On Shaky Ground

by | Feb 11, 2014

What Fundraisers Need to Know to Navigate the Nuances of the Affordable Care Act

As a development pro, it’s likely that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has your development office scrambling to adjust the way you approach the “asks” with your potential donors. In this new era of healthcare under the ACA, assessing the funding needs of your organization in light of the new regulations is key to ensuring your efforts don’t slip through the fault lines.

A cloud of uncertainty

Pick up a paper in virtually every city across the country, and you’ll likely read about some new nonprofit hospital or upcoming clinic merger. In a Chronicle of Philanthropy article from September 2013, “Fundraisers Worry About Losing Donors Under New Health-Care Law,” Bill McGinley, president of the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, feels “donors aren’t sure the local institutions they are used to supporting will even be there next year. Donors are very reluctant now.”

And after a hearty growth in U.S. hospital fundraising in 2011, 2012 giving totals remained level, with 2013 following suit, according to McGinley’s estimates.

Boston-based fundraising consultant John Donovan suggests development professionals should assess the changing needs of their organizations and then tell donors how their philanthropy relates to those changes.

Consider this case from the Western Connecticut Health Network: Officials there reframed their $50-million capital campaign in anticipation that patient visits to emergency centers would increase due to ACA’s increased emergency services coverage. Two donors ended up giving $1 million each toward expanding emergency operations at the health system’s Danbury hospital, according to Grace Linhard, executive director of Western Connecticut’s development foundation.

Do we still need clinics?

Free clinics aren’t immune to donor challenges of their own—the most pressing being the notion that free clinics aren’t needed anymore now that all Americans are required to carry health insurance.

While staff at free clinics are trying to stamp out that misperception, arguing that coverage gaps will exist despite the best intentions, Peter Morris, executive director of a free clinic in North Carolina operated by the Urban Ministries of Wake County, says he tells donors about the greater function of the clinics in the community. “We are talking about the outcomes we are working towards, how healthy people are healthy parents and healthy employees who make up healthy communities and economies. We can be part of the kind of health reform people want to support,” he adds.

Stay Tuned for Part 2: Riding the Waves of Change

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