Healthcare Philanthropy:
Looking at the Decade Ahead

by Allen Peckham

Senior Vice President

Posted November 18, 2020

Needless to say, the entire philanthropic community has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with both nonprofits and donors struggling to address the many needs presented by this world-wide health crisis. Health care providers—hospitals, health centers and disease-based organizations— have been hit especially hard by the very nature of their missions. As noted in our accompanying blog post, “How Academic Medical Center Fundraising Leaders are Planning for 2021,” Development Guild recently brought together six chief development officers from leading academic medical centers and specialty hospitals in the Northeast as part of our Coffee Talk series. For an hour, they shared insights with each other about how their fundraising programs continued to thrive over the past six months and what they are planning for the coming year. I hope you will take a moment to read their thoughtful takeaways.

Building on that conversation, we put together the following observations about raising philanthropic dollars in the changing healthcare world.


Accelerating the Pace of Change

COVID-19 fundraising aside, the need to raise funds for hospitals of all types will be greater than ever in the decade ahead. “Now more than ever” is a familiar appeal and case made by our hospital clients to donors and prospects. But how do hospitals make that case when the world of patient care and research is changing at pace never experienced in our lifetimes? The acceleration of medical breakthroughs and new treatments requires hospitals to rethink and reprogram their delivery of services. Providing the best care in the most convenient location at the lowest cost and with the best outcome has become a healthcare mandate that requires new and renovated facilities along with funds to support technologies unheard of even 5 years ago. Raising capital funds for hospital building projects is nothing new, but today’s facilities may be located miles from the main hospital campus, making them more accessible to patients and families, but less visible to those seeking high profile naming opportunities. We are currently partnering with our clients to build compelling arguments in support of a new vision that meets a changing healthcare landscape.


The New Order of Healthcare Systems

Being part of a healthcare system can add a layer of complexity to any hospital development program. That’s all the more reason for each hospital in a system to focus on strengthening the core building blocks of a high performing shop: a winning case, engaged prospects, inspiring leadership and effectively deployed staff. In my experience, system leadership are likely to judge the viability of proposed hospital capital projects on the probability of fundraising success. Hospitals that have the best fundraising plans and track records often have their projects moved to the top of the queue. We work with our clients to build their capacity and capabilities. In a system, one hospital’s campaign may well compete with others; we help our clients win that competition.


Specialty Hospitals Link Appeal to Cause

The most successful specialty hospital fundraising programs reach beyond patient/family constituencies and build broader donor appeals based upon cause. We have all witnessed the power of St. Jude’s massive television and electronic media campaigns and the success of Dana Farber’s Pan-Mass Challenge. Those hospitals have leveraged powerful advertising, marketing and PR campaigns to bring their appeal to the largest possible audience in the hope of attracting donors to their cause. Specialty hospitals with research programs would be well advised to invest in telling their story beyond their traditional patient catchment areas. Today’s social media and micro-targeting marketing are among the many tools now available to communicate a case to potential donors around the country and the world.

As we saw in the recent Coffee Talk session, leaders in healthcare philanthropy have met new challenges with creativity and perseverance. We are fortunate to work with so many outstanding professionals who are making such an extraordinary difference.

Allen Peckham is a Senior Vice President at Development Guild DDI. Prior to joining Development Guild DDI, Allen served as Chief Development Officer for Partners HealthCare (now Mass General Brigham), a position he held for nearly 16 years. He is the past president of the Massachusetts Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and the former president of the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy’s (AHP) Health Systems Development Network (HSDN). Allen’s clients include Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (Los Angeles), McLean Hospital, Mount Auburn Hospital, and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. If you’re interested in learning more about the fundraising and executive search counsel we provide health care organizations across the country, reach out to Allen at