Rediscovering Philanthropy: A Fresh Look at a Traditional Revenue Source

By Mary K. Totten

As stewards of their hospital or health care system’s advancement, board members should be both highly vested in the organization’s work as well as invested in its mission. Trustees not only should contribute financially to their institution, they also should set the tone for an organization wide culture to support philanthropy, says Betsy Chapin Taylor, president of health care philanthropy consulting from Accordant Philanthropy.

Most organizations have separate philanthropic foundations led by their own boards. Yet, members of the foundation and governing boards often don’t understand their roles in maximizing philanthropy’s benefits to the organization and the communities served. Governing boards can take several steps to drive their organizations’ philanthropic success — not only through giving or getting funds themselves, but through influencing organizational culture, priorities and resource allocation in ways that position philanthropy as a significant, valued revenue source for their hospitals.

“We’ve seen such a perfect storm in health care finance over the past few years,” Taylor says. “With significant cuts in Medicare and Medicaid payments and the shift from volume- to value-based care, organizations increasingly need access to revenue that can power their plans. Philanthropy is a key lever in strengthening the organization to secure competitive advantage, spur growth or sometimes keep the doors open. Operations are not necessarily the lion’s share of net revenue anymore. Philanthropy is one of the greatest diversification opportunities out there, and we have to chase it. “High performance is rooted in building a culture for philanthropy,” she adds. “It’s about building a platform for performance based on alignment between the health care organization and its charitable foundation to achieve shared objectives.” That alignment ensures that all stakeholders are advancing the same strategic causes to support the organization in their decision-making, actions and resource allocation.

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