Power of Philanthropy

A Culture of Philanthropy Has a Power of Its Own

We talk of the importance of building a culture of philanthropy, but what does that mean for your mission? The following example may help to bring this phrase to life:

During a long career of fundraising in the healthcare sector, I sought to continually educate everyone in the organization on creating a culture of philanthropy and convey how important each person was in creating a culture of philanthropy.  Reaching over 2,000 nurses with this important message was a tall order!

Everyone seemed to listen and show interest, but one nurse rose to the occasion in an extraordinary way.

In the intensive care unit where she was working, there was an elderly women accompanied by her husband.  During the course of treatment, the nurse had a cardiac chair brought in for the woman to use, but as her recovery progressed, the nurse moved the chair so other patients could use it.

At one point, the husband asked, “Don’t you have enough of these chairs?” The nurse was honest, “No, unfortunately, we don’t.” The nurse detected a tone in the man’s voice and saw something in his eye that she felt was a clue. He seemed genuinely interested. Thankfully, she didn’t ignore this potential opportunity. Instead, she recognized her role and gave me a call. I dropped by to meet the gentleman and see if he had any other questions I could answer.

We hit it off at once. I related to him that we were building a new unit and cardiac chairs were going to be an important feature.  Over time, as the relationship developed, the man gave us a very nice gift of cardiac chairs. In fact, he referred to himself as “The Chair Man.”

Every few months he would come to our office with a box of chocolate covered almonds and a five-figure check.  This generosity would be repeated many times and, by the time of his passing, his gifts totaled over $350,000—all for cardiac chairs.

These gifts only happened because a perceptive nurse understood the importance of creating a culture of philanthropy, and recognized her role in the process. When a culture of philanthropy is created, and everyone plays their part: That’s the power of philanthropy!

Louis Gehring, MM, CFRE
Louis Gehring

Executive Vice President

Houston, Tex.


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