The Grand County Rural Health Network Receives Nonprofit Sabbatical Award from The Colorado Health Foundation

Jun 3, 2021 | GCRHN Staff, Health Care

Starting June 5th, Jen Fanning will be taking a three month sabbatical and one month professional internship. As the only rural recipient of the sabbatical award, Jen has the unique opportunity to advocate to the Foundation on behalf of rural nonprofits and communities. Simultaneously, the Network’s staff will be gaining leadership experience. This builds a bench in nonprofit organizations, creating long-term sustainability for both the organization and the sector.

Grand County Rural Health Network Logo

May 26, 2021

Jen Fanning

The Grand County Rural Health Network was awarded a grant by The Colorado Health Foundation to participate in their Nonprofit Sabbatical Program. Developed in 2019, the newly established program was designed to award Colorado-based nonprofit executives with a sabbatical, while offering funds for their organization’s interim leadership and staff professional development. 

The Nonprofit Sabbatical Program supports the Network’s Executive Director, Jen Fanning, by providing her a three-month sabbatical away from work focusing on personal and professional growth opportunities, before returning to work rejuvenated and with a renewed commitment to the Network’s mission. Jen plans to complete a Spanish-language immersion program abroad with her family, followed by enjoying summer in the Colorado Rockies.

The program also provides Jen a one-month professional internship with The Colorado Health Foundation. This is a unique, co-designed learning experience for Jen to learn about the inner workings of the state’s largest health-focused foundation and for the Foundation to learn from sabbatical recipients. As the only rural recipient of the sabbatical award, Jen has the unique opportunity to advocate to the Foundation on behalf of rural nonprofits and communities. To this end, Jen is receiving input from community partners through a variety of collaborative meetings. Jen will be taking her sabbatical from June 5 through October 10, 2021. 

In addition to awarding Colorado nonprofit leaders with a sabbatical, a primary focus of the Nonprofit Sabbatical Program is to help strengthen the organization through supporting staff. One key piece is to lift up existing staff into leadership positions. This builds a bench in nonprofit organizations, creating long-term sustainability for both the organization and the sector. Amanda Uehlein, currently Associate Director, will be interim director during Jen’s sabbatical. She will receive executive coaching before, during and after the sabbatical to support her growth as a nonprofit leader. The Network is also intentionally distributing leadership opportunities to other staff. Christine Smith, Strategic Initiative Manager, will lead operations. Sara Elise Bristol, Community Engagement Specialist, will provide support and coaching to the Patient Navigation team.

Another aspect of the Nonprofit Sabbatical Program is to support staff professional development during and after sabbatical. All Network staff have identified areas of professional growth, including financial management, nonprofit and human resources management, facilitation, strategic planning, evaluation, and peer support and wellness. This professional development component is vital to the strengthening the organization, supporting overall growth and combatting burnout among staff, which is common within the nonprofit sector.

During Jen’s sabbatical, the Network will focus on internal growth and development. “We want to take time to intentionally look inward and find opportunities to improve our programs, services and advocacy strategies during Jen’s absence,” stated Amanda Uehlein, Associate Director. “Our entire community has worked so hard in the past year, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and East Troublesome Fire. The Network is fortunate to receive an award like this that allows us to take time to improve ourselves and the organization so we can continue to do our good work for, with, and on behalf of the community.”

The Grand County Rural Health Network’s vision is that everyone in our community has what they need to thrive and be healthy. They do that by advocating for and supporting the health of our community because health is more than health care. The Network’s programs and services provide access, resources and support for all.  At the same time, they work to make long-term change through collaboration and harnessing a shared vision with partners and community.

The Colorado Health Foundation’s Nonprofit Sabbatical Program aims to promote the health and well-being of nonprofit leaders, as well as the capacity of their organizations to carry out their missions and bring health in reach for all Coloradans. According to Uehlein, the grant program “gives all of our staff dedicated time and funds to learn tools to advocate for our community and educate and empower others. This is incredibly valuable and important for our staff, our organization, our clients, and our community as a whole.”


About Grand County Rural Health Network
Grand County Rural Health Network offers access, resources, and support for all of our neighbors to lead their healthiest lives. The Rural Health Network is a nonprofit organization that serves both Grand and Jackson counties in CO. Our dedicated staff works in partnership with health providers, businesses, and community members to improve the future of health in our community. We believe everyone has the right to health care and to understand how to access that care. We also understand that health is more than health care. We work to educate our neighbors and help them navigate the system to ensure they have the information and services they need to live their healthiest lives while also advocating for and working towards improving the system for everyone.

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