Andrés Domínguez joined Health Forward when it was still a young foundation. During his tenure, he has leveraged his deep knowledge of local history and systems, extensive community connections, and his ever-present curiosity. Andrés previously co-led the foundation’s Safety Net funding stream, and he now focuses on Health Forward’s People purpose area. He currently serves as Health Forward’s Equity Fellow, contributing to our efforts to lean in, learn, and apply our knowledge of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Andrés also holds the position of Health Forward’s unofficial office historian.
Cori: How did you originally get connected with Health Forward?
Andres: The sale of Health Midwest was quite the talk of the town, as this would create quite an endowment to serve the community. I recall going to a Funder’s Forum and meeting Steve Roling as the new president. In 2007, I was at the Federal Reserve Bank and talked with Steve about some ideas I had regarding the high cost of health care and other health disparities, including housing, crime prevention, and payday lending. A few months later, Steve called to see if I was interested in entertaining a conversation about a possible position. I began in November of 2007.
Cori: What are some of your favorite memories of Health Forward?
Andres: We were such a small staff. We found ourselves wearing many hats. Our facilities were so modest and lacked many of the technology amenities that we have now. We would gather for lunch in the reception area, always trying to find some unique lunch feature on the east side of town. And we found them, usually a taco truck or a mom-and-pop operation.
But looking back it would be how young my kids were when I started here — Sophia was 7 and Cayo was 4 years old. I like seeing some of the old photos of my colleagues’ children. Some are married or in college now, and they all grew up so fast.
Cori: How has Health Forward changed during your tenure?
Andres: Our process is much different. Back then we still received grant requests via the mail or folks would drop them at the office or slide them under the door after hours. Few knew who we were; so many of our partners learned about us through word of mouth. We had limited social media presence, and I recall that the teen daughter of one of our associates created our Facebook page! Our community of partners has expanded and grown in their skills. The quality of the requests over the years has evolved as our grantees have become more sophisticated.
Cori: What are you most proud of from your time at Health Forward?
Andres: I am so proud of every grant that I have executed. For those that we could not fund, I hope that the prospective grantee noted that I treated them with dignity and respect, and that I listened to their ideas. There are few grantmaking roles in Kansas City, and I am blessed to serve in this role. I enjoy serving on panels and love speaking to young people on the role of the nonprofit sector. People don’t readily think of this field as an opportunity for career development. Every day I feel that I am changing our city.
Cori: What are some of the biggest challenges the organization has faced?
Andres: There is such tremendous need and opportunity in community, it’s a real struggle to decide what to fund. It is a weighty proposition to invest the community’s resources. I have also experienced two CEO transitions. What has been amazing is how the organization’s evolution wasn’t disrupted. I salute the board and staff as they have carried out the mission with such dedication and passion.
Cori: If you had not ended up at Health Forward, what do you think you would be doing now?
Andres: Probably teaching history at a resort in Yucatan, Mexico, or getting my Curandero certification. I say this jokingly, but I have always been intrigued with anthropology. I fell into the work of philanthropy not by accident but because of the relationships that I have created — some by accident and others planned. I know this for sure: I would be working to improve the lives of people.
Cori: Where do you think Health Forward will be 15 years from now?
Andres: A model of philanthropy.
To mark this occasion, we also wanted to hear from some of Andrés’ colleagues. Here is what the Health Forward team shared about Andrés:
- Andrés is a champion for community — with our grantees and also for the internal culture at Health Forward. I love hearing his stories and experiences. He has made me feel welcomed and included since my first day at the foundation.
- There is no better person to learn about philanthropy from. When I first started at Health Forward, I remember spending hours reviewing our documents, reading studies in philanthropy, and getting familiar with proposals. One day, Andrés comes in the office and says, “Wanna go on a site visit?” He then explains this where the work is really done. And he is right.
- Working with Andrés the past 15 years is like working with your own personal Kansas City encyclopedia. From sports to arts and culture to social services, there isn’t much Andrés can’t tell you about the city he so passionately loves. We are so fortunate to have him representing the foundation.
- Andrés is the best at both telling a joke and taking a joke. His sense of humor is wonderful.
- I consider Andrés to be the touchstone of ethics and culture for our organization. His sense of integrity is equaled only by his sense of family and team! He is a supportive and engaged colleague, and I am honored to call him ‘friend.’
- I appreciate Andrés’ ever-present candor. I think expressing what is on your mind while being conscientious of the thoughts and feelings of the people around you is a true art form.
- He is an excellent public speaker, but even better at intimate conversations. He can also strike up a conversation and make a new friendship under any circumstance, in any environment, or in any language.
- If I am ever in need of a “Trivial Pursuit” or name “Name that Tune” partner, I would definitely want Andrés! On a more professional note, Andrés’ role as a historian of not only philanthropy, but our geographic region, is impressive and critical to our work.
- I love visiting with Andrés and hearing one of the hundreds of stories he loves to share. But I’ve come to recognize the jumping off points in our conversations. When I can sense another story approaching, I will tell him that I need to get back to work otherwise we’ll be talking for another 45 minutes!
- Andrés works hard and travels hard! In the time that I’ve known him, he’s made many trips all around the world, from small towns to major cities. I always enjoy his pictures and stories because there’s always something to learn from his travels. The people he encounters and the adventures he shares upon his return are always enjoyable.
- Andrés amazes me when, during the last 5-10 minutes of a meeting, he brings up a deep and powerful comment, question, or recommendation. It’s an example of how he listens and processes information thoughtfully and ensures that we aren’t missing anything when making our decisions.
- I love that Andrés’ approach to our work is such a balance of thoughtfulness and optimism. He has such deep knowledge and relationships, and he is guided by a strong belief that we can make our community a healthier place for everyone.