Do Good, Feel Good: Noteworthy Giving Trends in an Unprecedented Era

September 02, 2020

For the past few years, the nonprofit organizations that received the greatest overall contributions from donors were those related to animal welfare, higher education, the environment, arts and culture, and faith-based organizations. All this according to Blackbaud, a software and data management company for philanthropic organizations. Experts state that the events of this year have shifted this trend to make healthcare organizations the greatest focus of many donors’ good deeds.
The Fund Development department at Penn Highlands Healthcare, led by system director Karin Pfingstler, explains why charitable contributions to healthcare organizations can have such a powerful impact for a community. “Every day at Penn Highlands, we hear from patients or their families expressing their thanks in a special way for the care they received,” says Danyell Bundy, PHH manager of major gifts. “For some, that means sending a thank you card to staff, or even a meal or gift basket to the nursing unit that cared for them. Our clinical staffs celebrate those every time they come in.” 

Donor relations manager Lindsey Herzing goes on to share that other patients express a desire to contribute in a way that will help sustain the quality of care they received. “We often encounter patients and their family members who want to give back to those who so graciously cared for them,” Herzing says. “We created the Penn Highlands Healthcare Grateful Patient Giving Program with these patients in mind so they can make sure other patients, even their own loved ones, have the greatest chance to experience the same level of quality in the future when they seek care at Penn Highlands.”

Some development professionals at other healthcare organizations say that for many patients, giving feels like a natural part of healing. That may be especially true in an era when COVID-19 has helped the public recognize the daily challenges that many healthcare workers manage as part of their everyday professional commitment. While fortunately Penn Highlands has not faced a shortage of personal protective equipment or other gear, each department works together daily to keep careful inventory of equipment and devices to ensure they are ready to meet the demands that any moment might present. Says Pfingstler, “Our staff are so highly dedicated in every circumstance. It’s important to us to give them the assurance that we’re continually pursuing whatever might help them care for our patients.”

When a patient of Penn Highlands wants to contribute toward that end, Pfingstler explains how she and her team work to put every dollar to its very best use. “We are a nonprofit, charitable organization,” Pfingstler says about Penn Highlands. “Just looking at the size of some of our equipment, it takes an investment to try to offset that.” Her department explores every possible funding channel that may benefit Penn Highlands patients now or later. This includes grants, tax credit programs, bequests, and more. “We’re looking at every resource,” Pfingstler says. “Our portfolio is diverse. We’re not just dependent on one thing.”

With that stated, while it might seem as though the largest sums come from foundations or corporations, Pfingstler says the truth may surprise many. “Individuals give more than foundations—and these donations don’t have to be what most might think of as large funds. We receive contributions from the same individuals on a very regular basis. Some give five dollars at a time. When all that adds up to what similar types of donors give, that means we can purchase the latest CT scanning machine, or a new van to transport our cancer patients who otherwise might not have a ride to receive their chemotherapy. Every dollar matters.” Studies as recent as 2017 suggest there’s benefit for the donor, as well: individuals who support charities are said to experience greater satisfaction, happiness, and increased healthy neural activity in the brain.

For members of the public interested in giving hope to patients, Penn Highlands Fund Development offers a number of ways right now:

  • The PHH Grateful Patient Giving Program allows patients to designate their gift toward patient care by honoring a caring physician, nurse, or other special figure who impacted their wellness. To make an investment or learn more, please call 814-375-3901 or email [email protected]
  • Register in the Virtual Walk/Fun Run in memory of Dr. Gary DuGan, the health system’s late Chief Medical Officer. Participants can complete the race anytime between September 12 and 20. Proceeds from registration and the virtual gift basket raffle benefit Penn Highlands Graduate Medical Education program, providing physicians-in-training with experience working with patients in hometown communities like ours—experience they do not get at metropolitan health systems. Visit to register or buy tickets to the basket raffle.
  • Penn Highlands has teamed with The Jared Box Project, a national organization based in State College, to supply boxes of toys and fun supplies to pediatric patients and their siblings. “Jared was a child in State College who was diagnosed with cancer when he was just five,” Bundy explains. Jared became famous for having a great attitude and sharing his toys with his fellow patients. “He ran into other sick children and just lit everybody’s life up,” says Bundy. After he passed in 2000, his classmates started The Jared Box Project in his memory. Jared Boxes are filled with crayons, coloring books, Matchbox cars, dolls, and other kid-friendly items. “We’ve dispersed 80 of these combined to Penn Highlands Brookville, Penn Highlands Clearfield, and Penn Highlands Elk so far this year,” Bundy says. “Now we just need more willing donors.” If you’d like to become one of them, please call 814-375-3901 or email [email protected].
  • Penn Highlands Healthcare is set up on Amazon Smile, which donates 0.5% of the price of eligible AmazonSmile purchases to the charitable organization of consumers’ choice. “We want our communities to know that when they shop on Amazon, they can benefit Penn Highlands,” Bundy says. Visit and enter “Penn Highlands Healthcare” in the “Pick your own charitable organization” field.
  • In September, Penn Highlands will also host a butterfly release to benefit Penn Highlands Community Nurses. Visit to purchase a butterfly to be released in honor of a loved one.