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Saturday, May 21, 2022

New Leader Joins Adventist Health Foundation

Seasoned Southern California philanthropy professional Ben Chandler has been tapped to lead the foundation arm at Adventist Health Simi Valley, the health care system announced Nov. 23.Chandler takes over for Jennifer Swenson as foundation president; Swenson continues to serve as president of the hospital.Hospital foundations are situated to sustain existing financial support right now, Chandler said, with health care being top-of-mind during a pandemic.“The table is set, the audience is pretty receptive to hear that message right now,” Chandler told the Business Journal. “There is opportunity in this context. If you look at the trends in philanthropy overall, you see a decline in support for the arts and other organizations in the community. Health care (philanthropy) has been flat to up, so that’s a good trend.”The pandemic has increased awareness of the need to bankroll health initiatives.“If you’re fundraising for a health care organization during a health care crisis, people suddenly understand the importance of having a really good hospital,” Chandler continued.In the short term, Adventist Simi Valley will use foundation funds to continue investing in its robotic surgery programs, he said. The hospital also is expanding its cardiac catheter lab and has new emergency department programs in the works.As foundation president, Chandler will use his 23 years of experience in philanthropy to help the Valley hospital plan future growth.He most recently served as chief philanthropy officer at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills; Chandler has held other philanthropy positions at TrinityCare Hospice Foundation, UCLA School of Law, University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and Seminary of the Southwest.“I’ve spent the last five years learning about the health care space and learning to work with clinicians and executive leadership, and also the volunteer component, the foundation board and other volunteer events,” said Chandler, adding that he has been fundraising in some capacity since 1996. His career has involved writing direct mail appeals, putting on galas and asking donors for “seven, eight figure gifts.”Long term, Chandler plans to establish a “grateful patient fundraising program,” and looking at different channels for support.“To my knowledge, that is not something that has really existed in the past,” added Chandler. “They’ve primarily relied on events, which are a great way to raise money but there are other ways. We want to add in different layers … engaging with the clinicians to establish great relationships with patients who have received excellent care. It’s one of the great ways that we can build that prime line of support for the organization.”One challenge Chandler expects is bringing in new donors, pointing to a lack of in-person impressions in the time of COVID, but also mentioning that this is simply one way to engage new donors.Auctions by way of Zoom have shifted this part of the job to a virtual setting: “That activity hasn’t stopped … We’ve found that Zoom is a pretty effective means of establishing those sorts of relationships.”Although hospitals, including Adventist Simi Valley, have lost revenue during the pandemic because of a halt in elective surgeries and patients delaying care, Chandler said fundraising efforts are typically not used to offset these financial challenges.“I’ve seen stories where community hospitals, especially rural community hospitals, have been struggling and have been bailed out by a local white knight philanthropist, but that’s pretty rare,” he explained. “It’s certainly not something we’d be counting on.”

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