Martha's Vineyard Hospital : Hospital has plans to honor its core donors
Early on in the effort, hospital leaders knew that to raise $42 million to build a debt-free Martha’s Vineyard Community Hospital, they would need the support of a core group of the Island’s wealthiest residents.
This strategy acknowledged that in most fundraising campaigns, the diagram of contributions resembles a pyramid. A small number of people give significant sums that energize the campaign, and the base of contributions broadens out beneath.
And, it was true for the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. Seven hospital donors accounted for $17.5 million, or 40 percent of the total. The largest single donation was $3 million.
Much of that initial success may be traced to the ability of the well-connected capital campaign committee, led by co-chairmen Warren Spector of Chilmark and Frank Biondi of Edgartown, to enlist some of the Island’s richest and most philanthropic residents in the fundraising effort.
During the effort to raise $42 million, hospital leaders offered naming opportunities as an incentive. The biggest was $20 million to see your name up over the entrance to the new hospital. The emergency department was $5 million. The fundraisers offered other departments at various amounts. For example, the intensive care unit went for $1 million, while each elevator went for $100,000.
Tim Sweet, hospital trustee and building committee vice chairman, said that very few donors were interested in the offers of naming rights. Several large donors asked for anonymity. But, as the end of construction neared, the hospital went back to all the major donors and asked again. Were they certain they did not want to participate?
Many were so pleased with the successful capital campaign and the new hospital itself that they changed their minds and said that they would be proud to have a plaque placed in the new building recognizing their gifts, Mr. Sweet said.
The right thing
Recently, Mr. Spector, a former co-president of Bear Stearns and now a film producer, described what it took to raise $42 million.
“In all fundraising efforts, it requires both a large base of support, which we got, because we got thousands upon thousands of contributors, including a very large number of Island contributors, which I was very pleased to see, as well as some very generous gifts by people who understand that in order to get a large capital campaign done you need a few people to step up and be very generous.”
Mr. Spector, himself a major contributor, said in his conversations with donors, naming rights were never an issue. “Instead, it was about doing the right thing,” he said. He said the plaques came about when the hospital went back to donors and asked if they might be freed to do something to acknowledge the exceptional generosity.
Did he ever doubt that the money could be raised? “Not for one minute,” Mr. Spector said, “I knew that the community, both of year-round folk and summer folk, would come together; I knew that there was enough support on the Island to make this happen; I knew that there were more than enough generous people on the Island who would respond if called upon, if approached in the right way.”
An essential cause
Frank Biondi, co-chairman of the capital campaign and also a major contributor, said the plaques, including one that honors him and his wife Carol, should be viewed in the context of the entire effort.
“For everyone collectively, it is kind of a recognition of a tremendous amount of generosity of everyone on the Island to make this thing possible,” he said. “There are very few causes that I would say are essential, if not close to essential, and the hospital, in my mind, was pretty much it.”
Mr. Biondi, managing general partner of a private equity firm, said having a name on a plaque over the intensive care unit is less important than accomplishing the goal. And, in recent conversations, several large donors reached by The Times to discuss their contributions expressed confidence in hospital leadership, an understanding of the need for a new facility their families can rely on, and the intimate connection that exists between patients and caregivers in a small community.
Eugene Isenberg of Oak Bluffs was even surprised to learn from a Times reporter that the hospital had decided to recognize the contribution he and his wife made with a plaque over the new laboratory.
“My wife might have known,” Mr. Isenberg, chairman and chief executive of Nabors Industries of Houston, a leading oil-and-gas-drilling contractor, told The Times, when reached at his home in Palm Beach.
The Isenbergs have a long history of community philanthropy. Apart from his general inclination toward philanthropy, Mr. Isenberg’s multi-generational connection to the Island spurred his generosity.
“I live there, my daughter and son-in-law frequent there, my grandkids come there frequently, and I thought that in addition to the general welfare, it would be of personal protective benefit, and I am fortunate enough to be able to afford it, so we did.”
No question of the need
Dr. P. Roy Vagelos and his wife Diana, seasonal Chilmark residents, contributed to the hospital campaign through their family foundation, the Marianthi Foundation, named in honor of his mother.
Reached at his home in New Jersey, Dr. Vagelos, a distinguished medical researcher and the chairman and chief executive of Merck pharmaceutical company until his retirement in 1994, discussed his family’s interest in contributing to the welfare of the Island community in terms of the quality of health care. He said there was no question that a new hospital was needed to replace a building and technology that was out of date.
“I thought it would ultimately preclude recruitment of top physicians,” he said.
Dr. Vagelos said it is important that physicians have the tools they need when they are on the Vineyard, and those tools were no longer available in the old building. “The place was old, and the requirements of medicine have changed so dramatically,” Dr. Vagelos, now associated with Columbia University Medical Center, said. “You cannot imagine the difference in what can be delivered now, in what can be done, from the time I graduated from medical school in 1954.”
Dr. Vagelos, who trained at Mass General Hospital, said the affiliation with the Boston teaching hospital provides a direct link to advanced treatment not available on the Vineyard. “That’s terrific for people living there full time and people who summer there as well,” he said. “Everybody benefits from this.”
Told that his family’s contribution will be honored with a plaque over the patient suite, Dr. Vagelos said he did not know about it. He said it is unimportant. “It really doesn’t matter. They could put somebody else’s name on it, if that would help them,” he said.
Donors whose exceptional gifts will be permanently honored include: Warren Spector and Margaret Whitton (emergency department); Frank Biondi and Carol Biondi (intensive care unit); Robert and Susan Bishop of West Tisbury (community research center); David Family Foundation (rooftop garden); Elizabeth H. Dickinson of Edgartown (ER waiting room); Jeffrey and Christina Lurie of West Tisbury (second floor lobby); Peter Jay Sharp Foundation (main lobby); Brian and Aileen Roberts of West Tisbury (women’s services department).