Ask the Experts: Healthcare Philanthropy in a Global Pandemic

Ask the Experts: Healthcare Philanthropy in a Global Pandemic

As COVID-19 sweeps the nation and the world, we are facing a global pandemic unlike any in living memory.  Every person in our country and every industry is in some way affected by this unprecedented emergency  In this climate, healthcare philanthropy professionals face unique fundraising challenges. To assist our members, we went to three respected NEAHP leaders and asked them for their recommendations on fundraising during the coronavirus crisis.


Jessica Symonds
NEAHP President and Senior Director, South Shore Hospital Foundation

From the very beginning…when this was just unfolding, we knew that communication would be key. We immediately developed a plan to communicate with all Foundation Board Members and donors. People are feeling scared and uncertain, so we want to reassure our donors and share how we are responding.  Some things we have done, and some we continue to do include:

  • Providing opportunities to our Board Members and Donors to hear directly from our Chief of Infectious Disease via a conference call.  We then sent follow up communication to all – those who joined us and those who couldn’t participate. 

  • Standardizing an e-mail for all my philanthropy officers to send to those in their portfolio. They can be individualized but have all the same basic information for consistency of messaging.

  • Sending mass e-mails to our donors, explaining our response and asking for support. 

  • Offering communications from “the front lines” to our donors so that they can hear from caregivers who are fighting valiantly to treat those with COVID-19.


Robin Popp
Past NEAHP President and 
Senior Executive Counsel, Ghiorsi & Sorrenti, Inc.

It's times like this that remind us that our calling in healthcare philanthropy is of greatest significance to humankind.  There is no doubt that all eyes are on healthcare right now.

As philanthropy professionals, some of us have been through the financial crises of '87 and '08 as well as the unthinkable tragedy of 9/11.  To me, there were lessons from those times that carry over to today.  Those lessons include: 

  • In a crisis, it is more important than ever to keep in regular touch with your donors and volunteers.  Check to see how they are doing and be a resource for them as we all try to navigate this health emergency.
  • If you are in midst of a campaign, there will be some donors and volunteers who will still wish to continue gift discussions, as well as some who may be re-assessing their commitments.  Nimbleness is important right now. 
  • Lean on other healthcare philanthropy professionals for ideas and support during these trying times – including your NEAHP network of caring colleagues and friends.
  • Above all, even on the most difficult days, remember that "this too shall pass.”


Martin Richman
Past NEAHP President and 
Senior Director of Philanthropy, UMass Memorial Healthcare

In recognition of the enormity and far-reaching implications of the COVID-19 crisis, we have created a special fund to support our COVID-19 efforts.  We are working with donors and the greater community to provide pertinent, relevant health information.  Some other specific ways we are responding include:

  • Highlighting our new COVID-19 fund on our online donation pages and website.
  • Sending letters to companies to advise on healthy work environments, requesting needed supplies and N-95 masks, and informing them of the funding opportunities.
  • Identifying special needs related to child life, isolation/work from home issues to make the case for support beyond basic clinical care. 
  • Sending a letter out from the CEO with a combined “thank you for your support, we are working hard on this, and stay healthy” message.
  • Making calls to key donors – they love the access to infection control and potential “concierge” access if needed!
  • Holding a virtual Town Hall with the CEO for both an update and thank you message, and opportunity to answer live questions.


In the coming months, NEAHP members are welcome and encouraged to share how
their organizations are responding to this crisis by emailing us at [email protected].


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