Kellie Yackley is currently serving as the director of St. Mary’s Foundation, but come July 1, she will lead a philanthropy team as Community Giving Officer for the Avera Foundation, where she says she will continue to work to connect people’s “passions with projects and programs that Avera’s mission supports.”
A native of Sully County, Yackley grew up in the Sutton ranch family and attended grade school at Prairie View country school. For junior high and high school, Yackley enrolled at Pierre. She attended college at South Dakota State University, earning a degree in Journalism.
“I wanted to go to a mid-major metro area to be a copy writer for an ad agency,” said Yackley. “In the meantime, I got married and had a baby, and my dreams changed.” Yackley made her way to the Dakota Radio Group where for 13 years, she was “able to write copy for radio” and be “involved in promotions. It was really great, every day was different.”
About a decade into her tenure with the radio station, Yackley was asked to serve on the Board of Directors for the St. Mary’s Foundation. “I got to know St. Mary’s mission and the importance of philanthropy in healthcare,” said Yackley.
“And then at some point in that process, as our kids were graduating, I began feeling like there was something else I was to be doing. At the same time I was soul searching, a position with the foundation came available, so I made the move to nonprofit philanthropy.”
Yackley also began pursuing a master’s in Administration and Organizational Leadership from the University of South Dakota, graduating in 2016.
“It has been a good change,” said Yackley. “It doesn’t feel like work. Often people say, ‘I could never ask for money.’ I never ask for money. My job is to connect people with what they are passionate about. A lot of people say to me, ‘I can’t give very much.’ My philosophy with giving is ‘a little, a lot.’ If everybody does a little, a lot of really good things can happen.”
For the past several years, the Avera organization has been revamping. “It’s been in the planning stages for a couple of years now. We get to take the next steps forward. We think it will be a better experience for donors overall, and more successful in helping patients and families, because that’s what we’re all about.”
As July 1 draws near, Yackley says she’s been busy onboarding staff, and compares the process to a home renovation. “You have to tear everything apart and put it back together again.” The Avera Foundation and St. Mary’s Foundation are “merging and becoming streamlined.”
Although she will be the Community Giving Officer for the larger organization, Yackley says the “fundraising piece will remain all local fundraising” and that monies will “stay local. Donors can still designate funds for Pierre or Gettysburg projects, or they can choose for their dollars to be used in support of all causes throughout Avera.”
“The Helmsley Center is actually a perfectly example of that,” Yackley continued. “Before it was developed, cancer patients from this area had to go elsewhere for their care. But as a foundation, we worked with donors to get this great and beautiful facility and services, and we can treat patients close to home.”
The Avera Foundation’s philanthropy team will be comprised of 25 people, and Yackley “will lead a smaller team within that of five or six in charge of special events, all of our direct mail campaigns, employee giving campaigns and e-communications. Not just for Pierre, but for the whole system.”
“I’ll still be the local liaison,” Yackley is quick to add, noting that she’ll be in Gettysburg several days a month to help with the campaign there.
A year after its launch, the $3million fundraising campaign to build a new health center in Gettysburg is just $200,000 shy of meeting its goal.
“A lot of things have been readjusted due to COVID-19, but I feel very positive about finishing it out,” said Yackley. “We’ve done very well in a short amount of time with a very supportive and generous community. If it wasn’t for the people in that area and people who grew up there we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Yackley has successfully increased the number of benefactors to both Avera St. Mary’s Hospital and Avera Gettysburg Hospital. She has grown employee and annual giving programs, while also increasing the number of major and legacy gifts. Yackley has served the foundation lead for two transformational capital campaigns, including Building Dreams. Building Hope. Building Here: The Helmsley Center Campaign and Avera Missouri River Health Center at Avera Gettysburg.
Along with her husband Mike, Yackley is the parent of four, Spencer and Tina Yackley, Brielle and Travor Bohle, Alex Thorson, and Jaxon Yackley, and is grandmother to the newest addition to the family, Micah Bohle.