Rady Children's Hospital Foundation

Sept. 25, 2019 – Philanthropic investment is such an essential part of Rady Children’s, helping to fund the talent, research and technologies with the greatest promise to accelerate pediatric health discovery, and the programs and tools necessary to elevate patient care. During the last fiscal year, Rady Children’s Hospital Foundation worked with some 12,000 donors to raise more than $70M in philanthropic gifts to the Hospital.

Beginning my philanthropic journey

For this visit, the team took me through the “lifecycle” of a donor, from their very first gift to becoming a major donor. As Director of Direct Marketing Kaye de Lancey described it, I would get a “peek behind the curtain at the science and strategy of what [they] do.”

Playing the role of a new donor, I was inspired to make my first $25 gift after hearing a patient’s story on the radio during the Foundation’s annual Giveathon. This would be my first engagement with the Foundation, and one that would grow throughout my visit. Next, I met with the corporate and community team. They develop relationships with corporations, service clubs, schools and companies, in turn generating revenue for the Hospital through event sponsorship, corporate gifts, cause marketing campaigns and third-party fundraisers. For example, this team helps companies, employees and patient families raise funds for the Hospital using events like the Dream Big Walk and Light the Way. Last year, this group supported hundreds of community events and collectively raised about $15 million. Way to go!

Next, I learned about another way to support the Hospital called in-kind giving. This type of giving includes non-cash gifts — things such as toys, material items and gifts of time and resources, like athletes coming to campus to meet patients. Sometimes our youngest supporters will donate their birthday gifts to the Hospital. It’s a great way to introduce kids to the rewards of giving. I also learned a bit more about how the Foundation connects with grateful families who have expressed a desire to get more involved by making a gift or sharing their story to help inspire future donors.

A big part of what this team does is raising awareness about the patient stories and breakthroughs happening every day at Rady Children’s. You may have received Healthy Kids magazine in the mail;  learned about the Foundation through social media, on the radio or on television; or received a digital newsletter. The marketing and donor communication team is behind these efforts, working to make sure donors know about the impact philanthropy has on the past, present and future of Rady Children’s. More than 300 emails go out every year to more than 50,000 donors; nearly two dozen direct mail solicitations generate about $1.6 million annually for the Hospital; and Healthy Kids magazine is delivered to 50,000 donors and community members. Very impressive!

Looking at my personalized information sheet

We then moved on to donor services. This team handles the money that comes in from donors, making sure it is designated appropriately to honor the donor’s intent. They also work with Hospital departments and accounting to utilize the funds to support Hospital operations. Researchers here evaluate donors to make sure the donor experience matches the individual. Senior Philanthropy Research Officer Noah del Castillo put together a sample information sheet specific to my fictional donor persona, who apparently had the ability to give $10 million to Rady Children’s! No wonder they were pursuing “me” for a major gift.

I then headed down the hallway to meet with leaders of Rady Children’s Hospital Auxiliary, a group of nearly 1,100 volunteers spread across 21 different units who work in partnership with Rady Children’s to advocate for children, increase community awareness and fundraise. Here I was greeted by new Auxiliary President Laura Stern, who gave me some background on the events these units put together to raise money for the Hospital – more than $2 million last year!

Dropping in on Auxiliary leaders

My donor persona was then assigned a gift officer, Director of Philanthropy Laura Lavoie, who invited me to a fundraising event at the Belly Up (my real self still hasn’t been there, but I’ve heard great things!) where I gave $10,000 after hearing from Rady Children’s cardiology experts. Laura learned about my donor persona’s key interests, cardiology and genomics, and took me on a tour of the Hospital. I was so inspired that my donor persona pledged to make a $50,000 gift to support the Heart Institute.

I learned that between 72 and 90 percent of all charitable giving comes from individuals, not corporations or foundations, and that individual relationships drive most philanthropy. My donor persona decided to become more involved with the Foundation, and join its board of advisors, where I learned more about the Foundation’s strategic plan, and found new ways to encourage neighbors, friends and colleagues to support the Hospital.

Signing a gift agreement

Next, I met with Laura Mello, director of Gift Planning, who walked me through what it means to create a legacy at Rady Children’s. Many donors choose to support Rady Children’s using long-term giving tools, like wills, living trusts, beneficiary designations, charitable gift annuities, real estate and stocks. My donor persona was a big fan of Rady Children’s (of course!) and decided to sign on the dotted line and make Rady Children’s a beneficiary of the “Frias” estate.

I stopped by the special events office next to learn about the ways this team helps to cultivate, grow and steward Rady Children’s donors. With more than 40 events between September and June, this crew strives to provide meaningful opportunities for donors to learn about and meet our medical staff, nurture donor interest and create memorable ways to celebrate and thank our donors. They also have a hand in some Hospital events, such as Team Rady.

My surprise stewardship event!

The final part of my tour was an amazing surprise: I walked into a conference room to find it had been transformed into a celebratory event just for me! The entire Foundation team was there, with Champagne in hand (actually sparkling grape juice) to toast my philanthropic contributions. And that wasn’t all. Foundation Senior Vice President and Executive Director Steve Jennings directed my attention to a fictitious image of the Rady Children’s Health Services building with new signage: It had been renamed the Patrick and Anjie Frias building in recognition of my and Anjie’s lifetime giving.

The Health Services building renamed in my honor

After seeing firsthand how this team stewards our valued donors, I can see why nearly 12,000 people and companies are compelled to give each year. The profound passion the Foundation staff has for Rady Children’s mission is evident in all facets of what they do, from processing gifts to organizing inspiring events. It was fascinating to get a behind-the-scenes look at how it all comes together. Here’s a toast to all of you — for helping kids and believing in the power of philanthropy to save lives.