The bottom line

by Kim Davis
August 26, 2010 12:09 PM | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Benedictine Hospital
Benedictine Hospital
We expect our local hospitals to provide the most state-of-the-art care possible — and treat everyone, including those who cannot afford to pay. But we rarely stop to consider how they go about this all-but-impossible feat.

While a hospital’s revenues support basic operations, these institutions would be hard-pressed to fund the new equipment, system upgrades and capital for expansion that are critical to serving the community’s health-care needs without the support of their foundations and volunteer auxiliaries. In these hard economic times, with charitable causes competing for a limited amount of donor dollars, raising the $500,000 called for in a multi-year capital campaign or meeting the annual foundation million-dollar goal isn’t easy.

“It’s tougher to raise that dollar from a donor,” said Deborah Breen, president of the Northern Dutchess Hospital Foundation. “We need to be out there a lot more and communicating two to three times more than we did in 2007.” Breen said that the support these foundations provide is more needed than ever. “As federal and insurance reimbursements dwindle, it gets more expensive to bring in new equipment.”

Governmental support and patient payments remain the major source of revenue for all the hospitals. Coping with changes in programs, funding formulae and types of reimbursable services are a constant challenge.

The foundations receive support from the hospital auxiliaries, volunteer organizations which in days past recruited doctors’ wives and other “women of leisure” who had the time to support the hospitals. Today, of course, it’s a different world, and the auxiliaries struggle to recruit dedicated volunteers. Having a busy schedule doesn’t necessarily preclude one from becoming a volunteer. Consider Maureen Kangas, the president of the Vassar Brothers Medical Center Auxiliary; whose full-time job is managing the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel.

All the hospitals maintain separate foundations because donors prefer giving to their own hospital. “Giving is local,” explained Ann Armater, vice president for development at Health Quest and that hospital’s foundation president.

Here’s an overview of the activities of the foundations and auxiliaries at each of the two HealthAlliance hospitals in Ulster County, Kingston and Benedictine, and the two Dutchess County Health Quest hospitals, Vassar Brothers and Northern Dutchess, plus St. Francis Health Centers headquartered in Poughkeepsie. Included also are briefer accounts from three other hospitals: St. Luke’s, Columbia Memorial and Margaretville Memorial, the third of the HealthAlliance triad over the Delaware County border.

Benedictine Hospital

In 2009, Benedictine Health Foundation raised $3 million, boosted by a large gift of $1.2 million from a private estate. This year the goal is just over a million dollars.

“Last year we exceeded our goals by quite a bit,” said foundation executive director Barbara Klassen. “We stayed on target despite seeing a hit on the special-events side. There are so many golf tours and galas. We try to focus on a few new events to attract new donors.”

In March the foundation hosted a wine-tasting jazz event at the Canfield building in midtown Kingston. Five area restaurants donated the food. The fundraising focus was on financial expenses not covered by Medicare related to the oncology unit. In June, the foundation held its annual golf tournament, and on September 25 it will hold Bike for Cancer Care, which is attracting many corporate sponsors. On December 10 the foundation will hold its annual gala at Mohonk Mountain House. The event attracts 400 guests. Last year’s gala netted $100,000, which benefited the Rosemary Gruner Memorial Cancer Fund. Some $70,000 was spent to help cancer patients with expenses not covered by Medicare, such as gas and food.

Klassen said the foundation also submits grants through other organizations and receives private donations. The million-plus dollars it received last October contributed toward the hospital’s completion of 15 projects, including the new emergency room. The foundation donated money for new equipment, including two high-tech radiology machines, totaling $350,000. It’s raising funds for an upgrade of the hospital mental-health unit and looking to contribute to the new outpatient services.

Klassen and her counterpart at Kingston Hospital are attempting to cooperate so the HealthAlliance institutions do not compete for the same corporate dollars. At least for now, the two foundations plan to keep their special events separate.

The Benedictine auxiliary just completed a three-year pledge drive for $100,000, which went to the mental-health unit, paying for new beds in the mental-health unit and a kitchen-and-facilities upgrade, according to president Darlene Villaneva. It has embarked on a new, four-year pledge, also for $100,000, to further aid the unit. Among other events, the auxiliary hosts a Tree of Lights display in December, asking people to buy a tag on a tree in memory of someone special. The auxiliary operates a gift store in the hospital and sells discount cards to various merchants in the region.

“We’re always looking for people with talents,” said Villaneva. “It’s an opportunity to make new friends. You have a common goal.”

The Kingston Hospital

The Kingston Hospital Foundation raised just over a million dollars last year and has set the same goal for 2010. Despite the economy, “the community is really stepping up to meet its health-care needs,” said foundation president Steffen Kraehmer.

Kraehmer said the foundation recently completed its special $500,000 campaign for the new emergency room, relying partly on state grant money. “We exceeded our goal,” he said. The money helped pay for 35 private stations, an express-care center for minor emergencies, and a certified center for stroke and chest pain. The foundation also donates money for scholarships for continuing education for nurses and students.

Among the fund-raising events are a golf tournament in August and a fall celebration featuring a fashion show and dinner in October at the Lazy Swan, a golf club and catering facility in Saugerties. The foundation publishes two newsletters and hosts a summertime sports raffle. In addition, Kraehmer said, “We work with individuals on some major contributions and a variety of major sponsorships.”

Last year the Kingston Hospital Auxiliary pledged $50,000 for an upgraded maternity unit, among other initiatives, according to president Joyce Wright. An estimated 20 percent of the proceeds come from the sale of jewelry, baby things, and other products sold by some 30 vendors in the hallway of the emergency department. The auxiliary also hosts bake and plant sales. A plant sale of geraniums the Friday before Mother’s Day brings in a few thousand dollars. The thrift shop, located across the street from the city fire department, is a money-maker. “We do very well because people are very good about bringing in quality merchandise,” said Wright. The shop nets about $20,000, second only to the vendor sales.

The auxiliary also runs a gift shop. This year the auxiliary also pledged $25,000 to the dietary department, paying for new painting and furniture in the cafeteria.

The auxiliary provides three $500 scholarships each year, two of which go to employees’ children and one to an SUNY Ulster student. Bringing in new volunteers is the biggest challenge. “We have a lot of members, but the membership is getting old,” said Wright. “We probably have a list of 20 people we can draw from.”

Margaretville Memorial Hospital

Margaretville Hospital, a 15-bed critical access hospital in the Delaware County town of Margaretville, is part of the HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley. The hospital has a surprisingly active auxiliary that raises some $100,000 for the hospital and its associated Mountainside Residential Care Center each year, according to Ed Morache, the hospital’s executive director. “For a small community with 15 beds, that’s a remarkable number,” he noted, adding the hospital actually showed a slight profit in 2009. Morache is now in the process of compiling 2010 figures to create the 2011 calendar-year budget. The Margaretville Health Foundation, which benefits both the hospital and the residential-care center, has been “in limbo” in recent years and is currently in the process of being reinvigorated, he said.

Vassar Brothers Medical Center

The total goal in 2009 for Vassar Brothers Medical Center Foundation was $2.3 million, said Ann Armater. “We came in at $2.5 million,” helped by an expected $1.2 million behest.

The foundation raises money through its annual fund-raising campaign, community support, receipt of major gifts, and special events. Though the latter, she said, are “time-consuming and not the best way to raise money,” they provide “great visibility.”

The annual diamond gala held in September and attended by about 800 people is the signature event at both Vassar and its sister hospital, Northern Dutchess. Previously done on the lawn at the FDR library, it is moving this year to Mills Mansion. An enormous tent will be set up, and the event will be catered by a Westchester firm. “It’s a friends-raiser as much as a fund-raiser,” noted Armater.

The Health Quest hospital foundations hold a golf tournament, and last year for the first time the Vassar foundation held a triathlon, which attracted 450 athletes. Forty thousand dollars was raised — “not as much as we would have liked.” This year Armater expects more corporate sponsors. The triathlon was a high-profile event that appealed to a younger crowd. “It’s a different constituency” and one that’s important for the future, she noted.

This year a $2.5 million behest is in the works and, so far, there’s been “a nice response” to sponsorship requests for increased giving. The goal is $4 million, with the money targeted to the building of the hospital’s new ambulatory-surgery center, which will cost $10 to $16 million. “We have to set our sights higher because the need is greater,” said Armater. In a normal year the goal is set between $2 and $3 million.

Last year people tended to give small amounts, but this year things appear to be “a little better.” Said Armater, “Our closest friends, physician groups and businesses [both local and outside of the area] are willing to go out on a limb to support us.”

The Vassar Brothers Medical Center Auxiliary just completed a $500,000 pledge to help pay for the in-patient oncology center. Maureen Kangas, president of the auxiliary, said the organization presents a check twice a year to the foundation. “We presented a check this June for $55,000 at our scholarship luncheon. We also gave out four $1000 scholarships to young people going to med school [selected from volunteers at the hospital and chosen by a scholarship committee.]”

The auxiliary holds a holiday luncheon in December as well as a craft fair. At a spring fashion show, various clothing boutique retailers provide models and fashions. A local DJ also donates time to provide the soundtrack, and there’s a raffle. The show is held on a Saturday morning at the Grandview. The auxiliary also runs a second-hand clothing store on Raymond Avenue; a gift shop in the hospital; and a coffee stand in a corner of the lobby. In addition, it does hallway sales of scarves, coats, and other vendor items.

Kangas, serving her second term as president, said that the board has nearly doubled its members since she came onboard, but getting volunteers remains the biggest challenge. Said the auxiliary president and hotel manager, “My time is so limited, yet I’m able to give to my community and hospital.”

Northern Dutchess Hospital

In 2009, the Northern Dutchess Hospital Foundation raised just shy of $800,000, exceeding its budget by almost $75,000, said executive director Deborah Breen. That doesn’t take into account another $500,000 in pledge payments for a capital campaign. “Maybe the trend is slightly down, but we’re not losing as much ground as we had anticipated,” she said.

People who made pledges for the capital campaign in 2006 and 2007 are still paying them off. Fortunately, “as pledges get paid down, many donors come back to support us annually.”

While many donors wrote smaller checks in 2009, Breen said she had found that as a result of multiple appeals they wrote more of them, ultimately donating more. “The frequency of giving in past years averaged 1.2 to 1.3 gifts per donor per year,” she said. “We’ve raised that to 1.8 in 2009. People are a little hesitant to write a check for $1000, but they’ll write a few checks for $450. We’ve had to change our thinking on how to solicit funds through the community.”

A few donors still contributed “six figures” to the hospital’s $11-million capital campaign, which is about 95 percent subscribed, said Breen. The money paid for construction of the Paul Rosenthal Pavilion, which added 53,000 square feet of new construction space and 50,000 square feet of renovated space, housing the new ER, a rebuilt physical rehab unit, a rebuilt sleep studies lab, and a reconfigured and expanded outpatient area. The project also encompassed enhanced surgical services, with a new operating room and relocated orthopedic practice.

In the future, the foundation expects to donate money for renovation of the medical surgical unit, housed in the original 1929 building. In general, the foundation “is looking to build up a war chest if the hospital is willing to move forward for a project of that size and scale.” A capital campaign would benefit from that support.

The $800,000 raised in 2009 supported an array of smaller projects, including replacement of smart pumps (used in the ICU and post-anesthesia units) with newer high-tech ones; and a hands-free voice communication system for nurses, doctors and volunteers. The money also helped support a new $1.1-million operating suite.

In 2010, the foundation will raise another $800,000. A $250,000 grant from the Dyson Foundation will help support renovation of the birth center and upgrades at the breast-cancer center. (The stereotactic biopsy capability will be digitally computer-guided, and a prone table, enabling physicians to better position patients, will be purchased.) The foundation and auxiliary also will support an ICU bed replacement project.

One challenge is that “many times donors give gifts restricted to certain functions, whereas we support larger projects,” said Breen. The war chest helps give the foundation the freedom to support those projects that are of the most need.

A starlight ball in June netted the foundation about $100,000 year and had 400 attendees. The annual golf tournament raises from $30,000 to $40,000. The annual Taste of Rhinebeck, held in April, raises only $17,000, but “builds bridges to the community, involving many businesses,” according to Breen. A triathlon and family ski day at Windham round out the events.

The annual appeal is the foundation’s cornerstone. Mailings a few times a year sometimes featuring a grateful patient’s story. The foundation also shares a grantswriter with the Vassar Brothers foundation — expertise that’s needed given that “even government grants are much more time-intensive and more competitive, tougher to get.”

Three-quarters of the funds raised by the Northern Dutchess Hospital Auxiliary come from the thrift shop, according to member and past president Trudy Koser (the new president is Louis Chenkus). The gift shop at the hospital also contributes. The auxiliary has three units, each of which hosts its own events. The Rhinebeck-Rhinecliff unit just hosted a card party and luncheon at a restaurant, with an admission fee and prizes. Other events are a Chinese New Year’s party at China Rose and a luncheon and fashion show at the Rhinecliff Hotel. The Red Hook unit just held its annual barbecue. It also has yard sales, bake sales, and a Christmas cookie sale. The Hyde Park unit is similar in its activities. In the last few years, the auxiliary’s contributions topped $100,000 a year. It also raised its $500,000 pledge, and auxiliary money has supported a new MRI suite, a bone-density-measuring machine, a new stereotactic table for breast-cancer operations, and new beds for the ICU unit.

Saint Francis Health Centers

Since 2007, the foundation has raised almost $10 million, averaging $2.5 million a year, said president Robert Lane. This year’s goal is $2.6 million. Money is raised through events, state and federal grant applications, annual fund appeals, and “the very targeted relationship we have with local area foundations” such as the James J. McCann Foundation, which gives between $125,000 and $150,000 a year, according to Lane. The Dyson Foundation, which also contributes funds, awarded $3 million to the Panichi Family Center for pre-school program and a preventive alcohol and drug abuse program offered in the schools and at local treatment facilities. The hospital happens to be “the largest provider for services for pre-kindergarten kids with speech and hearing problems,” said Lane. It also provides hearing aids for all ages, and the funding help provide money for its audiology booth.

The foundation raised almost $6.5 million for the ER and trauma center, which opened a couple of years ago. Right now it’s raising funds for the new cancer center, as well as new x-ray equipment and other machinery for the ER.

A major donors program targets both individuals and foundations. This accounts for the largest portion of funds, with the events coming in second, accounting for $500,000 annually, Lane said. The Taste of the Hudson Valley at the Grandview this year on November 7 will feature over 90 wines provided by Viscount Wines and Liquors, paired with food contributed by 50 area restaurants. “It’s ranked one of the top seven food and wine events in the country,” said Lane proudly, noting the event attracts a thousand people.

The Franciscan Ward Gala, a black-tie event, and Cancer Center benefit dinner in the fall at the Dutchess Golf Club are the foundation’s two other annual events. Lane said last year was “rough,” but nonetheless the foundation accumulated a $500,000 surplus. “This year is looking better,” he said.

“We pay a lot of attention to relationships with potential donors,” he said. “We never forget the importance of following up on how to thank them. One of the most important things we can receive is an unrestricted gift.”

Angie Smith, treasurer of the Saint Francis Hospital Auxiliary — the two presidents are Judy Mazzetti and Tina Cianculli — said the auxiliary made a pledge of $45,000 in 2009, a $5000 reduction from the previous year because the Nifty Thrift Shop in Fishkill, run by Cianculli, was closed for a couple of months for renovation. This year the auxiliary is pledging $50,000. Smith said the organization, with between 150 and 200 volunteers, is constantly recruiting new members. Dues are $15 a year.

The Memorial Day weekend flower and plant sale; a card and game party held in October; two bake sales, and a percentage of the proceeds from vendor sales in the hospital also raise money. The 22 Club, started in January, is like an on-going raffle, with a drawing every week, culminating in three big prizes. The auxiliary also sells discount cards.

St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital

St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital in Newburgh cares for more than 270,000 patients from around the Hudson Valley each year, according to hospital figures. With 1500 employees, the hospital is one of the largest employers in Orange County. Its foundation and its auxiliary, which is an arm of the foundation, both do fundraising.  The two organizations raise money though capital campaigns, leadership gifts, an annual fund, an employee giving program, the Architects for Progress program, an annual gala and a golf tournament, said hospital spokesperson Jane Livingston. The foundation gives between $1.5 million and $3 million to the hospital each year, depending on the capital project needs, she noted.

Recent major gifts to the hospital include a million dollars from the Littman family for the Littman Cancer Center, $19.4 million in federal “Heal” grants, and $25,000 raised from Lap4Life.

Columbia Memorial Hospital

Columbia Memorial Hospital in Hudson, which serves an estimated 100,000 residents each year in Columbia, Greene and Dutchess counties, has a foundation and auxiliary, both of which do fundraising. The foundation puts on key events each year like the hospital ball in June, which nets about $325,000 annually, according to hospital CEO Jane Ehrlich. A dinner-dance in winter to benefit the Columbia Memorial’s nursing home, Kaaterskill Care, in Greene County nets some $35,000 to $40,000 each year, she said. The foundation holds a golf tournament in August, a tennis tournament in September, a yearly mail appeal and an employee deduction program.

Columbia Memorial’s auxiliary has several local branches, each with its own fundraisers like raffles and special sales, according to Ehrlich. Its Warren Street thrift shop in Hudson, Second Chance, is well-known to thrift-shop aficionados. The shop nets some $20,000 to $25,000 each year, and the auxiliary brings in an additional $20,000 to $25,000 each year through the shop in other ways, said Ehrlich. “That thrift shop has been responsible for a net profit of a million dollars over a ten-year period,” she said. “It all went back to the community through gifts to the hospital and to Operation Unite, which benefits inner-city children.”

Foundation and auxiliary fundraising is used to purchase new technology or renovate or build new space, said Ehrlich. None goes into operating expenses. With an annual budget of about $130 million, the hospital was profitable in 2009. She noted, “We are keeping our fingers crossed that we will break even or be close to breaking even in 2010.” A recent noteworthy gift to the hospital was an $80,000 gift from the Hudson River Bank and Trust Foundation for expansion of the hospital’s rehabilitation center.++

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