Covid-19,  Healthcare Fundraising,  International

Bill Littlejohn, Sharp HealthCare Foundation response to C19, part 2

As we begin week four of quarantine/stay-at-home and prepare for the surge in San Diego; a Part II from my earlier post on our system’s response to COVID-19.  As for many of us and our communities, it is all C19 all the time.  It is important that in that focus, we also expand our giving opportunities and strive to maintain productive in a very disrupted work environment.  I encourage others to share your experiences as this will also be a learning experience for our programs and profession.

Maintain productive work environment

We’ve continued our combination of work at home as well as the office.  Beginning this week, all employees will be screened (not tested) and masked at all our locations (including the Foundation offices).  We have made extensive use of Skype and Zoom; now including Board Directors and donors.  Also maintained the schedule of gift processing and acknowledgements, as we are processing a considerable number of gifts, including online for our C19 fund.  We are conducting annual giving and major gifts team meetings through zoom and conference call and sharing major reports and tracking.  We have produced a weekly report of both revenue and gifts, including our C19 funds, as well as a moves/activity report from RENXT to track our engagement. 

Maintain Communication

We are continuing with both an email and Web page update to all donors every Monday, as well as a Board update at least every week; sometimes more frequently.  I share key updates almost daily with the philanthropy team as a member of the Highly Infectious Disease (HID) committee.  Without the ability to have meetings, maintaining frequent – and updated – communication is critical.  Especially as we are operating in real time with updates on almost an hourly basis.  With all the great stories and pictures we are compiling, we are now preparing a twice-weekly “Stories of Sharp HealthCare Heroes” which we will send to the Boards and others as appropriate and post content on the Web page. 

COVID-19 Fund

Like most organizations, we have created and are receiving contributions to our Sharp COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund; and include the link to the fund in all our communications.  By continuing weekly emails to all of our donors, we are generating a good response.  We anticipate that we will receive a seven- and six-figure gift for the fund this week.  We’re shifting our message of just solicitation to now impact of philanthropy on our response.

·         Food Donations and Distributions

Like most we’ve had numerous of food and food delivery to the hospitals; we are coordinating that along with our Marketing and Human Resources departments; again these activities create great stories to share with the community.

·         Donations of PPE

We continue to coordinate donations of PPE with our supply chain team. In just the last 10 days, our community donated nearly 100,000 units of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at our program to collect drive-up donations

County wide campaign with Marketing/Digital Strategy

Realizing the potential to engage the entire San Diego region, (including a Sharp billboard that is now on Interstate 45) we’re working with marketing/digital on a large, county-wide campaign for the C19 fund, including a prominent donation opportunity on Sharp Homepage and in a Homepage content hub that is being developed this week.  The campaign will include email, social media and possibly TV.  Great opportunity to acquire new donors we wouldn’t expend the resources on otherwise.

Board and Major Gift Donor solicitation and follow up

Following our email communications, we sent more than 340 hand-signed letters (attached) to Board Directors and major donors; each letter as personalized noting that a gift officer is going to personally follow up via phone and/or email.  The system Board Chair is assisting with the effort; and has helped secure several $25,000 Board gifts.  A follow up letter will come from entity CEOs with information on their response to C19.  Our special event team is personally contacting all of our Distinguished Corporate Partners ($10,000 or more or two events) regarding our updated event schedule and their sponsorship, including an opportunity to cover their giving (or a new gift) to the fund.  We have not had one request for a refund.

Employee Communication

With the dramatic impact on the workforce, we have refrained from direct solicitation and focused on stewardship and information on our C19 fund efforts.  This is our most recent communication to all employees.

A special thank you to our Sharp HealthCare Heroes – physicians, nurses, clinical and hospital support staff, thousands of colleagues across the system – every Sharp Team Member – who are working tirelessly to combat the coronavirus. The people of Sharp are some of the bravest and dedicated among us. You have the unwavering support of those we serve in the San Diego community. 

The Foundations of Sharp HealthCare, in coordination with the Sharp Highly Infectious Disease Committee, have created the Sharp COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to provide resources to Sharp departments and entities for medical equipment and supplies, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), ventilators, tents, as well as training and other professional resources to support the direct care of both COVID-19 patients and members in our community.

Hundreds of individuals, families and corporations have already contributed tens of thousands of dollars, and more is donated each day. 

These are indeed challenging times; yet we are thankful for a generous community helping to enable Sharp team members to continue delivering the very best care to our patients, supporting their families and being there for each other in the face of adversity.

You can extend the opportunities for giving by sharing the Sharp COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund link ( on your social media accounts.

We’ll make a decision soon about PTO donations that could be used to support Sharp employees – donate PTO, covert to cash in the Foundations, then used to support employees who have been impacted significantly in their work through clinic closures, call-offs and time reductions.  Hundreds of our colleagues have been impacted.  Human Resources and entity leadership will determine how to allocate funds for employee support.

Donor Advised Funds

You have probably read of the calls for donors to spend down Donor Advised Funds.  In January the Sharp Board approved our proprietary, private- label Sharp Donor Advised Fund.  The most important objective of the Sharp DAF is a guaranteed minimum distribution to Sharp; and offering this gift opportunity to our long-standing donors will enable distributions to other charities, while increasing contributions to Sharp by ensuring that at least a portion of the fund will ultimately be invested in Sharp’s programs and services.  So we are using the current environment to discuss DAF gifts; in addition we are personally contacting all existing donors who give through DAFs to request gifts for the C19 fund.


We have shared this information with our Boards; and now extending to our donors and online information.  There are several key provisions of the CARES Act that relate to philanthropy:

Suspension of Required Minimum Distributions (and Impact on QCDs)

The new law temporarily suspends the requirements for required minimum distributions (RMD) for the 2020 tax year.  This is good news for many retirees who would have had to withdraw a greater percentage of their retirement accounts than expected or face a penalty, given that their RMD calculation for 2020 is based on the retirement account balance as of Dec. 31, 2019.

Many individuals use their RMDs to make Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs). The suspension of the RMD, along with a drop in the stock market, could result in fewer gifts from IRAs this year.   Some of which can be offset with some new tax incentives allowed under the new law.

New Tax Incentives for People to Give to Charity

1.       Creation of a universal charitable deduction—limited however to just one of $300 in 2020

2.       Lifting of the cap on annual contributions for those who itemize

Creation of Universal Charitable Deduction  

The universal charitable deduction is an above-the-line deduction and will be available to all taxpayers, not just those who itemize. This tax incentive is available for gifts to qualified charities (and not to donor advised funds).

Example: A taxpayer who takes the standard deduction and makes a $300 cash gift to a public charity in 2020 may claim the $300 deduction in computing his or her adjusted gross income. The deduction is in addition to the taxpayer’s standard deduction.

The Universal Deduction is not yet permanent, there is continued strong advocacy to make it permanent; and without a cap.

Lifting of Cap on Annual Contributions

Contributions to public charities are generally limited to a percentage of a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI). The new law lifts the cap on annual contributions for those who itemize, increasing it from 60% to 100% of AGI for 2020. Any excess contributions available can be carried over to the next five years. For corporations, the new law raises the annual limit from 10% to 25% of taxable income.

Grant opportunities including FEMA

Sharp HealthCare Foundation is registered/approved to receive and manage Federal grants (the Foundation has also facilitated federal and state FEMA and disaster preparedness grants).  With the release of the CARES Act, we prepared a brief on federal funding opportunities for Sharp leadership, which also included information and references from HHS, FEMA, AHA and CHA. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.