“Whenever you’ve been through a challenging life experience, and you come out on the other side of that, you want to give back. You want to help out.”
Over the years, we’ve had the good fortune to interview countless philanthropists. We’ve learned that there are many motivations for contributing. Sometimes, individuals desire to celebrate the good fortune they were able to enjoy due to dedicated care from healthcare providers. Parents may wish to celebrate the milestone birthday of a child born prematurely or the kind touch of an emergency room doctor who soothed a tearful toddler who needed to have a few stitches. Philanthropy is celebratory.
Other philanthropists want to remember a loved one or an important caregiver in their health journey. These expressions can be as simple as a bench where patients can sit and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of a healing garden or as elaborate as a leading-edge surgical robot. Philanthropy memorializes.
A third type of philanthropist desires to make the experiences of others better. A couple actively supports research dedicated to curing Parkinson’s Disease because they lost a loved one to it, and they don’t want others to suffer. A widow, who lost her husband to cancer, knits hundreds of beanies for cancer patients to provide warm and fashionable head coverings for those who have lost their hair to chemotherapy. Philanthropy creates opportunity.
An underlying theme running through all types of philanthropy is that it brings meaning to the lives of both the givers and the receivers. The givers know that they have helped improve the lives of others. The receivers are bolstered by knowing someone cares. “Philanthropy helps them heal, helps them have hope, helps them feel encouraged, helps them feel supported. Somebody cares enough to provide a hat, a blanket, financial support. Our patients light up. They’re grateful. They’re relieved,” said a hospital administrator that we interviewed. Philanthropy connects.
Healthcare providers report that they, too, receive a mental lift from philanthropy. Knowing that the patients they serve, their families, and the community cares about them touches their hearts and inspires them to continue their often difficult work with renewed effort. “[Philanthropy] inspires me to continue to do what I do because I feel like the community supports us…they know what a difference we can make by providing our excellent services here,” said a nurse navigator that we interviewed. Philanthropy inspires.
Because of the many benefits that philanthropy provides—both emotionally and physically—healthcare providers should not shy away from making philanthropic referrals to their development colleagues when patients and families express gratitude or a desire to get involved in the work of the hospital. “It’s very important for healthcare providers—nurses and doctors and the team—to be in-tune to [expressions of gratitude]. Giving back is a way for that person to…heal and grieve and get beyond death potentially. It can also be a way…to really give back in a meaningful way,” said the hospital administrator. Philanthropy is about listening differently.
“Typically, if I have someone that talks to me about giving back, I connect them with someone at the Foundation. I tell them that we have members of our Foundation who handle all aspects of this and ask if it is okay if I share their name and number with them. Most patients like the fact that I’m not necessarily the one that’s directly managing that piece of it. If there’s a financial aspect of it, I really feel like that’s handled best by the Foundation.”
Philanthropy is so much more than capital improvements. There’s a story behind every contribution, large or small. The ripple effects of philanthropic support touch and continue to touch countless lives of patients, families, and healthcare providers. “If we’re all there together to support each other along the way, I think we make a big difference, no matter what the outcome is. Feeling that support is so very important,” said the nurse navigator. That support and the many other gifts philanthropy can bring to your organization—celebration, remembrance, opportunity, connection, inspiration, and greater understanding—is waiting to be unwrapped by making a philanthropic referral.
Introduce the benefits of philanthropy to the clinicians with whom you work through our public offering, Dynamics of Clinician Engagement. Is your healthcare organization ready for a deeper dive into strengthening its culture of philanthropy? Check out what our Strategic Partnerships have to offer!