Raising philanthropic funding is often vital to nonprofit palliative care providers.
But to attract donors, operators must be prepared to communicate their value proposition, according to Steve Cone, chief communications officer at Capital Caring Health.
“It’s key to point out that palliative care is better for everybody, the patient, the family and payers,” Cone told Hospice News. “When we provide palliative care in the home especially, patients don’t necessarily need to be rushed to the hospital when they’re too medically fragile to move. It’s cheaper to provide palliative care than a hospitalization. It’s important to tell people that our palliative care program is comprehensive and includes more than medical care, but also behavioral health and things like food, diet, home safety and medication management. And also that it’s a service available to those that have no insurance.”
Capital Caring offers palliative services through its Primary Care at Home program. Most of these services are reimbursed by private insurance coverage or through Medicare or Medicaid payment avenues, Cone stated.
Even though uninsured or under-insured patients represent roughly 5% to 10% of Capital Caring’s palliative populations, their care can represent millions of dollars in annual costs.
“For uninsured palliative care folks, we spend somewhere between $2 million and $3 million each year,” Cone said. “Thanks to philanthropy, those expenses get covered.”
Capital Caring Health’s fundraising efforts have brought in roughly $6 million to $8 million during the past couple of years, Cone stated.
The vast majority of these funds have been unrestricted donations from businesses and individuals within their service regions, meaning that the organization can allocate these resources not only to supporting uninsured patients, but also to growing their palliative care programs, he said.
Consequently, local outreach is key, including to people in the community who have had positive experiences with their program, Cone added. Keeping track of quality outcome survey data can be part of knowing where to direct these types of donor solicitations, he said.
Developing partnerships with other health care organizations can also bolster fundraising programs, according to Heidi Saravia, executive director of major gifts at the Hoag Hospital Foundation. The health system has forged partnerships with its hospital physicians to help fuel its philanthropic efforts.
The foundation pays for some of the California-based hospital systems’ services, including palliative care.
“Our main avenue of palliative care funding support comes through partnering with our palliative care physicians,” Saravia told Hospice News. “Our physician partners are key in helping us find donor organizations interested in growing our palliative care programs.”
Donations also support a palliative physician recruitment efforts fund, a caregiver support program, research and quality improvement projects, and health care community education for clinicians at the Hoag Medical Group — including a palliative fellowship program.
The ability to support a growing workforce with these recruitment efforts and educational opportunities is perhaps the most significant to fund, Saravia said.
“We need all the resources we can muster in philanthropy to support interdisciplinary palliative positions like nurse practitioners and physicians,” Saravia said. “Philanthropy is vital to support our expanding palliative program to fund positions like nurse practitioners, more physicians, education and training. Our private support continues to be essential to continue to grow and expand our program, and we are grateful to the families who support our program.”
Another strategy is to seek out local and state government dollars, according to Chris Rollins, chief development officer of New Jersey-based Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice.
Fundraising helps sustain Samaritan’s palliative care program, including state and local grants, Rollins said.
Some state grants can cover a substantial range of palliative care services, particularly those aimed at expanding access to underserved populations, he stated.
“We have successfully earned the investment of the State of New Jersey, which included a $1.5 million grant-in-aid within the New Jersey Department of Health budget for Samaritan’s ‘Expanded Access to Palliative Care’ program,” Rollins told Hospice News in an email. “Samaritan utilized this appropriation to increase access to essential palliative care services and support for people in the south Jersey region.”
Collaborating with other palliative care providers can also be an effective strategy, according to Rollins. Samaritan is part of the National Partnership for Healthcare and Hospice Innovation (NPHI), which allows the organization to share best fundraising practices and learn lessons from other providers in the space, he stated.
The collaborative approach has brought funding solutions during the face of “grave challenges” in the palliative care field, he said. These challenges have come in the form of an “increasingly-difficult philanthropic landscape, a growing need for our services and fierce competition from private equity and for-profit providers,” Rollins said.