Why Silicon Valley Is Hot to Fund Stanford's New Hospital

For many large universities and hospitals, getting big-money investors is a struggle. Hitting the right formula of modernity, intrigue, infrastructure, and authority seems mysterious and vague; grant proposals are solicited, but no funding comes pouring in. Stanford University Hospital, however, seems to have hit upon the perfect combination of lures to get big donors interested. We could all learn a little something from the way the hospital has played up its strengths — and needs — to a definite advantage.

The Bay Area-based hospital, part of Stanford University Medical Center, kicked off 2012 with a $1 billion fundraising campaign, and then surpassed the halfway point by May. Its secret? The hospital quickly organized something called the Stanford Hospital Corporate Partners Initiative, actively recruiting a passel of Silicon Valley donors to be the keystone in its campaign.

Who signed on? Just the biggest names around: Apple, eBay, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Intuit, Oracle, and NVIDIA. Each pledged $175,000. Approaching would-be investors en masse allowed Stanford to play off the companies' own desire to be better than their competitor. I mean, everyone wants to out-earn the competition, but in the cutthroat world of Silicon Valley philanthropy, they all want to out-give each other, too. Stanford played up these desires and banked a bundle.

But it wasn't just Stanford's brilliant fundraising strategy that landed it the big bucks. Many of the hospital's advantages are deeply woven into its infrastructure — the kind of reputation that takes years, if not decades, to accrue. Bad news for onlookers. But still, there are lessons to be learned from Stanford's pure organizational merit and efficiency. Mainly, it has managed over the course of its existence to establish itself as the kind of place where the big breakthroughs happen. And big philanthropists like Larry Ellison, they want to be part of those breakthroughs. Stanford has managed to patent the perfect blend of toe-the-line innovation and consistent managerial strategies, and that sort of perfection doesn't go unnoticed.

On top of that, Stanford has provided consistently excellent care despite its aging campus — an accomplishment that isn't forgotten, because where do you think these Silicon Valley guys go when they need to have a kidney stone removed? The philanthropists aren't slouches. They can put two and two together — excellent care, big breakthroughs, aging campus. An apparent need for lots and lots of money. And presto, Stanford emerges as the winner. It broke ground on the new hospital facility in May 2013.