New finance leader hopes to inspire change through impact investing

Christie and the KC Streetcar

I began my career at the New York Mercantile Exchange when futures and options were still traded in open outcry ‘pits’ (like in the movie Trading Spaces). 

This experience taught me not only about the power of investment markets but also about the ever-changing nature of these complex markets. My move to invest primarily on behalf of charitable foundations allowed me to use the skills and experience I developed to grow the endowments of organizations whose purposes were more overtly aligned with my values of advancing our society. 

Shortly after I joined Health Forward, I remember telling a former colleague how fortunate I felt to join an organization doing amazing work in the urban, suburban, and rural communities in which my family lives, and looked forward to feeling more connected to the truly exceptional Kansas City region. Kansas Citians have such infectious pride in the region. 

Every day I drive to work past the World War I Memorial. My office overlooks Union Station and I can hear the streetcar’s periodic arrival at the stop throughout the day. These sensory interactions outside my window are not only prominent symbols of Kansas City’s rich history, but also daily reminders that we need to continue to find ways to make these spaces inclusive and accessible to all in our community. 

It’s inspiring to have a role with an organization whose purpose is to build inclusive, powerful, and healthy communities. In doing so, we hope that we are creating a region that will inspire and benefit future generations. 

In my new position I will continue the work Rick Zimmer began 12 years ago of overseeing and collaborating with our dedicated and talented colleagues to ensure Health Forward’s financial, administrative, and investment operations not only meet best practices and comply with a wide range of regulatory standards and requirements; but most importantly fully and effectively support the work of the organization, our grantees, and the communities we serve. It’s a role I’m proud to take on. 

Impact investing is infusing capital into the community in new ways to prioritize people who experience the greatest injustices in health outcomes. The investment structure allows this capital to fund projects and initiatives in a way that complements our grants and leverages our impact in the community.  

I am incredibly blessed to be part of a committed team dedicated to Health Forward’s new purpose statement: ‘Every day we work to support and build inclusive, powerful, and healthy communities characterized by racial equity and economically just systems.

Our purpose statement applies to all facets of the organization, and my team and I are identifying new opportunities to ensure Health Forward remains a transformational resource. One of the most invigorating of these new opportunities is impact investing. 

Impact investing is infusing capital into the community in new ways to prioritize people who experience the greatest injustices in health outcomes. The investment structure allows this capital to fund projects and initiatives in a way that complements our grants and leverages our impact in the community.  

In my work over the past decade with large regional and national foundations on impact investing initiatives, I have observed how powerfully investment capital advances mission objectives. Some of these past initiatives I’ve worked on ranged from funding renewable energy infrastructure to demonstrate the economic and environmental advantages of this technology to funding high-quality affordable housing that allowed residents to live and benefit from the amenities of the communities in which they worked.

Health Forward’s assets are the only source of capital the organization has to fund its work; and responsible stewardship of these funds has always been a top priority. But what responsible stewardship means for endowed charitable organizations continues to evolve and it is this opportunity that inspired my decision to join Health Forward.  

Like many foundations that rely on the growth of investments, our primary objective is to maximize the foundation’s ability to give grants today and in the future. However, it is entirely possible to meet this objective and thoughtfully align and steward this capital in a way that is consistent with the work, values, and purpose of Health Forward and our grantee partners.  

We are still in the early phase of our exploration of impact investing, but some key themes that continue to emerge specifically address racial bias, affordable housing, and health care workforce. 

It is invigorating to join an organization that is not only effectively addressing the current needs of our community, but also doing so with acknowledgement that we must maintain the excellence that defines the organization’s past in collaboration with the colleagues, grantees, and community partners. Let’s get started!

Editor’s note: Learn more about Christie’s background in finance and impact investment.


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One thought on “New finance leader hopes to inspire change through impact investing

    As a former CAC member, I read this with great interest. I am so glad to see that affordable housing, racial bias and healthcare workers being considered for Health Forward’s investments.
    Welcome Ms. Zarkovich to the team. Sounds like you have lots of gifts to add to the already overflowing cup of gifts. Peace be with YOU!

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Health Forward Foundation
2300 Main Street, Suite 304
Kansas City, MO 64108
(816) 241-7006