How philanthropy makes a difference in health care Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2010

America’s hospitals face seemingly insurmountable odds. In this environment of increasing regulations, unfunded mandates, demand for services and rising costs that outpace smaller increases in reimbursement, philanthropy is becoming more and more critical.

To learn about hospital philanthropy, Smart Business spoke to Cecilia Belew, president, Saddleback Memorial Foundation in Laguna Hills and San Clemente, and Paul Stimson, director, Orange Coast Memorial Foundation in Fountain Valley.

How important is philanthropy to hospitals?

These are your community hospitals, and your philanthropy makes a difference. Even in these challenging times with less discretionary income, we are witnessing a larger number of donors committing their support to becoming engaged to ensure their communities have access to the best health care available close to home.

Philanthropic donors and organizations are vital partners in planning for and achieving success at Orange Coast Memorial and Saddleback Memorial Medical Centers. This is especially true at a time when many hospitals report an inability to access the newest technology and expand programs to meet the needs of the community. Thanks to countless philanthropic friends, our hospitals are able to add the programs, services and facilities necessary to keep pace with the latest medical advances.

How does philanthropy support hospitals?

Every gift has a story. These stories all begin with a philanthropic friend, continue through the work of our health care team and then impact the lives of our patients and our communities. Every week premature babies are saved, elderly patients comforted, illnesses diagnosed, bones mended and lives saved — thanks to the generous philanthropy of individuals, corporations and private foundations in our caring communities.

Philanthropy elevates a life of success to a life of significance. We see people making that choice every day: children raising $12 for cancer research through a lemonade stand, adults funding charitable trusts and annuities and making outright major gifts, board members providing expert leadership, hundreds of volunteers and organizations sponsoring fund-raising events — all appreciate the value of having high-quality patient care and want others to receive the same today and in the future. Our foundations have funded patient programs, education, expansion projects and medical equipment with philanthropic funds entrusted to us by our donors and grantors. In addition, many individuals choose to fund endowments that provide sustainability to critical patient programs. The gifts, grants and bequests given to our medical centers help distinguish our hospitals as among the best in the region.

At Saddleback Memorial, recent gifts funded a medical geneticist for our Breast Cancer Genetics Program and a new Women’s Wellness and Prevention Clinic. At Orange Coast Memorial, donations supported the new Hybrid Cardiovascular Interventional Suite as well as staff development and training with the Interactive Patient Simulator technology.

What is the history of philanthropy at your hospitals?

Our decades of offering compassionate, quality care are based on generosity and expertise of extraordinary people.

Saddleback Memorial began when the residents of Leisure World, envisioning a world-class hospital in South Orange County, raised $500,000; and developer Ross Cortese donated nine acres. It opened in 1974 and was the first community health facility serving the growing Saddleback Valley. Philanthropy helped build Meiklejohn Critical Care Pavilion with a gift from the late philanthropists Louise and Bill Meiklejohn, the largest in Saddleback Memorial Foundation history. A current $50 million plan further expands facility needs and technological capabilities. The gifts to Saddleback Memorial-San Clemente helped support heart programs and technology. Orange Coast Memorial Foundation supported development of the new six-story Patient Care Pavilion that provides access to some of the most respected physicians, advanced diagnostic and treatment facilities for cancer, surgery, obesity and imaging services at Orange Coast Memorial, the only not-for-profit hospital in the region.

MemorialCare Health System also does its share to help our communities. In fiscal year 2009, our medical centers provided $158 million in charity care and community benefits. We support local charities like March of Dimes, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Habitat for Humanity and the American Heart Association.

How can employers help?

Philanthropy is an effective tool for companies trying to meet consumers’ rising expectations for the role businesses should play in society, says a McKinsey survey. Employers and their work force can help ensure high-quality health care through many philanthropic channels — individual gifts, corporate grants, in-kind gifts, payroll deductions, major gifts, estate and planned gifts, endowments, tributes, corporate giving, fund-raising events, sponsorships and more. As businesses continue to be impacted by the economy, many are supplementing their charitable giving with longer-term pledges and gift commitments. No matter the size of a gift, we are deeply indebted to those who choose a life of significance through generous philanthropic commitments and trust their philanthropy to us.

Cecilia Belew is president, Saddleback Memorial Foundation at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills and San Clemente. Paul Stimson is director, Orange Coast Memorial Foundation at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley. The not-for-profit MemorialCare Health System includes Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach, Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley and Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills and San Clemente. For additional information on excellence in health care, please visit