The New York Times recently published an article entitled “Patient, Can You Spare a Dime?” 

The article cast a negative shadow on the practice of “grateful patient fundraising,” wherein patients are invited to support the hospital where they received care. The claim was that the practice was unneeded and interfered with patient care.   

Many are uncomfortable with the idea of asking others to give money to an institution or cause that’s important to them. That’s nothing new—but it doesn’t follow that grateful patient fundraising is callous or exploitative (or results in unequitable care).

When it’s said that physicians shouldn’t be asking patients for money, that patient care should not be determined by one’s philanthropic ability, that view is correct. It’s spot on. 

But that’s only half the story.

What’s often missed by those uncomfortable with the notion of healthcare philanthropy is something that gift officers in hospital settings have witnessed first-hand: the tears of joy on the face of a grateful patient donor when they’ve decided to make a difference.

Those donors are using their resources to enhance their communities and improve the lives of patients struggling with disease.

They are grateful that someone entered their lives and shared that there was a real opportunity to help others. How else would they know? 

I asked a donor one time why he made philanthropy such a priority. What inspired and motivated him to give so much of his family’s resources?  

His answer surprised me. 

“I’m selfish,” he laughed. “I like the way it makes me feel. I receive great joy in seeing the lives of others improved. I like knowing there’s an opportunity where I can help others.”

If it weren’t for grateful patient fundraising, donors may never learn that they could help buy that new, modern piece of equipment that helps patients heal faster. Or make it easier for patients to access care quickly and efficiently when illness comes. Or watch as the parents of a sick child are crying tears of happiness because their child was declared cancer free and now they get to grow up. 

Grateful patient donors step up to the plate and asked themselves, if not me, who? 

And I would ask, who among us would deny the opportunity of gratitude to a grateful patient? 

Grateful patient fundraising is not only important, it makes our communities stronger, and improves the lives of those we love. 

So here’s to the grateful patient donors, the physicians, and the fundraisers improving the lives of others. Your work is important. And it’s making a difference. 

Owen Thomas is a consultant with American Philanthropic focusing on healthcare philanthropy. If you are interested in learning more about American Philanthropic or grateful patient fundraising, feel free to shoot me an email at You can also check out consulting services online at, as well as our fundraising Master Class.