You said you interact with five boards. Do you have any tips for organizations on improving board relationships?
We have very generous boards, a system board and a board for each of the four hospitals. Out of all those board members, they all give and get almost 30% of our total private support. I work with all of the boards to identify people within their “sphere of influence” that could help the health system in some way.
First and foremost, make sure your clear on your expectations when you’re recruiting related to philanthropy. We say to board members, it doesn’t matter where you give across the system, it will count towards your board minimum, and we don’t care where you get it, through your business or a peer or colleague. Second, make sure you ask! You may have heard the saying, “Give, get or get off.” The system board is really more of a policy-making, decision-making board. The hospital boards focus on community engagement and philanthropy. We are very clear when we recruit what the role is and what the expectations are.
What areas of giving is LifeBridge Health’s development department focusing on right now?
We’re formalizing a grateful patient program. We’ve always gotten gifts from grateful patients and their families, but now we work hand in hand with clinicians to identify gratitude. We say to the physicians, “Don’t worry about whether you think the patients have wealth. All we want you to focus on is the families and patients that are extremely grateful.” It helps educate people about giving, and it certainly increases the culture of philanthropy, from the nurse at the bedside all the way to the CEO.
The other area where we’ve started doing something interesting with is engaging young people [ages 25-40], the next generation of philanthropists. We’ve just created a leadership counsel. It’s managed like a giving circle, where there’s a few meetings a year and they have access to the hospital executives. They’re asked to give $1000 throughout the year, and then at the end of the year, they decide how the money is granted back to the hospital. A unique component of the program is that these young people become board observers across the system and get a sense of what it would be like to serve on the board, so it’s a board training program for future leaders. And then we have a few networking events throughout the year where they can bring their friends. It’s about trying to get people engaged early on.
How does the “Magic of Life Gala” support or supplement other departmental efforts?
We’re a pretty big system, with just over $2.1 billion dollars in annual gross revenue. We have a lot of vendors. We have a big event every other year, the largest fundraising event in the state of Maryland. We solicit our vendors, asking them to make a commitment. They can pay it over two or three years. It’s a system-wide endeavor, unrestricted support system-wide. The money is filtered throughout the system to the bottom line and helps pay for essential care.
We’re very careful that the solicitation and the contract with our vendors is a completely separate conversation. The majority of our vice presidents are involved in asking and creating a strategy to approach those vendors who they have a relationship with. They give because they understand it’s part of the partnership, and they appreciate the visibility with the executives. We grossed $3.5 million last year over a 2-year period of time, resulting in $2.6 million to the bottom line of unrestricted support.