The Critical Role of Healthcare Philanthropy During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This is truly an unprecedented time. As a nation, we have come together to address the COVID-19 pandemic in many different ways. All of us have an important role to play even if it is primarily staying at home to flatten the curve. What we have seen thus far from healthcare organizations and healthcare providers is the true meaning of the word endurance. This is not a sprint. It is not a 5K. We are in the midst of a race where the end mile marker isn’t quite known. However, where there is endurance there is hope.

Doctors, nurses, and the teams working on the front lines have gone through extraordinary measures to save lives and protect their communities through challenging times.

And it is challenging on so many fronts. Even as healthcare organizations fight this battle, many are struggling to keep their doors open. They have not been able to conduct business as usual throughout this crisis. Disruption to the normal business model, for many, impacts cash flow and reduces revenue. This is on top of the razor thin margins that most not for profit healthcare systems operate within. As a result, these systems have had to furlough employees, freeze spending, and even close their doors. In many communities, it has left the public confused—how could a hospital or health system lay off employees—or close—in the middle of a pandemic?



The Foundation’s Role in the Crisis

I believe healthcare organizations, their philanthropic partners and donors will endure and emerge stronger from this crisis. History tells us they have done it before, countless times. It is a legacy that dates back over 250 years when Dr. Thomas Bond began to raise money for America’s first general hospital to treat the poor. The tradition continued during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic that saw countless hospitals bolstered by philanthropy. Today we are seeing a similar groundswell of support and determination.

We’ve heard from many healthcare foundations about incredible stories of endurance, sacrifice, generosity, and gratitude already. Many foundations have found themselves assisting their hospitals, nurses, and doctors in unique ways. Some are managing the ordering, purchasing and distribution of PPE. We’ve learned one foundation coordinated and managed a daycare giving their children a safe place to stay while mom and/or dad worked tirelessly. Another negotiated discounts and secured hotel rooms giving nurses and doctors a place to rest (or quarantine) while keeping their families safe. And another helped out by creating and administrating the hospital’s staff schedules so no doctor or nurse is too overwhelmed. One hospital needed bed linens folded so the foundation’s director stepped up. All of these acts were in addition to continuing to raise funds but by very unique and different means than our foundations are accustom to. These stories will be proudly added to the narrative of healthcare philanthropy.


Philanthropy Needs to Lead the Way in the “New” Normal

Now is the time for healthcare foundations to lead the way. It is crucial to help donors understand the financial crisis healthcare organizations are navigating.

Download “Healthcare Philanthropy: A Substantial Contribution to the System Bottom Line Beyond Earned Revenue” for ideas and strategies to make the business case for philanthropy to your hospital leadership.

Foundations will need to continue to keep the needs of the healthcare organizations in the forefront even as the media turns their focus from healthcare organizations to the opening of the economy. The case for support will adapt and change as it always has led by philanthropy’s capable hand. It will be the job of the foundations to articulate that case and, of course, offer donors and the community ways to help.

It is also the job of foundations to use this experience to become stronger fundraisers. Remember when moving from in person to virtual events was new? Now that you have embraced this change where appropriate, you are poised for even more greatness. This year you may be forced to meet your fundraising goal without the help of large events, and possibly some major donors, but you’re going to diversify your revenue streams and fulfill your mission. You are going to emerge from this crisis a stronger, better organization.

Foundations are not alone. Healthcare organizations are enduring and unwavering in their commitments to their patients, their families, and the communities they serve. They have endured challenges before and are rising to defeat the current one.