Gladstone donor Carla O'Dell

Carla O’Dell, a member of Gladstone's President’s Council, shares her philanthropy story and approach. Photo courtesy of Carla O'Dell.


Carla O’Dell is a Gladstone Institutes donor and member of both the President’s Council and Gladstone Society. She is passionate about making the world a better place by supporting medical research and is a heartfelt ambassador for Gladstone. She recently chatted with a member of Gladstone’s Philanthropy team about her philanthropic journey and how she makes charitable giving decisions that reflect her values.

Based in Houston, Texas and rural Maine, O’Dell is a well-known knowledge management pioneer and co-founder of the American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC). A college party, family connections, and a curiosity for medical and science research led her to several chance meetings with Deepak Srivastava, MD, Gladstone’s president.

Through her relationship with Srivastava and Gladstone, O’Dell has deepened her understanding of biomedical research, helped advance the high-risk, high-reward research she cares about, and invested in the people and tools that are changing the future of medicine. Most of all, she is living her values and leaving a legacy far into the future.

Guiding Principles of Philanthropy

From her experience in investing, O’Dell realized she didn’t want to base her financial decisions on someone else’s priorities, donating to organizations led by people she didn’t know. This inspired her to develop what she calls her guiding principles of philanthropy.

  1. Passion
    “First, I invest in issues I care deeply about, that I find personally energizing and intellectually stimulating. I know these causes will make a difference; things like medical science, children’s relief, alleviating hunger insecurity, and combating climate change.”
  2. Viability
    “Second, I find institutions with the mission, people, infrastructure, and track record to take on huge issues.”
  3. Scale
    “Third, I pick organizations with a multiplier effect: if I give a dollar, they make it work like three dollars—and it benefits not only today’s problem, like hunger and food insecurity or disease, but lays the groundwork for a lasting solution.”
  4. Collaboration
    “Finally, I look for people and institutions with strong values and collaborative muscle. They need to play well with others.”

“With Gladstone, you never lose your investment,” adds O’Dell. “In fact you can’t lose. Even if a study itself does not win a Nobel Prize, you have helped advance knowledge and research that will lead to breakthroughs. And you have trained smart and collaborative young scientists who will carry that knowledge to the best institutions in the world.”

Leaving a Legacy

O’Dell values collaboration most of all. She noticed it right away during her first visit to Gladstone, and has been continually impressed with Gladstone’s network of partnerships with other biomedical and research institutions.

Through her gifts, no matter how big or small, she feels like a partner in the breakthroughs happening here. She’s kept informed of the research she cares about and the impact her gifts are making. Aligning herself with organizations that reflect her values is one of the ways she knows those values will live on long into the future.

In light of that, and her respect for the work Gladstone is doing, she made the decision to join the Gladstone Society by including Gladstone in her estate plan. While she finds it rewarding to invest in early-stage and high-risk research that isn’t supported by other types of funding, she also has confidence knowing that Gladstone will continue to multiply the gift in all kinds of ways.

To anyone considering a gift to Gladstone or thinking about becoming a partner through a planned gift, Carla says, “Do it, you’ll be so proud you did.”

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