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The sustainable nonprofit: From transitional to transformative fundraising

May 25, 2022

Man_and_woman_masks_handshake_GettyImages_VioletaStoimenovaWhile today’s modern healthcare organizations can be vastly different in size, specialties, and patient populations, they likely share similar beginnings rooted in transactional philanthropy. Under this model, hospitals rely on donors to provide the initial capital required to construct buildings and infrastructure. Later, donors are tapped to fund everything from lobby furniture and parking lots to the latest medical technology. Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego, for example, relied on money raised by the Kiwanis and women’s auxiliary in 1952 to construct a polio hospital, and then, as the campus grew, sought support from donors to build new patient care structures.

While there are positives to this fundraising approach, it is ultimately a shallow way to connect people to an organization.

Yes, you can raise a lot of money this way. Many small gifts made by donors, often using their current assets or payroll deductions, can collectively add up to significant sums. Some donors of limited means prefer making transactional gifts, and that’s okay; we’re happy to provide them with an avenue to contribute $25 a month. These are important gifts that can help sustain an organization. But they can also short-circuit future engagement.

Ultimately, philanthropy is about generous and thoughtful individuals who want to support people and organizations doing great things. When we take impact into consideration, a one-time transactional gift is simply short-sighted. The potential of visionary donors can only be fully realized through long-term and deep relationships....

Read the full commentary by Stephen Jennings, senior vice president and chief external affairs officer of Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and executive director of Rady Children’s Hospital Foundation.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Violeta Stoimenova)

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