and EMS agencies with equipment and upgrades; more than $3 million to a Wyoming hospital to purchase cancer radiation equipment; more than $2.9 million to a Nebraska hospital for radiation oncology equipment; and more than 1.4 million to build a Resource Center that improves Native American health.

Rural, Midwestern, health-focused grantseekers that are not also hospitals or linear accelerators—but that have really good ideas—should not give up hope of ever receiving support from the Helmsley Trust. In 2014 Stringley gave nearly $450,000 to FarmRescue for capacity building and to support their challenge grant. On another track entirely, in 2011, Helmsley invested more than $1 million over two years in the University of Missouri-based Association of Health Care Journalists. The purpose of this grant was to secure health-care journalism training for local reporters in Missouri and Kansas.

With so much health-care policy playing out at the state and local levels, and with funding for journalism being just, well, bad, helping to train regionally based, investigative journalists on health issues seems like a sound investment in a more informed future. As Stingley puts it:

...given the fact that the Helmsley Charitable Trust focuses a significant amount of its funding on health issues and medical research, it makes sense to support the Association of Health Care Journalists since the organization provides media professionals with the necessary resources and training to provide the public with the relevant information to make knowledgeable health-related decisions.

Another seemingly good way to get Stringley's attention these days is to focus on digital/electronic access to health care needs, which makes a whole lot of sense given the rural locales. In the first six months of 2014 alone, Stingley apportioned nearly $4.6 million to rural hospitals who implemented ePharmacy and eEmergency telemedicine services—13 grantees in total in this realm out of 21 total organizations who received funds from the trust in those six months.

Now spin your globe halfway around, and you'll hit the other spot that Stingley's in charge of for the Helmsley Charitable Trust: Sub-Saharan Africa. She oversees the trust's Vulnerable Children program there. It's a new venture for the Helmsley Charitable Trust, only established in 2013.

The commonality here is that Helmsley's giving is also focused on overcoming the needs of rural populations. In this realm, they've honed specifically on children, and how nutrition, clean water and sanitation, and educational outcomes are closely linked within impoverished communities. Their current geographic focus is Kenya, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Angola and Ethiopia.

Stingley hasn't given to many organizations in this realm yet, but the grants she has given are biggies. Catholic Relief Services, a big player in this field, has received more than $7 million to improve rural emergency services, school sanitation, school nutrition, and school water access in Northern Ghana, as well as more than $3 million for water and sanitation improvement in Burkina Faso schools. In a more "wonkish" give, Nuru Internationa, another big player, received $4.68 million to create a "self-sustaining, self-scaling, integrated, agriculturally-based development model to increase food security, alleviate extreme poverty, improve literacy, and reduce preventable death in Kuria West, Kenya." And in the biggest grant to-date in this region, The End Fund received more than $7 million to combat tropical diseases in Northern Angola. These latter two grants especially suggest that, while aiming to directly serve the region's children, Stingley and the Helmsley Charitable Trust appreciate that children are helped when a community-at-large is helped.

But no matter your rural, Midwestern health or Sub-Saharan Africa child specialty, getting funding from the team at Helmsley can be tricky, in no small part because the trust does not accept uninvited grant applications or even inquiries into the grant application process. That said, given Helmsley's $4 billion in assets and strong commitment to making philanthropic investments, give it your best shot at getting Stingley's attention.

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