Spokane Journal of Business

Private donors help fill health care revenue gap

Pandemic has changed fundraising to smaller, more personal activities

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Most nonprofit organizations rely on the generosity of their neighbors to fulfill their mission, and health care is no different. Private donations help fill the gap between revenue and the rest of the operating budget.

The past three years, fundraising has looked different. The pandemic forced us to rethink traditional ways of building relationships, bringing communities together and understanding the connection between donors and an important cause.

As our community adapted to small and more personal interactions, we also adapted our strategy to smaller, private events. We can still fill a ballroom and raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, and we can also start important conversations in a room of less than 50 people. A passionate donor hosting an informational happy hour could be more productive long-term. As the way we’ve raised funds has shifted, the heart of philanthropy has remained the same: building relationships and connecting people to causes they care about.

In my 12 years in philanthropy, I have worked for large and small organizations serving families experiencing medical emergencies. While I always knew I wanted to fundraise for a greater cause, I didn’t understand how personal it would become until I was pregnant with twins and found myself at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center. In May of 2016, I developed HELLP syndrome, which is a life-threatening pregnancy complication. I had to deliver Jack and Hannah at 34 weeks. While my medical team stabilized me, our babies spent their first three weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit.

What could have been a highly traumatic experience is one I recall with incredible gratitude. It gave me an appreciation for how fortunate we are to have compassionate, world-class health care in our community.

I have found my home with Providence Inland Northwest Foundation, supporting Providence programs for patients in our area. And when I tell a crowd I trust these doctors with my children’s lives, it’s more than just words; I have lived that experience.

Providence Inland Northwest Foundation relies on private and corporate donations, along with grant and government funding to eliminate barriers for people seeking quality care. 

Our efforts touch the full spectrum of our community members. For instance, we support the Providence Community Clinic, a place where caregivers and volunteer providers build trust and primarily serve those experiencing homelessness, often at no cost.

When you walk the halls of a Providence hospital, you will see more impacts of philanthropy—through state-of-the-art and breakthrough medical technology and in the physical spaces only possible because of generous community support.

There is a courtyard outside the Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center cardiac intensive care unit that was donated by the Kalispel Tribe of Indians to provide a place of hope and healing for patients and families. A volunteer at Providence Holy Family Hospital saw patients who use wheelchairs and walkers experiencing accessibility issues, so they donated to update all the bathroom doors to make them easier to use for everyone. Grant support and private investment allowed us to relocate our outpatient pediatric behavioral health program and double the number of kids helped at a time when increased mental health support for children is at an all-time high.

Providence has relied on community investment since the beginning. The Sisters of Providence arrived in Spokane and established the hospital 137 years ago, dedicating their lives to those in need. They were our first fundraisers, traveling by horseback to the mines across the American West. Women were not welcome in many of these communities. Still, the sisters made the ask, begging for gold dust to continue their mission.

Today, I am honored to further the mission through new methods of fundraising that can be applied to many industries. The needs are greater than ever.

It’s no secret that the health care industry is facing financial challenges—including the rising cost of labor and supplies, low reimbursement rates, and declining returns on investments. In fact, these are often common threads that intersect across industries.

With inflation, it is harder to stretch a dollar, and some families are still recovering from the financial impacts of the pandemic. Through personal experiences and tangible examples of how our work impacts health care, I have seen donors get more creative.

Gifts from individual retirement accounts and appreciated securities can benefit the organization and the donor. And we continue to put a strong emphasis on planned giving—encouraging donors to think about the legacy they can leave through an estate gift to benefit the organizations they care most about.

In many cases, it is our connection to the community that helps drive these generous donations. People are glad to know that every gift to the Providence Inland Northwest Foundation stays local, helping Providence patients in Spokane and Stevens counties.

People often ask how I do this—ask others to harness their generosity for the good of others. The joy I experience through my work in philanthropy is through the impact of donations, but also the way our donors’ lives are transformed. Whether they are transferring assets, making a monthly commitment, or leaving a legacy gift behind, they feel a true sense of purpose in making a difference. I have maintained relationships with donors until their final days, knowing they were at peace with the difference their gift would make.

Most people develop a passion for health care philanthropy after experiencing the benefits firsthand. Rick Hosmer, a heart attack survivor, never knew about the expert, compassionate care of Providence Heart Institute until he became a patient. He’s now made a gift to continue advancing the innovative techniques.

Like Rick, I did not fully understand the impact of medical technology funded through philanthropy, until my children’s lives depended on it. Trusting the caregivers with the most vulnerable, tiny patients, some who can’t breathe or eat on their own, has changed my perspective and helped me prioritize my own giving.

While health care is where I choose to give, I know there are many more areas of need that others may be called to. In this season of giving, I encourage you to think of something that matters to you and show your support.

If everyone gave what they could to the causes closest to their hearts, our community could be transformed for generations.

  • Colleen Fox

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