After a remarkable 44-year tenure, Vice President of Development for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, Keith Limberg, will be retiring this October. A tremendous asset and a respected leader in the fundraising community – Keith’s retirement is a bittersweet moment for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest and our communities.
Keith joined the agency in 1979, at the age of 26. Over the years, Keith has made innumerable contributions to Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest and its mission to ensure broad public access to sexual and reproductive health care. Over the course of his 44-year career, he has perpetuated a specialized movement that began with organizing a few volunteer leaders to try to raise money, and has since evolved to 10,000 annual donors and several multimillion-dollar fundraising campaigns. Through it all, building relationships have remained at the heart and center of his work.
Keith’s retirement is a time to celebrate his many accomplishments, and remember the lasting legacy he leaves behind on reproductive health and rights across Southern California. Keith's legacy is one of excellence, integrity, and compassion. He has set a high standard for others to follow, and left an immeasurable impact on his team, his colleagues, and the future of fundraising to support reproductive health and rights. He will be missed by everyone who worked with him.
We had a chance to sit down with Keith ahead of his retirement to ask him a few questions. Read on for more on his tremendous journey:
Take us on a short journey through your tenure with Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest: What was your job title when you started? Why did you first come into this work?
If you can imagine such a thing: I began working for Planned Parenthood in 1979 — Jimmy Carter was president. I was 26 at the time, and had done a little bit of non-profit fundraising before. I saw a job opening for something called a “Resource Coordinator,” and the CEO took a chance on me. I brought with me the tools of the trade at the time — a typewriter and a telephone, and was tasked with starting a fundraising program to support the work of the then 3 health centers. There were maybe 40 of us who worked for the agency.
For a few years after college, I made a living playing the piano. I took a fundraising course, then started working at Planned Parenthood. I thought, this is really fun. I really liked the work — but I’m probably going to outgrow this in a year or two. As the years went by, I realized this work really suited my personality. I really loved relating to other people, I loved being able to help other people. It was a huge stroke of luck.
How would you describe your time at Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest?
It’s very interesting to me that 44 years later – the pendulum on the conversation of abortion has swung back, and in many ways is still where it was then. Working for an organization like Planned Parenthood very much feels like being at Ground Zero of a cultural war in America.
There have been ebbs and flows, something negative almost always followed by something positive. My fundraising career has seen three major phases:
- Phase one: Was really the first third of my career, where the agency had two income sources – medical services and private funding, which featured a couple hundred donors. I was very interested in building that number.
- Phase two: We started building relationships and opportunities with foundations. We obtained large scale grants from entities like the Packard Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation.
- Phase three: We began receiving major gifts from individuals; our first Capital Campaign “Caring for the Future” ushered in generous million-dollar gifts for the very first time. It was a new era of growth for the agency, formally establishing our Major Gifts program.
What are your proudest career accomplishments?
I built relationships and friendships that didn’t just come and go – I’ve gotten good at keeping them. Indeed, some of these donor-relationships have lasted more than 30 or 40 years. I have a lot of people who I can call on. I am proud of the tremendous depth of relationship with an underlying commitment to this work that we have managed to build.
These are the folks that, when the going gets rough, we are able to quickly activate. That has been work years in the making – but these relationships now go way beyond me. I am proud of the Development team we have built – they do really, really well on their own.
What are some of your most memorable moments from your time at Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest?
There are a few that were memorable in that they contributed to the work that we were doing, but the hard moments were also memorable:
In the early 90s we made the controversial decision to provide abortion services as an agency. The Board at the time had an important, intelligent conversation about the matter. We knew we were going to be targeted – but we also knew our communities needed abortion services.
Thirty-two years ago, we started the Action Fund. We needed to elect people in office who wanted to talk to us. Back then, if politicians didn’t like us, they were downright rude or mean. Starting the Action Fund was a big deal. Getting engaged with political work was a big deal.
Our work across the border with MexFam and Fronteras Unidas Pro Salud felt important. We have learned so much from this partnership. We learned about what it takes to run a Promotores program.
What will you miss most about Planned Parenthood?
I’m going to miss everything about Planned Parenthood. The people, the friendships. I’m really inspired by my counterparts, who are just a fantastic group of people. I will miss the challenge of being a part of the movement.
I loved waking up to a new set of challenges and considerations every single Monday morning – it was always a new matrix of challenges, a new matrix of relationships involving a lot of people who were all connected to each other.
I have felt so lucky to have had incredible independence and the tremendous freedom to come up with ideas and execute them. I’ve been so fortunate to have been a part of this movement for 44 years. It’s been a huge honor and privilege to be a part of something of this magnitude for 44 years.
What are some of your plans for retirement?
Transitioning out of this work is going to be interesting. I’m going to see where my gaze goes and lands. I do have interests: biking, hiking, learning French, traveling.
But it will be interesting to see what I may or may not do. I haven’t really decided anything yet.
What is one thing you wish you had known when you started your career?
Be fearless. Be brave. Have the audacity to just try things. Do not be encumbered by fear! Always be confident in trying things. Just go for it.
We wish Keith all the best in his continued journey and will miss all the wisdom, commitment, and joy he brought to the work.