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Donations by philanthropists, businesses loom large in changed landscape

Belcher, John and Cathy_4c

John and Cathy Belcher have pledged $1 million to the Anne Arundel Medical Center Foundation.

Health care funding has gone through major changes in the past few years, from the Affordable Care Act to the Medicare Maryland Waiver. As a result, leaders in the Maryland medical industry believe philanthropy is becoming more important for hospitals to continue to meet the needs of the community and provide the best care possible.
While any monetary donation is important, large financial gifts from philanthropists and businesses can lead to new programs, services, research studies, educational opportunities and facilities.
“Many of the donors that we work with who make a larger gift often do it through their will and estates,” said Jan Wood, Anne Arundel Medical Center Foundation president and chief development officer. “They find it is a very special and meaningful way for them to leave a legacy, to leave their imprint to say, ‘I was here, and I made a difference.’ By doing it through health care, you really impact a lot of lives. I think that is a motivation on a lot of large gifts. It’s that ability to say, ‘I want to leave a legacy, and I want to leave the planet a better place than I found it.’”
Last summer, Edgewater-based philanthropists John and Cathy Belcher pledged $1 million to AAMC to be given over a period of 10 years starting in 2016. Upon their passing, their estate will bequeath the remainder of their donation, $9 million, to the facility. “They are providing funding now for programs and care today, but they are also helping to ensure the future of health care in this community with this gift,” Wood said.
This type of gift over time, Wood said, is becoming more common with large estate gifts.
The couple is very involved with the organization, with John Belcher serving on the governing board of the hospital. While they put no stipulation as to how their donation is to be used, they did want part of the gift to support education for staff and physicians to ensure continued quality care. In gratitude for their donation, AAMC renamed its Health Sciences Pavilion in the couple’s honor. The AAMC Foundation will also be establishing the John and Cathy Belcher Society to honor those who donate $100,000 or more.
Many who decide to donate have personal experience with the medical facility. Some are specific in their wishes for the gift, such as wanting a certain program to benefit, while others seek to fund where the greatest need has arisen.
“The ethics of philanthropy [say,] ‘Always follow donor intent,’ so whatever it is the donor chooses, that is where the money goes,” Wood said. “We track it here at AAMC very, very carefully to ensure that every dollar, every dime follows donor intent.”
Boi Carpenter, executive director of development for The Fund for Johns Hopkins Medicine, said large donations are important because they help to advance the organization’s mission.
“A lot of the larger gifts that we have received lately have helped with patient-centered care, so I think what large gifts do is they really provide the foundation to be able to build programs where, for example, patients can have all of the services they need in one place, have all the professionals they need in one place to take care of their health care needs and really have more of a patient-centered approach to [serve] the patient,” Carpenter said.
Last month, the Viragh Foundation gave $65 million to Johns Hopkins to aid in the construction of a patient care building at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. The new building, set for completion in 2017, will be named for the foundation’s founder, Albert P. “Skip” Viragh Jr., a mutual fund adviser who died of pancreatic cancer 11 years ago.
The cancer center received an additional donation in May from Under Armour Inc. to create a breast cancer and breast health support program. At $10 million, the gift is the largest made by the Baltimore-based company.
Financier and energy entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens pledged $20 million last year to Johns Hopkins’ Wilmer Eye Institute to support a scholars program to aid researchers with new research theories.
“Those are generally the areas that don’t receive a lot of funding initially because they are new, innovative ideas,” Carpenter said. “Gifts like this are very instrumental in supporting those types of ideas and innovative research projects because they have a chance to take foot and really see where that can go.”
The uses of large gifts are all based on what the donor’s goals are and what they want to do, said Aaron Piccirilli, vice president of philanthropy at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center. The gifts help MedStar to get the latest technology, purchase equipment that is standard for the type of care and build facilities.
Baltimore Orioles owner and attorney Peter Angelos gave $2.5 million in November to MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center to open a center for lung disease. Construction is underway and set to be completed later this year.
“He’s one of the most generous and kind individuals that I have ever met,” Piccirilli said. “He has a passion to help those who are suffering with lung diseases.”
Angelos’ donation was the largest in Franklin Square’s history.
In today’s health care and economic environment, “philanthropic donations are more important now than ever. Especially in terms of making sure we can continue to advance health care, move programs forward and expand facilities and services,” he said.