“There’s a lot of baloney in that sandwich…”

Chris Wilder headshotWhat are we accomplishing? How do we know we’re using our donor’s dollars in the best ways? How do we measure our successes? Are we really solving problems?

 These are not just good questions for any public benefit corporation (like the VMC Foundation) to ask; they are the questions that Charity Navigator will now be asking of nonprofits around the world in a move they call CN3.0. Paul Brest, former CEO of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, calls it “the most important work being done in the nonprofit sector.” High praise, indeed.

But Charity Navigator’s new direction – to capture the results and outcomes of a charity’s work – is also drawing fire. Many agencies wonder how to measure outcomes when their mission is to serve immediate, day-to-day needs. Are you “solving problems” if you feed a hungry family, knowing they will be hungry again tomorrow? How do you capture satisfaction of a client when that client is a 5-year-old child on an operating table in a war zone?

In a fantastic NPR story this morning, Charity Navigator CEO Ken Berger said this about some nonprofits’ concern over their new rating system: “There’s a lot of baloney in that sandwich.”

That’s a great line. I’m totally going to use that.

Worth noting is that the for-profit sector has no similar accountability expectation. Companies like General Motors or General Foods are measured by shareholder value and little else. Whether a video game maker is improving children’s health, or the degree to which Starbucks is strengthening gender equality overseas take a back seat to “are they making money?”

Seriously though, I wonder the degree to which Ken Berger began re-thinking this rating question after he (and millions of us) watched Dan Pallotta’s TED talk called “The Way we Think About Charity is Dead Wrong”. If you haven’t seen it, please do. Like, right now. I’ll wait.

There. Pretty compelling, right? So it makes me wonder about the VMC Foundation. What problems are we actually solving? How do we meaningfully measure our results?

This would be easy if we did just two or three things…but we do more. The VMC Foundation:

  • Boosts medical center morale by throwing parties and running softball leagues
  • Manages complex grant agreements to provide everything from newborn care technology to reduction in readmission rates for patients with chronic conditions
  • Advertises the world-class care available in our spinal cord and brain injury rehab center
  • Gives away thousands of new bikes every year to kids who otherwise may never have one
  • Outfits VMC’s clinics with beautiful artwork, creating healing environments
  • Participates in hospital committees, interview panels, and conducts staff appreciations
  • Runs financials for the hospital gift shop, launched a farmers’ market, runs medical conferences…

…I really could go on and on. We’re proud of all this, but how would we begin to evaluate our overall effectiveness and whether we’re “solving problems?” We probably shouldn’t take credit for work done by VMC’s doctors and nurses, even if we brought in a big grant that pays for what they do. If our medical center’s patient satisfaction scores go up, what role did we play? What if they go down; are we then to blame?

But we also cannot just evaluate ourselves on how much money we raise or the number of programs we run. Are we moving the needle on people choosing to get care at VMC? Are we keeping staff proud of their work and reducing turnover or absenteeism? What about our overall work to improve public health (evaluating what doesn’t happen is always a challenge; how many people didn’t get the flu because they got a flu shot because they responded to our campaign)? What, in short, can we take credit for?

Just because these questions are hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask them. I think Charity Navigator is on to something very important…even if I don’t know how to respond to it yet.

If you do, or have ideas, please share them. This is normally the kind of thing reserved for a 2-day board retreat, but I have a feeling that crowd-sourcing ideas here might be useful. Let’s see if I’m right.

Thanks to FIRST 5, genetic counseling is provided to low-income families

First 5 Logo

Due to a generous grant from FIRST 5 Santa Clara County, VMC can offer genetic counseling to high-risk families in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Bill Campbell, a genetic counselor at VMC, recently supported the parents of a NICU

FIRST 5’s grant support makes care like this possible for babies in VMC’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. You can read more about this story, and see updates about our other programs, in our Fall 2013 Impact Report. baby born with the chromosome abnormality 4p minus, commonly called Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome. Bill worked through an interpreter to provide support to the parents who were understandably worried and confused – they had never heard of their baby’s condition and had many questions about what it meant. Bill met regularly with the family and together they developed a plan to guide them through the testing and treatment options. Without this specialized support service, the family would have been completely unprepared to care for the unique needs of the baby.

VMC Vendor Fair presented by the VMC Foundation

We are hosting Santa Clara Valley Medical Center’s first annual Vendor Fair on Thursday February 6, 2014 from 5 PM – 7 PM at the Sobrato Center for Nonprofits in San Jose, CA. This event is a fundraiser for the VMC Foundation that will bring together existing and new vendors with hospital staff to learn about the latest and greatest products and services.

To RSVP email Laura.Kazanovicz@hhs.sccgov.org or call (408) 282-2687.

 The VMC Foundation makes no endorsement, expressed or implied, of any vendors or their representatives. 

Vendor Fair Postcard

Chris Wilder Gets a Flu Shot, Is Now a Happier Person

Chris Wilder Flu Shot 2013SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CA – Chris Wilder, Executive Director of the VMC Foundation, received his flu shot today at the VMC Employee Health office in the Valley Specialty Center.  As with all employees of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, VMC Foundation staff are required to receive flu shots each year in order to minimize the risk of illness.

“You have to be crazy not to do this,” said Wilder.  “The flu is the worst.  Thankfully, I don’t have to worry because I got my flu shot.  I now understand what happiness really is.”

Wilder reported that the process was even easier than normal.   Thanks to a new electronic registration system, ReadySet, VMC employees can complete the needed “paperwork” from the comfort of their own computer prior to receiving the vaccination.

The injection itself went off without a hitch.  Employee Health staff were friendly and courteous as always, and Wilder said that the shot barely hurt at all.

“If you work for VMC, go do this right now, ” said Wilder.  “Also, if you don’t work at VMC but are a human being, also do this.”

Remembering Dionette Kelton

Dionette KeltonDionette Kelton was something special.

A long-time VMC nurse and most recently the Director of Care Management, her unexpected passing was a shock to us all. The depth of her career accomplishments is only exceeded by the number of people who came to see her as a friend, mentor and leader. Dionette personified the spirit and can-do attitude that makes VMC such a remarkable institution.

Her VMC career began 28 years ago as an health aide while simultaneously attending the San Jose State University School of Nursing.   On becoming an RN, she quickly grew into her role as a clinical leader as the Nurse Manager for the TCNU and later the Medical Short Stay Unit.

As Director of Care Management, Dionette was on the front lines of transforming VMC as it prepares for healthcare reform. Among the many projects for which she collaborated with the VMC Foundation, she was part of the interdisciplinary team that secured a $600,000 grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to reduce the risk of readmission for heart failure patients.

To honor Dionette, the VMC Foundation has established a memorial fund in her honor.  Donations are tax-deductible and will benefit general education programs at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

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