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Healthcare Fundraising Shows Signs of Life

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, April 13, 2011

Healthcare fundraising recovered somewhat in 2010, but not enough to erase two years of recession-related losses and cutbacks, a new Association for Healthcare Philanthropy survey shows.

While 71% of AHP members who answered a January survey reported lingering negative effects on their programs in 2010 from the recession, the responses showed a 16% improvement over 2009. Year-over-year advances were noted for investment income, donations from hospital staff, and funds raised in special events, the survey found.

William C. McGinly, president/COO of AHP, told HealthLeaders Media that the results of the survey provide "good vibes" that the worst may be over. "It's not as large a recovery or as speedy as I'd like but we have turned a corner," he says. "The world is in a crazy mess now too. Let's hope we don't see any slippage in the economy because we will revert to the same situation if we aren't careful."

"We have seen this over the years. It is the economy that drives so much of philanthropy. We saw it in 1987. We saw it in 2002. This has been the worst and the most prolonged that I've ever seen. We are coming out of it but it is very tenuous and shaky," he says.

The more than 2,000 nonprofit hospitals and healthcare providers in the AHP reported that fundraising was down about 11% in 2009 – roughly $1 billion. That year 52% of fundraisers trimmed their budgets. In 2010, half of respondents made no changes in their budgets, and 12% increased them, the survey found.

McGinly says healthcare providers that avoided cuts to their fundraising budgets and staffs are poised for swifter recovery. "In 2009 and 2010 the smart money was on our members who continued to cultivate their relationships with major donors, even though they gave less because of the uncertainty," he says. "The folks who are coming back strong are those who didn't have to reduce the number of people they had in any significant way and were able to hold on to them, because this is a knowledge business and once you lose those relationships and the knowledge they had it is a long curve building that back with new people."

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