Hospices Hurting from Diminished Fundraising, Philanthropy

Hospices often rely on philanthropic donations and fundraisers to support their programs, but many are taking a financial hit from fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite federal funding relief efforts, strained donors, increased costs and cancelled fundraising events are impacting hospice bottom lines. 

Providers are working to address these issues by adapting their methods and outreach efforts. Many are revising their traditional fundraising strategies amid climbing unemployment rates and other economic stressors.

“With the economic downturn that appears to be happening, one of the things we are concerned about is how we are going to raise funds in this tenuous time,” said Cynthia Emiry Roy, president and CEO of Connecticut-based Regional Hospice. “It’s very hard to ask somebody to donate to something when they aren’t able to cover their bills.”

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With increased need for protective and screening equipment, hospices around the country are struggling to balance their budgets while working to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Supply costs have surged since the outbreak sparked, as have costs associated with telehealth programs and paid leave for exposed staff, among a barrage of other expenses.

“There is a financial impact with the loss of donations,” said Michaela Vandersee, executive director of Iowa-based Cedar Valley Hospice. “We have cancelled four of our spring and early summer fundraisers in the communities that we serve. I think this will have a large impact as the year progresses.”

Event sponsors are in turn also feeling the financial impact with loss of advertising revenue, possibly diminishing their ability to support future fundraising efforts. Hospices are increasingly in need of ramped up communication and collaboration with sponsors. This increased direct contact could potentially be beneficial and lead to deeper connections and strengthened relationships with sponsors.

The downfall of cancelled events means less exposure within communities, weakening efforts to raise awareness of hospice care and engage in building vital relationships. .

“There is also the lost opportunity to educate our communities about the services we provide,” Vandersee told Hospice News. “Our communities are hurting both economically and emotionally. We feel the best thing we can do right now is to be a steady constant force in providing end-of-life care, palliative care and grief services. In addition, we have the responsibility to be a good steward to our community as a whole, and we can best do that by supporting the efforts of community organizations who will not be able to provide their critical and essential services if they aren’t able to raise extra funds during this time.”

In the absence of direct contact with philanthropic donors, hospices are leveraging technology to seek funding to help offset the financial toll. When their annual fundraiser was postponed due to sheltering in place, Hospice and Palliative Care of Western Kentucky created an online event website as an alternative. The site featured an online silent auction and social media photo postings to encourage participation in a Kentucky Derby-related fundraiser.

Donations from individuals remain a steady constant as communities continue to pour out generosity in often small but meaningful ways. Philanthropic donors are doing what they can to continue supporting  hospice care.

“My hope is that even the $10 donations or $25 donations all can make a difference,” said Roy. “We keep a mindset of appreciation and try to tell people, do what you can to give and provide help. I think especially now, with all that is going on the world, knowing that we in hospice and palliative care are making a difference in somebody’s lives is invaluable.”

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