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Hospital Foundations

2/19/2009

Hospital foundations: More important than ever




Maybe you've attended its winter gala ball or summer golf scramble, raising money for charity care.
Perhaps you've seen its newsletter about building an exercise room for heart patients or providing temporary housing for families of low-income patients.

These could be efforts of your local hospital foundation, an organization whose goal is to raise needed money for the hospital and whose work in the community is felt but not always understood nor widely known.

That's both frustrating and challenging, because foundations are more crucial than ever for today's hospitals, says William McGinly, past president and chief executive officer of the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy.

Hospital foundations started to multiply in the 1960s when government funding for health care began to shrink-a problem that continues today, reports the American Hospital Association.

Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 45 million Americans have no medical insurance at all, yet they sometimes get sick and need care. And the costs of information technology, medical equipment, medicines, supplies, and salaries and benefits for health care workers continue to go up.

Currently, about 60 percent of hospitals lose money caring for patients, even as demand for medical care goes up.

Hospital foundations are stepping up to help.

"Foundations are raising money for direct operating expenses, for bad debt, for charitable care," McGinly says.

"They are raising money for programs that support their community, such as mobile mammography vans or clinics dealing with prenatal care, teenage pregnancies or elder care."

Hospital foundations are usually separate from the hospital itself, but their missions and goals complement the work of their hospitals and the needs of their communities, McGinly says.

They raise money a number of ways, including:


  • Annual giving campaigns: yearly requests for donations from past and new supporters.
  • Special events: signature events--black-tie dinners, art auctions, golf tournaments--that raise both money and awareness, McGinly says.
  • Capital campaigns: efforts to raise money for specific, big-ticket goals, such as renovations and expansions or buying medical equipment. Capital campaigns usually run for three to five years.
  • Planned giving: donations that are arranged in advance, as part of a will or trust, for instance.
  • Endowments: donations invested or set aside to earn interest. The endowment remains intact, and only the income is spent.
  • Memorial gifts: donations made to remember or honor someone.
  • Major gifts: large, one-time gifts from donors.

Donors can give cash, stock, bonds, or even a piece of property. Some donate their services, supplies or skills instead.

Of course, foundations love major donations. But $5 and $25 donations are welcomed, too.

"What does your $25 donation do? It helps buy an MRI machine, or provides a service to fight drug abuse or disease, or helps keep a clinic open for people who don't have insurance," McGinly says.

Most donations to hospital foundations come from individuals, not corporations, a fact that usually surprises people, McGinly says.

"People donate for a hundred and one reasons," he says. "Usually, the organization has touched them in some way, pulled at their heartstrings. They believe in the mission of the organization; they have confidence in it."

With a donation to their hospital's foundation, "people see a chance to transform something in their own community," he says.

"They know they can make a difference."

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