Newsletter Archives

Donor Relations: The People We Meet

Paulette Roberts, FAHP by Paulette Roberts, FAHP

Chair, AHP Board of Directors

Reprinted with permission from AHP E-Connect, June/July (Vol. 5, Issue 4). Copyright © 2005 Association for Healthcare Philanthropy. 
For more information on AHP, visit

Have you ever thought about the wonderful people you get to meet through your position in health care fund development? You’ve heard me talk about the many colleagues/friends I have made through AHP and how I’ve encouraged you to get involved so that you will benefit from those special friendships as well. Now it’s time to take a moment to think about the many very special friends you have made in your community since you entered this field of hospital/healthcare fundraising. A few people come to mind and I’d like to share a little more about them…because they are truly inspirational to me and continue to make a difference.

Paulette Roberts (left) with Dorothy and friend.

Paulette Roberts (left) with Dorothy and friend

My friend Dorothy will be 98 tomorrow. She has lived by herself since her husband passed away more than 10 years ago. She lives in a two-storey home just off the ocean in New Jersey where she runs up and down the spiral staircase numerous times a day.

She might go to New York (about 11/2 hours from her home) for the day…lunch with friends, shopping, prayer group, manicure, dinner with others, and then home around 11 p.m.

The next day I might be picking her up for our monthly catch-up lunch. Of course, first we stop off at the bank and then to the post office so she can pick up her mail. You might think that I would run around the car to open the door for her…no way…she’s so quick and independent! And, it’s not that she hasn’t had her ups and downs and many health concerns over the years…it’s just that she sees the glass full.

Oh, I didn’t mention that Dorothy is the only living former assistant to Houdini…yes, Houdini, when she was 17. She and her husband became famous dancers who competed around the world; and, she was a well-known artist in Manhattan for 40 years. 

Dorothy contributed a significant gift to name an arts center at a New Jersey university, and contributed a very special gift to one of our hospitals to build a new chapel. This beautiful chapel, where one of her coveted paintings of Madonna and Child hangs in the entry, is her pride and joy. For Dorothy to know that her gift to the medical center has provided such peace and solitude to all who go in…isn’t that what makes your jobs worthwhile?

Another person who I feel so fortunate to have met is a major donor to one of our other hospitals…he’s in his 80’s, a national homebuilder, married to a wonderful woman, six children and many grandchildren. It’s been almost six years since I met him and since then he and his company contributed a gift to build a new emergency center at the hospital. The center has been open for a year now and has made an incredible difference for our community.

I remember when I went over to his office with the legal documents for him to sign regarding the gift (this was the biggest gift any of our hospitals have ever received!), and before he signed he said, “I was over at the hospital yesterday…”(I almost choked!)”…had a procedure in the basement…”(now I almost fainted!) “…everyone was so nice and everything was so clean.” I took a long needed breath, and we proceeded to sign.

When we asked him to be honorary chair of our campaign, he was hesitant, but accepted. Then several months later when he “pushed a door a little further open for us,” he said, “How did I do? Did I do OK?”…so humble and sweet. He and his family epitomize what we all would hope philanthropic people to be. They are quietly involved in many worthwhile efforts, because they want to make a difference, not for any other reason. It’s a joy to know them and I know that my opportunity to meet and get to know them was because of what I do.

There are two more very special women I want to tell you about. Betty is president of one of our auxiliaries. You know those committed and tireless volunteers, the grass roots ambassadors we all have for our hospitals. She has been widowed for about 10 years, living alone in her two-storey home about five minutes from the hospital she supports. Now that might not seem like much, but Betty has Multiple Sclerosis. She is usually in a wheel chair, although sometimes she ventures out in a walker, but that is getting more and more difficult.

She has her home rigged so that she can “ride” up and down the stairs, is able to get out to the car where she has to lift for the chair. After getting her wheelchair up in the van, she somehow gets herself up in the driver’s seat and off she goes…out to breakfast, out to lunch, out to dinner, to meetings, to the doctor and to the hospital. Never have I heard Betty complain…everyday is beautiful and she is so appreciative that she is alive to enjoy the moment. And, she is my friend.

Betty with John Lloyd, President of Meridian Health.

Betty with John Lloyd, 
President of Meridian Health

Another dear friend is Ruth, whom I met shortly after moving to New Jersey 11 years ago, when I was volunteering for the American Cancer Society (ACS). I was presenting a session on major gifts at an ACS state-wide fundraising conference, and she was in my class. Our friendship grew over the years and when I joined Meridian Health I learned that she and her family used one of our hospitals. In fact, their three children were born at the hospital. So, over time, she joined the foundation board, where she has led the way in giving and cultivation.

She and her husband recently contributed a gift to name two cancer resource rooms… one in memory of her parents, the other in memory of his parents. When we dedicated these areas last week, Ruth and George invited their children, grandchildren, extended family members, close friends, several cancer center employees and their minister. One of the nurses even sang the Lord’s Prayer. I got emotional just thinking about how very touching the dedication was.

How lucky I feel to know these people and many, many more, who continually make a difference at our hospitals and in their communities. I think I am a better person because of them…certainly more fulfilled and enlightened. I hope you will take a few moments to cherish those special people in your life; I’m sure that many will be those whom you have met through this wonderful field we’re in. Enjoy the moment!

For more information

For specific project examples and demonstrations, or more information on interactive displays, digital messaging systems and integrated donor wall projects, please contact Planned Legacy.

We are very sorry for the inconvenience, but you are using an older version of Internet Explorer which is not supported on this Web site. To update to a more current version of Internet Explorer, please Click Here. Thank You.