Explore corporate funding for education projects

For best results, provide opportunity for publicity

There’s not always enough money in the budget to produce a patient education video, purchase a computer system for the learning center, or create new educational materials that target your pediatric population.

Does that mean your facility’s educational needs should be set aside until it’s time to submit another budget? Not necessarily. "You must be creative," advises Nancy Walch, RN, MPH, CDE, CHES, coordinator of the health education and wellness department at Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu.

One way to get funding is to approach corporations. A budget deficit did not stop Walch from putting together an in-house patient education conference for staff. She approached drug companies and corporations that had a vested interest, such as insurance companies.

During Children and Health Care Week, Michael Reese Hospital & Medical Center in Chicago stages a patient and staff education program on pain. Raritan, NJ-based McNeil, the maker of Tylenol, sponsors the program. "The corporate sponsors I use have all been providers of a product that we purchase," says Michele Knoll Puzas, RNC, MHPE, pediatric nurse specialist at Michael Reese Hospital. Her contact for McNeil was the company representative who worked with the hospital. She simply asked the rep if the company would be willing to sponsor the conference.

While corporate donations are not always easy to secure, it can be done if you know what works and what doesn’t, says Ellie Schiff Bernard, senior director, major gifts corporations and foundations at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, CA. "People give money to people," she says. Therefore, the link is often highly personal.

If you are going to approach a corporation for funding, find someone within your own organization who can make the introduction, advises Schiff Bernard. Getting to know the CEO will help you learn areas of health care he or she might be interested in funding. For example, if a CEO or company president has a close relative with a particular medical problem, the executive may be more likely to provide funding for a program related to that health problem.

Developing a relationship with management at the corporation also will help you learn what kind of gifts the corporation prefers to make. "Some companies prefer giving away money, others prefer equipment. There is no easy way to know; each one is an individual situation," says Schiff Bernard.

Most often, a corporation will provide funding if it is a good opportunity for publicity. For example, promising to name a program or conference after the company that sponsors it is often the catalyst needed to gain support. "You have to give the corporation something for its money," explains Schiff Bernard.

The money corporations give away often is marketing dollars, and that usually is not very much, warns Schiff Bernard. Usually the national headquarters of a company will allot so many marketing dollars per regional office to use for community events. A $1,000 contribution, for example, would be considered large, she says.

The best way to obtain corporate funding is through a business foundation. The reason is simple: Foundations give grant money, and therefore they have guidelines on what type of projects they will fund and how interested parties are to apply. In the long run, it takes less time and the funds are more ample, says Schiff Bernard. (For more information on obtaining grant money, see Patient Education Management, November 1998, p. 133.)


For more information on approaching corporations for funding, contact:

Michele Knoll Puzas, RNC, MHPE, Pediatric Nurse Specialist, Michael Reese Hospital & Medical Center, 6705 W. 64th St., Chicago, IL 60638. Telephone: (312) 791-2932. Fax: (312) 791-2651.

Nancy Walch, RN, MPH, CDE, CHES, Coordinator of Health Education and Wellness Department, Queen’s Medical Center, 1301 Punchbowl St., Honolulu, HI 96813. Telephone: (808) 547-4823. Fax: (808) 537-7828.