Raising $30 million in private donations to expand Howard County General Hospital might seem like a daunting task. But with a passion for the cause and a deep Rolodex of contacts, the staff and volunteers at Howard Hospital Foundation say they are confident they will succeed.
"We're raising [funds] for probably one of the more important institutions in Howard County," said Evelyn Bolduc, chairwoman of the Howard Hospital Foundation, which is responsible for garnering contributions. "So I think it is an easy sell because at one point in their lives, [donors] will probably need our services."
The money will go toward a $105 million expansion that is to transform the community hospital into a more patient-friendly, high-tech hub needed for the county's growing, and aging, population.
The four-year project would redesign the lobby, outpatient services area, pharmacy and laboratory facilities, which is to lead to faster test results. Larger operating rooms would allow for new medical equipment. The development plan would add a parking garage and 42 new private patient rooms and convert most of the remaining hospital rooms from semiprivate to private.
Hospital officials want the 34-year-old institution to continue to offer premier community hospital features and to be able to serve most patients on its Columbia campus. Without the additions, officials worry, the institution could be short of beds as an older, larger population needs more hospital care.
There are no phone banks in the effort. Instead, Bolduc and others from the foundation have mined an extensive list of contacts, associates and friends to find people who might be able to make donations. They identify the person best suited to make an introduction and to request a contribution.
"Our cause is an easy sell, though it is not always easy to ask," Bolduc said.
The best situation is when donors come to fundraisers, as PNC Bank Executive Vice President Glenn L. Wilson did. The financial corporation, which bought Mercantile Bank this year, donated $50,000.
"It is the right thing to do," Wilson said. "We knew there was need. We stepped up."
Wilson also sits on the Howard Hospital Foundation board.
Bolduc is no novice to the county's business and charity circles. Her husband is the former chief executive of W.R. Grace & Co. She is president of ETB Enterprises, a real estate holding company, and is vice president of Columbia-based JPB Enterprises, a private equity investment company.
She has sat on several boards and fundraising committees. The family has its own foundation through the Columbia Foundation, where she has served as a trustee. She helped raise $450,000 for Howard County's sesquicentennial celebration and raised $5 million in the past for a previous hospital expansion project.
She is aided by interim Vice President Christopher J. McCabe. He brings fundraising expertise from his long experience in politics as a state senator representing parts of Howard County and as secretary of the Department of Human Resources under Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
As the hospital broke ground on the expansion this week, the fundraising team had reached more than 40 percent of the goal. If informal pledges come through, the team, which started in 2005, could be halfway to its target.
Donations in this phase of the effort have ranged from $5,000 to $2 million. They have included $300,000 from the Volunteer Auxiliary of Howard County General Hospital. Hospital employees have donated 412 hours in vacation time and $269,000.
Until now, much of the fundraising has happened under the radar. Foundation leaders have reached out to fellow hospital board members, employees, friends and businesses in what they call the quiet phase of raising money.
But Monday's groundbreaking marks a new period as the foundation plans to turn to the public for donations. The foundation has planned a gala dinner for Nov. 9 as the official launch of the public part of the campaign.
Six staff members from the foundation, including McCabe, work on the effort, although Bolduc says it is hard to say exactly how many people help. For example, she might meet someone at a restaurant this week who can introduce her to a potential donor.
Sometimes it takes years to cultivate a donation.
"Fundraising is an art," McCabe said. "It is not a science."
Large donors will have the opportunity to have areas of the hospital named for them. The facility's emergency rooms are named for those who gave $25,000 or more in past. The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit area carries the names of past donors.
But as the group moves toward the public phase of the effort, they also will look for smaller donations.
"It is terrific to say we have a great community hospital, and I was a part of it," Bolduc said.