Live From AHP: Young Professionals Produce For Hospital

Engaging the nosy neighbor and the fact that people between ages 32 and 49 need to be social and connected has propelled a hospital foundation that targeted nothing but estate planning into potential million-dollar gifts.

Brett Beck and Renae Waestman-Furlow told attendees at the Association For Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP) international conference that their Long Beach, Calif., hospital system had completely disengaged from the next generation of donors. Beck works for the Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital Long Beach Foundation, Memorial Medical Center Foundation. Waestman-Furlow works for the Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Center at Miller Children’s Hospital.

It was clear from their constituency, they said, that roughly 80 percent of those 32 to 49 didn’t have time to sit on boards, needed an immediate tangible impact of any giving or event, and since they had gained their own wealth needed the charity to be flexible. These donors want answers 24/7 and fundraisers can’t wait until the next morning to respond.

The foundation had targeted older donors for planned gifts, capital giving, major gifts and annual giving. There was no plan for the next generation of donors, they said. This is also a group with no real experience in giving, they said. They have joined the local country club or yacht club and might feel a little guilty. They also want something social that includes friends, spouses, business partners and family members.

The fundraising staff found three people who fit this description and started a Young Professionals Association. They were recruited and launched three small events, two mixers in one of their homes and a family outing at a local soccer stadium. All of the costs were paid for by the “hosts,” who then invited friends to the events. Someone from the hospital was at the events and pitched a project that required funding.

It turned into somewhat of a competition, the speakers said, with the trio picking people out of the room and getting them to write checks. In one case, an engineer was told of a problem with carts used for therapy. He re-engineered the cart, made more of them and donated them to the hospital. The carts are so good a patent is being sought for them and all of the proceeds will go to the foundation.

Donations have gone from less than $50,000 in 2010 to more than $150,000 this year and a projection of more than $350,000 for next year. Beck and Waestman-Furlow have also planted the seeds with at least two donors from the Young Professional Association who have the capacity for million-dollar gifts.

There is a slight downside for the fundraisers – the high touch factor. Members of the Young Professionals Association call asking for medical referrals and access to concierge services. It is common for someone in the group to call asking for medical help for a friend or relative.

The lessons learned include:

  • Having the “host” feel a sense of ownership of the event;
  • Vary the locations, home events and private clubs. Neighbors always want to see the insides of others’ homes;
  • You don’t actually have to be young to be part of the group. This group includes someone who is 90.

The concept is so successful, they said, that three local charities have started similar organizations but call them something else.