Private Donors Continue to be a Challenge

CheckbookAny healthcare organization would be delighted to have a private donor fund a building project. Sometimes, however, the donor has no interest in the organization’s long-range capital investment strategy but wants to construct a building or fund a program that is not even on its radar screen. Most institutions are not in a position to reject such donations, and it is a rare administrator who has the backbone to turn down money rather than compromise the organization’s long-range facility master plan.


When a donation is made for a new building, healthcare organizations should not be deluded into thinking that the donor money comes unconditionally. These projects can become difficult and emotionally draining. It helps, though, if the fundraising arm of the organization is integrated with the facility planning process in such a way that the organization can seek donations that are aligned with its facility master plan. However, the real issue associated with constructing an unnecessary or oversized building is affording the ongoing operational costs — even though the initial construction is financed by someone else.


Some healthcare organizations solicit donations for the naming rights for specific building components such as wings, centers of excellence within an existing building, conference rooms, lobbies and lounges, or high-tech procedure rooms. This can be a source of money for renovating a specific area of the hospital or to purchase a piece of expensive medical equipment. This can, however, get complicated when subsequent renovation is required at a future date or when a donated piece of equipment is no longer state-of-the-art. Sometimes, donors, or their relatives, may demand to be involved in the planning of interior finishes, furnishings, and decoration. In a large institution, this can conflict with the development of a unified look and feel as part of corporate branding. Taken to extremes, too much disparate interior design input can make the facility look like a furniture showroom with uncoordinated vignettes at every corridor turn.


It is also increasingly common for healthcare organizations to solicit smaller donations for wall-mounted plaques and signs that recognize the donor’s name. The size of the letters on the plaque and type of material sometimes reflects the amount of the donation as well. These plaques are often located on a feature wall in an entrance lobby or along the walls of public corridors. This frequently results in donor plaque fatigue with information overload that impedes wayfinding as the clutter of donor signs obscures necessary directional signs.


With operational costs rising, what the healthcare industry really needs today is sponsorship of nurses and clinicians to mitigate high labor costs. Paying a nurses salary for a year with the sponsoring company’s emblem on his/her uniform might be the wave of the future. After all, we have endowed professorships in academia.

This article is an update of a previous post.