The National Rural Health Association is bolstering itself to be innovative and competitive after healthcare reform with a major new revenue source other than membership dues.
NRHA leaders kicked off a campaign to raise $1 million to provide innovative programs and education for association members through a not-for-profit foundation. The effort, which will create the NRHA Foundation, was launched at the association's 17th annual National Conference on Rural Health May 25-28 in San Francisco.
"We do not want to increase our dues," said Walter Pidgeon, NRHA's executive director, in an interview at the conference. "The foundation will provide us with funding beyond our membership dues. We'll now be able to do the things that we used to say, if we had the money, we'd love to do."
Dues now range from $250 per year for organizations with budgets of less than $500,000 to $750 for organizations with budgets of $4 million or more.
The foundation will promote partnering among the NRHA's membership, which includes nearly 400 rural hospitals and seven constituency groups. To be considered a "supporting member" of the foundation, organizations or individuals must contribute $1,000 or more per year to the NRHA.
The foundation will be the educational, informational, research and fund development arm of the NRHA, the organization's executives said. It will be operated out of the NRHA's National Headquarters in Washington.
In addition, the foundation will provide revenue for educational programs and fellowships. For example, a fellowship to encourage more minority administrators to enter the healthcare field is in the works, Mr. Pidgeon said. "A fellowship like that will help us do what they are best known to do in rural America-to grow our own," Mr. Pidgeon said. "We can link students with rural issues."
In the past year, the NRHA has made several strides to stay competitive with other healthcare associations.
The association now allows businesses to join as members as the number of rural hospital closures continues to increase. Of the 34 acute-care hospitals that closed last year, 19, or 56%, were in rural areas, according to the American Hospital Association's latest hospital closure list (March 28, p. 3).
Despite rural hospital woes, the NRHA erased most of a $217,000 deficit last year.
The organization eliminated the red ink through fund raising, in-kind donations, cuts in association expenses and a special assessment in late 1992 and early 1993 (Oct. 18, 1993, p. 17).
"We want to keep expanding our horizons," Mr. Pidgeon said. "In the foreseeable future, we don't see a dues increase."