Fundraising for hospitals likely has never been so needed or so difficult.
The lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on hospitals’ fiscal health will likely be felt for years as U.S. providers face mounting costs related to treating infected patients while losing millions from postponed or canceled elective procedures.
For David Flood, senior vice president and chief development officer at Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare, the current financial challenges brought on by the pandemic coupled with the foreseeable future’s economic uncertainty have raised the urgency of its fundraising operations to alleviate the fiscal strain.
“Right now we’re all in the eye of the storm,” Flood said.
A March analysis from not-for-profit healthcare finance watchdog FAIR Health projected the outbreak could cost the country’s healthcare system from $362 billion to more than $1.4 trillion in hospital charges, depending on the infection incidence rate.
Meanwhile, the outbreak has created its own set of operational challenges for hospital fundraising. Social-distancing practices that have led many states and cities to ban large gatherings in an effort to stem the virus’ spread have caused hospitals to either cancel or postpone many of their scheduled charity events.
“The lack of the ability to get to in-person events and in-person donor meetings has really made a negative impact on the ways that hospital fundraisers have been doing their work,” said Alice Ayres, CEO of the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy.
Ayres said the results of a survey AHP conducted March 13 to better understand how the COVID-19 pandemic was affecting healthcare organizations found more than 80% of the nearly 500 participating providers reported they had already canceled or postponed charity events.
The anticipated donation losses from those cancellations have forced many providers to rethink their approaches to fundraising. Many hope to find opportunities to develop campaign and outreach strategies that will help them retain and even grow their donor pools for the long term.
“There’s a heightened understanding around the importance and precariousness of the financial situation of hospitals around the country,” Ayres said. “So that’s an opportunity for healthcare fundraisers to continue to expand the universe of people who want to engage and invest in hospital missions and want to be a part of it.”