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The Giving Triangle

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  • Written By: Dwan Hebda
The Giving Triangle

Baxter Health Foundation offers multiple ways to donate

Sarah Edwards, executive director of the Baxter Health Foundation, smiles at the reaction she gets when she talks about the generosity of the Mountain Home community in support of the local hospital. For decades, as Baxter Health added new services, expanded facilities and upgraded medical equipment, the citizenry never failed to answer the call for funding.

Even Edwards herself is taken aback sometimes, despite having had a front-row seat to the process over the last couple of years.

“We just had our Black and White Ball, which is our annual gala, and it raises a lot of money for the foundation,” she said. “I was so proud this year; we raised more than $70,000, we had about 300 people in attendance, and it was sold out almost two weeks in advance.”

Part of what makes the foundation so effective in fundraising is the variety of ways it provides would-be and returning donors an opportunity to contribute. The foundation’s menu of charitable giving options brings beginning philanthropy within reach of virtually every budget while allowing a habit of giving to grow over time.

“We have what we call ‘The Giving Triangle,’ which is annual gifts, major gifts, and deferred gifts,” Edwards said. “We really work to keep things from becoming siloed so that if somebody walks or calls in in to our office and they say, ‘I’d like to make a donation today. What are you working on for the hospital?’ we are all very well aware of all of the specific needs for the year and how we can help a person decide which mode of giving best fits them.”

While donors come in all shapes, sizes and amounts, annual giving can be seen as the gateway for many people just starting out. Managed by Cindy Costa, director of development, annual giving provides a number of ways to contribute, from employee withholding to yearly charitable contributions to fundraising via events.

“Usually, people start out smaller, and then they move up,” Costa said. “Maybe they do a $250 donation to us for an event and maybe next year they do $5,000 for something for a major gift. Or perhaps they are into running, and they participate in our upcoming 5K and that then leads to more regular giving. One thing tends to support the other.”

Annual giving also looks within to Baxter’s employees and auxiliary to make it easy for them to help support the hospital. Over time, this effort alone has been a potent source of fundraising.

“I think every hospital out there has an employee fund drive to engage staff, but we like to think ours is the best in the country,” Costa said. “I’ve gone to national conferences, and one of the things they’ll ask is, ‘What percentage of your employees give to the employee fund drive?’ You’ll hear 5%, 10%, 15; once in a while, you’ll get somebody with 25%. I very proudly raise my hand and say, ‘We do between 70% and 80%.’

“Our auxiliary is also amazing. In addition to the individual members giving, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving we partake in Giving Tuesday where people donate that day, and the auxiliary matches all gifts up to $50,000. Last November, we raised $104,000 in one day.”

Another option the foundation offers is through deferred gifts, in which people include the organization in their estate. This type of giving can include any number of things of value, from property to stocks as well as cash.

“Some of our donors will do a charitable trust where they’ll name us as a beneficiary. Some will do a simple beneficiary designation, where they leave the foundation a home or an account, things like that,” said Adrienne Blackwell, deferred gift officer. “Another deferred gift options is when they leave us as a beneficiary on their IRA as well. There are different tax benefits depending on how they want to leave their legacy.

“We also have what’s called a charitable gift annuity that is growing in popularity, where the donor leaves us a gift and they are able to use tax deduction savings now as well as receive income over their lifetime. Those are some of the more popular options we provide to donors, and we always refer them to a CPA to explain the benefits in detail to ensure they choose the right one for their situation.”

As with the foundation’s other types of giving, donors have the opportunity to voice how their gift is used, whether they want it to support a given area of the hospital or if they want it to be applied wherever the need is greatest.

“We’ve had donors that choose specific departments or our community houses. We have had donors that a specific house meant a lot to them or to their family,” Blackwell said. “One of the things we like to do is really encourage donors to let us know ahead of time that they’re doing a gift. Our goal is to always honor their wishes and the legacy that they want to leave.

“Sometimes we know about gifts beforehand, and sometimes we receive gifts out of the blue — and all are definitely appreciated. But it’s really neat if we can meet with them in order to engage them in some creative gift planning, as we call it, to help them so that we can truly fulfill their legacy.”

While all gifts are an important part of overall fundraising, each type fits into the puzzle slightly differently. Deferred giving, for example, being triggered by the settlement of a person’s estate, isn’t as useful in meeting immediate needs such as a capital campaign, nor does it allow the donor to see their generosity in action. In these instances, a major gift might be a better option to consider while being equally crucial to the foundation’s work.

“We consider a major gift anything $5,000 or more,” said Edwards who spearheads this area of giving. “Major gifts are pivotal to large capital campaigns because while every dollar donated matters, it’s pretty difficult to raise $1 million or more without the generosity of major gift donors.”

Major gifts are also key in purchasing big-ticket items, such as surgical robots or other expensive pieces of equipment.

“This year we will kick off a capital campaign later in the fall,” Edwards said. “We’ll have those one-on-one conversations and meetings with donors who can provide a major gift of maybe $20,000 or $50,000 to get the campaign started. Once we get a jump-start on those leads gifts, we can then work toward collecting all other gifts to complete the capital campaign.”

Edwards said the Baxter Health Foundation employs multiple ways to recognize donors, from public announcements in the annual report, to project naming plaques throughout the hospital, or even in-house donor groups such as Women in Philanthropy, that also serve as an invitation for other would-be philanthropists to get involved.

“Donors create new donors,” she said. “Some people don’t want their name on things, and some don’t want to be recognized at all. We absolutely respect that, but we also say, ‘Guess what? By being part of our donor family, you get a chance to influence other people to give.’ That’s really what it’s about.”

This feature appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of Pulse Magazine. To view the entire issue, visit