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U.S. health care giving drops 11 percent

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | September 27, 2010
The recession might technically have lifted in June 2009, but new figures on U.S. health care donations show charitable giving to nonprofit health centers plunged almost 11 percent last year, according to a report released Monday morning.

The Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, which tracks giving to nonprofit health facilities in the United States and Canada, found that donations dropped $944 million in the United States last year from 2008 levels. In fiscal 2009, nonprofit hospitals and clinics received $7.64 billion in gifts, down from $8.59 billion in 2008.

"Whether the recession ended in 2009 is for economists to debate, but its ripple effect certainly continued to curtail the ability of donors to give," the group's president and CEO William C. McGinly said in prepared remarks. "It means fundraisers will have to work harder and smarter."

The biggest declines were seen in cash donations, the group said. They were down $818 million from 2008. Secured pledges also took a hit, declining $97 million.

The dollar-gained to dollar-spent fundraising ratio also dropped about 9 percent. It was $3.51 in 2008 but $3.19 last year.

"This downward trend is a very serious problem in the U.S.," Gregory Pope,
chair of the association's board and vice president of philanthropy for Saint Thomas Health Services Foundation in Nashville, Tenn., said in prepared remarks. "It comes just as some in Congress want to make it difficult for taxpayers to earn deductions for their donations and as health care reform puts new pressure on nonprofit hospitals to serve more patients."

Distribution of funds remained the same, though. Around 27 percent of the money donated to U.S. nonprofit facilities went to construction and renovation, and about one-fifth went to purchasing new equipment. Most donors, four out of five, were individual ones, usually patients, employees or doctors with a connection to the facility.

While U.S. giving declined, the situation was a little better with its northern North American neighbor. In Canada, fiscal year 2009 donations rose $56 million to reach $1.12 billion, up from around $1.07 billion the previous year. However, the 5.2 percent gain in giving was offset by a 13 percent drop from 2008. The Association for Healthcare Philanthropy said Canadian giving is back to 2006 levels, but still $200 million short of funds raised in 2007.