The pre-Covid-19 reality
For years, hospitals and health systems have been raising larger amounts of philanthropy in support of capital and programmatic investments. Private donations have played an indisputably valuable role in cushioning hospitals against poor margin performance and supporting the launch of new initiatives.
But, hospitals have been earning a decreasing share of philanthropy relative to the broader nonprofit health sector. For context, charitable giving to all health-related nonprofits in the U.S. grew by 23% between 2014 and 2018. Over the same period, giving to hospitals and health systems grew by only 12%.
There are many potential causes, such as frustration around rising individual health care costs, perceived corporatization of local hospitals, and media scrutiny around surprise billing. But all we can prove with the data is that hospitals have been struggling to attract health-focused donors.
The question now is whether this trend will reverse in light of health systems’ critical role on the front lines of the Covid-19 crisis and their significant need for financial assistance.