GCRHN Director on 5-month sabbatical sponsored by Nonprofit Sabbatical Program


Jen Fanning, the Grand County Rural Health Network Director, has begun her sabbatical and will return on October 10, 2021.

Fanning is a participant in the 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.

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 combating 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.”