If you’re at all involved in Birmingham’s nonprofit sector, chances are you’ve met Alison Decker Scott or witnessed her work. Inspired by service organizations since the beginning of her career, she has served on several nonprofit boards such as the Literacy Council of Central Alabama, Oasis Counseling for Women and Children and the SAIL Coalition, among others. She’s also a former president of the Junior League of Birmingham. Now, as the new Executive Director of the Baptist Health Foundation, she’s been a leader during the major organizational transition of our city’s largest primary care network. We’re thrilled to feature her as today’s FACE of Birmingham!
Tell us a little about your career path.
I’ve always been in and around nonprofits. When my kids were little, I threw myself into volunteering, and my passion for nonprofit work reignited when I came out of serving as president of the Junior League. When the Executive Director position for Baptist Health Systems opened, the foundation was going through a pivotal change. They had previously been a fundraising foundation making capital improvements in the hospital system, but recently, they entered into a joint venture with Brookwood Medical Center. Now we are no longer an inward-facing foundation but an outward-facing community healthcare provider. We focus completely on patient health and wellness, especially for vulnerable patient populations. This change was enticing to me because it’s what I love — working with other nonprofits in the same space. I also really love that Baptist Health is a faith-based mission. I was drawn to it because it adheres so closely to “doing good for others” and “helping the least among us.”
In your last eight months as Executive Director, what has been your central focus?
I’ve helped Baptist Health create a new brand awareness in the community. We still have the same mission as before — providing resources to support the continued improvement of patient health, social assistance and healthcare education — but we just accomplish it very differently. One of the great things that we launched after I arrived is the Patient Assistance Fund. By first asking ourselves, “How can we provide for financially vulnerable patients?” we’ve bridged the gap between what patients need and what they can afford. In particular, one patient was at the end of life and ready to be discharged to hospice, but hospice would not come to her home unless there was power and water. So, we brought her power and water in two hours. This event was our first step on the journey into being a patient-focused organization.
What future projects are in store for Baptist Health?
Down the road, we would like to become a more present partner in finding solutions to be more accessible to healthcare. Baptist Health Foundation has been focused on saying that health doesn’t have to begin when you get to the hospital. We want to be where people work and where they live.
Tell us about Baptist Health’s Wine, Women & Shoes fundraising event.
The event goes on nationwide, but Baptist Health is hosting it for the first time in Birmingham. We’re looking forward to it as a great way to kick off our 50th anniversary. Over the years, we’ve hosted several fundraisers that were male-oriented, such as golf- and fishing-related events. But in this day and age, women are the ones who make the healthcare decisions. We feel passionate about health in our own families and communities. This event will be a great opportunity for women to connect with each other and to have a girls-only night out. There will be a wine tasting and hors d’oeuvres, a fashion show, an auction, shopping and more. We’re so excited about it — it’s something new. And what’s not to love about wine and shoes? The event is Thursday, April 13, 2017, from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at The Club.
During your time as Junior League president, you shared this quote: “Volunteering isn’t something on your ‘To Do’ list, but rather on your ‘Must Do’ list.” How do you uphold this aphorism in your everyday life?
Service has always been an important part of my life. It was something my parents instilled in me growing up. You have to own the community you live in. When my kids were young and I was volunteering full-time, they would joke: “I think you work harder volunteering than you would if you had a full-time job.” It was true. Community service is just as valuable as a job. If a community takes care of you, you owe it to them to give back. I’ve also always involved my three kids in everything I’ve done. We’ve instilled these same values in our kids, and I would love to see all of them follow in that way.
What do you like most about Birmingham?
I love that this city embraces and loves its green space. So many other cities have become so concrete, and in Birmingham, we’ve never lost sight of our trees and nature preserves. I’m always struck by how lush and green it is. It’s inspiring to think that someone somewhere said, “Don’t let this get consumed. It’s a unique hallmark of this city.” For example, Railroad Park in Downtown Birmingham. Who would have ever thought you could build green space on top of that? Also, you can’t beat the people here. People just take care of people in this city, and that’s so meaningful to me.
What do you like about working in this city?
The strong system of nonprofits — they’re the secret to Birmingham’s success. They don’t operate in silence; they are coalitions working together to tackle bigger problems. Nobody just sits there and says “It can’t be done.” When we lived in New Orleans, I loved our time there, but I was really excited to come back to Birmingham. There is a lot of revitalization here.
What is your best piece of advice?
I heard this in a seminar: “You have to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” That quote is a guiding light for me. It’s always spoken to my heart and guided the work that I do in the nonprofit world. It’s funny though, because I always refer to this quote, people will joke with me about trees. My parting gift at the Junior League was a photo collage of different trees that featured all the nonprofits I’d ever worked for!
What are three lighthearted or frivolous things you can’t live without?
Despite being a Southerner, I am partial to unsweetened tea with lemon. I usually go through quite a bit of it throughout the course of the day. Second, Burt’s Bees lip balm (it must be the peppermint). And third — I am addicted to podcasts. There’s one called “Presidential” by The Washington Post that features an hour-long episode on every single president. I love learning about all the obscure presidents whom I didn’t know anything about!
Thank you, Alison! To learn more about Alison’s work, visit baptisthealthfoundation.net.
And join Baptist Health for their Wine, Women & Shoes fundraiser at The Club on Thursday, April 13, 2017, from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit baptisthealthfoundation.net or winewomenandshoes.com/birmingham.
Thank you to Eric and Jamie Gay of Eric & Jamie Photography for the fabulous photos of Alison at The Club.