Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago calls it a crisis in philanthropy.
The slowing economy and sinking consumer confidence threaten to slow the flow of donation dollars to hospitals, charities and social service organizations. And it couldn't happen at a more inopportune time, with hospitals already feeling the sting of lower returns from their investments.
The uncertainty has left many hospital fund-raisers worried that they won't meet this year's philanthropy targets.
Energizing a community to support a hospital takes commitment from top management, a dedicated fund-raising staff and a focused strategy. A boost from the new president might also prove helpful.
We suggest rallying around President Bush's drive to mobilize "armies of compassion" so that the campaign for faith-based government funding gets beyond a debate on the separation of church and state. In addition to that proposal, Bush advocates a tax break for charitable giving for taxpayers who don't itemize deductions, permitting charity gifts from IRAs and raising tax caps on corporate giving.
Many hospital foundations could benefit from those kinds of tax reforms.
The president also might find more support for his massive tax cut plan if he strongly advocates that taxpayers share some of the booty with worthy charitable organizations. Furthermore, a pep talk by Bush to promote volunteerism could help hospitals build closer links with the communities they serve. As many administrators know, dedicated volunteers not only provide vital patient-support functions, but they also can develop into goodwill ambassadors for the hospital.
Bush used the "compassionate conservative" theme to solidify his political base during the hotly contested election race. Now is the time for his supporters to prove that the message is more than hollow campaign rhetoric. One way to do that is for them to give time and support to hospitals and other service organizations.
And if the movement ever does gain momentum, hospitals must be prepared to connect and reach out to these armies of compassion.