Nursing & Healthcare News

Nurses and Charitable Giving

Only 1 percent of all private donations to healthcare go to nursing

Nurse researcher in white coat and blue masks stands in a science lab with arms crossed.

While healthcare now draws over $50 billion a year in philanthropic giving, a new report from the American Nurses Foundation (ANF) finds that only a small fraction of that money goes to nursing — and not always in the areas that most need it.

A Penny on the Dollar

Between 2015 and 2022, private individuals, corporations, and foundations contributed $333.3 billion to U.S. healthcare. During that period, gifts supporting the nursing profession accounted for only 1 percent of that total — just one penny of every dollar given — with annual totals ranging from $239 million in 2018 to $597 million in 2021.

While these are sizable amounts of money, they’re the sum of thousands of smaller individual gifts to different institutions and programs across the country. This means that the impact of philanthropic giving in any one area of nursing may be quite modest.

Of course, healthcare-related gifts that aren’t earmarked specifically for nursing (e.g., donations to endow a new wing of a hospital) may still benefit nurses indirectly. But the ANF argues that such gifts are less likely to have a transformative impact on nursing, and nurses may be a relatively low priority when it comes to the allocation of funds.

Narrow Focus

Of the charitable giving that does go to nursing, most is earmarked for nursing education and training, usually with an emphasis on bringing more new nurses into the profession.

While that’s important, especially given our growing nursing shortages, the ANF is concerned that supporting new nurse recruitment and training alone doesn’t address factors that lead to nurse burnout and turnover, like understaffing and inadequate pay.

It also doesn’t necessarily support the professional and leadership development of current nurses, such as helping ADN-prepared nurses earn their BSNs. Nurse-led research remains another frequently underfunded area.

AARON SEVERSON is the associate editor of Working Nurse.

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