Hospital Giving Bounces Back

It’s no secret that the past six years have been hard on grantseekers. Foundation endowments got creamed, and so did the portfolios of the super rich. As the global economy tumbled, big players were forced to rein in their spending and lay low, pulling back in all areas, including healthcare.

But Big Giving bounced back in a big way in 2013, thanks in no small part to a spate of record-setting private donations. And, as you might imagine, giving to hospitals has benefited along with other areas. 

Related: What Can You Learn from the Return of Big Philanthropy in 2013?

Just how big of bump are we talking about? Last month, the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy announced that gifts to nonprofit hospitals and related institutions in the U.S. and Canada reached a historic high: $10.7 billion. Gifts to U.S. institutions alone totaled $9.2 billion, besting 2012’s numbers by a whopping $276 million. When compared to the deepest, darkest recession year of 2009, the difference widens to $1.5 billion. That’s big.

We all know the recession and its lingering effects have stuck around a lot longer than anyone expected or wanted, but we’re encouraged by these numbers. The support of big donors is critical to hospitals: It keeps them current, well-stocked with supplies and qualified staffers, and on the cutting edge of research. Plus, news of a big gift constitutes free PR for a hospital, serving to raise awareness of its programs and importance to the community it serves.

Lately, this grant space has seen a wealth of donations from smallish players who are giving to some interesting outfits. Sure, there are some gifts to perennial donation favorites, like the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (Costco gave them $10 million back in August). But Robin Froman and Steven Owen gave $2.3 million to the University of Connecticut’s School of Nursing to create an endowed chair—UConn’s first-ever. Nike founders Phil and Penny Knight gave $25 million to create three cardiac care centers in Portland, Oregon. And Dennis and Carol Troesh gave $100 million to the Loma Linda University health system to expand the healthcare services it offers and boost research, too.

These are the kinds of ambitious, unprecedented gifts that buoy a grant space and help drive it forward. And in addition to loads of small, specialized gifts, we also expect to see big, whopping gives from big players to other big players in 2015.