Like Dolly Parton, Cape Codders generous during pandemic
Many Cape Codders have something in common with country star Dolly Parton: They’re eager to show their gratitude for their local healthcare organization.
Back in 2013, Parton was in a car accident and was treated at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN, by surgeon Dr. Naji Abumrad. The two became friends; such good friends, in fact, that earlier this year she made a $1 million donation to the medical center in his name. The center recently announced that the money directly helped fund three COVID-19 vaccine research projects, including one focused on the Moderna vaccine, which early studies indicate is more than 90 percent effective against the virus.
Parton is known for her ability to connect with a wide range of fans and for her thankful and upbeat outlook. After the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic on March 11, Cape Codders also embraced that attitude of gratitude in their giving to the Cape Cod Healthcare Foundation, said Chris Lawson, senior vice president and chief development officer for Cape Cod Healthcare.
“One thing that really hit me -- and I’ve been doing this for 25 years -- is just how much the community bought into what Cape Cod Healthcare was doing,” he said. Before March, there had been momentum from big donors for capital projects, but donations to the foundation, CCHC’s development arm, pivoted during COVID.
“The community really responded incredibly in terms of micro donations -- smaller donations to support COVID relief for our general fund, giving us flexibility with money to utilize as we worked through the expenses that COVID brought,” Lawson said.
The number of donors to the Foundation jumped 15 percent, to 4,509, in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2020, up from 3,915 the previous year, he said. A big influx of funds was earmarked for the employee hardship fund, which helps employees who are experiencing difficult financial circumstances, he said. Donors also came through with personal protective equipment and meals. “There weren’t many meals that somebody didn’t sign up for to deliver to our frontline staff,” he said.
Like Parton, 90 percent of CCHC donors give because of a positive healthcare experience, Lawson said.
“Their response is to make an investment because they want more people to have that experience,” he said.
That wide support cheered foundation staff during a complicated time for nonprofits, Lawson said. Development staff couldn’t meet with donors in person, for example, or hold events. So, the uptick in the number of people wanting to contribute during an urgent situation was encouraging.
“We saw on Cape Cod, not one huge donor, like in the case of Dolly Parton, but a whole community responding. And for us that was incredibly uplifting,” he said. “And hopefully we can keep that feeling going as we move forward.”