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VIProfile: Anne Davis

By Sadie Fowler

Anne Davis may be a native of Huntsville, Alabama but her friendly face and heart for service has shined on behalf of countless Murfreesboro citizens for more than three decades. Currently, Davis serves as the president of The Christy-Houston Foundation, Inc. and the president of The Charity Circle of Murfreesboro — there’s no telling how many thousands of lives she’s impacted through her roles that are always marked by a desire to help others.

Anne first moved to Murfreesboro in 1983 when her husband, local realtor Jeff Davis, his father and a third business partner purchased the Coca-Cola Bottling Works from Bren and Bettye Jane Huggins. Back then, her life’s work was focused on raising her and Jeff’s two children, now grown, as well as serving the community via many organizations as a volunteer.

“My journey into philanthropy began informally during my years as a stay-at-home mom,” she said. “For 20-plus years I served as a volunteer board member for some amazing nonprofit organizations, some of which we actually started, and fundraising was an integral part of the work involved.”

In 2009, Anne prayed to God, seeking he open the right door for her that would enable her to use and leverage her volunteer fundraising work experience as she aimed to re-enter the workforce. Gordon Ferguson, president and CEO of Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital, gave her the opportunity of a lifetime by allowing her to join the Saint Thomas Rutherford Foundation staff. After three years as the Major Gifts Officer, she was named the director in August 2012.

“It was an exciting time to work for the hospital, as we were in the middle of a $20 million capital campaign entitled, ‘A Time to Build Up’ which concluded successfully in January 2013,” she said.

The new $268 million hospital opened Oct. 2, 2010 and boasted $32 million of new equipment. Raising money for Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital was especially meaningful work to Anne because of the specific priority Ascension Health placed on the care of the poor in the community.

“In the field of fundraising, being able to connect a donor with a cause that is meaningful to them is like fitting the pieces of a puzzle together,” Anne said. “And when the connection is made, the true ‘joy of giving’ is unmistakable and indescribable.

In early 2017, Anne learned that Bob Mifflin had retired from The Christy-Houston Foundation after 17 years of amazing leadership there. She feels grateful to have landed an opportunity to interview for the role of president and beyond grateful to have been chosen for the job.

“The privilege of working for a private foundation and a stellar board of directors is literally a high point in the world of philanthropy,” she said. Learning about the world of grantmaking has been an exciting challenge, full of rewards. Anne’s work involves frequent nonprofit leadership visits at the CHF office, site visits, special event attendance and ongoing collaboration with Rutherford County nonprofits.

“Getting to know the nonprofit leaders in our community is simply inspiring,” she said. “They are Christ’s hands and feet and are on the frontline in serving the vulnerable among us. I stand in awe of them every day and enjoy connecting them for collaborative opportunities, whenever possible.”

In her role as president, Anne works for the Board of Directors to carry out the daily operations of the foundation, in conjunction with Foundation Manager Debi Tiller, who she says is a constant inspiration. What Anne learns at work spotlights additional needs that the Charity Circle is able to consider funding, through Special Request grant cycles that occur twice a year.

In reflecting about what she has learned over her long career, Anne says she has learned the value of meaningful work. Above all else, the number one lesson she’s learned is the importance of relationships, which she says are “everything.”

“I like to work,” she said. “Being able to contribute to something larger than ourselves is important to me.”

In her transition from fundraising to grantmaking, Anne learned to embrace what she calls “best practices” in the work for which she’s responsible. This involves getting the training needed and forming relationships with others who are accomplished in the work. She believes colleagues who are a step ahead can teach us so much by their personal example and specific accomplishments.

Anne’s involvement in non-profit organizations has been endless over the years. Currently, she is affiliated with three groups: The Charity Circle of Murfreesboro, Rutherford CABLE and the Junior League of Murfreesboro. Serving the community is something that matters greatly to Anne, and she encourages others to serve. Specifically talking about Charity Circle, Anne has been involved with it for an astonishing 33 years.

“We are a fundraising organization that is committed to meaningful work,” she said. “We have nine nonprofits that truly count on us to provide funding for them every
quarter. There are 25-plus others that deeply appreciate the occasional grants that
they receive and are able to do something that they could not otherwise, without our
As president of Charity Circle, Anne says it is a privilege to work with an accomplished Executive Board, each of whom are dedicated to the mission. The Charity Circle produces eight events per year: The annual Patrons Party, Ugly Duckling Ball and six Christmas caroling parties that are spread throughout the calendar year and in various neighborhoods.

“We welcome our guests to well-planned parties, collect donations and grant the resulting financial proceeds to the nonprofits that are caring for the poor, homeless, hungry, abused, and/or have special needs,” she said. “We work hard to do this, all year long, and every member makes a contribution of time, talent and treasure that adds up to success.”
Anne says having a good mentor is a game changer.

Professionally, Linda Rebrovick of Nashville was Anne’s role model, friend and mentor as she began to consider re-entering the workforce. Her personal example as a VP for Dell Computers at that time made Anne want to have a formal career.

Susan Waldrop served as Anne’s role model and mentor as she considered the fundraising field. Susan was Anne’s Tri Delta little sister in college and had become a successful fundraiser in Birmingham, Alabama.

“Susan guided me into the healthcare arena and said she thought I would be happiest there,” Anne said. “She was right.” It would be remiss not to mention Anne’s mother Carolyn Courtenay, who served as an incredible role model. Anne says her mom taught her every good thing she knows from her words and the example she set.

“She was a Southern lady in the truest sense of the word, living out her personal faith each day,” she said. “To me she exemplified unconditional love, gentility, kindness, grace and determination.”

As she navigates her life day-to-day, Anne enjoys the fact that no two days are alike. She lives by the simple philosophy of The Golden Rule, as well as a second principle that is perhaps spoken about less, which is to “Always think the best of others first.”

Though she is indeed a very busy woman, at the end of the day, Anne delights in spending time with family. Her favorite weekends are spent at the lake with husband Jeff; in the fall they enjoy watching Alabama play football. Vacation time is always enjoyed with their children and grandchildren.

“Who knew about the explosion of love that comes with grandchildren?” she laughed.

During the week, she also enjoys family time with one of her favorite routine activities being her frequent lunches with her dad, St. John Courtenay.

“At 91, he inspires me with his faith in God, self-discipline about eating and exercise and personal example of always putting others first,” she said.

In looking back over the years, Anne pauses as she ponders what she wishes she had known as a young adult. After thinking a minute, she says the one piece of advice she’d give her younger self would be to accept that hard times and struggles are what make people grow into who they are meant to be.

“God uses such challenging times to develop the characteristics that He knows we need in order to live into the life He has designed for us,” she said.

When speaking about what she’s most passionate about, Anne says, from a professional standpoint, she’s passionate about the power of philanthropy to change the world. Anne said Charity Circle fundraising enabled $432,000 in grants to local nonprofits during the last 12 months and has poured $3 million-plus into these organizations in the past 10 years.

The Christy-Houston Foundation, Inc. grantmaking process enables $4 million-plus annually to be invested in Rutherford County nonprofits. “Since inception, they have granted $113 million to improve the quality of life in our community,” she said. “The joy of giving should never be underestimated!”

On a more personal note, Anne is most passionate about her personal relationship with Jesus Christ, her deep love of family, her inner circle of close friends, and her three precious grandbabies.

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