The turnaround in the financial markets—and an overall improving economy—means charitable giving has improved at hospitals at a time when their investment portfolios are also seeing greater returns.
Healthcare systems typically have a number of vehicles into which they direct charitable gifts, some of which will fund specific programs while others will go into an endowment, with only the interest available for spending.
But an improvement in the stock market, and increased optimism from benefactors, mean more money is available for not only capital improvement plans, but also more ambitious projects related to healthcare reform and, more specifically, population health management.
“Fundraisers are being asked to redefine what philanthropy will mean in healthcare,” says David Flood, chief development officer at Intermountain Healthcare, a 21-hospital not-for-profit system based in Salt Lake City.
He notes that systems have also been shifting their focus from projects such as building new hospital wings to installing health information technology and expanding outpatient services. “A server might not have been very sexy, but it's critical,” he says, adding that fundraisers have to rethink how they're communicating with potential donors.
Flood joined Intermountain in June from Meridian Health in Neptune, N.J. His arrival capped off a strategy that began about two years ago to consolidate each of the foundations at Intermountain's individual campuses into one systemwide fundraising group.
Bert Zimmerli, Intermountain's executive vice president and chief financial officer, says that having a single foundation allows Intermountain to eliminate many of the administrative costs associated with having multiple funds—costs such as filing additional tax returns, maintaining a separate board for each organization and auditing financial documents.
But another, equally important objective, he says, was rethinking how it has been putting its charitable dollars to work. And that means new initiatives that speak directly to providers' evolving mission as stewards of population health.
“It's not unusual to have donations made to support building projects,” Zimmerli says, referring to the bread and butter of hospital fundraising efforts. “I'd say we covered the gamut, historically. We want to absolutely continue to do that, but we also want to raise our vision a bit.”
Zimmerli notes that Intermountain is working on a yet-to-be-announced “major initiative” around children's cancer research. That project—and others promoting health and wellness—are part of its “Healthy Utah” campaign, which focuses on improving health in the state.
Intermountain, which has a Dec. 31 fiscal year-end, has about $130 million in its endowment. In 2012, it saw a rate of return of about 10%, “a little bit ahead of our benchmark,” Zimmerli says. “Our goal is to fund worthy community projects,” he says. “We want to raise our vision for what we want philanthropy to do.”