Innovation through philanthropy

By Penny Cowden, Executive Director of the Columbia Memorial Hospital Foundation

Philanthropic giving to give the greatest gift of all, health.

Penny Cowden, Executive Director of the Columbia Memorial Hospital Foundation

About 60 percent of hospitals and healthcare systems across the U.S. are not-for-profit and can link their very beginnings to philanthropy: “the love of humanity.”

These healthcare organizations were launched on the shoulders of a religious order or a magnificent bequest or contribution from a benefactor in order to provide critical healthcare in logging camps, mining camps and remote communities throughout the country. Others emerged from the need for a place where doctors could practice without discrimination. Throughout the country, communities came together to provide buildings, food, linens and even to help care for patients. 

Philanthropy builds the future

That sense of community that embraces a hospital can still be found — especially in not-for-profit, independent hospitals like CMH. Not a part of a large healthcare system, CMH proudly engages local governance and control as well as providing critical health services for those living in the region. Like most other healthcare missions, CMH — as it stands today and as it will stand tomorrow — was built on a foundation of philanthropy. 

Today, more than simply funding necessary improvements and operating expenses, dollars raised through philanthropy help fund innovation. These dollars are generously given to the hospital to allow it to continue providing advanced services, new equipment and health programs that extend beyond its walls to wrap around the community.

As futurist Leland Kaiser aptly explains, innovation “involves high-risk, high-value projects,” and that makes it difficult, especially in tough economic times, “to justify taking money from the operations budget” for such innovation. But such innovative projects “are very attractive to philanthropists.”

Philanthropy sparks innovation

Philanthropy funds exciting new ideas and creates a safe harbor for innovation that would otherwise be unaffordable. Picture this: Over a hundred years ago, the community decided it deserved to have its own hospital, which at that time must have seemed a monumental task. But philanthropy made it happen. And that level of partnership has continued throughout the life span of CMH, most recently through the community’s support of a regional cancer center. 

Today, through philanthropy, CMH is able to innovate both within and outside its walls. Be it new programs or equipment, innovation leads to advanced care — in the hospital and in the community. Philanthropists are interested in funding something exciting and new. And, through philanthropy, they can make it happen — now and for the next generation of friends and family who will depend on CMH for care and caring. 

Want to make a difference in our community? To support the innovation and advances of CMH, visit or call 503-325-3208. 

Read more from the Spring 2018 issue of the CMH Health Compass.

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