95.3 / 88.5 FM Grand Rapids and 95.3 FM Muskegon
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Powerful Women: Let's Talk – 93: Kelly Dyer

Kelly Dyer
Spectrum Health Foundation
Kelly Dyer

Kelly Dyer, President of Spectrum Health Foundation, joins Shelley Irwin on this episode of Powerful Women: Let's Talk

Kelly Dyer is the President of Spectrum Health Foundation. Her 17-year fundraising career includes experience with major gift fundraising, strategic planning and change management. Her passion for advancing philanthropy through innovation and partnerships has resulted in productive teams responsible for tens of millions of dollars raised annually and thousands of volunteer commitments.

Kelly is a graduate of the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts at Wayne State University where she was a four-year women’s basketball letter winner, and a native of Michigan. Kelly Dyer joins us on this edition of Powerful Women: Let’s Talk.

Powerful Women: Let’s Talk is created by WGVU NPR and made possible by WGVU NPR sustaining monthly donors. Become a sustaining monthly donor now at wgvu.org/donate to support WGVU NPR’s local programs, including Powerful Women: Let’s Talk.


[Intro]: produced by women about women. Powerful women. Let's talk is a series of interviews with women who are trailblazers and have helped shape our world transforming who we are and how we live.


Shelly Irwin: let us meet an enthusiastic and forward-thinking leader with a national reputation for effective philanthropy and The passion for cultivating high-performing teams. Kelly Dyre serves as the president of spectrum health Foundation. A 17-year fundraising career that includes strategic planning and change management. Plus, she's talented on the court. And has embarked on a unique family quest. We welcome you, Kelly to this edition of powerful women. Let's talk hi to you

Kelly Dyer: hi to you. Thank you for having me.

Shelly Irwin: Were you offense or defense on the court?

Kelly Dyer: I was a better defender that I was an offensive player. But did both

Shelly Irwin: all right. And I bet you got little swishes with the shot.

Kelly Dyer: I did. I was I would say I played 2 or 3 guards. A sort of a shooting guard, small forward and but really defense rebounding that was that was really by special day. But it was that it was a great, great career and really loved playing

Shelly Irwin: nice. And we'll talk about that. Quest in just a second. Were you born a leader or were you made a leader? Kelly let's start here too.

Kelly Dyer: That's such an interesting question about leadership because I do think there are some traits personality traits that help people with leadership. I do think I was probably born with a few of those empathy I think is an important characteristic for leaders. So really being able to put yourself in the shoes of those that are in your care really see it as people that working with you that are in your care. So, I think empathy is a trait that I had a I think also leaders are sometimes born with the ability to kind of march to the beat of their own drum. And I do think I do that to a certain degree. That's not to say that it is absence of bringing other people along in that way. But having a little bit thicker skin in being able to persevere when things are tough and also to set direction. So, I think those are some things that maybe I was I was born with but really worked on overtime too

Shelly Irwin: Were you brought up in a family with thick skin that encourage leadership than and share bit of that…your educational journey?

Kelly Dyer: Yeah. I would say one of the gifts from my parents and certainly from my mother she raised us to be very independent. And I think one of those gifts is that we never really thought we couldn't do anything. And I recognize that as an adult where that has been such a gift for me that really from momma. She's just always encouraged us to do whatever it was that we are interested in and really never thought we couldn't do anything. And I just so value that that those lessons that we learned from her.

Shelly Irwin: great tell me about your education and what got you here.

Kelly Dyer: Yeah, I was a college basketball player and was recruited. It was not heavily recruited but ended up playing on a team that had some good success as a high school senior and then ended up getting a scholarship to play basketball at Wayne state in Detroit and that was such a gift from an educational standpoint. Certainly, it was wonderful to have a scholarship. But at the at the same time, the real education for me was being with people from very different backgrounds. Lots of diversity in the city of Detroit. My college roommates were from totally different backgrounds. Then I was that I was from. And so that some of those skills that I learned there a while in school. I'm still using today and being able to engage with people. And listen to different points of view and then certainly the rigor that comes with having to organize your time to accommodate for, you know, basketball schedule and finish schoolwork and all those things. But learned so much from that experience and most of it were, you know, things about really understanding people and how to work with people that are from totally different places and perspective than I am. That is very valuable

Shelly Irwin: and was it a college of fine performing and communication arts.

Kelly Dyer: Yeah, that's right. That that was my degree. The performing piece of that is not part of my work but the communications certainly was. And Wayne state at the time had a lot of really great faculty members who we're also working at the Detroit Free press or the Detroit News. And so, the communications skills that I learned. I was on the communication side, public relations and then had a minor in journalism. And really learned about effective communication and how to craft messages and how to how to communicate with people in a way that is impactful and helps that decision making to use a lot of that still today and I had a great faculty member who had a news editing class that I took and he said this is going to be one of the hardest classes that you'll take because we're going to train you to edit like a like a newspaper editor does. And so, what he meant by that is to really have very concise messaging. And I think about that all the time when I'm writing e-mails or were trying to craft messaging for people to learn about what we're working on. But it really, really helpful in terms of my training and how to communicate with people. So, it was a great, great training ground.

Shelly Irwin: Nice. What was your first job?

Kelly Dyer: My first job was working. It was actually the result of an internship I had in college. It was working for a company just north of Detroit in in Rochester, Michigan, which I think, you know well, and it was a company that did essentially sponsorship contracting for a lot of the big Detroit Big sports teams, and I worked on the event side. So, we worked for a couple of nonprofits and did nonprofit fundraising events for them. And so that was my first start in the in the sort of world of philanthropy where we would do these fundraising events to raise money for very specific causes. That was my first start.

Shelly Irwin: Yes. And yet look where it got you 17 years later.

Kelly Dyer: That's right.

Shelly Irwin: All right here in West Michigan. What are your responsibilities? And expand on this president's spectrum health Foundation and.

Kelly Dyer: The Helen DeVos Children's Hospital Foundation. Yes. So, the foundations at spectrum health. We are the fundraising arm for spectrum health and that includes the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. So, we are in charge of really all the philanthropic activity that’s in the hospitals. That's everything from Grant writing. So, writing big grants to partners and individual annual gifts all the way to in kind donations so people that say will do a backpack drive benefiting kids that are in the hospital and donate, you know, crayons and toys for kids. Our office manages all of that. So, it's a big body of work. We have about 10,000 people annually that are involved with philanthropy which are with our system, which is which is really heartwarming. And that's the best part of the job is being able to work with people to impact the care that we provide than the patients and families that we have in the hospital. So, it's a great job, too.

Shelly Irwin: And I will lead the next question is the secret to success and philanthropy the relationship.

Kelly Dyer: Oh, absolutely. And I think it is so interesting the relationship piece of it is. You know Why I like this work is I really think people are doing one of 2 things. They're trying to make the world a better place or they're trying to help somebody on a journey that maybe they've experienced themselves and try to solve, you know, solve a problem that they see and what I mean by that is I use the example of if you're a parent who had a child treated for cancer. And you are in our hospital. At Helen DeVos children’s hospital you do a fundraiser that benefits the foundation. What you're really trying to do is solve the problem that is childhood cancer. And so, we give people an outlet to be able to work on what they see is as problems ways to help somebody on a on a journey which sometimes is a very difficult journey. So those relationships I take none of those gifts for granted. They're so special to me and all of our team at the foundation. So, it's it really is about those relationships.

Shelly Irwin: Speaking of team, what does change management your skill in change management

Kelly Dyer: I know it’s a funny term isn’t? But I think if I had to say, and other people say I'm good with change management. I think change management is in organizations setting a vision for where the organization could go or what the organization could be in a lot of times that is also change management with the people that are part of the team. So, if you've been doing something the same way and even had success doing it for a very long time. The change management piece of that is there a way that we could be doing this better? And I think, you know, that's part of my leadership, as is always asking, are there ways that we could be doing more. Are there things that we could be doing that impact our community, our patients and families and way that in a way that maybe we haven't thought about doing before. And so, the changes really it changes management piece of that is really setting the vision for where we want to be and how everybody on the team helps us get there because everybody has a role. So, I think change management is a lot about the processes, but also really about motivating the people to help us get to where that that ultimate goal, that what the ultimate vision is for the organization.

Shelly Irwin: You mentioned empathy in your leadership. What else would you? how else do you lead What's the other adjective? To Represent?

Kelly Dyer: I think I think transparency and trust is such a huge part of specially change management when you're trying to ask people to do things in ways that they haven't done before. There has to be this high degree of trust that you're really doing it in a way that is inclusive of what their contributions to the team as I think I would hope that our team would say that I’m a fairly transparent leader empathetic transparent leader certainly who really believes that. It's not, you know, one person's job to lead. I say this to our team all the time. It's really leadership from where you're at and everybody has a responsibility to lead within the organization. And sometimes it's my job just to help people understand that and even see that in themselves really encourage them to be leaders in the areas that that they're most excellent.

Shelly Irwin: And how would you meandered the pandemic in a Healthcare setting in a job where you're still fairly new and coming at a unique time.

Kelly Dyer: Yeah. the pandemic has been so interesting for all of us. I think probably when you're talking about starting a new role and any kind of, you know, change and certainly for our team, it's been a change in leadership. The pandemic has made. You have to be a better Communicator and I'm really trying to have those connection points even if when I started, we were mostly still virtual and that, you know, is a challenge. I think the pin the pandemic for me, though I would say is personally. It's really exposed the importance of people. And while we've figure out how we can work effectively with technology and all that. I think there's certainly no replacement for people having the opportunity to be together. And so, we're still trying to figure odut how that looks for us on our on our team. Such a supporter of this new hybrid way of working. But I also care a lot about the mental health and health of our team members. And I think, you know, being around colleagues that you enjoy as is really a good thing for people generally so that that really showed itself to me in the pandemic. This people really matter.

Shelly Irwin: Thank you for that. All right. Time for some fun.

Kelley Dyer: OK, good.

Shelley Irwin: What is this family quest you’re on?

Kelly Dyer: Well, we started, I love the question. We started. Trying to visit all the national parks. And so, I love the national parks and I'm history person. I love the history of the National parks. We started trying to go and visit all the national parks. And we've seen some beauties. Badlands is a really fabulous National Park; Glacier National Park is amazing. Yellowstone, of course, is as described this summer. We're going to go to Northern California into the redwoods in Northern California amd crater Lake, which is in southern Oregon. So, we're trying to get out and see as many of them as we can.

Shelly Irwin: Yes. And your girls are. Are you serving as a role model? Don't you think?

Kelly Dyer: I hope so. Yeah, I have. I have 2 girls. They and it's funny with the National Park quest. As you said, Shelly we just have taken them a long and it's funny. I think I would encourage any parents listening to this that your kids are really going to be flexible and always interested. They learn something on every trip that we go on. So, I hope one of the things that they're learning from us is to be curious. You can always learn something new. And I hope as my mom did for me, I'm hoping I hope I pass on to them that, you know, they can. They can be whatever they want to be. And I really believe that.

Shelly Irwin: nice. How did the four-year college athlete basketball, bartend as well on one side, bartending on the other?

Kelly Dyer: really funny and the funniest part about that bartending pieces. I didn't know how to make. I mean, I was not a heavy drinker. I'm not a heavy drinker. I would bar tend and have a bartending book behind the bar so that I would know how to make drinks. But it was it's funny. The college scholarship was wonderful, provided tuition and housing. But now it doesn't actually provide anything else I did bartend usually a day or 2 on the weekend during the during the season. If I didn't have a game that weekend. My bosses there were really flexible. So, but it was it was interesting again, life education. You learn so much about people when you're bartending.

Shelly Irwin: what was the most popular drink?

Kelley Dyer: I have to say, you know, it's funny. We get a lot of people in front after baseball games and to most of the time it was, you know, something simple like, you know beer, or some kind of a post baseball refreshment. But yeah.

Shelly Irwin: Didn't need the book on that

Kelly Dyer: I didn't need the book on that. On that note you're learning relearning how to play the piano. Why.

Kelly Dyer: why is a really good question. But my girls are learning to play the piano I played when I was very young. And so, I picked it up really starting and that the last half of last year. It's funny. It's one of those things that may be part of it is when you're when you're in leadership and we talked about, you know, change management and setting the vision. You're really just, you know, hoping that what you see as the opportunities really work out. Where is when I play the piano, I know that if I practice hard enough, I know I'll get better. Right. So, there's it's almost in a way the certainty of feeling like, you know, I can spend 30 minutes on this and do feel like I'm making some progress. It's been a lot of fun.

Shelly Irwin: Did you practice for your first marathon

Kelly Dyer: I did practice for my first marathon. I had a great training partner. My dear friend Rich. We'd we trained for it together and then ran the Marine Corps marathon in Washington, DC which is really special for up for people that are marathon runners listening and I remember it was funny. I had a moment in that a marathon where I think all marathoners go through this

Shelly Irwin: mile 18?

Kelly Dyer: where I just did not know if I could go another step right and I came up on a water station and in the Marine Corps marathon, they'll have a lot of the Marines work, the water stations. And I came upon on one. I’ll will never forget. There's this young man that was there and he said you can do it. And I thought to myself, I mean, this kid is giving me encouragement and his going too often serve our country. And I mean, I'm just out here running for recreations. I better a better get it together and finish and I did so it was just a very special moment. I'll never forget. But it was it's a really special race to do very patriotic.

Shelly Irwin: Look him up. Lastly, you have a cool group of friends that go to a concert every year. The must meet the criteria.

Kelly Dyer: The criteria are. Yes. Thank you. The criteria is in 30 years when we're all sitting around talking about those concerts. We went to back in the day. Is this going to be an artist that we'll still be recognizable and will be big enough to for us to still be talking about 30 years. So, we've seen some great ones. We saw Adele in concert she just got this amazing voice. We actually saw lady gaga, and I tell people I expected her performance to be lots of theatrics. And, you know, the costume changes and all that but her voice is just amazing. She was a great performer. So, it's been a lot of fun. We took a couple of years off because of covid when concerts weren't happening but we're already starting to plan for, you know what that next concert could maybe be.

Shelly Irwin: But I'd like to amend in 30 years from now. I'm hoping you're still going to the concert.

Kelly Dyer: Yes, yes, absolutely.

Shelly Irwin: Balance seems to be working in your life talked about your family. You work. Obviously, importance, but yet you know how to have fun. Where do we go with that answer that question? Why the importance of balance?

Kelly Dyer: I think balances is so critically important. I Think I'm a better at my work. I had a great mentor of mine; name is Jerry Mays from West Michigan. And he said, you know, actually working in fundraising. Interesting people make good fund-raisers and it's so true. And I think having outside interests and taking that time for yourself to recharge and have some fun is so critically important makes me a better professional. And certainly, I tell people that, you know, make no mistake about it. My number one job is being a mother to my children and a spouse to my husband. So, I'm pretty good at trying to figure out if there are times that the balance gets a little out of whack. I try to focus on bringing it back to center. But I think overall being strong in all those 3 areas professional and family and having a little bit of fun makes you makes you better in those areas really to try to balance it

Shelly Irwin: and how will your girls, how do young women find their passion. What's the path to this?

Kelly Dyer: I think experimentation is part of that. So, trying things. And you know, one of the one of the areas that I think are so critically important is, you know, you really can learn anything. if you if you commit to spending some time to do it most anything. And I think for them, you know, really Testing and experimenting and trying things to see if they like it or not. You know, sometimes they'll say, well, mom, I don't want to play softball because I don't like softball, you know, until you try. So at least try it for a season and then lo and behold, they like softball. Right. So, I think encouraging kids to try things. You know, we're an athletic family. But I think, you know, we encourage them to try drama and we encourage to be great artists and so anything that they want to try were piano. It’s an example of another thing we said let's try piano and see if they like. It I think trying experimentation as such. It Such an important skill to encourage and kids. And I actually think for adults too.

Shelly Irwin: Do you have a recommended book for me.

Kelly Dyer: I love there's a book called my day. It's an old book and it's actually a series of columns that Eleanor Roosevelt wrote some when she was first lady and then some after. It's really interesting to us published into a book I really like anything by Adam Grant. Adam Grants a great author and he's written some wonderful books. I think the warmth of other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson is a really if you like history and you are interested in in learning more about sort of the black experience in America. That's a really great book for people to read. So those are those are 3 that I just love

Shelly Irwin: Foundation Strong Under your presidency?

Kelly Dyer: I hope so. And I can say that I'm committed certainly too trying to improve it every day and really care deeply about the people in this community and how we're helping patients and families during what can be really challenging time. So, I'm super enthusiastic about where we're headed and know that we have a really fabulous team too. That is aligned and getting us there. Let's get you back to the office.

Shelly Irwin: Kelly Dyer, thank you for this edition of powerful women. Let's talk.

Kelly Dyer: Thank you so much. Appreciate being here.


Outro: Produced by women about in these powerful podcast focus on powerful women and how their strength transforms who we are and how we live Want to hear more powerful women Let’s talk get additional interviews at WGVU dot org or wherever you get your podcast, please rate and subscribe. powerful women Let's talk is produced by WGVU at the Meijer public broadcast Center at Grand Valley State University, the views and opinions expressed in this program do not necessarily reflect those of WGVU, its underwriters are Grand Valley State University.


Shelley Irwin is the host and producer for The Shelley Irwin Show, a news magazine talk-show format on the local NPR affiliate Monday through Friday. The show, broadcast at 9 a.m., features a wide variety of local and national news makers, plus special features.
Related Content