To Karen Pallarito's superb report, "Mergers complicate fund raising" (July 3, p. 35), I would add a minor quibble but mostly support her conclusions.
While fund raising may indeed be considered a comparably "inexpensive income source," a significant-and consistent-investment in good staffing, training, office equipment, research access, and donor cultivation and recognition are among the resources required for fund-raising departments to produce optimally. A typical high-performing hospital fund-raising department raises an amount equivalent to approximately 1% of an institution's overall annual budget. My office raises about 2%, or $4 for every dollar invested in the department's salary and nonsalary costs. I guess if Pallarito means that a 400% annual return on investment is "inexpensive," then I agree with her.
The report's important point, on the real need for much more fund-raising staff input on all aspects of hospital management (including mergers and/or consolidations) in order to maximize fund-raising results, cannot be repeated too often. Aside from full, formal mergers, even competing institutions can cooperate on fund-raising activities for mutual community benefit.
Finally, hospital leaders will need to really understand the importance to fund raising of the article's final word: time. Good fund-raisers today are busy cultivating significant planned and deferred gifts that may not pay out for years or even decades, but they reward most handsomely.
RICHARD J. GERBER
Development and public relations
Phelps Memorial Hospital Center
North Tarrytown, N.Y.