• Title

  • Deb Grabowski, CEO of Foundation for Seacoast Health, to retire — Organization opens search for new executive director



    PORTSMOUTH – Deb Grabowski, the longtime and highly-respected CEO of the Foundation for Seacoast Health, has announced her retirement, and the organization has just opened the search for her replacement. Deb will leave her position at the end of the year. Consultant Chris Strong, of the Strong Resource Group, is leading the search for a new executive director in collaboration with key stakeholders. The Search Committee hopes to fill the position by fall 2024.


    The Foundation’s Board of Trustees and Deb’s colleagues said Deb will be difficult to replace, as she’s been a beloved leader who has expertly guided the Foundation through significant changes during her tenure.


    Deb started working as the Foundation’s CEO in November 2007, after working for 23 years at Elliot Health System in various leadership roles. At the time of her departure, she was the vice president of Home Health, Senior and Community Services, where she served on the Executive Management Team, overseeing community-based programs including home health, hospice, adult day, assisted living, community education, and community-based services for seniors.


    “I was the right person, at the right time, for the Foundation,” Deb explained. “I had significant non-profit management experience, plus experience working with diverse Boards. My background in social services, public health, relationship-building, and generating trust within the community all served me well in this role. Additionally, my healthcare experience was valuable to understanding the mission of Portsmouth Regional Hospital, where I serve as the Foundation ex-officio representative on the Board.”


    Deb was hired to advance the Foundation’s mission to improve the health and well-being of people on the Seacoast. As a private Foundation, the organization is required to distribute 5% of net assets annually. For many years, most of these community investment funds supported the non-profits at the Community Campus through subsidized rental rates. The sale of the Campus to the City of Portsmouth in 2022 changed this, allowing the Foundation to return to its roots as a grant maker, convener, and thought leader. Removing the ongoing fixed costs of the Campus from the Foundation fulfilled the Trustees’ goal to preserve the organization’s endowment for future generations. Overseeing the sale of the Campus is viewed by many as a pinnacle event under Deb’s leadership. 


    The Foundation’s staff, Board of Trustees, and other key stakeholders have overwhelmingly positive things to say about Deb’s leadership style and her impact on the organization over the years.


    Many compliment Deb’s calm demeanor, strategic thinking, strong leadership skills, ability to galvanize groups and gain consensus, and willingness to truly listen. She has also been praised for leading the Board through several important strategic planning processes, which were integral to the Foundation’s return to its core mission and values.


    “One recent strategic planning process was critical in aligning the Board on our vision and priorities,” said Darci Knowles, former Strategic Planning Committee chair, who led the organization through two cycles of strategic planning, alongside Deb and her committee of Trustees. “Through that process, we decided to begin looking at our options to sell the Campus to allow us the flexibility to return to our core mission as grant makers. I had the pleasure of working very closely with Deb through that process and can say it was an honor and a privilege. She is a wonderful, humble, and very talented leader and has an uncanny ability to keep her finger on the pulse of community health-related needs, while building consensus among a variety of stakeholders."

    "I know she will be missed, but we are all proud of the work we have done over the past eight years. Because of Deb’s vision and hard work, the Foundation is well-poised to be a significant contributor to the health and well-being of the Seacoast community for many years to come,” said Darci.


    Foundation Board Chair Stu Levenson said, “Deb is a very effective strategic thinker. She has a keen ability to anticipate challenges, identify opportunities and adapt strategies to accomplish goals. Many years ago, she recognized that perhaps the Foundation could have a greater impact on the health of the Seacoast community beyond its role as a landlord for the Community Campus. As a result of her leadership and methodical planning, we have recently completed the long journey back to our roots as a grant-giving organization. Having sold the Campus to the City of Portsmouth and adopted an exciting new strategic plan, we are now able to effect meaningful change by amplifying the efforts of our non-profit partners to develop innovative solutions for the healthcare challenges of today.” 


    Stu continued, “None of this would have been possible without what I consider to be Deb’s greatest strength – her ability to develop strong relationships. She has been able to build trust and forge meaningful partnerships with a wide array of stakeholders, community members and governmental officials while advancing the Foundation’s mission. Deb is a great listener and is universally respected for her ability to bring people together and build consensus. Simply put, she can foster trust and build a shared sense of purpose with everyone she encounters.”

    Stu continued, “We’ve been lucky to be the beneficiary of Deb’s leadership throughout this period. As the face of the organization, she has always represented Foundation with the highest levels of professionalism and integrity. As we move forward into the next chapter, we will be forever indebted to Deb for her vision and leadership that has brought us to this point.”


    Deb said she’s pleased that she was able to lead the Foundation to a place where the endowment will be sustained and available for future generations.


    Former Board Chair Timothy Durkin said, “Deb and I worked together for 15 years, and she effectively managed the Foundation during a period of operating and financial challenges. Deb expertly guided the Foundation’s Board through a comprehensive strategic planning process that culminated in the sale of the Community Campus to the City of Portsmouth and the Foundation’s transition to a strategic grant making organization.” 

    Timothy said, “Thanks to Deb’s leadership skills, strategic thinking, and community outreach, the Foundation is well-positioned to continue its mission of advancing and supporting the health needs of the greater Seacoast area.”


    Former Trustee John Lyons said, “When the Foundation and Deb, as a team, set a goal, Deb was committed to its success. She then led by example, hard work, and commitment, which inspired all Board members to ensure goals were met. Deb’s organizational skills also kept everyone on task.”

    John continued, “What I respect most about Deb is that leadership came to her naturally. She listened and was not judgmental. She had the ability to connect with Board members and stakeholders alike. As a result, Deb had the respect of all she encountered, which is a sign of true leadership.”


    The search for the new executive director opened on June 10. Interested candidates can visit the Foundation website at https://www.foundationforseacoasthealth.org/ceo-search for additional information about desired qualifications as well as the application process and requirements. Applications can be sent to FFSH@strongreseourcegroup.com. The application deadline is July 12, 2024.


    “The next leader of the Foundation has a tremendous opportunity to create the Foundation of the future. They will be a thought leader, convener, and have the chance to improve the lives of the most marginalized residents in our area,” Deb said. “There are plenty of people in need that are often invisible because the Seacoast is such a well-resourced area. The next executive director will lead the execution of our most recent strategic plan and truly impact the health and well-being of all individuals in our community.”


    About The Foundation for Seacoast Health


    Established in 1984, the Foundation for Seacoast Health has been a catalyst for positive change on the NH Seacoast. The Foundation’s vision is to create a healthy community for all by championing initiatives that positively influence and enhance the well-being of every resident. Through grant allocation, convening, and collaboration, the Foundation strives to effect meaningful change by amplifying philanthropic efforts and supporting innovative solutions to the health and well-being gaps in our service area. For more information, visit https://www.foundationforseacoasthealth.org.


    DISCLAIMER: The above content wasn't created by, but is being shared by the Chamber Collaborative on behalf of a member.