Senior Vice Chair, Philanthropy Institute
Michelle appears in the Top 100
Innovators & Entrepreneurs magazine.
Building a Culture of Philanthropy from the Inside Out
For over a century, Cleveland Clinic, a nonprofit, multispecialty academic medical center, has stood as a shining example of healthcare excellence. With 22 hospitals and 275 outpatient locations on three continents, Cleveland Clinic integrates clinical care, research, and education to push the boundaries of innovation. They are risk-takers, innovators, lifesavers, and caregivers whose discoveries have saved millions of lives and changed the course of healthcare. Within the halls of this remarkable institution, Michelle Amato, senior vice chair of Cleveland Clinic's Philanthropy Institute, has made a lasting contribution by helping to build a unique philanthropic culture, inspiring individuals, families, caregivers, and organizations to come together in a shared mission—to make a lasting impact on the lives of others. It is a passion that has driven her from the day she joined—and fell in love with—Cleveland Clinic 20 years ago.
“The innovation and risk that our culture perpetuates is nothing short of amazing. We’re a worthy investment, and the generosity of our philanthropic partners is the reason we can take these bold risks without financial constraints,” Michelle says. “One of the most rewarding aspects of my role is witnessing the incredible generosity of our donors and the life-changing impact their contributions have on our patients and the community."
For Michelle, philanthropy is about building a community that engages people at every level and connecting them with a cause that resonates deeply with them. "I want the person who gives $25, $100, $1,000 to feel as great as the person that gives $10 million. It all adds up to fueling groundbreaking research and life-changing treatments,” she explains. The Philanthropy Institute acts as a vital partner in this pursuit, connecting individuals and organizations to the doctors and scientists whose ideas and expertise can change lives—and Michelle’s team works right beside them. “We’re embedded among the medical specialists, and I’m constantly inspired by them, in awe of how their minds work. It’s truly a full circle of inspiration,” she says.
It is this North Star that guides Michelle’s multifaceted responsibilities that reach across Cleveland Clinic and into the philanthropic community. As she works with physician leaders to understand how philanthropy can help to broaden their knowledge, spur innovation, and improve patient care, she is equally focused on growing and advancing fellow development professionals to foster a “team of teams” environment and a culture of philanthropy within the organization itself.
There is perhaps no greater example of how philanthropy-supported leaders and innovation come together at Cleveland Clinic than the awe-inspiring story of a mother whose unborn child was found to have a fatal tumor on his heart. Through groundbreaking fetal surgery, Cleveland Clinic doctors successfully removed the tumor in utero, saving the child's life and providing hope for countless others. "There's no telling the number of babies we can save, lives we can improve," Michelle says. “Together, we can—we are—transforming lives, and I hope to always inspire others in the way our medical specialists, my amazing team, and our community of donors inspire me every day.”
Senior Vice Chair, Philanthropy Institute—Cleveland Clinic