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November 13, 2012 11:23 am

Wyoming notebook: Making the most of second chances

Written by Dave Bonner

The Powell Medical Foundation says thank you very much to the Wyoming State Legislature for a new lease on fundraising life, and, “We’ll take it from here.”

And have they ever!

In its 2012 session, the Legislature extended an endowment challenge matching gifts program for the 16 Critical Access Hospitals in the state, of which Powell Valley Hospital is one.  The program has been around for five years (since 2007), and only three of the 16 CA hospitals have realized the maximum state match of $250,000 for endowment dollars raised locally.

An endowment gift, by definition, cannot be spent for operations, projects or capital construction.  It must be held permanently in an “endowment fund,” and only the earnings from investment of the fund are available for spending.

The program was scheduled to sunset on June 30, 2012.  The only three hospitals which had qualified for a full $250,000 match were Johnson County Memorial Hospital at Buffalo, Memorial Hospital of Converse County at Douglas and Hot Springs County Hospital at Thermopolis.

Did you notice the constant in who had achieved the full match?  It was the fact that they were county hospitals.

The 2007 law that set up the CA hospital endowment challenge program required something extra of special district hospitals like Powell.  In short, the bar was higher for special district hospitals than for county hospitals, and as a consequence, Powell qualified for a state match of only 50 cents for each endowment dollar raised locally.

Powell Medical Foundation, the fundraising arm for the associated Powell Valley Healthcare enterprises, received $118,046 in matching funds from the state endowment challenge in five years.   That was pretty good effort, by the way, because remember it was a match of 50 cents on the dollar to that time. In other words, the Powell Medical Foundation had raised over $236,000 in endowment fund donations, but received only $118,046 in state match. 

The rules changed on July 1, 2012, and Powell now earns a dollar for dollar match. The modified law said CA hospitals have two more years to qualify for endowment matching. But the original $4 million program was pared back. Only $1.5 million was appropriated for the two-year extension period, and CA hospitals would have to compete for a share.  The program lasts only as long as the money lasts.

The maximum endowment dollars any one hospital can match remains at $250,000.  As soon as the $1.5 million pot is claimed, the program ends.

Game on!

That’s the spirit in which Powell Medical Foundation greeted round two of the endowment challenge. The medical foundation’s board of directors rolled up their sleeves and went to work.  In July — the first month of the new dollar for dollar eligibility — the foundation directors donated a collective $20,000 to fuel the push to the finish line.

Their example is paying dividends. A little over four months since the law took effect, the Powell Medical Foundation now has endowment commitments to match $229,100 in state funds.  With only $21,000 to go to reach the $250,000 maximum, it will only be a matter of time until Powell Medical Foundation can proclaim: “Game over.”

Take the swift and decisive embrace of the Critical Access Hospital program locally as testimony to the power of the state’s endowment challenge partnerships to double giving under the right terms.

And then throw in a little competition. You can’t beat it.

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