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Jim Nathan
Jim Nathan

Golisano Children’s Hospital Fundraisers just since March

$314,253: FineMark Tour Players Tennis Classic (Bonita Bay)
$110,000: Making Waves boating event (St. Charles Yacht Club)
$3,300: Papa Murphy’s Pizza Grand Opening (pledged 50 percent of net proceeds)
$700,000: Boston Red Sox Events Celebrity Golf Classic and Diamond Dinner
$8,000:VIP Realty Group of Sanibel & Captiva
Source: Lee Memorial Health System

About the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida

• Opened: 1992
• Location: Lee Memorial’s HealthPark, 9981 HealthPark Circle, south Fort Myers
• Who it serves: Children up to 18
• Distinctions: The only comprehensive child health care facility between Tampa and Miami, with the only regional perinatal intensive care center in the area — one of 11 in Florida
• Services include: Neonatal and pediatric intensive care unit, pediatric oncology/hematology, child and family support and services, home health care, rehabilitation center, early intervention program, on-site Ronald McDonald House
• Info: 343-5000; online: leememorial.org/childrenhospital

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Database of donors to the fundraising campaign for the Golisano Children’s Hospital

Causes page: Neighbors helping neighbors

With millions to raise and a deadline to meet, fundraising is full-on and fevered for the Golisano Children’s Hospital.

Heightening the urgency is a challenge by Naples philanthropist Thomas Golisano, who said last May he’d match up to $20 million in donations dollar-for-dollar until May 15, 2014. Last month, he made good on $10 million of that once community contributions passed the halfway mark.

But so high-profile a capital campaign can cast a long shadow and, while other area nonprofits acknowledge the worthiness of the cause, some worry their needs may be overlooked by the giving public.

“It’s a daily topic of discussion,” says Kay Jasso, operations manager of Healthy Start Southwest Florida, which cares for pregnant women and new babies. “We all know how important this is, but we don’t want to be forgotten.”

Indeed, most Southwest Florida months feature at least a handful of events aimed at nudging the hospital ever-closer to its $105 million goal - wine auctions and golf tournaments, half marathons and boat rides – and the top-of-mind strategy is working. From kids’ nickels to philanthropists’ fat checks, more than $71 million has flowed into the capital campaign, causing some groups to hope there will be enough community largesse to go around

“It’s a struggle,” says Blanaid Coley, a board member of Friends in Service Here, a multipurpose agency that helps Sanibel and Captiva islanders. “The demands have not diminished.”

Yet they likely have nothing to fear, says Kimberly A. Woodle, director of development for WGCU Public Media, a veteran of the nonprofit and fundraising world. “A high tide lifts all boats,” Woodle says. “There’s always someone who has a big capital campaign going on, and the individuals who give almost always make sure they still support the organizations they currently support.”

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Last year, her division’s fundraising netted a little more than $2 million for the station, Woodle says, and this year, she’s confident they’ll finish between $100,000 and $300,000 ahead of that when the fiscal year ends in June.

“It (the children’s hospital’s campaign) should not affect our annual giving. We’ve doubled the numbers of major donors this year compared to years past, and we still have two months to go. In fact, we’re on track to have one of our best fund-raising years for quite some time,” she says.

Indeed, Jasso’s group has raised more than $40,000 in the first nine months of its fiscal year, more than double all of last year

“I can understand some fears from nonprofits, especially with a downturn in the economy, but we’re up 106 percent – not down,” says Healthy Start executive director Kathy Timuta.

Not new

Jim Nathan, president of Lee Memorial Health System, points out that long before Golisano’s challenge, donors and community organizations had been giving to the regional Children’s Hospital for many years.

“The Southwest Florida WineFest, Barbara’s Friends, Sanibel Captiva Cares, The Red Sox Annual Classic, the Chrissy Brown Oncology Unit, and so many more,” Nathan wrote in an email. “While Tom Golisano’s wonderful matching gift challenge sped up some contributions, the vast majority of our dollars have been raised by a small number of major donors and organizations.”

One such faithful donor is Sanibel businessman Richard Muench. Though he also gives to the United Way, he supported the Children’s Hospital long before the campaign started and will continue to do so after it ends.

“My Kiwanis club does, too: I’m proud that the club raised money for one of the rooms,” he says. “I’ve got grandchildren, so this is very important to me.”

Most corporate donors that have contributed to the campaign, like the Henderson Franklin law firm in Fort Myers, also support other nonprofits, says Gail Lamarche, the firm’s director of marketing.

“We donate to charities and groups, including the children’s hospital” she says. “But we like to spread the love around as much as we can.”

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Major capital campaigns are simply a fact of life in the nonprofit world, says the American Red Cross’ Colin Downey, and savvy groups incorporate that knowledge into their fundraising strategy.

“These things are episodic,” Downey says. “And obviously, we’re one organization in a family of organizations in this area, and I think we all understand we have to have a strong community of nonprofits. We’re happy they’re having this success.”

Like WGCU and Healthy Start, the Naples-based Conservancy of Southwest Florida also is having a better year, says Rob Moher, vice president of development and marketing.

“We’re ahead 10 percent. Last year at this time, we had $3.1 million. This year, it’s $3.3. My experience is donors give to what is important to them, and we’re definitely not feeling anything negative because of (the children’s hospital’s) capital campaign. If anything, good, ethical fundraising creates a positive for donors and inspires them to do even more.”

Nathan agrees.

“We believe that giving generates more giving - just as we have seen with our university and so many other treasured programs in our community.”

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