Generosity and Healing

Last week I had the opportunity to attend and participate in the 2016 Kaiser Philanthropy Innovation Institute in Phoenix, Arizona.  A select group of representatives from not for profit healthcare systems, hospitals and hospice’s from across the country participated in the three day event where the healing power of Generosity was the lead topic of discussion.  I’m very interested in refocusing on the impact philanthropy has to help hospices and palliative care organizations balance providing extraordinary care and innovations at the end of life with the steadily decreasing payments from the Medicare/Medicaid Hospice Benefit.


This year’s opening speaker was Sara Konrath, Director, Interdisciplinary Program for Empathy and Altruism Research at Indiana University a research lab with a primary focus on motivations, traits, and behaviors relevant to philanthropic giving, volunteering, and other pro-social behaviors. Her research is groundbreaking regarding the health benefits of giving both time and money for altruistic reasons. In her Chapter The Joy of Giving in the upcoming 2016 4th Edition of Achieving Excellence in Fundraising she states: “There are far fewer studies on the psychological effects of giving money compared to giving time, but the results in these studies are pretty consistent. Most of these studies find that giving money to others, including charities, is associated with more happiness than spending it on oneself. For example, one study asked participants to spend a small amount of money (either $5 or $20) on themselves versus another person, and then the researchers measured participants’ mood at the end of the day. People who spent their money on someone else were happier than those who spent it on themselves, regardless of the amount of money spent.”


Many studies have shown people who regularly volunteer have higher happiness, life satisfaction, and psychological well-being than those who do not volunteer. This has great implications for not for profit hospices who engage hundreds of volunteers and have thousands of generous donors.  Hospices are positively impacting the health and well being of their communities, which should be noted as a positive byproduct of a strong community, based hospice.  Konrath and others have proven that if you ask for a donation of time from someone BEFORE you ask for their money, you are likely to get more of both over the long term.


Consider asking the following questions of your organization:

  1. How far are our donors from their donations?
  2. Donors want belonging, how do we help them achieve that (or not)?
  3. Are you doing “obligatory” philanthropy or “purpose filled” philanthropy?
  4. Are your fundraising staff seen at takers or givers? They should be embraced as givers of health and happiness when aligning a donor’s gift with a community need.

Offer opportunities for your community to be more actively engaged with your organization beyond just writing a check.  Be like HopeWest Hospice in Grand Junction, CO who has begunGenerosity Inspires Hope project to collect the stories of generosity of the many things their staff do to give back to their communities and stories of how generous their communities are to them.


Some large health systems have renamed their Philanthropy and Volunteer Departments to the Generosity Department or the Generosity Society and renaming the Chief Development Officer to the Chief Gratitude Officer.  Generosity and caring are strategic advantages in health care, and they are good for the health and well being of the giver as well as the receiver.  Embrace the research on altruism and generosity and share with donors that their act of generosity has a greater impact for them and their community than simply writing a check.

Bless you all and thank you for your generous spirits!


Patti Moore leading a morning discussion for Hospice participants

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Post By: Patti Moore