Creating a Culture of Giving - Whitney Center

Creating a Culture of Giving

August 8, 2020 No Comments

There’s a difference between fundraising and philanthropy. According to Terri Rioux, the Director of Philanthropy at Whitney Center in Hamden, CT, philanthropy can be described as charity, helping someone, giving to someone or a cause, or doing good for the overall community; whereas fundraising generally means collecting money for a specific reason or cause. “I like to say philanthropy at Whitney Center is fundraising with meaning and purpose for both now and into the future,” says Rioux.

Fundraising plays an important role in any nonprofit organization, but Whitney Center officials say this senior living community is working to build a culture of philanthropy – a culture of giving – amongst residents, families, friends and staff. “Creating this culture of giving is a key strategy in our continued efforts to further enhance cohesion and teamwork within our organization.”

The Director of Philanthropy position at Whitney Center was created a year ago because of the residents’ desire to give back to the community and to recognize and thank the staff. “As Whitney Center’s prior Director of Resident Services, Terri was a perfect person to lead our efforts,” says Cathy Goodman, Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “Terri already had a great rapport with our residents and their families. She understood what they wanted to develop and has already implemented new philanthropic initiatives that started at the kick-off of our 40th anniversary year.”

A Philanthropy Council was also created. Led by Rioux, the council consists of residents, families and friends of Whitney Center. The group recently launched its first structured philanthropic effort – a new Staff Development initiative that Rioux says will deepen and expand programs for Whitney Center employees. “Our staff is what makes Whitney Center a special place,” she says. “Through this fund, we are able to offer scholarship awards that will help employees pursue their educational and personal goals.”

Goodman adds, “We believe that by supporting our employees in this way, Whitney Center will be better able to meet the current and future needs of a growing number of seniors, ultimately making the retirement living experience we offer here at Whitney Center even better.”

In addition to scholarship funds, the Staff Development initiative supported Advanced Certified Nurses’ Aide (CNA) training for Whitney Center’s skilled nursing CNAs. Through a generous resident donation, the fund not only covered the cost of the 10-day training program, it covered the cost to hire replacement staff during the scheduled four-hour training sessions.

The Sunday Concert Series is another example of how Whitney Center’s culture of giving is spreading. The concerts are funded by a resident donation as a tribute to his late wife who was an avid music lover. “This concert series exemplifies what we are trying to do,” says Rioux. “It is an example of how one can share in a meaningful, purposeful and personal way, while benefitting the entire community.”

Efforts are currently underway to build on what has been started. Rioux says when she was the Resident Services Director, residents and family members were always asking how they do more for the retirement community they love. “Now they can – and they are. We doing more every day with new contributions and support,” she says. “Recently, our skilled nursing Life Enrichment Coordinator came to us because she wanted to create a ‘Comfort Cart’ service for hospice patients. One family shared the touching story of how the lotions provided on the Comfort Cart soothed and comforted their mother when nothing else would. This is why we do what we do.”

Rioux adds that another goal is to establish more tribute programs like the Sunday Concert Series, and she is working with residents and business partners to bring this vision to life.

“Whitney Center’s person-centered philosophy, leadership and experience in programming and healthcare services is recognized by accreditation organizations within the senior living industry and is highly regarded by our community,” says Goodman, “ Our vision is to improve aging for more people, at Whitney Center and in our Greater New Haven community. When you contribute to the Whitney Center Gift Fund, you are joining us in improving the quality of life for residents and staff and helping to make positive change in aging services.

“Philanthropy at Whitney Center is truly resident-driven,” says Rioux. “Residents’ interests evolve. Their senses of purpose change. Nurturing and promoting this philanthropic spirit is their voice in helping build our community and make it stronger. If Whitney Center has touched their hearts, giving is a way to keep it going.”

Other ways to make a difference:

Whitney Center Gift Fund
This fund is used for Philanthropy Council priorities, as well as designated gifts for specific purposes. For individuals and organizations wishing to make a major or planned gift, special opportunities are available to advance projects and programs identified by our resident community, management and the Board.

Benevolence Fund
Designated for residents who need financial assistance.

Cultural Arts Fund
To support Whitney Center’s culture of music, education and the arts.

To learn more or make a difference, contact Terri Rioux, Director of Philanthropy at 203-439-5080 or