It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday

Did you read that headline? Are you hearing the chorus of the Boyz II Men song in your head? I sure am.

I must admit that I’ve procrastinated writing this post, which is completely out of character for me. The only time I put off doing something is when it’s hard — not hard in the sense that it’ll take time or effort, but hard in the sense that it’s emotional for me.

And it is hard to say goodbye.

I recently notified our CEO and board that I will be resigning from Health Forward in mid-November to launch a consulting practice advising nonprofits and foundations on policy, advocacy, and civic engagement strategies. It is bittersweet as I will miss so much about Health Forward but am excited to my core at the possibilities ahead.

So, in the spirit of Boyz II Men, I’d like to share “the good times that made us laugh,” “what we’ve been through,” and “where this road is going to lead.” Yes, these are all lyrics from the song, which is a coincidence too good not to use!

Gratitude: The Good Times that Made Us Laugh

I have loved so much about my 10 years at Health Forward and consider it one of my greatest professional privileges to be part of an organization whose people and mission I admire so much.

  • I’m ever grateful to my colleagues at Health Forward for all the memories we’ve made. As inaugural Health Forward President/CEO Steve Roling used to say, “the work we do is serious, but we don’t always have to be.” The camaraderie inside this office has been my saving grace year in and year out, when ballot initiatives have failed or and bills haven’t passed. These people — my people — will be so dearly missed.
  • Thank you to our many board members over the years for repeatedly embracing our policy work, along with the risk, uncertainty, messiness, and controversy that can come with it. I hope and believe that we have made good on this trust by delivering system-level changes that will positively impact those in need for years to come.
  • Finally, I want to thank all our grantees and partners from the deepest wells of my heart. You’re juggling so many things between fundraising, servicing clients, managing teams, building strategic plans, and responding to funders. And then, Health Forward throws one more ball into your juggling act by asking you to join us in advocating for policy and system-level changes. I have strived to maintain open lines of dialogue to learn from you and offer even better ways to support you in achieving the bold goals you aspire to achieve.

Learning: What We’ve Been Through

Geesh, I have learned so much in my time at Health Forward. Here are a few of the most important lessons I’ll be taking with me:

  • There’s no magical equation or foolproof strategy that will drive a successful policy change. Pretending we have the right answers and best strategies does a disservice to our missions. It’s okay to acknowledge and accept the uncertainties in this field.
  • Nonprofits work in support of broad, sweeping goals: health equity, educational attainment, comprehensive immigration reform. But policy change is inherently incremental. We must enhance our ability to identify the specific and incremental steps that it will take to make progress toward the broad goals we have identified.
  • Fear of engaging in policy and civic strategies remains rampant in the nonprofit community. I understand this fear. Being too bold or controversial could alienate donors, make it harder to attract quality board members, or lose staff. Engaging in policy work is risky. You can do everything right only to be thwarted, oftentimes by circumstances outside your control. Still, silence in the face of injustice does nothing but protect the status quo. The risks are high, but I still think they are worth it.

Up Next: Where This Road is Going to Lead

  • My time at Health Forward has solidified for me that nonprofits and philanthropies have not just an opportunity but an obligation to engage in policy and civic engagement. I am eager to help push this conversation in my new role consulting with nonprofits and philanthropy to develop civic strategies. I’ll be doing this work as Platform Civic Strategies, which will be online at
  • Policy advocacy can be intimidating: no two issues, organizations, or contexts are the same. I am crafting this work to address these issues so that advocacy is approachable and customized. It is one of my great goals to make policy advocacy and civic engagement accessible enough that more nonprofits see themselves as necessary participants in these important system-level conversations that are profoundly affecting our nation’s neediest citizens.

I am working hard to provide Health Forward and our important work the smoothest transition possible. I will stay engaged with Health Forward as a consultant on some key projects. I look forward to continuing to cross paths with so many of you in the coming years.

Health Forward

12 thoughts on “It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday

    Thank you, Jessica, for your service to improve the health care of our region. Congratulations and best wishes for the future. Your future clients will be wise and fortunate to engage you, and the causes they serve will be better for your service.

    Congratulations on your new career endeavor! And thank you for all of your early efforts to assist us in Cass County almost 10 years ago! Thousands of underserved children have benefited from your early work with our coalition! Best wishes to you!

    Thank you so much, Cynthia. I am so proud and grateful to have been one small part of getting the Clinic off the ground in Cass County.

    I have always been an admirer of Health Forward for having staff like you, Jessica — and have admired the innovative work you have contributed to the organization. When I was employed by the Mother and Child Health Coalition, I became aware how you and Health Forward assisted in establishing many excellent and innovative programs in the community that increased health access and services for all citizens in this area.

    But most of all, I have admired what a good Mother, Wife, Daughter and family member you always remained as you pursued a challenging professional experience. Your “3 sons” are one of the best examples of that talent! All the best in your new Career Adventure. Aunt Pat.

    Thank you, Aunt Pat! I sure am grateful to Health Forward for the flexibility and generous parental leave policies that have allowed me to be the mom and employee I want to be.

    Muchas gracias, Jessica. Your commitment, careful research and smiles are hallmarks of who you are. Our communities and Health Forward have benefited from your careful steering through many advocacy and engagement efforts. We hope to stay in touch with your work. Suerte.
    -Suzanne Gladney, Migrant Farmworkers Assistance

    Thank you, Suzanne. It means the world to me to hear thatHealth Forward’s work is having positive ripple effects throughout the community.

    Jessica, it has been a pleasure working alongside you all these years! I have so valued your focus, thoughtfulness, strategic thought, insights, and impressive work ethic; and have learned so much from you along the way. While I will miss you, I am so excited for you and your new venture! I think it will be an excellent fit for you and you will be brilliant at it!

    Good luck and have fun!

    The feeling is very mutual, Karen…I will miss you but I know we will stay in touch.

    Jessica, Your commitment, expertise, and practicality in presenting strategic issues have been an invaluable resource and asset to us all. It was always a pleasure to see your name on the Health Forward Board Agenda and you never disappointed to give us the facts, share your insights and answer our questions…always with kindness, respect and a smile. Thank you, thank you!
    Especially today as we experience this outpouring of rain from above, remember you’ll “take with (you) the memories to be (your) sunshine after the rain”… (singing the song in my head with you!). Smile.
    It’s hard to say goodbye, but so exciting to say ‘hello!” to what’s ahead for you! All the best as you go forth with your new venture. And remember always, YOU have made a difference!

    Thank you so, so much, Renee! Such a nice treat to receive this kind comment in the midst of a rainy week. I appreciate it beyond measure.

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