As fundraisers, we are often given a front row view of the positive impact of donors’ gifts and the power of philanthropy to change lives profoundly.
Each of us encounters the power of philanthropy in our own space and time. In my case, I was working at Kansas City Hospice, as the first full-time grant writer the organization had ever had. My greatest challenge was to learn everything about all of the hospice programs and services in order to write about them accurately and compellingly.
Some hospice programs were not covered at that time by Medicaid or any other healthcare payor, so our goal was to have the costs of these programs paid for by charitable contributions. One program that had a special place in my heart was Carousel Perinatal Hospice. Because of the many tests available today during pregnancy, parents often know when their child may not live or live for long. In hospice care, “perinatal” refers to services for families that are expecting a child with a life-limiting condition. The child may not be expected to survive the birth process, or to stay alive for very long afterward. These parents often feel like the loneliest people in the world.
Rather than go it alone, parents who enter perinatal hospice are assured of help through the pregnancy and whatever time the family will have together. The perinatal hospice team may include one or more consulting physicians, social workers, nurses, palliative care specialists and other hospice and hospital staff. Team members meet with the family to discuss their wishes and needs, creating a “birthing plan” to be shared with the hospital labor and delivery staff, including family decisions on medical treatments for the baby, rituals (such as baptism) that may be desired at the time of birth and a list of people to be present at the time of delivery.
It’s important for the couple and the hospital to have a description of what the labor and delivery staff should do when the baby is born—for example, “We want our baby to be wrapped in a blanket and handed to us, and then we want time alone with our baby.” In a moving testimonial, one mother wrote about how grateful she was that, with the help of the perinatal team, “We were able to take our baby and, for a while, sit together as a family in our home.”
It was a privilege to write grant proposals to fund perinatal hospice services. To know that there were those who would give generously to support these programs was to have a renewed faith in the goodness of trusts and foundations. It’s impossible to overestimate the power of philanthropy when you understand how deeply it sees into the human heart.
Wayne A. Courtois, MFA, GPC
Vice President of Grant Writing and Research