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How You Can Help

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The Gift of Better Health

Three ways to help your hospital help others

In 1751, Benjamin Franklin went door to door in Philadelphia collecting donations for a public hospital and brokered a deal with the legislature to match these funds—a savvy precursor to today's "matching fund drives." As a result, the nation's first public hospital was born. More than 250 years later, Franklin's model is as important today as it was then. Although big grants may grab headlines, it takes individual gifts to keep hospitals strong. Here's how you can help.

1. Give Funds

At first glance, a $100 gift to your hospital's capital campaign or foundation may not seem like much. "But if someone is giving $100, and you've got 1,000 people doing that, all of a sudden you've got a lot of money," says Bill McGinly, PhD, president and CEO of the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP). And that may be the difference between standard care and exceptional care. For example, "individual gifts may make a difference to oncology patients because there are more nurses on that floor," McGinly says. "Funds might be devoted to a piece of equipment that's going to change lives."

2. Give Time

It's a valued commodity. Whether you assist at the front desk, help in the gift shop or even serve on your hospital's board of directors, volunteers are vital to healthy hospitals. Plus, volunteers simply add a personal touch. "A kind volunteer at a reception desk can make a huge difference to a patient who is wondering, do you know who I am and do you care about me?" says Laura Rehrmann, AHP board chairwoman.

3. Give Goods

Explore your hospital's need for goods or services. The pediatric floor might need teddy bears or children's books. Or perhaps the waiting room would benefit from a colorful mural. Could your old hearing aid be retrofitted to help a low-income patient hear? Could a selection of wigs offer confidence to women undergoing chemotherapy? "These kinds of gifts are great and can really make a difference," Rehrmann says. In the end, whether you have time, money or goods to give, your hospital will be stronger for it. And one day you or your family members might be glad.

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Last Updated 04/10/2009